I’m always impressed by people who throw themselves into things–events, activities, competitions, relationships–wholeheartedly. Even if what they’re throwing themselves into happens to be wrong, I can’t help but admire their passion.
We hear a lot about passion these days; it’s a popular theme in movies, books, music, etc. Passion is that amazing human quality that makes for greatness. Unfortunately, the word “passion” in its contemporary usage tends to be restricted to strong feelings of the romantic (and sexual) variety. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the intense drive toward some good or goal that allows a person to lay everything aside, even himself, in order to attain it. I’m talking about the passion of the saints. The kind of passion that drove St. Peter to dive headlong into the sea and swim for shore when he realized his Master was there (John 21: 7). The kind of passion that makes martyrs.
And as we continue to trudge through Lent, we make our way toward the Passion itself, the embodiment of everything passion ultimately is.
I’ve come to realize this Lent, more fully than ever, just how dispassionate I am. And I wonder, sometimes, if it’s partly just the nature of singlehood. For one thing, we don’t feel a lot in this state. (At least I don’t.) So much of feeling arises from bumping into other people–the good and the bad of interaction with our fellow human beings. But, as I’ve said before, my human encounters are relatively few over the course of a day. Sadly, the encounters I feel the most are the ones that make me angry. (The rude cashier at the grocery store, the obnoxious fellow rider on the metro, the coworker who will not make his deadline, the author still complaining about this or that change to his book…) So the idea of setting myself aside for anyone else strikes me, some days, as almost absurd. And even when I manage to do it, which happens often enough by the grace of God, there’s very little passion in it. (Stepping aside to let the woman next to me have a seat on the metro isn’t exactly a “passionate” gesture.)
I’ve had this conversation with some of my other single friends, too. It’s hard to live passionately in this state. I remember being an incredibly passionate teenager, and that passion carried with me into college. I had huge dreams and plans, and I was excited about turning them all into realities. In a sense, that passion was fueled in me by the strong sense a student has of going somewhere. But now as a single professional, I’ve lost a lot of that drive. Maybe I’m going somewhere still (I certainly hope I am), but the end goal is hazy and non-specific. A promotion down the road? New career paths? Who knows?
But what it boils down to is this: we need passion, and we need to be willing to be passionate, even when it feels like there’s not a whole lot to be passionate about. Maybe I haven’t met the love of my life, and maybe my work, while I love and enjoy it, isn’t all that exciting. This doesn’t mean I have to be dispassionate or lethargic; it just means I need to be willing to pour myself more fully into the little things. Why shouldn’t giving someone else that last seat on the crowded metro be a passionate gesture? Maybe, ultimately, passion isn’t about how you feel–it’s about how well (and lovingly) you do the things you do.
“We can do no great things. Only small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa of Calcutta