Living in the Comfort Zone
For many years , I have considered myself to be the least spiritual person I know. When discussions with my friends and community acquaintances turned to spiritual matters, they could fill the room with descriptions of their Spirit-led lives and Spirit-filled events, whereas I rarely had anything to add to the conversation.
After I became aware that I was living in a spiritual desert, I began to ask myself why? I went to church at least two times a week, I taught a weekly bible study for adults in our church, and participated in a regular men’s prayer luncheon. It seemed I was doing all the right things and checking all the right boxes. However, over time and through prayer, I came to realize what I was missing in my life. I had never learned to become dependent upon God the Spirit, or anyone else, for direction in my life. I had always felt I could (and would) direct my own affairs. After all, isn’t that what any red blooded American is supposed to do? John Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt never relied on another’s direction. To be a man – a man’s man – meant that one was to take charge of himself and be directed by his own wits, feelings, and beliefs. Beyond what I apprehended from our culture, I was trained through my education that self-direction was a goal to be obtained in life. In graduate school, I learned about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As presented by Maslow, our base needs are physiological, the need for food, water, and warmth. The next level is the need for safety, and then for love and belonging, for esteem, and finally self-actualization. Being the pilot of one’s life was to be our highest aspiration, or so I understood.
For a time, I believed I had obtained a good measure of self-actualization. I seemed to be in charge of my life. Why, then, did I still feel this void inside me? In certain versions of the Bible, the Greek word parakletos has been translated as the Comforter. From my reading, perhaps more accurate translation might render the connotation of Summoned, Helper, Intercessor, or Advocate, or more specifically, one called along side or (in a legal sense) one who pleads another’s cause, as before a judge. Being self-actualized, I guess I never felt I had much need for an advocate or comforter. Boy, was I ever missing something.
The fact is, as much as I tried to fool myself, I never was that in charge of my life. In fact, in my effort to control my life, I was actually limiting my life to those things I could control. I was reluctant to step out of my comfort zone, away from things I thought I could control, and to put myself in a position of vulnerability and dependence upon the help and direction of the Advocate. I have learned, with the help and direction of my friends and of the Advocate, that my foolish attempts at self-actualization were actually self-limiting. As Paul writes in Romans 1:22-23, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man”. I found that trying to rely on my own abilities was holding me back. I was limited to staying within my comfort zone. Unless and until I was willing to leave the comfort zone, I had no need for the Comforter. I am still not as Spirit-led as I should be, and I am learning to be less self-actualized.