Many years ago I attended an outdoor workshop in the mountains of West Virginia where we learned and practiced physical skills. We tent-camped for a week and I was definitely out of my comfort zone with camping and also with physical movement in nature.
I was an athlete in the gym, but moving in nature presented challenges that made it unpredictable — sun, rain, wind, insects, foliage, heat, cold, terrain and my own insecurities about all of that and more.
I discovered that I couldn’t balance on a log very well and in fact I was fearful of falling off of everything. I felt that my physical kills were below that of the other students in the workshop and my apprehension was hindering my progress.
I also learned that I was concerned about looking silly and I didn’t want people to see me struggle and fail.
That was an important realization and an opportunity for growth. By the end of the week, my biggest takeaway was that I needed to continue to practice letting go of tension and concerns, being in the moment, doing my best, and simply enjoying the experience.
This doesn’t just apply to learning new physical skills; it is an equally applicable to our daily lives, and more specifically, to our spiritual lives.
Very recently I went out of my comfort zone to attend a three-day out of town Catholic retreat by myself. No one I asked was free to attend, but the Holy Spirit kept prompting me to go anyway.
I’m glad I went as it was a wonderful weekend of growing closer to Jesus through Mary, receiving the Sacraments, attending presentations, and learning more about myself through God and through others.
I met a young man there who is discerning a call to the priesthood and we instantly connected. Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with the Diocesan Office of Vocations and I greatly enjoyed getting to know the seminarians and their families. God has given me a joyful heart for seminarians.
The young man whom I met at this retreat has a beautiful devotion to Mary. With a Rosary in-hand constantly, I believe he was praying unceasingly! It appeared, through his words and actions, that he was letting go and letting God lead his life as he shared his plans for college, seminary, and continued discernment. He was at this retreat of 250 people, by himself, one of very few men, and the youngest by far at the age of 18.
One might think that he was out of his comfort zone, but he was not. In fact, it seemed to be just the opposite. He was truly excited and grateful to be there and inspired to be with other like-minded Catholics, even if none of us were his age.
In what I consider a small act of great love, he would rush to open doors every time a group of us entered a building. He found ways all weekend to make self-offerings. It seems to me that falling off a log wouldn’t bother him at all. In fact, I bet he would welcome it.
It’s amazing to see how God works with us so individually and his generosity is always greater than we can imagine.
I went on retreat to receive the Sacraments, hear inspiring talks and to pray. I walked away with all of that and so much more with the example of spiritual strength in this future seminarian.
Thanks be to God for the nudge to get out of my comfort zone sometimes!