The Purpose of Passion
A Million Little Fires
There’s something in this world that you’re passionate about, something that really stirs you to action. A cause you want to advocate for, that you’re willing to suffer for.
Maybe it’s racial reconciliation. Or the rights of people with disabilities. Maybe it’s awareness of a disease. Or evangelism. Maybe you want everyone to be aware of mental health concerns…or get people to help fund orphanages in third world countries.
All of these things are good. All of these things, and way more than I could possibly enumerate here, deserve attention and support. All of these things can be the work of the Kingdom.
But individually, we each only have so much attention. So many resources. So much time.
A few months ago, I read Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism–a subject that I’m by no means an expert on, but reconciliation between all Christian, no matter color or creed or denomination, is something that’s been weighing heavier on my heart as the years go by. He had some great ideas, and it’s definitely a book worth reading…but it also left me feeling totally overwhelmed. Because Tisby was trying to make every reader decide to be an activist, an advocate for this cause. After finishing it, I sat there for a long time, just holding the book in my hands, and wondering, How am I supposed to do any of this? I want to be a part of racial reconciliation, but it’s by no means my whole life.
This is something I’ve run into a lot over the years. Every documentary I watch, every doctor I visit, every article I read online is trying to win my passions. They’re trying to make me dedicate my time and energy to whatever cause or goal they represent. Whether it’s a small farmer’s fight against big corporate seed companies or to avoid certain foods and drinks for the health of my teeth and gums, they’re all asking for my awareness to be focused on THEM.
Do you ever feel pulled in a million good directions? Or confused by the firelight of all these different passions?
Are you ever frustrated that it seems no one cares about what’s so important to you? Annoyed when they don’t understand? Hurt at people’s lack of empathy for your situation? Angry that they just don’t get it?
I think we all do–on both counts. We are so passionate about the things that matter to us…and yet so overwhelmed by all the other things people want to matter to us.
How do we, as Christ followers, balance these million little fires of calling and passion and good causes?
Because there are two sides to this question–we as the ones who ARE passionate about something, and then we as the ones who people are trying to win to THEIR cause–we need to look at it from both sides.
I’ll start with a few personal examples: Type 1 Diabetes and writing.
Until last September, I knew essentially zero about diabetes. I had no reason to–it wasn’t a part of my life. Then it became very relevant, because it dictated so much about my day. What food I could make, how much of it I can feed my son, what ratio of carbs to insulin we needed that day, what his blood sugar is at 7, at 10, at noon, at 3, at dinner, at snack, at bedtime. What time I could go to bed. How long I could sleep before I needed to wake up and check his blood sugar again. I became very aware of the health risks associated with this disease, and what people go through daily when they live with it.
But just because I had to undergo a crash course in diabetes doesn’t mean anyone else in the world did. So when someone doesn’t get it…why should that surprise me? Why should it frustrate me when they suggest my son “just try” a food he hasn’t dosed for and can’t just eat without insulin because it’s got carbs? Why should it annoy me when they assume Type 1 is like Type 2? Why should it hurt me when no one gets it? It shouldn’t. But emotionally, it often does. I daresay you experience this with whatever issues affect your daily living. Other people just don’t get it, because it isn’t part of their life. And I see so many emotional reactions. Some people lash out. Some people become advocates, making it their life’s focus to educate others. But most of us…most of us just have to learn to balance our passions, and balance them with each other’s. I can’t expect you to care about this like I do…but when you ask a question or make an assumption or have a suggestion, I can just be grateful that you care enough to engage on the topic at all. And I can smile and respond in a loving, appreciate way.
This goes for my other passions as well. I don’t expect my readers to care like I do about the writing process. I don’t expect you to be as excited about each new project as I am. I don’t expect my stories to absorb your life and mind for months at a time like they do mine. That would be silly, right? Because you read a lot more books than just mine, as well you should. And you do a lot more in your life than read fiction. It doesn’t have to be your passion.
But here’s the job of MY passion: to use it to touch your life for God. My job isn’t to make you think of nothing but fiction or diabetes. My job is to use fiction to make you think about God and what He has in store for you. To ponder how faith should inform your life. To draw you closer to Him and inspire you to spend your life–whatever your callings and passions may be–being His ambassador to those around you. My job as the mom of a Type 1 Diabetic is to invite you to look more closely at all the people around you and treat them with compassion–because they have Something that limits them. We all do. If we can be understanding and empathetic, then how many people could we touch for God, instead of letting our ignorance of their condition hurt them or build walls between us?
That is, I believe, the purpose of all these callings we have, all the million little fires He ignites.
So then, flip it. Look at other people’s goals and callings. Yes, so often they’re trying to make us activists for their cause, but I think that’s a bit ambitious on their part. 😉 Sure, they’ll win a few converts who dedicate their whole lives to it…but most of us will only interact peripherally with each of the many causes we come across. Our response, however, shouldn’t ever be to dismiss their work. It shouldn’t be, as I experienced with How to Fight Racism, a feeling of hopelessness that we can’t do their work. It shouldn’t be frustration that one more person is demanding one more thing of us.
We should react with gratitude that God has filled their hearts with this passion to work for Him. We should ask what we can learn from them about loving those around us. We should ponder whether and how their calling fits with ours and how we can make our work also work for them. We can ask how these Kingdom-building pieces fit together in His eyes.
And if it isn’t Kingdom work? If it’s just a regular earthly cause…maybe we ask how or if it can be used for His glory before we either get involved or go on the defensive.
None of us have the capacity to care deeply about everything. But we don’t have to. As long as we care deeply for the Lord and want to love His children as He does, then which causes we choose to focus on are just building blocks in His hands. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s try to get a view of how God is using all these many flames of passion. And let’s ask how we can be part of–not this work or that work–HIS work. You use what He’s given you. I’ll use what He’s given me. We can learn from each other how best to love each other…and in so doing, we’ll be showing the world how truly to follow Him.