For a moment, I was in heaven.
It was beyond comfort. Paradise. Perfect. Worth fighting to preserve.
For 3 hours I enjoyed a birthday dinner with friends at Maggiano’s, a popular Italian restaurant designed to look like 1930s Chicago.
For me, this is near-heaven. Enveloped in atmosphere, smells, and the laughter of people I love, there is no work, no household cleaning, no financial concerns, nothing to hold me back from idolizing this moment as the end-all be-all of my life.
But then it happened.
Our friends’ 7-month old, an adorable bundle of chubby cheeks and straw-colored hair, started squawking. He needed attention and he needed it now. And he was going to get it.
Normally this would just annoy me. But not today.
As a soon-to-be father, only a few months away from welcoming my own chubby-cheeked bundle into the world, this needy child grabbed my attention and the ideal world around me began to fade. Noticing that my demeanor had stiffened, my friends, the parents of this little squawker, happily reminded me that my life was going to change.
For 29 years I have lived a life of immense comfort. I tend to complain about slow traffic, long lines, and babies that squeal and make a scene in restaurants. So far these are the kinds of grievances my comfortable existence has afforded.
Yet in that cozy, warmly-lit restaurant, I began to realize just how much I’ve let comfort enslave me. It never seems like a cruel task-master, yet it drives me day and night and paralyzes my creative efforts like nothing else.
Perhaps it does the same to you.
Here’s what I mean.
Comfort Doesn’t Satisfy
Our dinner at Maggiano’s was immaculate – and there are leftovers in the fridge that will make me a very happy man in the near future.
Yet such meals are, and must continue to be, a rare treat. They are not cheap.
And since it was a birthday it was a rare gathering of friends, the kind that gets someone to say, “We should do this more often,” even though we probably won’t.
Maggiano’s on Saturday. Leftovers on Sunday. Hunger on Monday.
Comfort satisfies for mere hours, not a lifetime. Our bodies are simply never satisfied long enough to never hunger again.
Comfort is 100% About Me
Comfort is inherently selfish.
Every ounce of my effort to become comfortable is self-focused, self-centered, and self-promoting. It is not sacrificial – in fact, the pursuit of comfort is almost always sacrificial of others.
My worship of comfort is the ultimate act of self-glorification. For me to be comfortable, my wife, my child (born or unborn), my friends, and complete strangers must all get out of the way, stop what they’re doing, and offer respect where it is due.
No human being can live like this and change the world for good. It is logically impossible.
Comfort Values the End, Not the Journey
Comfort teases me with thoughts of a best-selling book. It lures me into imaginary conversations with Oprah and Conan O’Brien where I talk about how my book is being adapted into a blockbuster motion picture. Comfort seduces me into wishing, wanting, and hoping.
But it never motivates me to work.
In fact, comfort promises me that hard work is a waste of time. I’ve already worked hard, it says, and I need a break while the world gets wise to my genius and falls in love with it. (<— Click to Tweet this)
This holds true with any discipline. Getting in shape is not comfortable. Growing in knowledge or spiritual matters takes tremendous effort and discipline.
Comfort has no need of such things.
Comfort Underestimates You
Have you ever looked back on an incredibly tense or dangerous event in your life and marveled at how you stayed composed for it?
As a camp counselor, teacher, and husband, I can think of dozens of times like this. Life is filled with these moments when we are called to be strong, so we are.
Yet when I am in the throes of comfort, I shrivel in terror at such moments. I think of them and feel sick to my stomach. “I can’t do that,” I think, “that would be horrible!”
One of Comfort’s great falsehoods is that Discomfort is disgusting and wrong – and if you feel discomfort, then something is wrong with your life.
Yet it is often – and sometimes only – in Discomfort that we see how great we can truly be. In trials, we rise. In tests, we succeed. And in the multitude of life’s moments when selflessness is called for, we consistently give and give.
If Comfort underestimates you, Discomfort has the potential to compel you to greatness.
Comfort is Slavery
It’s one thing to rest. We all need rest. Even the Bible commands its people to take a day off once a week.
But my lifestyle of chasing perpetual comfort has been a daily poison that I drink with a smile. I think it will save me from stress and ease my soul’s frustrations. I am so all-in on comfort that I believe its greatest lie, and therefore am its slave:
I believe that Comfort is the reason for living.
Is any of this making sense?
Are you and I the same in any way, here?
There are two things I noticed that got me thinking about Comfort and its vicious grip on my life, and perhaps you can too:
- How much time I spend thinking about and doing things that I think will make my life more comfortable, and therefore better.
- How much emotion I feel at the thought of losing that comfort, primarily anxiety and anger. (Click here to Tweet these questions to your followers)
It happened for me in that restaurant. My child isn’t even born yet and I began to get anxious and angry that it was going to invade MY life and interrupt MY sleep and possibly block me from MY dreams.
If you’re anything like me, we need a new paradigm. To turn Comfort on its head we need to invert its lies.
We need to believe that while comfort may briefly satisfy, the discomfort of hard work and dedication will yield infinite joy and pride over our work.
We need to believe that living a life that is sacrificial and 100% about others will satisfy us more than we could hope to by living just for ourselves.
We need to trust that the journey is just as important as the destination and learn to appreciate the rewards of a journey’s hard going.
And we must celebrate the heroism of rising to the cries of a baby in the middle of the night. It takes a courageous warrior, male or female, to comfort that irrational, shrieking bundle of chubby-cheeks, and gently lay it back down, knowing that it will probably cry again in just a few hours. Much of life’s little bothers require such heroism – and it is within all of us.
Only our Comfort stands in the way.
Are you hungry for more? Are you tired of being a slave?
Shake off your chains. Embrace the discomfort of the journey.
As a story-teller, and as a person, how has Comfort enslaved you? Share in the Comments below!