Sweaty palms, heart racing, flushed face, and pure panic.
This was almost a day to day experience for me. It didn't matter if it was a presentation in front of the class, meeting a new friend, or just something outside my usual activities. I completely avoided anything outside that small bubble that I called my comfort zone.
I think many people can relate the panic I felt and sometimes still feel any time I stepped out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone was where I wanted to stay 24/7 and if I moved out, it felt like immanent death was sure to follow.
When we say "comfort zone" and staying within our comfort zone, we think of a place that is something that is not confrontational or scary. We think of our happy place and the place we feel most like ourselves. We call it a comfort zone because it's comfortable and entices you to stay and never leave. It offers you everything you need to get by in life without ever having to step just a little bit outside. But that's the catch with staying in our comfort zones. We're just "getting by" in life and not actually living.
After spending many years inside my comfort zone, I feel like there is nothing about the comfort zone that is comfortable. Once I ventured outside my bubble I realized that although it may be scary and shocking out here, God's presence, grace, love, and protection is so much more tangible. Outside the comfort zone, we learn to trust Him.
Living inside the bubble is living in fear of what is outside of our comfort zone. Living inside the bubble and refusing to come out is telling God that we don't trust Him to take care of us outside our sweet spot. Living inside the bubble isn't really living because we're scared of all the things that are unfamiliar.
But what exactly are we living in fear of? Fear of speaking in public, fear of singing, fear of going up to a random person and making a new friend, fear of traveling outside the country to tell others about Jesus? The list could go on.
None of those things are bad things -- or even really scary things.
We fear what we don't know and what isn't familiar. But at some point in our lives, something changes and we have to adjust and that new thing becomes old hat. It may have made our palms sweat in the beginning but now we don't even think twice about it.
For me right now, it seems like every time I get comfortable, I'm called outside the bubble. As a result, my bubble has grown bigger.
6 years ago I would have told you that there was no way that several people visited this website and read entries from my journal. I would have told you that there is no way that I would be writing about things from my journal that are super personal. There are several things that I would have never even considered 6 years ago that are part of my present reality.
6 years ago I was living in fear and not living in the grace, strength, and power that is found in Christ.
Now don't get me wrong, I still get nervous when I'm stepping outside my growing bubble but I'm not crippled by my fear and my nerves.
But how on earth did I get here? Well, honestly, I don't remember a big A-HA moment where I realized that the air is pretty nice outside the bubble. I think it was a gradual thing. I stepped out to do something that I was passionate about, it made it easier. I was scared out of my mind at first but then I adjusted and now I don't even think twice about it. I also had/have an amazing support system of family and friends cheering me on.
So maybe right now you're saying, "So what? I don't know anything I'm passionate about and I don't have a support system cheering me on."
Well dear friend, allow me to clue you in on something. You may think that there's nothing you feel passionate about, but that's not true. Your biggest dreams and your greatest desires - those are your passions. God gave them to you for a reason. You may think you don't have a support system but think again! I am cheering for you and praying for you! I know that there are several brothers and sisters in Christ that have been praying for you for years and you didn't realize it. Friend, you are covered in prayers.
The biggest thing that has really pushed me out of my bubble is Scripture. 6 years ago I decided that I was going to dive head first into Scripture. I wanted to experience God in a way that I had never before. Through studying the Scripture and learning what God has to say about me, my life, and His power in me, I grew stronger and more confident.
Here are some of my favorite verses that really encouraged me to be all the Christ had made me to be:
As you read these, I ask that you pray over them and listen to what God may be telling you to do with the passions He has given you.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgement."
2 Timothy 1:7 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?"
Psalm 27:1 (NIV)
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
"David also said to Solomon, his son, 'Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.'"
1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand...For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"
Isaiah 41:10, 13 (NIV)
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him, we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"
Romans 8:15 (NIV)
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear. Do not be frightened.'"
1 Peter 3:13-14 (NIV)
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:18 (NIV)
Lord God, we are so overwhelmed right now with your words. We are so blessed and so thankful for your love, your grace, and your mercy. Right now, God, we are most thankful for your strength. God, I pray that as we move forward in our day and in our week that you would strengthen us and give us courage to do what it is you have called us to do. Help us to be brave and be bold. Help us to not be afraid of other people's opinions or what may happen but help us to rejoice in your strength and the gifts that you have given us. May we worship you through every step. May we give you all the honor and glory in every good situation and every hard circumstance. You alone are worthy of all worship. Thank you for your Son and His precious life. Thank you that you have allowed us to wake up today and live our lives for you. We praise you because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
It's in your Son's holy and precious name we pray.
Quiet Time: Why is it so hard?
In all my high school days and even now, I automatically cringe at the sound of these two words together. Somehow, anytime we talked about quiet time in church, youth, small group Bible studies, I found myself on the insecure and inadequate train. I found myself berating myself for not being perfect and persistent in my daily quiet time. I also found myself wondering if those preaching at me about quiet time were as consistent in their own quiet time as they presented themselves to be.
