Familiar faces…familiar places…we find a measure of comfort and dependency in that which is familiar. We like routine. For the most part, we are indeed, “creatures of habit.” This is true of me to a fault. Take me out of my routine for a week, and frankly, I can become a bit of a bear to be around. Familiarity can be good. It can foster security, assurance, and a sense of “family” that helps us to be confident and contributing members in our community. But familiarity can also be bad, sort of like comfort food. It can be a readily accessible fix that makes us feel good, but has the potential to weigh us down.
We fear the unfamiliar, hence the reason we have so much internal conflict as followers of Jesus Christ. We are called to be people of faith, but we become too dependent on the familiar. Whether that familiar be people, places or self protective ways of coping. As a Christian man, my greatest struggles have been internal. I’ve heard it said that a coach’s job, essentially, is to encourage people to do that which they don’t want to do. A coach is pushing and prodding people to push past limiting familiar thoughts and feelings, in order to grow into a new level of performance. I find that the Holy Spirit, much like a coach, is constantly trying to get me to push past what’s comfortable; yet, so often, I find myself fighting against it.
There are different ways to deal with fear, many of which are unhealthy. Many of us have heard of the fight-or-flight response ̶ when we come up against something that is causing us extreme discomfort, a knee jerk response is to either fight against it or run away from it. For some people, it’s fight, and for some it’s flight. I have also noticed that for some, it is freeze ̶ they become paralyzed by fear. Regardless of the unhealthy response, the result is the same. No forward progress. As you have already probably guessed, my suggestion of how to deal with fear in a healthy way is to face it.
I can remember a couple of specific instances where God was prodding me out of my comfort zone. And in retrospect, I am thankful, because it helped me to begin enjoying a new measure of integrity.
As a Christian wanting to build my life on the right foundation, I hit a crisis moment less than a year into my new-found faith. The Spirit of God was calling me to come clean to my wife, regarding my infidelity in our relationship, prior to our marriage. Deception was familiar territory for me. I found comfort in the façade that my wife had come to believe in regarding my character. But the Spirit of God told me that I could not build a good marriage on a foundation of dishonesty. I was scared to death to confess my transgressions to her. This had the potential to destroy my marriage. But in the midst of my hesitancy and struggle, the voice of truth was telling me that I needed to take the risk. What was at stake was much more than even my marriage. Twenty years later, I am satisfied with my choice.
Another instance, I had just transitioned into full-time vocational ministry. In the midst of adjusting to a new normal, I perceived what I thought could be an unhealthy relationship developing between my supervisor and a young lady that was not his spouse. I think the intentions of both individuals were pure, but I saw what I thought was an unhealthy emotional connection; primarily on the part of the young lady. I felt the Spirit of God telling me that I needed to bring my concern to my supervisor. I felt that I had a responsibility to speak to him for the sake of protecting the integrity of his ministry and his marriage. I did not want to deal with this very uncomfortable situation. God was asking me to go into unfamiliar territory. I felt like I was risking my new ministry position, risking my friendship with him, and risking the well being of my family. But I felt that if I didn’t confront my fear and speak to him, I would be disobedient to God.
I was shaking in my shoes as I approached him, not knowing whether he would receive it or not. Do I regret my decision? No. He appreciated my care and concern for him and it strengthened our bond of friendship. I experienced a measure of victory that instilled confidence in me, that I was willing to put the best interests of others before my own, even at the risk of a friendship. The way this man carried himself and responded to those circumstances, including correcting the situation, continues to speak into my life even unto this day.
In the Fall of 2012, I once again, found the Spirit of God calling me, calling my family into unfamiliar territory. We had spent almost 13 years of our lives in the Auberry Community Church family. We couldn’t verbalize accurately enough, how much we had come to appreciate and depend upon this family ̶ people we cried with, people we laughed with, people we had been able to impart our lives to, people we had learned from. Auberry Community Church had become our comfort zone. But after an extended struggle, the Spirit of God had clearly told me, told us, that we had to leave what had, in some ways, become too familiar. Why? Because He had something bigger planned; something that included being a part of a new Church Family ̶ the Church of Tollhouse Ministry Center. It was a plan that included developing a greater sense of camaraderie among the Church of Tollhouse, Auberry Community Church, and the other local church families in the foothill community. It was a strategy that included bringing together, in greater measure, the Church of Jesus Christ, in the foothills, as a whole.
So, I ask you my Family in Christ, to sincerely consider what the Spirit of God is speaking to you. What fear does God want you to confront? In what area of your life is God asking you to leave that has become too familiar? Faith is not a feeling, it is a decision. And to the one willing to take the risk, goes all the reward.