Siri tells me that passion means “strong and barely controllable emotion” and I’m like, “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” And she just keeps repeating herself. (Try it, you’ll see)
People often describe me as passionate, enthusiastic and the like, and I have often said that my job as a pastor is to stir up the passion in others, but I think I just decided to stop. Barely controllable? Is that really what I’m going for? Do I even feel that way?
Steve Jobs was famous for saying, “People with passion can change the world for the better.” He may have been one of the highest priest of the cult of passion which tells us all to “follow our passion” and “all you need to succeed is passion.” Entrepreneur blogs and conferences spoon this stuff up like a toddler eating cheerios. Let’s get excited! Let’s get riled up! Let’s have an intense experience! You need to be this type of person if you are going to succeed, if you are going to matter. It’s a lot of pressure, especially for something we can’t really control that well.
It seems we’re all travelling from one intensity to another because Christians do this too. Churches specialize in either achieving barely controllable emotions for the people in the crowd or making people feel awkward about their securely controlled emotions—usually both at the same time. You could think that being a Christian is for people who are passionate only. It’s for people who can cry on TV or raise their hands and close their eyes for rock music, or dance with the organ.
Here’s the WOMP, WOMP:
Being a Christian is more about discipline than passion. Actually being a successful entrepreneur is too. Can you see in the tiny print of my screenshot that the secondary definition of passion is “the suffering and death of Jesus”? That kind of passion is what it’s like most of the times. Christians are doing a lot of dying. Dying to the script that tells us who we’re supposed to be even when that isn’t who we are. Dying to the emotional patterns that keep us afraid. Dying to our selfish desires that would have us leave nothing for the poor. Dying to the idea that we have to be somebody or make something of ourselves. Dying to our sins and the desires that warp our hearts.
And all that dying takes a lot of discipline. It takes a life of devotion. We can’t just whip ourselves into a feel-good frenzy on Sunday and then hang up our suit, or Sunday Best skinny jeans for next week. This is a 24/7 thing and you won’t be able to sustain your passion for very long. That’s because you’re a human being. Jesus was a human being too and his passion was to die so that we could all go through death and come out the other side.
There is life on the other side of death. There is life on the other sides of all the tiny deaths we die in our disciplined devotion, in our reprogramming, in our faith. When we don’t feel like it, when we’re bored, when it’s not the same as it used to be, when the passion isn’t there, plodding forward is perfectly fine. There’s life on the other side of that feeling, probably more than on the other side of a passionate experience.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Don’t lose heart, friends. You’re doing great.