The first time I heard the words ”comfort zone” was in my Sunday school class back in the late 1970’s. It was presented to me in the context that if I was living in that zone I was most likely not risking for Jesus. I remember feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable just sitting there as those around me nodded in agreement and committed to move out of their individual “comfort zones” and live for Jesus. I felt paralyzed and exposed as I pondered: What does this mean for me?
Consequently, I looked up the definition of “comfort zone” and it was defined as a place of confidence, where one lives with ease and familiarity and in control of their environment. This zone was suppose to be anxiety neutral.
That pretty much described my “comfort zone” because at the time I was living a life of secrecy and addiction to eating disorders where food soothed my anxiety and brought my world under control. I lived in denial for the next 12 years before I was able to muster enough courage to move out of my “comfort zone” and address my addiction. Much to my surprise the decades following my decision proved to be the most productive ones of my life.
It was in those decades where I discovered my story that had been hidden through eating disorders and abuse. I began talking to others where I took the risk of telling more of my story. My secrets did not come out all at once, it was more of an unfolding as I tested those around me to find the ones who were safe.
I must say that those years where I ventured out of my “comfort zone” were not necessarily anxiety free. There was such a level of exposure for me that my anxiety continued to build. It was a stressful period of my life as I discovered my story and ministered to others who were discovering theirs. Ironically it was this stress and anxiety that drove me to continue on with my story in ministry until I approached a “danger zone” that was putting my family and marriage at risk. My heart was telling me that I had done enough story work. It was time to step away from ministry to take care of myself.
Oddly enough it was in stepping away that I began to gain a new appreciation for what I had accomplished during those years. From where I sit today I am grateful that I entered my story when I was young. My energy and passion were endless as I wrote a book, created materials for ministry and counseled so many others who needed guidance along the way. I love that this time of my life allows me access to my family and grandchildren. My time is spent differently enjoying my puppy, writing for Red Tent Living, reading and simply listening to the rhythms of life.
Recently, someone used 3 words to describe me: pizazz, playful and rebel. I don’t believe those words are new to who I am. Likewise I know those years spent in my story grew a kindness and love for the rebel within me. I am playful with my grandchildren and others. And the pizazz I have bring smiles to their faces. My youngest granddaughter has been through my closet and doesn’t want me getting rid of anything until she has a chance to get it! She loves my pizazz.
Today my “comfort zone” is feeling pretty good.
I am living in the “comfort zone” of grace where I have found myself worthy of the grace of Jesus.
And I didn’t arrive here without a good measure of heartache and tears. It was in the heartache and tears that God began a softening process for the rebel within me. It was in telling my story that kindness grew a love for my body and the beauty it holds. And I’m so relishing all of that goodness today.
Mary Jane Hamilton loves her life living on Lake Michigan with her husband of 48+ years. It is her family that brings her the greatest joy especially her 6 grandchildren. MJ readily admits that she adores her dachshunds and rests in the comfort they provide. She smiles at life and “rolls with the punches”. MJ loves Jesus and beauty, MJ loves wind, waves and thunder, MJ loves fashion and good wine, MJ loves…&n