I do not wish to leave my comfort zone. It is a nice here. The clock is always set at dusk with a warm breeze that picks through my hair. Birds sing out in the distance. They harmonize promises of safety and redemption.
In my comfort zone I sit on a porch swing. The creaking of the to and fro recall memories of my younger years. The swings home is my Granny's front porch. It runs the length of her house. It's made of wood and laughter. Sometimes Granny comes and joins me. Her face is reassuring. The wrinkles that have long set into her features let me know that hard time do not kill. They only strengthen.
There's a gold lab that lives in my comfort zone. She answers to the name Lady. She stands at attention in front of the couch that seats Granny. Lady's position allows Granny to prop her tired feet on canine's back. Granny's feet and legs are worn out from the morning's labors. Her work is one of a homemaker. Her specialty is biscuits and singing. Old gospel hymns are her favorite. I can here them now as the fresh aroma of her handiwork makes it way to where I'm sitting. Lady knows Granny is tired. She stands there as long as it takes for Granny to rest.
I don't want to leave my comfort zone. The sky is lit up with pinks and purples cast about by the setting sun. The dirt road that runs in front of this wonderful spot is inviting. The sand is warm under my bare feet. Black and deep, it invites me to sit and bury my legs up to my waist as I did when I was a child. I forgo this activity. I see something off in the distance that keeps me rooted to my spot.
Clouds. Dark. Ominous. Numerous in their formations. I see them just past the dirt road. Past the field of sunflowers that hug the road and the dirt that I long to play in. Where once there stood a picket fence that separated my world from a neighborhood, there now sits a dark forest. The leaves that hang from the thick branches are brown and frayed from starvation. They are starved for light; for the brightness and warmth of the sun. They have multiplied in such excess that they are now slowly killing themselves.
Rain pours from the clouds. It burdens the limbs of these dying trees; causing them to reach towards the ground in sorrow. The trees wish to speed up the process of death. They are impotent, however. And can not do anything more than take the pain of living.
The biggest cloud, set in the middle of the all the other, smaller, clouds, spits forth a lightening bolt. I hear a tree explode and break as it falls to the ground. The other sinister clouds enjoy this display of power and spring forth life. One by one, they unleash their own hostile bolts of lightening upon the dying forest. I hear boom after boom as the trees are broken. They produce a horrific swooshing sound as they fall to their deaths.
Here in my comfort zone I shudder at the mayhem that I can faintly see. The sight is scarey; but I feel none of the moisture or the wind from the storm. I am safe and I know that as long as I stay in this swing, on this porch, as it sits on the side of a warm dirt road, nothing can touch me.
"Bad cloud over that-a-way," Granny says. She wears a pink button down dress with white daisies scattered across the front. Her long grey hair is pulled back in a bun. It is the perfect hair do to show off her round face. Her dress falls to her knees. The front is covered in flour from the morning chores. She sit on an old orange sofa put on the porch just for her. Lady stands in front of Granny, ready to receive the weight of her tired feet.
"Looks scarey," is my reply. I turn my face into the warm breeze. My features are similar to Granny's, yet different. My hair, while long like her's, is brown and free to hang down my back. My skin is a darker brown than her's. My face is absent of wrinkles and laugh lines. My legs are long. They are strong and free of fatigue. I am taller than she is. Tall enough to kiss the top of her head whenever I so desire.
And while she will never be seen in anything other than a dress, I am most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt.
"Wonder what's on the other side of them trees," Granny says.
"Why does it matter," I ask.
"Don't you wanna know?"
"Not really. I like it here. I have everything I need. I got a good life here."
My reply seems to amuse Granny and she laughs. I love to watch her laugh. She hunches her shoulders up into a shrug and giggles like a little girl. It's as if laughter is a secret only to be shared between loved ones.
"Having everything you need isn't a life. Just like breathing don't mean you're living."
"Well, I'm happy here. Is that a better answer?"
"No," she laughs again. "Don't you wanna know what's on the other side?"
