I wish I could say I’m a firm believer in regularly stepping outside of your comfort zone, but I’m not.
I’m often quick to greet new people, I’m not shy in the slightest, I don’t mind public speaking (likely due to majoring in Communication Studies), and I love trying new foods. These things are arguably difficult for many people — outside of their comfort zone — but I handle them with ease.
That being said, one thing I struggle with is speaking openly about my personal feelings on religion.
I grew up in a Catholic family. We went to church almost every Sunday, we said grace before dinner, and I went to CCD/PSR (essentially, church class) on Wednesday nights. This continued fairly regularly until high school. Eventually, we fell off the bandwagon, but I still alternated going to church and youth group with an old friend and my high school ex-boyfriend. It wasn’t consistent, and it was a different religion, but it was church.
That being said, I became as quiet as a mouse when it came to discussion any personal feelings about religion whatsoever. My mom says this is because I’m Catholic, and that’s just the way we are; we don’t pray publicly, we don’t talk about God, and we certainly don’t do it in groups with our friends. So when I was invited by a friend to go to Bible Study this past week, my initial reaction was to crawl into a hole.
For years, I wasn’t even sure I believed in God. This probably started in high school when I began attending church-related functions with my ex-boyfriend, Cory. I listened, and I thought, but the way his family openly prayed together during dinner — with conviction and deep, meaningful discussions — made me uncomfortable. Before I moved, his parents had us hold hands and pray in their living room together about the future, and my hands shook uncontrollably and I thought I might vomit. Not a great reaction, but it wasn’t because I was against it — I just freaked out at the thought of doing it aloud with other people. I didn’t understand why we were doing it. I didn’t even necessarily think anything would come of it. However, my feelings changed later when Dom and I found out we were going to have a daughter of our own, and for some reason, I suddenly couldn’t imagine not raising her around religion. It didn’t make sense to me. It was just something you did, and I wanted to try.
So we started going to church this past November. We attended a Baptism class, and we’ve made changes. We don’t say grace before dinner, but we are there in the “crying room” at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s every Sunday at 9am. This is all a big leap from years before when I had nothing to do with it, though Dom would have always enjoyed going.
But back to Bible Study.
Fear can be overpowering, but I had recently gone through a pretty awful experience with people I thought were my friends, and I had been craving a fresh start. Maja’s invitation couldn’t have had more perfect timing, but I was still hesitant. I called my mom, and we talked about everything that had happened — the drama and the feeling that I should be more involved. I also spoke with my mother-in-law about positive surroundings, both for me and for Isla. So I agreed to go. After all, it was just reading a book and discussing it, and I love to read. What did I have to lose?
On Thursday at 10am, I walked into a soon-to-be new friend’s home. My mind was sort of a nervous blur, and Maja made me some coffee while I met all the new girls who were attending.
Everyone was so nice. So normal. So not the crazy shove-the-Bible-in-your-face type people I wanted to avoid. Everything felt fairly natural as we made a list of people or things we wanted to pray for and assigned someone to do it. The Earth didn’t fall crack down the middle…even if I was a nervous wreck. Everything felt…nice. Simply nice.
I left that day with a powerful new feeling. I felt I met women who were kind, smart, loving, and just all-around great people. I felt positive and…enlightened, for lack of a better word. I didn’t feel I would spontaneously combust the following week when all the ladies came to our house and I had to speak my feelings out loud again. I felt a great change of pace from how life had been years before.
And I realized that it’s amazing what stepping outside of your comfort zone can do.