If we're all honest, none of us are completely perfect at keeping a quiet time. We're busy, we don't have any time, we don't know what to do in our quiet time, we're scared. We have a million and one excuses for not having a regular quiet time.
Despite my imperfection and craziness, I have learned a lot about quiet times and how important they are. The following list are things that I have learned about quiet times but that doesn't mean that they work for you. We're all different and we are all at different places in our walk with Christ. God also requires different things for each of us. With that being said, please do not feel like this list is the end all and be all about quiet times.
1. 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes.
Despite what you may have heard your whole entire life, some time in God's Word is better than no time in the Word. Even just reading a single Bible verse a day and meditating on it throughout the day is better than not reading anything. Satan can be defeated with a single breath of God. A single Bible verse has the same power.
2. Morning quiet times are ideal but night time is just as good.
I am a morning person. I wake up early and I am ready to take on the day. So, most of the time, I get my quiet time done in the morning so I can think about it throughout the day. However, I know that we are all busy and not everyone is a morning person like me. If my day is crazy and for some reason I don't have time to do my quiet time, I usually do it before I go to bed. That way, I am thinking about the love and grace and mercy of God as I lay down to sleep. And when I wake up, I am ready to go again.
3. You are not a bad Christian or "fake" if you have a hard time keeping a regular quiet time.
This has been one of the hardest truths for me to learn. If I said, "I'm going to read a chapter of Genesis a day," and I didn't read a chapter every single day, I felt like I had failed God and I was a fake. I felt like a phony because I hadn't read my Bible daily like a good and true Christian did.
If you haven't read your Bible today, you are not a failure, phony, or a hypocrite. Sweet friend, did you hear me? You are NOT a failure, phony, or hypocrite. You are dearly loved, saved by grace, chosen by God himself.
Whether or not you read your Bible today does not change what Scripture says about you. It doesn't.
This should not, however, be an excuse to never read your Bible. Reading your Bible and having some alone time with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the most vital element of your relationship with Christ. Religion says, "Read your Bible or else." Relationship says, "Read your Bible and learn more about Me, see My heart, and follow Me." See the difference?
When we're in a romantic relationship with someone, we want to learn all that we can about that person. We study them. The same concept can be applied to our quiet time. That time is when we study Christ and learn Him because we love Him and want our lives to point to Him.
4. Studying something from Scripture you are interested in makes a quiet time that much more fulfilling.
This is also something else that I have majorly struggled with. Majorly. It's tempting to just open the Bible and read whatever verse my finger lands on. It's also tempting to just stick to Bible studies where other people have given you homework and relying on what they have to say about the Word.
Something that I have been doing for the past few years is going through books of the Bible. I have learned SO much from doing this. Whenever I finish a book, I spend a week or two weeks praying and asking God where He wants me to go next in Scripture. He usually shows me where I should be and then I do a little bit of research on the book before I start to get some context on the book itself.
Then, I go through and read a paragraph or a section of a chapter of the book. Once I have read my portion for the day, I go through each verse and write down whatever God is saying to me about that verse and maybe how He is applying it to my life today.
Here's an example:
A few days ago I read Psalm 42 and went through each verse and wrote in my journal what I thought God was saying through these verses. Here is what I wrote about verses 5-8.
"Though sorrows and tears come and sometimes overwhelm me, Your faithfulness sustains me. Your love revives me and fills my soul. I am overflowing with Your grace and Your presence. Your love washes over me like the waves of the ocean."
I also do the Bible studies with the homework but I feel like I am more connected and in sync with God by going through a book and allowing Him to teach me.
5. Prayer is vital to having a healthy quiet time/relationship with God.
I cannot stress the importance of prayer enough. Prayer is SO important to having a personal relationship with Christ. I don't think I am eloquent enough to adequately describe prayer so I'm going to let some of the greatest people describe it for me:
"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God - it changes me."
- C.S. Lewis
"Any concern too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be turned into a burden."
- Corrie Ten Boom
"I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer."
- Martin Luther
"The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing."
- S.D. Gordon
"The essence of meditation is a period of time set aside to contemplate the Lord, listen to Him, and allow Him to permeate our spirits."
- Charles Stanley
6. Commitment is what will drive you. If you're not committed or determined, your quiet time will not be regular or profitable.
The key thing to having a successful quiet time is commitment. Since I have committed to studying my Bible every day, a fire has grown within me. My desire and thirst for the Words of Scripture cannot be quenched. I can't get enough. If I could spend all day reading and studying and writing about Scripture alone, I would do it in a heart beat. I desire closeness with Christ Jesus and Scripture and prayer brings me closer to Him than anything else in this world.
"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."
1 Chronicles 16:11
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.