Out of all the new found freedoms we are currently finding ourselves presented with, the one that is bringing me the most joy and sense of anticipation is the opportunity to attend my last Year 5 program at Toonallook. Toonallook is a slice of heaven on the Gippsland Lakes and is one of my very special ‘happy places’ and I will miss the opportunities to visit there terribly. There are many things I love about being at Toonallook – the stunning sunrises over Lake Victoria, kayaking on still waters, cycling around Raymond Island spotting koalas and having someone cook me delicious meals and snacks, just to name a few. But one of the aspects I get the most pleasure from is watching students attempt and succeed at new feats and experiences.
One of the Outdoor Education staff I was working with once described this process to her group as being like three concentric circles. The inner circle is our Comfort Zone – familiar environment, previously completed tasks, known content. The next circle is the called the Learning Circle – the times we learn new things, step out of our comfort zone to attempt something innovative, but still given the support of others and other safety essentials. At Toonallook, an example of this is kayaking on Lake Victoria. All the safety systems are in place, careful instruction is given before getting on the water, and there are supportive staff to encourage and a friend in the boat. And the final stage is the Danger Zone – new feats without the necessary support systems in place. Risk taking at its worst!
This analogy had a real message to me about walking in faith with God. It would be very easy to sit in our comfort zone – doing only what we know, not venturing out, but that is not what God asks of us. He often calls us to venture into the unknown of the Learning Circle. New opportunities, new challenges, the chance to make life uncomfortable in order to improve the world for others and get to know Him more deeply. But He doesn’t expect us to do that without the necessary support networks – people to cheer us on and guide us in the right direction as well as His expert leading and promise never to leave us. And the Danger Zone? Taking risks without the right motivation – venturing out in my own steam, for my own gain, my own reward. Leaning on my own understanding instead of drawing on His strength.
So next time I hop into a kayak, or into a new social situation, or take on a new role in a new school or stand up for what I believe is right, I am reminded that this is God’s Learning circle for me – and that is right place to be.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Janine de Paiva
Junior School Chaplain