Frederick Beuchner famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I’ll explain in some later posts that Beuchner was missing a key component of assessing the tools that God has given you to respond to the world’s need. But his insight that our passions are central to understanding God’s call on our life is still really crucial.
Why are our passions so important? The theological answer is that God created you with just these passions. In the end I believe that God created all of us with an innate desire for all that is good. N.T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian, claims that we all desire beauty, justice, relationship with people, and relationship with God. That seems like a good starting place to suggest that all of us desire these things (and some others as well), but we don’t all desire them equally. We may all desire justice for those that are hurting, but some may be more drawn to communication with God (prayer) than freeing slaves. Our tendency is to pit one of these desires as more righteous or fundamental than the others. I would suggest that the desire for justice, beauty, and relationships is no less a desire for God than the desire for prayer. Ministry to the oppressed is no more central than creating that which is beautiful. God puts particular passions within us that we might commit to one aspect of the variety of Christian callings, and we have a responsibility to see all the other aspects of Christian calling as acts of faithful discipleship.
Why does our passion matter so much in discerning what God is calling us to do? Because no matter what calling you pursue, there are going to be times when it is really difficult.
Everything worth pursuing in life is going to have those pieces that are difficult. Marriage can be hard. Parenting can be hard. Every job I know has parts that are hard. If you don’t have a driving passion for what you are doing then you won’t be able to endure the hardships for the sake of the call.
In the movie Amazing Grace there is a really great scene that illustrates the point. William Wilberforce’s fiancé challenges him in the midst of a really dark time in his pursuit to end slavery in the British Empire. Wilberforce has gotten sick from traveling and working too hard for the cause. She shakes him out of his despair and proclaims “You have passion and that matters more!”
She was right. Wilberforce stayed with this difficult journey until finally he achieves his aim. Slavery is outlawed near the end of his life. Had he lacked the passion to pursue this call, there is no way of predicting how long slavery would have persisted in England.
For me, the difficult part is the long summers of serving as University Chaplain. I’m not made to sit at a desk. Every summer all of my students go home and I spend as many as 40 hours per week sitting at a desk. But I love the engagement with students so much the rest of the year that it’s OK to me that I have those summer weeks sitting at a desk preparing for their return.
The next couple posts in this series are a way of exploring God’s call via your passions. Don’t ignore this as you will need to have passion for your work when the going is difficult.
Take a few moments to read Psalm 139. Take time to thank God in prayer for how he has made you. If you are familiar with the practice of Lectio Divina, then you may want to use that style of prayer as you approach this rich text of Scripture.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
This post is part of a 14 part series to help persons discern God’s call on their lives.
To see all the posts in the “What Am I Called to Do?” series