The Case for Choosing Discomfort

Her cries pierced the darkness, arousing us from our chilly slumber, almost every hour on the hour throughout the night. 

Earlier that day, packed for four days of life and adventure in the mountains, we buckled up our kids - ages 7, 6, and 1, and set out in our trusty Honda, affectionately known as Wanda, in search of the the perfect spot to pitch our tent. Upon navigating a steep and bumpy 4WD road that almost took out our rack and scratched both sides of Wanda, we found our little piece of paradise.

At nearly 11,000 feet, we were gifted with stunning scenery and cold temperatures, especially at night. We arrived, all of five of us with colds and my husband fighting a stomach bug. Our one year old, who is already not known for her sleeping prowess, woke up every hour of the night. All three nights. I would pull her in close to me, feed her, wipe her nose, warm her hands, and she would drift off back into her sweet slumber...until her next wake up, approximately one hour later.

We contemplated packing it all up and going home after the first night. And after the second. But we didn't. We chose to stay. Why? You may ask.

Well, while the nights were downright brutal, the days were equally beautiful, as worn and tired as we were.

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The intangible gifts of witnessing our little lady dig in the dirt and stomp in marshy puddles; of our boys excitedly hunting for minnows and in relentless pursuit of catching small trout with only their nets; soaking in the beauty of the snow-capped peaks standing tall in a circle around us; our boys summoning their imaginations to transform a pile of sticks into superheroes, attributing a super power to each one; the life-giving smells of fresh pine, mountain streams, and a crackling fire - these gifts were both unexpected and priceless.

Our modern American society holds high the value of comfort. We regularly strive to make our lives easier. Convenience, often prioritized over quality, becomes a primary goal.

Now before you throw your best eye roll in my direction, hear me out. In this season of parenthood, I often find myself longing for things to be easier. I've, on more than one occasion, uttered aloud, "why can't this just feel easy?!" And don't get me started on convenience. I'm the queen of Amazon Prime. I often ClickList my groceries. And I like my drive-thru coffee options.

But just because we long for something doesn't mean it's entirely good for us.

You see, while choosing comfort and convenience offers us a sense of safety and ease, it blinds us to opportunities we're not even aware we're missing out on.

There are plenty of times life carries out an assault on our sense of comfort and control, plucking us right out of our comfort zone and dropping us smack dab into the middle of an uncertain, unwanted, and uncomfortable storm.

So, why would we choose to place ourselves there, intentionally?

Three reasons.

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1) Our own discomfort has a way of eliciting empathy for others. Not a forced empathy but an authentic one that naturally rises up out of a personal encounter with pain and discomfort. When we're constantly making things easier for ourselves, we're widening the gap of empathy for and understanding of those for whom life feels hard.

2) Discomfort cultivates a greater appreciation for what we have. Can I just tell you how magnificent my warm, soft bed felt after sleeping (more like laying awake in agony whilst dreaming of sleeping) on the hard, cold ground for three nights? I really can't because it was indescribable. And oh, the long, hot shower washing over me, cleansing the layer of dirt that had covered my body. It's not every day that I stop to give thanks for running water, a roof over my head, and a mattress under my achy body. You better believe I didn't that day.

3) Purposefully placing  ourselves in positions of discomfort adds volume to our reservoir of fortitude. And as you know, a reservoir is a holding space, making itself available for when it's needed most. 

This is a privilege, to have the option of comfort. But when we challenge ourselves to get comfortable with discomfort, we augment the strength from which we have to to draw upon when life drops us, as it inevitably will, into uncomfortable circumstances we don't ask for. And we will discover we're equipped to navigate those storms with more grit and grace than we'd have ever imagined.


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