Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Discomfort of Comfort

Much as I like to think of myself as a woman who enjoys pleasure in moderation, a glance at my blog clearly exposes a woman of extremes. I love, love, love what I love, and I abhor, detest, hate what I don’t love. The pathetic reality is that 25 years of living without most American-style creature comforts has not cured me of my wimpy ways.
People back home have it all wrong if they think I am some rough and ready jungle woman. One phrase that makes me cringe is, “Oh, I could never do what you do….” As if I just love being uncomfortable.
Who actually enjoys discomfort?
Only by the grace of God do I occasionally do without my creature comforts. It’s one thing to serve with all my heart, but when it involves an aching back, somehow I find myself recoiling.
One quick trip to an Indian village last week and my flesh cried out like the spoiled baby apparently I am. I am addicted to being pleasantly comfortable. I am ashamed of myself. After all this time, I still want what I want, when I want it, and with a La-Z-boy recliner while you’re at it, please.
Our little adventure was an assault on my senses. About an hour into the journey, strong gas fumes started filling the inside of the Suburban, with or without open windows. That was not fun. During the showing of the Jesus film, I was thoroughly distracted by the smell of smoky clothing from cooking fires, body odors, and cloth diapers that needed to be changed. Again, the curse of an astute sniffer.
My taste buds, on the other hand, had no complaints. The children might beg to differ, but I thought even the eggs scrambled with onion and green beans were delicious. Add salsa and fresh corn tortillas—and anything is fabulous. However, my ears grumbled inwardly after hours and hours of listening to ranchero-style music on the bus for many hours on the way home. It was all I could do to not scream out “STOP! Enough already!” (How long could you handle listening to this?)
The worst assault was on my physical body. Sleeping on a hard floor, reading, trying to relax, having devotions on a wooden pew bench, and waiting on a concrete slab for the car’s problem to be diagnosed—well, let’s just say that I was not overindulged in the comfort department. It wasn’t overly comfy being banged around on the bus either, having one fellow passenger poke me with her elbow, and another stab my foot with her umbrella as we were thrashed with the twists and turns of the road.
I used to laugh at the stories short-term teams relate when they come down, but on some unconscious level I think I felt I had already paid my dues, that I was somehow entitled to take it easy from here on out. Not so.
Maybe I get some credit for not complaining (I know my three children sure won some points with me for their flexibility without grumbling!), but I know I didn’t earn high marks overall. I pity my dh, who will have to go back with a mechanic to fix and retrieve our Suburban.
From the (ridiculous) comfort of my cushy couch, I have pondered my dubious “suffering. “ Truly it was no sacrifice at all. In contrast, anyone in the village we visited who comes to Christ must pay a fine to the town, an amount equivalent to a full year’s salary. They sacrifice one year of labor (in a rather uncomfortable place, imho*) – just for choosing to follow Christ. Can you imagine?
IRL*Forsaking all to follow Jesus is more than words to an upbeat song.
[*see Jamie-Jo Speak in sidebar]


  1. I cringe at that phrase too. In fact I totally relate to your post, except that I haven't been to an Indian village, but I'm sure my responses would be the same.

    Back to that "I could never do what you do..." phrase, I try to respond that God gives us the grace to do what he calls us to do or to cope with whatever comes our way. I try to sensitively point out to whoever says that that there are things about their lives that I'd have trouble doing, like coping with depression or living in the same place for many years, for example.

  2. I hear the "I could never do what you are doing" way too much. My husband has given the best come back, though. He responds with "It would require more faith to NOT do what we are doing". So true.

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has these secret addictions to her comfort. Of course everyone gets a kick out of this person who doesn't like camping and thinks Motel 6 is beyond roughing it, is leaving all the familiar comforts of home to go to the wilds of PNG. Yes, I'm a wimp!

  3. ouch, ouch, ouch! I think you must have stepped on my toes, JJ. I definitely love my comfy stuff, too. Thanks.

  4. So true, Wendy. I may borrow that thought for a while. There are so many reasons why I would not trade places with anyone who says they could never do what I do.

    Ellis family, my close friends laughed over the very same thing. I was always the one who didn't love camping, who hated all creepy crawlies, etc. And yet here I am!

    Lorinda, no toes are more bruised than my own, I assure you. Sorry. Or you're welcome. Or both?

  5. I too have been there yet it doesn´t make it any easier to give up even what little comforts we may have on the mission field. Traveling to the Indian villages of Costa Rica is much the same as Mexico it seems no running water, electricity or beds after hours of traveling and walking muddy mountain trails. I love this time of testing though because it reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing. It keeps it real and brings me back to the feet of Jesus. I remember being on a Nicaraguan bus with its music full volume and lights on on an all night ride complete with chickens and and ice cream cart with bells and so many smells that even the open windows did no good. I am just glad it was before any pregnancies as I do not think I have the same nose now as I did then!

  6. Great, thought provoking post, Jamie Jo. I could relate to your statement "I felt I had already paid my dues." I find myself from time to time dealing with "discomfort" like 110 degree weather with no air conditioner, hot bus rides, or water cuts, etc. And sometimes I fret to myself, "I'm getting too old for this!" But God reminds me that following Christ has no age limit! And I try to laugh things off and tell myself these things will keep me young!

  7. Oh, my dear OliveTree. 110 degree weather would certainly push me way beyond any semblance of a comfort zone. I love your quote "Following Christ has no age limit!" It is the world that puts the nasty lie in our heads that we are getting too old for this. How often have I heard those very words in my own mind. Praise God we still have the strength to do this!

  8. Rachel, somehow I missed your comment. Your quotable quote: "I love this time of testing...because it reminds me of why I am doing what I'm doing...and brings me back to the feet of Jesus." Good words! So true. We can all relate. It reminds me of the testimony of the pastors held captive in Turkey (I think?), who missed their time of captivity when they were released, because they were so close to the Lord in their suffering.

  9. Loved this! I do believe, however, it WAS a sacrifice (a holy offering to God) and one well worth it. After all, aren't we called to "offer ourselves as a living sacrifice..?", putting ourselves on the altar repeatedly - whether it's the altar of discomfort or another.
    This was very well written. Thanks!

  10. Thanks, Ilona. Your words minister to my heart today, too. I appreciate the encouragement. I guess we must offer ourselves daily since we never seem to manage to stay on that altar.


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