The word ‘discomfort’ has been weaving its way into my mind as of late, taking up residence in order to shape my life this year. I wasn’t really looking for a “word for the year”, but I do feel like a new season is starting, so a word to help guide me is not unwelcome (though apparently not necessarily comfortable).
I find that with my chronic pain I automatically seek physical comfort. Some days that takes the form of feeling cold, making me dress cozily in half a dozen layers (while my husband rocks a t-shirt), or encouraging me to snuggle up with a blanket and a book to escape into. Other times it has me seeking food (and usually not the healthy variety) in order to get that feeling of satiation, fullness, convincing my body that its needs are provided for despite the painful evidence to the contrary.
My anxiety also has me seeking comfort: willingly restricting my life to safe spaces, safely tucked into my comfort zone, with no possibility (or at most a carefully managed possibility) of the unexpected throwing me off-kilter. I cannot risk rebuttal if I do not open my mouth, if I do not let my opinions spill out, so I remain safely silent.
But these practices of seeking comfort have me bound and inactive, they have me unwilling to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, refusing to seek new and better things, choosing the comfort of the known (even if it is in itself uncomfortable) over the risk and discomfort of change. They have me preferring the predictability of current discomfort over the unpredictability of change and growth, not matter what the potential.
But stagnation does not bring life and light. It doesn’t enable me to grow into the fullness of life God wants for me.
It is only because light is traveling, moving from the sun to the earth and then bouncing around that we can see. If light refused to move, afraid of what it might find or bump into, then we would live in darkness.
Years ago, God talked to me about being a lantern, yet how effective would I be as a lantern which refused to share her light beyond herself?
This word ‘discomfort’ is a gentle prodding into action, to not just stay comfortable, complacent, but to push my limits, to push back against my own resistance, to speak up when my fears say, “be silent.”
I have been relearning that I have something of value to share with this world, and one of my daily affirmations is: “It is safe to speak up and out. I have all the support I need.
If I am truly a child of El Shaddai – the All-Sufficient, then it doesn’t matter how inadequate I feel, how insufficient, how not-enough, because God’s fullness can come through my brokenness, my weakness can more explicitly show God’s strength.
Some days these things feel like platitudes, just stock answers to patch over a gaping hole. But God welcomes, embraces, affirms all that I am, my undivided self. There are no parts of me that must be left at the door, my poor self-esteem, my anxiety, my beliefs which run counter to the “official position” of my church, they are all welcomed in. I am welcomed in, in all my fullness.
God doesn’t require my brokenness to be left at the door, that only the holy parts can enter. No. God in Her all-consuming love envelops my whole, pours out loving salve on my broken parts, laughs with delight in my areas of fullness. And God invites me, with Her breath of life, to live more fully into my dusty corners, my ‘unacceptable’, ‘undesirable’ parts. Because these, these too are where She wants to bring life in its fullness, its abundance, the whole of my life to be Spirit-soaked and welcomed, celebrated.
But to get there I need to move, I need to be willing to be discomforted.
I think of my pregnant belly, as it swelled with the fullness of new life. It wasn’t comfortable, it stretched me into a new shape, squashed parts of my life, my body, which had previously insisted they needed more room, only to find that wasn’t true, that I could adjust and make room for this new life growing and blossoming inside me. But first I had to be willing to be discomforted, willing to prioritise the needs of this new life over my old comfortable, my old normal.
And so I’m trying to embrace this word ‘discomfort’, trying to be willing to shift and move from my ordinary, willing to let God nudge me up from my seat and to speak out some new life, abundant life; fullness and light where there has only been scarcity and darkness. It’s a bit of a prickly word, but it is weighty and potent with promise.