In a conversation last week I was told, “growth only happens when people are uncomfortable”. And let me tell you, it has been rattling around in my brain ever since! It seems there are a multitude of applications for this idea. Comfort is no place for change and growth. It’s not just that growth causes discomfort, but the idea that discomfort is necessary to growth. For myself, and for the church.
It called to mind something that I read recently in a book by Amy G. Oden, God’s Welcome: Hospitality For a Gospel Hungry World
Welcoming the stranger puts oneself and one’s community at risk. At best, the stranger is disruptive, bringing strange ideas and new, even wrong, ways of doing things. At worst, the stranger is dangerous, bringing disease, dishonor or violence. Welcoming the stranger is risky: everyone will be changed, host and guest alike…Nothing will be the same anymore, and we cannot know ahead of time what the changes will be.
In welcoming the stranger, “everyone will be changed . . . nothing will be the same anymore”. Now that is a discomforting thought! Welcoming new people into my life can be a joy or a challenge, but either way I am forever changed in some way – influenced by another’s life experience; exposed to new thoughts, arguments and world views; patterns of my daily routines altered to include another. (Two obvious examples are my husband and my son. They have both enriched my life beyond anything I could have ever imagined, but I am most definitely changed by their presence in my life!)
Perhaps the most discomforting part is that “we cannot know ahead of time what the changes will be.” Living into the unknown is never a comfortable place for me to be. I prefer to have some idea of what to expect, or to know at least in part what I am getting myself into. But that is not the nature of relationship.
Relationship takes risk. Amy Oden goes on to say that, “If we risk nothing, it is unlikely we are participating in God’s welcome.” Welcome and hospitality are at the heart of God’s good news, and we are not participating in that good news if we do not take risks to enter into new relationship. It is risky and uncomfortable, and unknown changes will occur, but we are called to make space in our hearts, our lives and in our church for others.
So, here’s to being uncomfortable.