Running on Faith: Learning to grow out of the comfort zone

By Shelley Metcalf
Catholic Spirit Staff

A homily I heard a few weeks ago, actually it may have been a few months ago now, really got me thinking about my comfort level with my faith. The priest discussed our call to defend the dignity of all human life and he talked about indifference. I didn’t get any direct quotes, so let me paraphrase –– he said we allow ourselves to become indifferent to the pain and suffering in the world because indifference helps us stay comfortable. 
He said indifference allows us to continue functioning in our own little suburban world where everything around us is just right. He challenged us saying it was time to go outside of our comfort zone to physically be with those who are suffering, to speak out about injustice, to reach out to those in need, etc. Would this be easy, he asked. No, it would not because, he said, being uncomfortable is difficult! 
The priest reminded us that Pope Francis has talked about indifference and going outside our comfort zone. He specifically referred to the pope’s Lampedusa address in July 2013, “The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.”
This was when my head began nodding and it all came together for me. I have a workout video that I use often and one of trainer’s favorite lines is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” As the priest was talking that quote kept ringing in my head and I began to realize that lately I have become very comfortable and set in my ways when it comes to my faith.
When I am exercising, I am building a little more muscle or burning a little more fat when I get out of my comfort zone. When my breathing gets heavy, the sweat drips and my face reddens, I am getting stronger. When it comes to being a better disciple of Christ, the same is true –– I grow in Christ and I am strengthened through Christ when I do things that are difficult, i.e. things that are outside of my comfort zone. 
I actually learned this many years ago when I first moved to Austin. I was asked to volunteer with the high school youth group at my parish and I said I would out of guilt and despite the fact that I was (and still am) very introverted. Those years I spent in youth ministry were some of the most challenging of my life; however, I learned more about our faith, more about people and more about myself than I have in all the years since. It was a very rewarding and outright wonderful experience. However, it never would have happened had I not consciously chosen to do something that I was not comfortable with at the time.
I think it’s time for me to revisit that lesson and learn it all over again. It’s time to rethink how I practice my faith and serve as a disciple.
My kids and I have helped assemble sandwiches once a month for Mobile Loaves and Fishes for several years. Maybe it is time we go out on the truck and hand out the sandwiches? I have never even taken my kids inside the adoration chapel at my parish. Maybe it’s time we spend a few minutes there with Jesus on a regular basis? I have been saying the same prayers every day for the last I don’t even know how many years. Maybe it’s time to learn some new prayers or pray with the Scriptures or start a prayer journal. There are many, many ways that I as a parent, as a parishioner, as an employee and as a child of a loving and faithful God can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 
It’s time for me to lose my indifference to the pain and suffering that surround me and care more about reaching out to those in need. Being uncomfortable is hard, but growing in my faith and strengthening my relationship with Christ is worth it. Please excuse my dripping sweat, red face and heavy breathing, it’s not easy moving outside my comfort zone (physically or spiritually).

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