It was Christmas 2016 and I needed a job. My wife, Jane, asked me at the time, “Well what are you most passionate about?” I thought for a minute. “Well actually I really like making coffee. And I love being creative, making art. But I also love speaking to people about Jesus. Sharing my faith, and my testimony”. Jane asked me, “Why can’t those things all be rolled into one?”
It seemed an unrealistic flight of fancy until she discovered a job advert for an “evangelistic barista” position at a place called Husk – a coffee shop run by London City Mission. Well, I applied, and was offered the job – only to discover that Husk was also an art gallery and creative space. You can’t make it up!
Things didn’t end there, though: after an intense few months adjusting to the exacting coffee standards at Husk (I thought I knew how to make coffee!) and finding my fit in the team, my manager approached me to say that our café supervisor had resigned and he thought I should go for her job. I thought to myself: “but I was just getting comfortable!”
I’ve often struggled with this concept of comfort. Naturally, I want to be comfortable. Perhaps you are the same. But throughout my life God has seemed so intent on stretching and challenging me that I’d come to the conclusion that He wasn’t interested in my comfort. But I was wrong – in fact, He wants the opposite, He’s passionate about our comfort! Only, He wants us to enjoy the comfort that He provides, not the comfort we feel we can provide for ourself.
The early Christians, Acts tells us, walked “in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9.31). The name John gives the Holy Spirit can be translated “comforter” (John 14.16). Here’s a question: when do you need the comfort of the Holy Spirit? When your own resources for comforting yourself have dried up and your surroundings look anything but comfortable. Because it’s in that place that God’s supernatural comfort, which surpasses anything man-made, kicks in. And as long as we’re preserving our own personal “comfort zone” we’ll never get there.
On a Sunday recently, we heard about being in “God’s gym”. I went to a gym once. It was torture. My friend had me doing weights for an hour and a half and by the end I lacked the strength to push open the door to the toilets. My first few months in the supervisor role felt a bit like that. Muscles I didn’t know I had were being prodded, pulled and warped in seemingly unnatural ways. It was painful. Confronting people. Encouraging people. Trying to build team morale. Sorting out disagreements. Making decisions on the fly. Organising rotas. Managing stock meticulously. Customer complaints. All things that I would have said were not in my natural skill set.
But you know what? In all of this I have changed. I thank God that He sees more for us that we can see for ourselves. He wants to enlarge our capacity and get us doing things that we would never have dreamed of doing. He wants us to step out of our comfort zone and into His: the place where we are truly moulded and grown. It may not be easy, but we have a Comforter who knows what He’s doing.
In short, the gym works. When tested, muscles get stronger. Having said that, I don’t think you’ll find me in Gold’s Gym Dagenham again any time soon.