In Search of the Discomfort Zone

Posted: November 17, 2008 in Uncategorized

Some of the guests became furious among themselves.  “That’s criminal!  A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.”  They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone.  Why are you giving her a hard time?  She has just done something wonderfully significant for me…she did what she could when she could – she pre-anointed my body for burial.”  Mark 14:5

While this story is beautiful to read from a cozy 2,000-year distance, I don’t imagine ipyramid_perfume_bottlet was easy to live through.  In fact it was probably pretty uncomfortable for everyone.  I know Jesus was proud of the woman, but how pleasant would it actually be to have perfume poured over your head in the middle of a dinner party?   If you’ve ever sat behind a couple-in-love at a movie theater, then you would probably agree with me and the Pharisees that it’s veeeery uncomfortable to be stuck watching a public display of affection as intense as this one was.

And the woman…wow…I can’t imagine.  I bet she was shaking in her sandals as she took that jar off the shelf and walked the streets to a party she hadn’t been invited to.  She put everything at risk here: her reputation, her safety, her financial future...everything. However, I’m guessing that deep in her heart, swishing around with the fear and uncertainty, was the pulsing rush of adrenaline that comes from knowing you’re about to do something totally crazy and exciting and dangerous and wonderful.  However you slice it, this was a big, bold move.  It was an act of worship that produced teeth-clinching discomfort all around.

So many churches use this story as the model for a life of worship.  I’ve heard it preached on maybe 100 times in my life and I’ve used it in messages myself.   It’s interesting to me how we want to build our lives around this example, and yet simultaneously work very hard to design a worship service in which everyone is…comfortable.  From the way the chairs are arranged to the volume of the sound system to the length of the service and the temperature in the building, we endeavor to create a moment where everyone at every point on their journey to Jesus, can be safe and unconflicted.

I understand the philosophy and I also want the church to be a place of love and acceptance (Jesus didn’t rebuke anyone for throwing a nice, safe dinner party).  But for my own life, I’m asking some new and difficult questions:  when was the last time I offered Jesus an act of worship that made anyone uncomfortable?  When was the last time I was stretched to a new level of love for Him?

I’m wondering: is it possible to really, truly pour my life out on His life and still look totally normal to everyone else?

Just wondering.

In search of true worship,


  1. ELizabeth McColl says:

    …our church’s Biblical text upon which it is built is this one that you talk about Bo. I wonder…what about David saying, “I will become even more undignified than this…” when he danced naked before the Lord. His wife wasn’t too happy about this but he went ahead and did it.

    I also wonder whether this is part of our US/UK not wanting to stand out as being weird. We are in the business of being comfortable in so many aspects of our lives and I think that God is not at all interested in our comfort. I really do. Why else would Paul rejoice in his sufferings? But as my friend Judy would say we should look weird as Christ-followers and people will be compelled to ask us why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. I also, also, wonder if we do look normal to everyone else. What’s “normal” about leaving a perfectly good job, with a perfectly good income, with a perfectly good flat in a perfectly great city, and a perfectly good car and perfectly good friends, to travel across the ocean to do something that is not perfect at all? Crazy, crazy, crazy. And then what’s “normal” about taking time out during the week to proclaiming the truth about a man who walked the earth over 2000 years ago had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him? What’s normal about anybody who worships the God of the universe by FAITH? Not by sight…

    What is this “heart of worship” that we sing about so freely? How are we coming back to the heart and what does/might that look like? As human beings we are made to worship the Triune God – worship is a verb, requiring action, work, mental preparation and when we come in , we are meeting with the Most High God, who created the heavens and the earth and with whom we are interacting as we worship, however that looks….

    Woah, Bo, you have stirred something that is exciting and crazy but what’s next….? Worship where God leads us deeper and deeper into Him…what does that look like?

    Still thinking at 11pm


  2. Ann Dunagan says:

    Your final sentence is a radical quote, that’s stirring something in me.

    Yet at the same time, Jesus was the most spiritual person who ever lived, and yet He was so remarkably “normal” and un-religious that the Jewish leaders couldn’t stand Him . . . while the tax-collectors, prostitutes, and every-day people couldn’t stay away.

  3. bolovesjoe says:

    Yep, I’m trying to understand the paradox of it all as well…stretching to reach new places in worship and surrender, while also being real, regular people in a world that needs a connection to a REAL and accessible God. I almost didn’t post this because I know it’s so easy to land too heavily in one direction or the other…but it’s been an important journey for me as I look at my life and ask Him to break me out of any hint of “check-the-box” worship. He’s actually been really faithful this week to show me ways that I have said yes to radical surrender and that’s been surprising and exciting. Bottom line: I want to be more like Mary than I am.

  4. tj says:

    Side note, I would argue that the temperature of the church is not ideal for comfort. Artic Chill and Sahara Sunstroke seem to be the most common temps that I remember:-)
    The idea of challenging yourself in worship to the point of making others uncomfortable is interesting. I will think and them post:-) Love and miss you. Hope I get to see you around Thanksgiving when I am home.

  5. Megan says:

    Hi Bo!
    I blogged about Amani Life Project today. I also copied your Amani Life Logo and linked it to the website, just so you know. I hope thats ok? I got my tote in the mail! I love it.
    Just thought I’d drop a line and let you know.

  6. bolovesjoe says:

    Hi Megan – thanks for the PR! I think I owe you an email – sorry about that. I’m up and running again and I’ll get one back to you ASAP. 🙂 Hope the kids are great and I wish they could be here to help with the fundraiser this weekend because nothing draws people to a table like a cute baby! 🙂

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