I was terrified. God seemed to want me to travel alone from South Africa to America to attend a conference. I didn't have the money, I had never flown alone and I had never been to America. I would be totally out of my comfort zone. How I identified with the shepherds in the nativity story. (Luke 2:8-20)
Shepherds in those days were regarded as low-class, uneducated people with no status in public. They couldn't even be called as witnesses in a court of law. Suddenly they're face to face with an angel.
"You will find a baby," the angel told the terrified men. In other words, "Move out of your comfort zone. Leave your sheep, and go to Bethlehem and find this baby."
You have to be impressed. They may have been ignorant to the educated members of society, but these shepherds were curious—and they were obedient. As a result, they were also the first recorded visitors to the stable delivery room. The riffraff of society, visiting a newborn baby. How unsuitable. And how unhygienic to our modern way of thinking.
But then, think how unhygienic the delivery room was. A manger! The home of animals. So I guess the shepherds fit right in. These men lived out on the fields with their sheep. They didn't do this as a day job, returning home at night for a scrub in the tub and a warm dinner followed by a good night's sleep. No, these scruffy individuals lived, ate and slept out on the fields. At night they curled up on the ground and slept with their animals.
Think about it. These men, whom educated people looked down on, got to meet Mary and Joseph. They hadn't cleaned up for the event. They didn't have on suits and ties. They weren't dressed for church. They were still shell-shocked from the angelic experience. Yet these men spoke with the earthly parents of the Savior, the King of the Jews. They gazed at the newborn Jesus, lying asleep on a bed of hay. What a privilege. What an honor.
Richer, more important people would have been horrified at the conditions surrounding this new babe. They would have known how unsuitable the living conditions were. But the shepherds sensed they were right at home. They felt comfortable in the presence of the holy family. They were accepted. Mary and Joseph probably recognized the importance of shepherds. After all, some of the most important people in Scripture were shepherds; Abraham, Moses, King David . . . .
After visiting with Mary, Joseph and the baby, the shepherds returned to their sheep, excited and bubbling with the experiences of the night that would change them forever. On the way, they told everyone they met about their experiences. They weren't allowed to bear witness in court, but they were the first to give testimony to the birth of a Savior.
How strange. How remarkable. How marvelous. And it all happened because they agreed to move from their comfort zone. Because of their obedience to the message of God, many people in Bethlehem heard the news of the angelic visitation to earth, and of the arrival of the one who would one day call Himself, The Good Shepherd.
I wonder if I would have been prepared to leave my sheep and rush off to the nearby town to visit a newborn baby. Would I have told all those I saw about my experience, especially when they didn't want to speak to the likes of me? I even wonder if I would have heard what the angels had to say . . . or if I would have been too busy tending my sheep. Would I have been too busy doing the work God called me to do, to obey him and step away from my comfort zone?
I wonder how often we lose out because we remain where we feel secure. If I had chosen to stay safely in South Africa and not venture out in obedience to a seemingly crazy idea from God, I would have missed so many opportunities to see the Lord's hand at work.
Has God perhaps sent you a message to do something new? Has He suggested you step out of your comfort zone and tackle a new type of writing? A new topic? A new genre? Does He want you to leave the safety of your day to day existence, and step out into a new adventure?
He expected the shepherds to leave their hillside. He called me to leave South Africa. What is He calling you to do? Be sure, whatever it is will be exciting, challenging, and give you lots to talk and write about.
When you return to your familiar territory, you will want to share the news with everyone you meet or write for. That's what the Christian writer's walk is all about. Sharing the good news.
I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. (John 10:11 CEV)
Prayer: Lord, please visit me in a new way. Point me in a new direction. Fill me with fresh passion, that I may share the good news with those I write for. Help me to be obedient to your call, no matter how far out of my comfort zone you may ask me to go. Amen.
Shirley M. Corder writes from the coast of South Africa. Whatever happens in her life seems to become the subject of a devotion. Visit her writer and personal website, or Rise and Soar, her site to encourage and inspire those in the cancer valley.