A few weeks ago I made an attempt (which ultimately was only minimally successful) to clean off my desk. In some ways my cleaning attempt was like an archeological dig. The deeper I got, the more interesting things I discovered. Now I used to feel bad about how my desk looked. Several years ago, though, I went to a talk about how to be better organized. The presenter said one thing in particular that really spoke to my heart. Specifically she said: “Some people file things to find them. If you are one of those people your desk is always neat and clean. Other people, though, file things when they are finished with them. If you are one of those people you almost always have piles on your desk. The reason for this is that you need to keep everything you are working on in plain view. If you put something away you are done with it.” These words immediately brought me a sense of comfort and peace. And while I don’t brag about the appearance of my desk, I no longer feel bad about it either.
I suspect that most of us have had similar experiences—times when someone has said something that calmed our fears, eased our distress, or lessened our guilt. These times are islands of peace amid the often stormy sea of life. There are other times, though, when someone says something that can cause us to feel uneasy or even anxious. For me, the words of Jesus often do both of these things.
At times, Jesus’ words can be enormously comforting as when he reminds us that God loves us and forgives our sins. At the same time, though, Jesus’s words can also challenge us as they remind us that we are to love others as we have been loved and to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus’ words are often a two-edged sword. They comfort and console us, while at the same time challenging us and perhaps making us feel a bit uneasy about how we are living.
While I definitely like living in my comfort zone, I find I function best when I am on the edge of my comfort zone as opposed to being in the middle of it. Most often Jesus’ words challenge me to move out of the middle of my comfort zone and live on the edge of it. They remind me that if I want to experience God’s love and forgiveness, then I need to work to extend these to others. This isn’t easy and in fact I fail at it regularly. If I look to Jesus’s words for comfort and consolation, though, I must also hear and be open to the challenge in them. The promise, as well as the challenge of Jesus’s words can not be separated. Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about recognizing this, but also living so as to give witness to it with our lives.