Beyond My Comfort Zone…

“Crecendo,” ©2018 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

““Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

©2018 Lynn Abbott

“The ocean is peaceful,” my artist friend said confidently.

And I nodded in agreement.

But I also had to smile.  You see, in my friend’s experience, the sea is a gentle and soothing space.

Indeed. She has spent many years living on the east coast of the United States.

For this reason, her primary coastal experience has been with the Atlantic ocean.

My father, the oceanographer-geologist, would have explained it this way… the the wide continental shelf creates a gradual and gentle slope from the ocean floor to the East coast shores.

Thus, since there are no stony obstacles to hinder “sea meeting shore”, the waves generally tend to roll gently.

But I have seen another side.

Having grown up on the west coast, I have also encountered an entirely different kind of ocean wave.

One Saturday in my mid-twenties, my husband–at that time, simply my date–invited me to join him with a few friends on a beach adventure.

His friends, avid surfers, had heard that because of storms off the coast, the waves would be reaching “ideal” heights near San Clemente, California.

And so it was that on that particular Saturday morning, we tied the boards to the roof of the car, and drove north… to catch some waves.

Although my cousins had surfed all their lives, I had never learned.  I simply planned to enjoy the beach and perhaps, body surf.

But I have seen another side.

Upon arrival, I noted that the reports of larger than normal waves were truly accurate.  But that didn’t stop any of us.

We knew that the blend of incoming storms with California’s narrow Continental Shelf would create what we all agreed were the perfect surfing conditions.

My dates’ friends paddled out.  My future husband and I decided to give body surfing a try.  I stood waist deep waiting for the perfect wave to move toward me.

When the timing was right, I started swimming toward shore.  And sure enough, the wave came.  But my timing was off.

Suddenly, I found myself dragged under by the sheer force of the wave’s pull.  It bounced me again and again like a yo-yo.  The water pushed me down, slamming me against the gritty Pacific shoreline.

I scrambled and clawed my way… attempting to move toward shore or at least come up for air. But the wave hit me hard.  I plummeted several times before the wave spit me out on the beach.

I gasped for breath.  As I stood up, I brushed myself off.  But there was no redeeming this.

No ladylike escape.  My racing suit filled with sand, my head wrapped in seaweed– I appeared more Michelin Man than twenty-something woman.

Yup.  The ocean displayed its power that day. And it roared as it crashed upon the sand.

Perhaps, youthful inexperience and over-confidence persuaded us that we could master those waves.

But experience yielded wisdom…

I appeared more Michelin Man than twenty-something woman.

We packed up our towels and boards not long after our arrival.  The Pacific– or so-called peaceful–Ocean could not be mastered or contained.

As my Dad would have attested,  the sea is many things: sometimes peaceful, certainly life-giving and often overwhelmingly powerful.

A seeming contradiction, it is a safe haven and perfect habitat for many creatures despite its vast size and seemingly unpredictable nature.

Nevertheless, it remains constant; unified while simultaneously offering much variety of experience…

One could spend a lifetime studying the sea and still never fully plumb its depths or complexity.

That’s right.  You know where I’m going with this.

When I ponder our Creator, I recognize that His Being is so much more complex than His creation.

And, in fact, when I base my understanding of Him on one experience or a few favorite Scripture passages, I form a woefully inadequate portrait of the great I AM.

However, if I’m completely honest,  I must say that it is easier to embrace images of Yahweh as loving Shepherd  than as indisputable Sovereign and Judge over all.

Even so, Scripture indicates that He is all this and more.

The Prophet Isaiah, in fact, wrote, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6).

And then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,  Isaiah also penned the following, “Behold the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, And His recompense before Him.  Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arms He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes, ” (Isaiah 40:12-15).

The prophet describes both Shepherd and Ruler… compassionate Savior but also righteous Judge.

Our Creator is so much more complex than His creation.

Of course, I love the description of my Savior’s tender and sacrificial love for us, (Philippians 2:5-11).

On the other hand, I prefer to skim over the description of Isaiah’s fear as he encountered our Holy Creator, (Isaiah 6). I tremble when I read God’s words to Job, (Job 38-40).

Uh, huh. I’d like to simply bury my feet in the Atlantic coast’s warm, soft sand.

I’d rather camp out comfortably.

And quite honestly, I suspect that most of us try to balance the incomprehensible with the secure known.

Thus, while human nature seeks the challenge of variety,  we simultaneously wish to control and contain risk.

Uh, huh. We abandon the surf when risks prove too high.

However, in the end, as the accounts of many saints–including Jonah and Job–demonstrate,  I cannot play it safe with God.

Yahweh is both Shepherd and Ruler… compassionate Savior but also righteous Judge.

C.S. Lewis says it well in his classic children’s tale: Aslan isn’t tame.

Like the powerful surf, God sweeps into my life, and everything starts tumbling.  I cling to my safe itinerary, but my feet are swept out from under me.  Abba’s omnipotent plan carries me despite my resistance.

His wave rolls me right out of my comfort zone. I lose my sense of direction. His Will prevails.

Water envelops me.

My life is turned upside down… sand swirls overhead, and the sky seems to drop underfoot.   At such times, I certainly feel as though I am going under.

As a result, I kick and scream; I flail my arms about.  I sputter and swallow salt water… That is, until I eventually call for mercy…and allow God to carry me.

And suddenly, I am tossed ashore.

When I finally have a look about, I realize that I’ve been relocated; my lifescape has been rearranged.

Have you noticed it, too? Without a doubt, God’s purposes often move us out of our comfort zones.  He directs us to deeper waters despite our objections.

Without a doubt, God’s purposes often move us out of our comfort zones.

All powerful and untamed, He rearranges our lives.  His plans supersede ours.

Yet, despite the fact that you and I may find ourselves on paths we would not personally choose, Abba walks with us.  He gently guides His children. He carries us to shore.

The same God who allows the storm also commands, ‘Peace be still.’

In fact, we can be sure that Abba always intervenes at just the right time.  And He always knows precisely where He is leading us.

Yes, Abba isn’t tame, but we can surely trust Him.

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the LORD is a God of justice. How blessed are all those who long for Him,” Isaiah 30:18

“And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth,” Job 19:25

“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold,” Job 23:10