As a part of our Lent Project, we invited our community to set aside either their beds or hot showers for the week in an effort to both create unique space for the Spirit of Jesus to rise up in our lives as well as to stand in solidarity with majority world. Anthony and Paulina experienced the Comfort Fast from within the Dominican Republic. Here is Anthony's reflection... Two weeks ago, Paulina and I took off for the Dominican Republic leading a group of 23 college students & young working professionals from U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. Davis, San Jose State, and St. Marys. The trip included an active marine, a youth pastor, youth coaches and trainers, and many students smack in the middle of their college experience.
The choice during this week of comfort fast: was to give up the bed, or to give up hot showers. I chose to give up hot showers: there was no hot water where we landed.
Our team visited the orphanage under the care of the worldwide organization Kid’s Alive, in Monte Plata in the Dominican Republic. Here were the main limitations (“strippings”) in the scene we entered in to: Running water is limited & rationed based on a pump system that takes the water out of a nearby river.
We had electricity for 3 to 4 hours every day: usually 7:30pm to 11pm. (by generator) Only showers available were cold showers from a drip system from the water reserve. We had twin bunk beds in open cabins with screen walls and bug nets around our bed, 10 people to a room.
No cell phone service + No media availability. Our first van ride = 30 people in a 20 passenger van & 2300 lbs of donations for the kids (Dominican style = cramped & cozy). Average amount of mosquito bites on our bodies by day three: 40 to 50 (with bug spray).
For me personally, I have grown up for most, if not all, of my life as an introverted young man, with most of my time spent as individual-time on the golf course, with my own room to go home to, quiet when I wanted it, privacy when I wanted it, a hot shower when I wanted it, and a good sandwich when I wanted it. For this winter and spring I have been sharing a room in a house of 10 men. And this trip to the Dominican was trip #2 of 3 week-long service trips in a matter of 6 weeks for Paulina and I this Spring (each leading 15 - 23 college students).
Here is where Jesus is getting my attention: For me, for whatever reason, comfort is not the end that I most struggle with. Comfort, for me, has served as the means to… here’s the key… perform. This, for much of my life, took the form of performance in athletics and academics. But my performance was ultimately a means to: try to earn the approval of others, for them to see me as a person worthy of acceptance and praise.
All the bullet points of limitations for this week in the Dominican combined with this season of living, contributed to a culmination of the stripping of my most prized comfort: my ‘own’ space.
Here’s what I watched Jesus do in me this past week:
Disruption to comfort => Disruption to my own spiritual “performance” => Revealing of the true me to those around me.
God has been breaking, and broke the cycle of comfort => performance => approval. Only through this fast of comfort was I then even able to see this equation clearly. The “equation” was broken down to disruption of comfort => not able to perform => worship Him. In this process He has pointed me to the river of life which involves no equation, but rather stands as one word, short, and very tall, Jesus. In stripping the comfort He revealed the worship of the approval of others (a false god) which my comfort was a slave to. He revealed me sitting in the middle of ocean dying of thirst, as this pursuit has never been satisfied.
It took experiencing deep feelings of claustrophobia for weeks, culminating in me having to stop an entire van of 23 on the way to church one day in the DR, for me to get out and walk.
Symbolically, the claustrophobia brought me to start walking.
And so after years and years of tried convincing that the answer was “back to my room to recharge, listen to that next song, just put on the right inspirational video, so I could clean myself up and ‘head back out there to the world’ to perform...” it was the never-ending search of the approval of others… He showed me:
He has been there the whole time…longing for me to stop dying of thirst… so I turned to Him.
No need to exit to re-enter. I’m in. Thank You Jesus.
In Him, He brings quiet, rest, and comfort in love: In the cold shower, in the top bunk bed... in the hot shower, and in the queen size bed back home.
My alone time with God is a beautiful gift, the approval & acceptance of others is a gift, a hot shower is a gift, a good meal is a gift, the ability to worship is a gift. All of these good and perfect gifts coming from our Father of lights.