My little brother is now entering a new chapter of his life. He’s about to be a Freshman in high school. The other day he approached me about sharing my experience in high school and how I grew as a person in that time. Like him and probably most people, when I was a Freshman, I was so pumped for the chance to start over. It was a whole new experience, and the newness of it all felt good. I felt that I could finally change the parts of myself that I had been wanting to change for so long. We all have those times when we truly feel as if we have the opportunity to have a new beginning. That’s how I felt going into high school. My goal was to finally break through my comfort zone and through all of the walls I built up for the longest time. It was time for me step up to the challenge that would make me who I am today.

Many of those who know me now but did not know me in my younger years would be surprised to hear that I was incredibly shy growing up. “Meet Your Teacher Night” in elementary school was my dreaded worst nightmare because I actually had to talk to my teachers… and honestly I usually didn’t. I was too shy for any words to come out, so my parents did all the talking. I was SHY. Just like in elementary school, I was timid in junior high. I was a little better but still knew I had a lot of improving to go. One of my teachers in junior high even had to have a conversation with me about communication. She pretty much told me I had to improve my confrontation skills. In the moment, I wasn’t happy she called me out, but I later found that she was right. I had to step out of the box that I had put myself into my whole life.

So when high school rolled around, I was ready to change. I saw it as a chance to finally get out of my comfort zone. I’d be surrounded by some new people (my high school was a combination of two junior highs) and also by new opportunities that could help me to branch out. And I’m happy to say that I did it. I became more outgoing and pushed myself to overcome the barriers I had faced for so long. The reason I was able to accomplish this is because of my willingness. I didn’t want to stay the same person I was, but instead was willing to change. I allowed myself to be more outgoing in my relationships (or in other words, I finally let my guard down). This gave me the opportunity to meet some of my absolute best friends that are still by my side today. I ran for an office position in National Honor Society (which entailed talking to a big crowd of people). I pushed myself to start leading worship at my church, despite my nerves. I even pushed myself in my sport (volleyball) to be more aggressive and give it my all.

Someone who has a lot in common with me in this chapter of my life is Gideon. As many of you all probably know, back in the Biblical days, Israel was not always great about following God’s command. They would worship other idols and place God on the back burner. Because of this, God would allow trouble to come upon them. When things started going wrong, they’d turn back to God, and God would send them someone who would deliver them from the turmoil. This cycle repeats over and over again throughout the Old Testament. Part of Gideon’s story takes place in this time. Israel was disobeying God, so God allowed the Midianites to take them over. Of course, they cried to God for help, and God decided to send Gideon to protect them from the Midianites. Gideon was completely taken off guard and immediately began doubting himself. The best way to describe Gideon when God called him was fearful. Just like I was for all of those years. Fearful. Gideon even tested God to make sure it was him that God chose. He set fleece on the ground (that was covered in dew) and told God that if the fleece was still dry by morning, he’d believe God’s calling over him. After doing this, Gideon was STILL unsure so he asked God to show him with the fleece yet again. Of course, God left the fleece dry, and finally, Gideon believed. However, my guess is that even with the proof, Gideon was still full of fear. But he did it. Him and his army of three hundred defeated the Midianites.

Gideon’s story is powerful because it’s super relatable. His story speaks volumes by reminding us that we can do anything, we just have to believe. We need to believe in ourselves and most importantly, in God. When I was going into high school, I finally trusted that I could do it. And overall, I trusted that God could do it. We need to quit letting fear make our decisions. Our mind tricks us into thinking that we don’t have the ability to be uncomfortable, but we do. It’s necessary for our lives to be uncomfortable every once in a while. It’ll help us to get out of our box.

When I first decided to step out of my comfort zone, it was a struggle. I faced many challenges. But with now having hindsight 20/20, I can say that the challenges made me into a better version of myself. If your comfort zone consists of remaining to yourself, challenge yourself to reach out to others and let your guard down. It can be really hard, but you’ll thank yourself later. If you want to try new things like sports, do it. You may have a lot of work to put in for that sport, and I know sometimes it will be discouraging. I’ve been there, but I can tell you it’s possible to improve. You just have to work hard.

I wanted to give you all these words because some of you all are starting a new school year. Some of you are starting college!! Some of you may be starting a new job. Some of you all may not have any change coming up, but you still have the opportunity to challenge yourself. Ever since I decided to challenge myself my Freshman year of high school, I have been more motivated to keep getting out of my comfort zone each year. You’d be so impressed with what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself and your Creator.

Quit giving in to your fear. Get out of your comfort zone. We’ve only got one life to live!!

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