“Do you know anything about something called a Zion Baptist Church?” one of my college roommates asked. I smiled, as I was pretty sure I knew this was going to lead to a good story.
“The assignment is to go to a service of a different religion than our own,” he explained. He’d just come back from class and was going over the details of the homework assignment. “I found this place in the city called ‘Zion Baptist Church.’”
All the “Zion Baptist Churches” I had known before or since were predominantly black.
“I’ll come with you,” I smiled.
Up to that point, that service we attended was the best I’d ever been to. It lasted nearly three hours, and I wished it would never end. It was energetic and edifying in every aspect of worship. Everyone there was friendly, and I felt more welcome than I’d been in years.
Years later, while living in the Midwest, I came across another similarly named church. I knew I had to go. It was also an almost-all-black church, and like the first time, I wasn’t disappointed by what I came across. It was the best church service I’ve ever been to.
After the service, I met with the pastor and his wife, and they thanked me for coming. “I could see you in the back during the service, and I just had to make sure I welcomed you,” she explained. “Oh, yeah?” I joked. “That’s surprising. You mean I didn’t blend in with everyone else in the crowd?” We had a good laugh, and I returned to the church many times.
Had my friend never been given that school assignment, he would have never visited that church. Even more, I would have never visited that church or had that experience. And I never would have heard the best sermon of my life.
Before we experience something, we don’t know how different, and often times how much better, our lives will be afterward. When you’re a child and experience Halloween, you think that’s the greatest moment of your life. “Wait, wait. I get free candy just for ringing someone’s doorbell? Surely nothing can ever beat this!” But then a couple of months later, you experience Christmas. “Wait, wait. I get to eat cookies all month, and then I get a bunch of toys? Wow, OK. That’s definitely the greatest moment of my life.”
It’s continually surprising when subsequent events and moments surpass what we had been so sure would always be the greatest single thing to happen to us. Making the varsity team, getting on the dean’s list, maybe getting that dream job or getting married. The way our lives were (that we were just so sure would always be what we wanted) now pale in comparison to what our lives are like now. Maybe we can’t even imagine our lives without a specific job, living in one location over another, or having a certain person in our lives.
If I hadn’t been open to getting out of my comfort zone when I heard of my roommate’s homework assignment, I would have never been to the second-best church service in my life. But if I stopped there, patted myself on the back, and been satisfied with the experience, I would have missed out on that second church, the one that still to this day is the best service I’ve ever been to.
The next time you get a bit complacent about your life or even stuck in a rut because you’re apprehensive about leaving your comfort zone, consider stepping out and pushing yourself to try something new. Be it leaving a job, starting a business, moving to a different place in the world, or going after a new relationship, you’ll never know how high your ceiling of potential is until you challenge yourself to reach it.
In my case, I found the best church service I had ever been to — until this point in my life anyway — and I found it twice. Who knows what next Sunday will bring?
When have you been so sure an experience couldn’t be surpassed until you left your comfort zone and tried something new?