We all have our “safe” spaces, the places where we feel comfortable, a space where we might stay forever, if it was possible.A “safe” space, a comfort zone, can be physical. That’s the obvious and most literal definition but it can also be a mental or emotional space. A friendly chat over a shared hobby, a favourite song on the radio, a moment to dream our best dreams can transform us, putting us at ease as we hang out in an emotional or mental comfort zone.
For Christians, our most common emotional comfort zone is the Pasture, a place where we are safe with other sheep and guarded by Jesus. It’s an ancient concept, described eloquently by King David generations before Jesus. Well watered, fed, protected and treated like royalty, David’s green pastures are echoed by Jesus and longed for by many of us.
Right now, time spent safe, secure and not having to worry about appropriate physical distancing from our fellow sheep sounds pretty good. But there’s a disconnect between David’s comfort zone and what Jesus offers. David speaks of a place for at the centre of God’s attention. His idea of “safe” space, makes sense, given that he once was a shepherd protecting and caring for his flock.
Jesus, however, describes Himself as our shepherd, offering we sheep many of the same benefits David did, but here’s the thing.
Jesus never actually describes our pasture life, nor does He really talk about the pasture itself. Jesus, it turns out, is offering Himself as our “safe” space. Jesus wants to be our comfort zone, the place we find ourselves nourished, equipped and protected. Our pasture? It’s only a metaphor, along with that of Jesus as our good Shepherd. Where Jesus really would like us to be in real and practical terms is in our discomfort zones, the places where we are challenged, and tested, and maybe even pushed to our limits.
Think of where Jesus sent His followers. Think of what He asked them to do. He sent them amongst the sick and broken, into the homes of the outcast and the rejected. He challenged his followers to turn the other cheek when struck and to feed their hungry enemy. Travel light, He told his followers. Be as cunning as you need to be, He warned them. If you are rejected, walk away, but never reject anyone who needs you to love or care for them.
And when you need a safe space, a comfort zone to heal and regroup and prepare yourself for the next adventure in your discomfort zone, Jesus will welcome you. He will provide for you that safe person, that comforting conversation or gentle touch you need. But when you’re ready, your next discomfort zone awaits, and when you’re there, serving the needy, or comforting the grieving widow or welcoming the stranger, a strange thing happens. A wonderful thing takes place when you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, your safe place, and put your heart on the line. When you do that, you become the safe place for another. You become the comfort zone for them, putting their hearts at ease and revealing to them Jesus, alive and well, and working through you.