Comfort Zones

Being in a confined space for ten days with a group of forty people from different nationalities and backgrounds is a prime opportunity for learning. A recent vacation to Italy provided such a chance, as I sat on a bus and walked the sites with a group of strangers.

The first few days are quiet, as people keep to their small groups of family or friends, but as time goes by and meals are shared, barriers come down and conversation flows freely. Not only do your learn about their hometown or work experience, but you begin to hear comments that show you how their culture is clashing with the current one.

Suffice it to say, Americans are not the only ones who have comfort zones.

I will be the first to confess, I was ashamed at myself the very first night of this trip. After a long flight, a full day of walking, we arrived back to our hotel where I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I entered the room I was sharing with my son to find that the air conditioning was not working. I was exhausted, hot and hardly able to breathe. I had Nathan call the desk to ask how to turn it on. He was informed that they wouldn’t turn the air conditioning on until next week!

Next week! How could that be? Then it hit me — I’m in Europe, not America. Even after twenty years of living in the Middle East and no air conditioning for much of that time, I had already grown pampered by American central air. I opened the window and slept very well.

Whether it was the eggs, bad coffee at breakfast, no elevators or simply being among masses of people, most of the members of our tour experienced some sort of discomfort and disappointment. Thankfully, there was no great upheaval, and the time was passed in relative peace and tranquility.

Yet, this blip in time gave me pause to reflect on the idea of comfort zones. What am I so accustomed to in my daily life that I cannot imagine doing without? Can I do without it? If so, can I do without it without complaining? Ah…that’s the key now, isn’t it?

Do I try to take my comfort zone with me? Whether it’s on my phone or with a certain pillow, what do I lug around as excess baggage for the sake of my own comfort? Would all comfort really be lost without it?

As a person who’s lived and traveled across Africa and the Middle East, I have a high tolerance for discomfort, as I also remember those who do without so much on a daily basis. Yet, my hotel episode reminded me how quickly we can lose site of the essentials and be distracted by the luxuries. Yes, I’m talking about the essential as being a bed to lay on, while the luxury was air conditioning.

What has become essential in your life that in most parts of the world would be a luxury? How does that effect your attitude in life, travel and relationship to others? Do you demand your comforts at the expense of others?

What would Jesus do? What does he ask of you?

My goal is to thank him for the blessings while not demanding them as my right. I pray that my comfort zone will be the center of his will — air conditioned or not.

Where’s yours?

Grace and Peace


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