Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. This quote is plastered on my refrigerator as a daily reminder of where I’ve been and where I’m going.
For me, it speaks to the struggle of faith. For the past 8 years, I have wrestled with theological issues. I was a Religion major at a progressive school in undergrad, and I continued this training in my dual degree Master of Divinity and MS in Counseling program. I learned about historical context and literary aspects of the texts, and I took classes in ancient languages. I met people all along the way who gently yet consistently challenged my view of God. I encountered people's pain and took it upon myself; even if they weren't asking the questions I deemed pertinent, I was. Why? What's the point of this? How did this happen? Where are you, God? Things were not easy anymore. I couldn't just copy and paste the biblical text into my life anymore. I came across horrifying texts of violence against women and violence against humankind in general that I could not easily digest. I was certainly uncomfortable.
I couldn't sit in church on Sunday and not think critically, so at many different points in the past 8 years, I stopped going altogether. I have felt defeat once or twice; I will always remember when a pastor at a church I was attending during undergrad mockingly answered a question I’d asked in front of a group of prospective church members and told me I'd likely never get to teach a Sunday school class with both men and women in it- Religion degree or not. "Calling" or no calling- because of my gender, this was not a possibility. Or how about one of the times an acquaintance asked my major, I gave an answer, and they subsequently asked if my boyfriend was going to be a minister? If I so desired, couldn’t I be a minister?
For a long time, I gave up. At one point, I thought that this faith struggle made me less able to help others. I longed for my comfort zone- that far away place where I knew exactly who God was and could succinctly describe my experience of that aforementioned God.
When we step outside of our comfort zone and let the stories of others truly touch us, we expose ourselves to all sorts of change. I opened myself up to God even when it wasn't the God I recognized. I thought I'd lose every ounce of faith I had- and at some points, maybe I did?
It is this very struggle that allows me to sit with my clients in the midst of their questioning of God. Because of my own experience of painfully “unpacking” my faith, I can sit with others’ insecurities. I do not have to offer answers to questions; instead, I can encourage my clients to embark on the beautiful, lifelong journey of discovering the Sacred for themselves.
I am a person who is interested in offering life-giving ways of seeing the Divine while affirming past and current realities. I am not a counselor who does not struggle or ask questions for myself; how can I ask my clients to do that work if I am not entrenched in it myself?
So in the end, I’m mostly thankful for discomfort; for so often at the very end of my comfort zone, I find enlightenment. I find the Sacred.
Megan Broadhead is a counselor who is entangled in the pursuit of theological and psychological integration and women's issues, for more information go to www.missintermission.com