Are you comfortable?
For several years, God has been gently guiding me to see that comfortable is not the same thing as happy. See, I've been living a fairly comfortable life for quite a few years now. I'm very blessed to have a loving family, a safe home, a good job. Along the way, I had this growing certainty that even though I was comfortable, I wasn't happy.
How frustrating is that? I have more wealth in my life than what the vast majority of humanity has, and somehow it's not enough. I was comfortable, but discontent. I couldn't stop worrying and wanting more.
When the chance came up to join a year long experience sure to disturb my comfort, God had already made my heart ready.
This year, I have journeyed with a program called the JOY of Formation. JOY stands for Justice and Outreach Year.
Three aspects of the year I have deeply appreciated are: 1) a community of 15 people who gather regularly to share what they've experienced, 2) visits every month to organizations who are working toward justice and outreach, and 3) my personal outreach placement in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
Since I began the program, I have been made uncomfortable on a number of occasions. Encountering injustice and loneliness will do that to you. I've awakened anger, sadness, despair, and longing in my heart because of what I've seen and who I've met this past year. What's interesting is that these emotions were not strange to me, but felt like they came from deep inside me, only I hadn't let them come up until now.
And here's where God's secret sauce comes in. Because you might be thinking, as I did and still do sometimes, that anger, sadness, despair and longing couldn't possibly make me happy.
God's secret sauce is people. This year, all these emotions have come to the surface in me because I have encountered people. With them, it is true, that injustice and isolation in our society has made me feel strongly upset, but that is only because encountering the new beautiful people I have met has filled me with such... Joy!
I know, right? I have met people totally outside my comfort, prisoners and drug addicts, dying people and homeless people, refugees and missionaries. And each encounter brings a new quality of joy, a joy that brings new meaning to being angry or sad, because I finally learn more clearly what to be angry or sad about.
One emotion I'm feeling alot less than a year ago is fear. Before, I was afraid what I had wasn't ever enough. Now I am much more able to trust and to love, maybe even more so when I'm feeling uncomfortable.
The school I teach at will hosts a Special Olympics Track Meet. For many of us who have been there, it shines as the best day of the year. Maybe for others, the experience of spending the day with special athletes, their caregivers or even just athletics, is something out of their comfort zone.
My experience with JOY, and our upcoming encounter with Special Olympics is part of the biggest deal on Earth. Perfect joy is available to us when we are willing to be uncomfortable by making others' needs our own. This is so big that it can start today. Maybe you've noticed there’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe a person in your community is having a tough time and needs a little help with something. Maybe you just need to admit what you're feeling, and talk to someone about it.
Maybe today's the day God's making your heart ready to ditch comfort and welcome joy.
Ryan LeBlanc is a Saskatoon based educator and a participant of the 2016-2017 J.O.Y. program cohort. Read more from Ryan on his blog at thinkcatholic.weebly.com