"Not really," I tell her. "I could get killed in there. Look at the way that lightening is hitting those trees. That could be me."
"It could," she agrees. "What if one of your youngins was in there? Would you go then?"
"Of course. No doubt."
"But, what about the lightening? You still get hurt. Or even killed."
"My child is worth the risk," I say.
Granny nods. She leans forward and scratches behind Lady's ears. Lady wags her tail to show appreciation, but never moves. The animal is intent on carrying the weight of Granny's fatigue as long as needed.
"What if that sweet boy of yours was on the other side of all that mess? He was over there, happy, healthy... Just having him a good o'le time. What if the only way you could ever see him again was to make your way through them clouds? Would you do it?"
"But, you could get hurt," Granny reminds me.
"I know. But, it'd be worth it."
"Yep," she agrees once more. "So, why don't you go see what's on the other side?"
"I don't understand."
"Ya ain't living, ya know. Sittin' here. Rockin' and bein' comfortable. That ain't livin'. In order to live, ya got to grow. In order to grow, ya got to move. Ya got to live."
"What are you talking about?" I ask her.
"You believe in God?"
I answer that I do. I have always believed in God. Him and I haven't always seen eye to eye, but I know He is there. Just like I know the sun is in the sky. Even when hidden by the night.
"You got gifts, ya know." Granny finally takes her weary feet off of Lady. The dog, happy in the knowledge that she's done her duty, lays down and stretches her back out. Granny thanks her for her services by rubbing the dog's belly. "God gave all of us gifts. And to use them the way He intended, we got to grow. We got to get closer to Him."
"Those woods are scarey, Granny. I could get hurt. I won't have anyone to help me. To guide me."
"That's true. Look at it this way. The birds in the sky don't worry about guidance or getting hurt. They don't fret about when they're gonna eat. God takes care of all that for them. Now, if He does all that for a bird, imagine what He would do for you."
"What if there's nothing on the other side?" I ask. I can still see the rain beating the thick trees into submission. As lightening forces more of their friends to their doom, I want nothing more that to stay seated in this spot.
"If you come to nothing, then that just means you're not done travelin. Got to have more faith than that. There's always something. He wants you on the other side. He wants you over there away from here."
"What's over there?" I whisper.
"Go and find out."
But, I don't want to leave my comfort zone. The view is nice where I sit. I am happy. And I probably could say that I'll never leave my place on this porch if for not one tiny detail.
I desire to be more than I am.
I've always been happy. Even when the tears fell and my heart broke, I was still happy. As long as I felt safe, I've been happy. But, I've never been satisfied. Granny is right. God has blessed me with gifts that I'm not using to my fullest potential. I'm not doing what He designed me to do.
I'm not going to either as long as I permit myself to sit on this porch, in my comfort zone.
It's a scarey thing to set on your own. To venture into new territory. You find yourself leaving behind old friends, traditions, customs that you thought you'd always have. No one knows what the world has in store when they first introduce themselves to it. We don't know if there's a tree blocking our path until we've come upon it. The only way to truly leave my comfort zone is to step out on faith. I just have to believe that I'll make it. Believe that God will hold my hand through every gust of wine, down pour, and lightening strike that comes my way.
We have to pray our way through life. Pray our way out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. We have to hope that those who claim to love us will continue to love us. And we have to trust that God will heal our hearts when those people don't.
I do not wish to leave my comfort zone. I am happy and safe here. Yet, God is pulling me. He wants me elsewhere. He wants me to be what I am supposed to be. He wants me to use the gifts He gave me. I do not wish to leave this porch swing that speaks in creaks and memories. I do not wish to leave the porch whose wooden planks give off laughter when I walk across. But, I do desire to be more than I am. And it's this desire, coupled with faith, that propels me to step into the warm dirt of my childhood. It is the need to grow and live that drives me across the field of sunflowers into the dying forest.
And, while I still do not want to leave the safety of everything I know, it is my faith that keeps me strong as I venture out to say what lays on the other side of the storm that hangs above the dying trees.