Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Misty2Ahhh. My own bed. My own pillow. All my stuff, just where I left it. Familiar food in the fridge, a choice of clothes in the closet, and an extremely disgruntled cat demanding to be catered to. I’m dead center in my comfort zone.

After two back-to-back trips, one to Arizona and one to Puerto Rico, we’re finally home after more than three weeks of almost solid travel. The trips were great, but it sure feels good to be back.

My husband and I love to travel, and try to take advantage of every opportunity to do so. But that’s not true for everyone. One of Pete’s college roommates made it to the ripe old age of 22 having never left the state of California.

Then there’s the young woman we met in southern Indiana, working at a remote hotel in the Ohio River valley. We chatted as we filled out the registration form, and learned that, except for a brief trip to New York City, she had never been out of the river valley—and had absolutely no desire to do so.

reclinerEven my own grandfather refused to budge from his comfy chair in front of the TV. He’d been stationed in England during WWII, and had subsequently moved from New York to southern California—that was all the traveling he intended to do, thank you very much.

Why should we spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort to visit new places? Sure, if it’s a mission trip, the purpose is clear. But how about going someplace just to see what it’s like there?

As I reflect on our recent adventures, several thoughts come to mind. For one, travel is fun. Sometimes I think we Christians take life too seriously—we think that if there isn’t an overtly spiritual reason to do something, it’s a waste of time. There’s nothing wrong with having fun once in a while (and God manages to be involved there too). I love the beach, but we live in Colorado. I am fascinated by all the thousands of species of plants and animals God has created, but only a small percentage are in my own yard.

Travel is educational. In spite of the proliferation of fast food chains and big box stores, different places are, well, different. I love tasting new foods, understanding new cultures, and meeting friendly people. Yesterday I spent several hours online searching for recipes for the bifstek con cebollas, dorado entomatado, and arroz con habichuelas rosadas that tasted so good at the beach in Boquerón.

Narrow road_northeast-PR_20100528_LAH_7922-1Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. Yes, that’s a good thing. I’ll admit that driving the twisty roads of Puerto Rico, with no shoulders at the sides and with barely enough room for two vehicles to pass one another, vastly improved my prayer life. So did discovering that our GPS maps had little in common with reality.

Being on vacation doesn’t stop us from being God’s ambassadors. On both of our recent trips, we had numerous opportunities to share with others how God has worked in our lives. As a direct result, some of the people we met want to keep in touch and get to know us better. I’m excited about these new friendships and curious to see what direction they’ll take.

Chennai slum water bottlesSometimes God uses our experiences in other places to get our attention. A number of years ago we took a ministry trip to India. We had just hired a new office administrator, and while there was no discernable reason to bring her along, we felt God would have us include her on the trip. While Pete was meeting with some ministry leaders, she and I took a long, long walk through a poor neighborhood in Chennai. The combination of abject poverty and smiling faces greeting us stirred our co-worker’s heart, and she realized God was calling her to move overseas. Her counseling background was put to good use for many years as she traveled throughout Asia providing field support for the missionaries working there.

What motivates you to pack your bags and hop on a plane or plan out a road trip? What has God taught you through your experiences away from home?

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