Friday, March 4, 2016

Passion is not for weenies

OK, class. Use the word "passion" in a sentence. Take a second to think about it. If you watch American Idol or Shark Tank, contestants will make tearful claims of being so passionate that failure is not an option. Parents tell their children, "Follow your passion." Couples lock lips when filled with "passion," a hormone-driven physiologic sensation. But I bet you never equated passion with suffering. Neither did I until I saw a friend's Facebook post.

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.” ― Mark Z. Danielewski

I don't know this Danielewski character. Therefore, I Googled him. He's an author of books I have never read. Looks to be fairly successful in terms of his marketability. But was his quote about passion correct? Did the Latin root really mean to suffer?

Yes. Indeed it does. I fact-checked. We typically think all we need to package passion are heightened emotions and a resoluteness that is steroid-strong. If that is the case, we believe we will automatically jump higher, run faster, write more clearly, and produce finer works of art. But I'm afraid it's not so simple. 

It is principled that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17, 20, and 26). Not that works produce faith, but that works are a natural outcome of faith. In the same pattern, passion without endurance is no more than an emotion precariously perched atop a flag pole in the middle of a hurricane. Without the commitment and the capability to endure through the storm, the passion is easily pried from the pole and scattered to the far reaches. When the wind subsides, nothing of significance is left.

Logically, can passion exist without endurance? Is passion possible without a good dose of suffering? Perhaps today's loose definition of "passion" should realistically be re-branded as simple preference. For example, "I am passionate about running" falls short of truth if one won't venture out when the weather is foul. Maybe it should really be, "I will run if it's 76, sunny, and a light breeze is blowing." That is clearly preference; not passion.

Or, how about this? "I'm so passionate about singing, I'll do everything I can to 'make it.'" But this is hardly believable if time and energy is not put into gaining experience in front of audiences. No, if we are truly passionate about something--anything--we will buckle down and plow forward no matter how hard it is.

I think Scripture is pretty clear about it. In fact, suffering and endurance are to be embraced, for in doing so, our passion and perspective are revealed. Romans 15 teaches that God is the author of endurance and encouragement so that we can be unified with "one mind and voice" and glorify Him. Passion is the result of endurance and encouragement.

The persecuted first century church could not be squelched because they "Consider[ed] it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-5). They proved their passion by their willingness to persevere. As a result of the perseverance, they became mature.

Would the enslaved believers that Peter wrote of who where scattered throughout Asia and Greece been able to be passionate about their faith without endurance? "For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. . . But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2: 19-22).

Perhaps it's time to think twice before we say we are passionate about something. When I hear "passion" from someone who easily gives up when the going gets rough, I don't believe them. They have no credibility. But when I hear stories of modern-day Christians who endure unimaginable torture and yet remain true to the faith, I can trust their "passion."

Passion requires action over a long period of time. Passion does not give up. Passion does not give in. Passion embraces the challenges. Passion is hard. Passion is not always "fun." 

Bottom line? Passion is not for weenies.

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