When have you been the furthest outside your comfort zone? For me one of the times that sticks out the most is when I went to speak at a Pastors’ Conference in Guatemala. I was there with five other USAmerican pastors. We flew into Guatemala City, and then had a six hour drive across the country to the city of Quetzaltenango. This was back when I was a youth pastor, and as soon as our host Carlos found out I was a youth pastor, he made a couple of calls and suddenly there was now a youth ministry conference in addition to the pastors’ conference, and I was the keynote speaker.
I had 4 years of experience as a youth pastor. Mi Espanol es muy malo. And back then it was even muy-er malo than it is now. And I knew zero about Guatemalan church culture or teen culture. I was wildly underqualified to speak at a youth ministry conference, to say nothing of being the only speaker.
We finally reached our hotel, and Carlos told me to be ready to leave after dinner. Leave? Yes, as it turned out, the new youth ministry conference was at a church across town. So after dinner, I climbed into a van with fifteen or so Guatemalan people, including my translator, and we went across town.
It was then that it occurred to me that if something happened – if there was a car accident or if somehow I got lost and on my own, I was functionally helpless. I didn’t speak the language. This was before cell phones had good international plans. And I was in the middle of a city I didn’t know at all.
I wasn’t scared – the people I was with were great. But I was struck for the first time in a long time how thoroughly helpless I was. I was wholly dependent on my hosts for everything – even basic communication.
How often are we in those kinds of situations – where we have little control, where we’re at the mercy of others? I’m guessing for most of us, the answer is “Not very often.” For good reason: it’s really uncomfortable to be out of control. (Maybe some of you are about to head into that situation for Thanksgiving.)
It’s not good to always feel out of control, but it is good sometimes. In fact, we’re going to explore today how Jesus calls us outside our comfort zones.