Stretch Your Comfort Zone

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"Stretch your comfort zone" by Nancy Ward (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Unsplash.com (2017), CC0/PD

Are you hesitant about sharing your faith? I made my initial commitment to Jesus as a shy 15-year-old at a Protestant youth retreat. As an introvert, I didn’t tell anyone about my experience until I was a wife, mother, and convert.

My introverted nature has deep roots. I know that God has anointed every Christian, including me, as an evangelist at our baptism. That truth got stuck in my head and did not reach my heart for decades. I ran into that wall of discomfort when I felt I “should evangelize” and thus avoided situations where I might share my faith.

I argued that “stepping out in faith” would never work for me, as unqualified as I am to talk about Catholicism. It wasn’t until after I experienced a profound renewal of my faith, that I realized I didn’t have to know all the theological answers. I just had to be willing to share my own experiences.

The generosity of the Holy Spirit

The second incentive came with a new understanding of the Holy Spirit and his role in my life. He is my counselor, guide, and inspiration. He generously gives me every spiritual gift I need to share my faith.

One of the first persons I talked to about my faith was struggling with a sibling relationship. My heart filled with compassion for her. God’s grace of compassion rose from within me as I remembered his miraculous healing of my similar struggle. His compassion overflowed into caring more for her than for my discomfort in sharing how God had given me the grace to forgive someone in my family. I didn’t hesitate when the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray with her and share how God had delivered me from an unforgiving heart and bitterness. I forgot I wasn’t in my comfort zone and spontaneously spoke from my heart. The experience was so freeing! It brought me so much joy! But I still didn’t wasn’t sure how to evangelize.

The wisdom of Saint John Paul II

Then I discovered that Saint John Paul II taught that the most effective way to evangelize is through our personal witness. I liked the idea that I could use my initial conversion story and my later renewal experience to encourage those around me in their relationship with the Lord. Could I learn to initiate a conversation with an acquaintance and talk about my relationship with God? I pushed that possibility out of the realm of what I could ever do. Yet, I wanted that joy I felt when I reached out to encourage that hurting woman.

As a journalist and blogger, I keep a running journal of important moments. Many of them are about how God works in my life – answering prayers, healing my body and my emotional hurts, giving me both positive and negative guidance toward his will for me. My spiritual journal is a treasure of stories to share when the Holy Spirit nudges me.

The instructions of St. Peter

The persistent Holy Spirit put before me everywhere I turned, the words of St. Peter that instruct us in basic evangelization.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)

I got the message. I don’t have to be proactive. Just be ready to share a little with those the Holy Spirit prompts to approach me with questions. The most frequent questions are, “How did you convert to Catholicism? Why are you still a Catholic? Do you still go to Mass?”

The Holy Spirit inspires me to answer both the surface question and the deeper longing we all have in our hearts to be loved unconditionally. I needn’t worry about my answers. I can lean on Jesus’ promise in John 14:26, that the Holy Spirit will remind me of everything the Lord has told me, and that includes the story of my relationship with Him. He helps me express my faith story the most effective way for each questioner.

The advice of Dr. Greg Popcak

If you doubt you will ever be able to get out of your comfort zone, you might want to consider what Dr. Greg Popcak writes in his post, “The Comfort Zone.” Here’s one of the ways he suggests we can increase our happiness and successfully expand our comfort zones:

Ask yourself one simple question every day, “What is one thing I can do today to make someone’s day better?” Asking ourselves this question sets the intention that we are looking for ways to reach out to others.

When we apply this question to sharing our faith, concentrating on what we can do to bring someone closer to God, the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts his abundant compassion. He floods our minds with a wealth of ways God has blessed us that we can’t wait to share.

What’s one incident in your faith story can you share to make someone’s day better?


Copyright 2020 Nancy HC Ward 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithonthecouch/2019/11/the-comfort-zone/

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About Author

Nancy Ward authored Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies (and the DVD) and contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She loves to share her conversion story and give evangelization workshops and retreats equipping others to share their faith. She facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers, Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique Group, serves on their Board, and speaks at writers’ conferences. Learn more at JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com.

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