Increasing Faith Outside the Comfort Zone
Tis the season to reflect and take stock of my belief, or perhaps my unbelief.
Frankly, I am most stunned by all the years I have basked in the comfort zone of unbelief. Maybe this is shocking, I mean, I believe in the Virgin Birth and Death and resurrection of my Jesus. I have two books that testify to my commitment. A third is on the way.
In the process of writing the third, for the second or ninth time, I was left in a heap for what seemed like months. By the time my husband, Justin forced me to hit send, I was physically stripped of my ability to function.
I had to set a timer to shower. And I cried at the drop of a hat.
Literally, I dropped a hat I was trying to put on my unkempt hair, and too drained to pick it up, I just stood there and wept. And then laughed until I cried because I cried at the drop of a hat. Another time I asked Justin if we had any lettuce. It wouldn’t have mattered if we did or didn’t. I cried.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled with the content. But, as my agent advised, this would be hard. Yes, she warned me, “Book three is harder than any of them.” She explained the first two have stories untold. The third you are left faced with what you’ve said, and what you haven’t, and usually, you are better than you were before. You don’t know what to expect, and you are terrified to face what’s expected.
And it has only been a week since I turned in that book baby.
Kudos to me, I have only emailed my editor once to say…”Hey, sorry to be neurotic, but could you add this paragraph to page 119?” And she is either super kind or just works with writers for a living because she immediately piped back, “of course!”
But like the first and second, the third has been a testament to a life steeped in unbelief, and the freedom I have encountered on the other side. Also, I wish it was August 2020, I can barely wait to hold this book – more than the first or the second. In spite of the tears, confessions, and raw unraveling, I cannot believe I had so many areas of unbelief. I know I have written a word or two on stepping out and truly believing.
Not just the belief that God exists, but believing what He says is true.
In my post-book stupor, I have been watching a lot of television. I actually do not watch that much t.v. But, I have an idea for book four. And, yes, I know, I need therapy. So, in an effort to never let up or take a deep breath, I have been watching documentaries on belief and unbelief.
Of these pieces I have concluded, there are some real wack-a-doos out there, present company included. But it wasn’t until I scanned over my notes that I saw what I had missed, and what I left unsaid; unbelief is the comfort zone.
Unbelief in the midst of believing Jesus is the habitual comfort zone.
In my graduate studies, I learned a lot about habits and addictions. And I know what my addictions are, I am certain you could confidently label each of yours, or at a minimum give nod to their existence. Definitely, we can pick those that plague our neighbor. And frankly, someone else’s problems are the feather in our cap for all we are no slave to. But it wasn’t until today, while reviewing my notes, that I recognized the habit of unbelief, and how comfortable it is to stay there.
Unbelief is this thing we keep stored to protect ourselves from rogue faith.
Unbelief is the silent scream from the depths of our consciousness. And this thesis started a couple of day ago with a post I titled, “Justifying Jesus.” Don’t worry if you missed it, I will link it again. The algorithms don’t like the “J” word in titles. I confess, my unbelief is fostered by the backup plan, just in case, God doesn’t come through the way I profess He will.
But today’s conclusion came to me while speaking with a friend.
Imagine a zebra, drinking out of a babbling brook. She is relieved to have fresh water to wash down the bounty of green grass on which she just fed. Suddenly, a lion pounces. The zebra bolts, the lion nips at the juicy striped equid. The zebra darts left, then right, then left, and in a miraculous feat, escapes the clutches of the vicious beast.
And all is well.
The next evening, the zebra returns to the brook. She dips her tongue in the fresh cool water. What she doesn’t do is look to the right or the left, she doesn’t ring her hooves in angst. If she thinks, she is only considering her need for drink.
Oh, but to be an oblivious zebra.
She may get eaten today, she may not, still, she trusts her instincts to drink.
Human beings have the burden of memory.
Remember the time we were chased by a lion and survived? I pray that never happens again, but if it does… this is my plan. Oh, and I am never drinking from the babbling brook, ever again.
Sure, learning from our mistakes and tragedies is the blessing of memory. Living in fear of mistakes and tragedy is the curse of unbelief.
So we pray big prayers. We toss up wise words and ask others to do the same. All the while professing we believe. But if our belief isn’t protection enough, we have a series of moves to escape the lion.
I propose, a good portion of believers, present company included are waiting for the lion instead of looking to the lamb.
Rehashing the past, speaking that past over our future, and taking back our prayers by wondering if they will be answered is actually much more comfortable than falling face-first into an unknown future. So secure in our past and its hurt, we keep the record close by and rehearse it over and over. We tell tales about the past and speak its life into our future.
I am left to question how this resembles the statement, now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of that yet seen?
Furthermore, I have been told I can and should renew my mind and that I should pray believing my prayers have been answered, why am I so quick to recount the impossibilities and history, instead of charging headlong to the stream for a drink?
Because I am comfortable with what I know. Last time I went to the creek, I was nearly eaten.
I have been waiting for the lion instead of looking to the lamb. This is categorically the comfort zone of unbelief.
There I know what happened, what could happen, and what I would do if it happened again.
And I profess it and speak the past into my future, only lacing it with spiritual wisdom that can get me out of a tight spot. What we know is what we love to bask in. And yes, I hear the contest, “I don’t want to relive that mess!”
Of course, you don’t, but that doesn’t make it any less familiar. And familiarity is the comfort zone.
So what I am practicing and proposing is a new mind, a mind so steeped in the truth of who Jesus said He is, that instead of dwelling on the past we are charing to the future with a raw naivety, that borders on foolish. Yes, I have heard it called the “Power of Positive Thinking.”
And definitely, I have heard the argument that the teaching is “New Age.” But I propose that Jesus told us, there is power in belief and that we should dwell on what is good. So why are we putting power in the belief that something bad will most likely happen?
Ok, I will say it again, because it is important, but also because I am pretty impressed with the statement… we are waiting for the lion instead of looking to the lamb.
Furthermore, I am most convinced that some of our beliefs, when challenged by a new way of thinking are categorized as outlandish or “new age,” simply because they are different than the teaching we are addicted to, and if addiction is challenged, the addict gets itchy.
And this I can speak to this from experience. When it first occurred to my husband and I that we were in a church where we knew the teaching was not a blessing, stepping away was impossibly hard. However, once we realized we were more committed to the feelings of companionship, politics, community, and ritual, we were forced to face it wasn’t nourishing us, it was just keeping us comfortable.
Humans crave comfort.
Comfort is manifested by knowledge.
Change is uncomfortable because it is different from what we are accustomed to, what we know.
So I leave with this, and I pose it to myself as well, do I believe that Jesus came to set captives free and gifting us joy, peace, patience, all the fruits of the spirit, if I pray, believing I have already received, (Mark 11:24) as Christ dwells in me, the hope of Glory? (Col. 1:27) Or, am I clinging tightly to the past, hurts, challenges, and losses, just because I know for sure, if that lion pounces, I know how to escape?
Am I speaking life and goodness into every new day, giving thanks for things not yet seen, (Hebrews 11:1) steeped in the hope of His goodness?
Or am I using negativity as a shield of protection? “I never finish what I start…”
“I am just such a…” and “that won’t happen, it never does…” in an effort to stay in the comfort zone of what I know?
Change might be itchy, it may seem to snarl, rage and drool. But I am walking into the tall grass, headed straight for the stream, looking only to the lamb.
Brave ones… I’ll see you there.
If you missed “Justifying Jesus,” you can read it here.
Jesus be all over you! Love, Jami
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