Does God want to take you out of your comfort zone?

You betcha!

There is a wonderful event described in the New Testament where the Lord helps several of his followers to catch fish by telling them to simply throw their nets over the right side of their boat (John 21:6).

Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg claimed that this event (like others in Sacred Scripture) had a deeper, symbolic meaning. This was actually a spiritual lesson on how these fishermen were to successfully capture new disciples. Throwing the net on the right side of the boat symbolizes using the right hemisphere of the brain when trying to attract others into the fold. The right side of the brain is the creative or “heart” side.

In other words, you bring new people in with the warmth of love rather than hitting them on the head through one-upsmanship and doctrinal superiority (left brain thinking). Putting this in a more contemporary lexicon, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I would agree with that strategy—as far as it goes.

What do you do with all the flies? Is it enough just to have happy flies in the world? Or do you hope that they transcend to something more beautiful? Do flies want to be anything other than flies? Something more than honey (and sweetness of the heart) is needed to effect change.

The same holds true with fish (and people). After you succeed in catching the fish, you have to yank them out of the water. This symbolizes pulling people out of their “lower” everyday world of memory-data and raising them up to a higher spiritual sphere. But what isn’t usually anticipated or given proper attention is that this noble process takes most people out of their comfort zone.

You can’t assume that this process simply leads to a natural intensification in people for experiencing resplendent love. People don’t like to be yanked out of their habitual element—like a fish out of water. That is why it is so hard for people to change! But this is where vinegar must now be used—that is, the importance of taking bad-tasting medicine. This “distasteful” step includes finding the truth about oneself, which often includes making unflattering self-discoveries. Such discovery leads to temporary sadness but is crucial for moving on to a new reality, a new worldview and re-engineering oneself.

Swedenborg states this, concerning people going through such a paradigm change: “From this comes sadness, and it also comes from the fact that a different order is effected among the memory-knowledges, which is not effected without pain.” (Arcana Coelestia, n.6507)

The “vinegar” or sour part of a person’s spiritual evolution, is addressed biblically, by John’s eating a small book or little scroll in Revelation 10:9,10. It first tastes like honey to him, but then soon turns bitter in his stomach.


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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