Thinking about doing gymnastics today, got me thinking about being uncomfortable. Not only the discomfort my aging body will feel after attempting to tumble nearly 30 years after my last gymnastics class, but the awkward internal discomfort of stepping outside my norm. You’ve all likely heard me say, you should only be comfortable with 75% tops of what we do here. Any more than that and we’re not being grown, challenged, exposed to new ideas. Today, my guess is, we’ll be at least 25% or more uncomfortable as we come to terms with trying new things, doing things we’re not good at, and that don’t come easily to 30somethings.
The Bible tells us a lot of stories about being uncomfortable, but one of the foundational ones is found in the 2nd book of the old testament. A book called Exodus. Some scholars argue that Exodus is actually the first book of the bible, and Genesis is more of a prologue. They say this because the Exodus story is the one that changes the paradigm of life in this context. Exodus sets the stage for the teachings of both old and new testament, and the story goes like this.
The Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt. They spent all their days, 7 days a week, making bricks. Bricks, Bricks Bricks as Rob Bell is fond of saying. Their lives held little meaning to them or to their captors, their was very little joy, no rhythm of work and rest, just bricks, bricks, bricks. All day making the building blocks for someone else’s dreams some else’s legacy.
So the story goes, the people cried out to God, and he took pity on them. He sent them a rescuer who has a rather complicated story himself…for another time…a man named Moses. He was self-described as “slow of speech and slow of tongue,” but despite that God chooses this unlikely hero to free the Hebrews from slavery. But Moses can’t fathom the enormity of this job, and frankly he doesn’t even know what to call this god who is speaking to him through a burning bush.
See in those days the most prevalent belief was that there were many gods. And the existence of the world and humanity was a result of these gods fighting it out for power. They had control over different aspects of life, and often required plying with sacrifices so as not to vent their anger on humanity.
Back to our story, Moses reasonably asks, which god is this? What name can I tell them? And here is where it gets really good. God answers, “I AM.” And Moses says, “thanks, that clears it up.” What? “I AM” This doesn’t fit with any of the current understandings of gods, but that also seems to be the point. This is not some god among many. This God is pure existence, reality, being. You may remember from our yoga expression that the Hebrew letters for this name yod, hey, vav, hey…sound like breathing sounds. The breath of life, the breath that breathed the world as they knew it into existence. And this is who Moses shall say has sent him to free the Hebrew people.
It was in their extreme discomfort, perhaps the most uncomfortable one can be, that they called out to God. Is it possible that it is in our discomfort that we can most easily call out to God and be open to God’s response? Let’s think about this for a moment. When do we cry out to God? When we are afraid, when we or someone we love is hurt or ill, when all seems lost…like God is our last resort.
Liberation theologians would agree. They would argue that the poor, the oppressed, the sick are in a unique position to experience and witness to God. They would argue that these are the people that Jesus fought for, and they have a unique and perhaps more accurate perspective to share on who God is.
The Exodus story would seem to support some of this idea. See the Hebrews were eventually freed, there is much more to this story, but once they are its not long before they start to complain. They start to wander from God and worship other gods and whine about how hard it is to be free. They forget all too quickly what it was like to be enslaved, and begin to complain that their freedom isn’t good enough. That their comfort isn’t comfortable enough. Thinking they deserve more.
What is it about being comfortable that makes us assume we deserve more, or that our blessings aren’t enough, or that makes us so quickly forget the gratitude of being helped out of our discomfort.
So today, lets get a little uncomfortable…and tomorrow perhaps a bit more so. But lets do it mindfully. Mindful of where God is in our discomfort, and grateful for the growth that comes with it. And perhaps also grateful for the mercy when that discomfort eases.