FOR THE DAY YOU DISCOVER A NEW PASSION
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
- Matthew 5: 14-16
Dear Brother, Dear Sister, Dear Friend,
One of the great joys of being human is discovering some cause, interest, activity, or mission that makes us feel alive in a whole new way. Such things are passions. If you have found a new one, give thanks and praise to God. He has given you an amazing gift. As is written in James 1: 17, “… all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.”
Passion can be found in many different places, and it should always lead us to love God, neighbors, and ourselves. You might delight in reading murder mysteries or baking delicious cakes. You may be enthralled with new languages or enraptured by films from a certain country. Or perhaps you suddenly feel compelled to protect tropical rainforests, fix cars, master make-up techniques, nurture rescue dogs, play drums in a rock band, practice martial arts, choreograph flash mob dance routines, dive into classic Russian literature, or explore South American history. People are interesting because they care deeply about different things. We get to know others by learning what they are passionate about, and we get to know ourselves by discovering our own passions.
Some key questions might come up as you delve into something new. What is this passion for? Was it given to me exclusively for my own happiness, or is there more to it than that? Passions are gifts from God, and they come with a purpose. Any passion can be turned into an opportunity to love more deeply if we ask God to help us find a way. When we show love for others while living out the things we enjoy or care about, we simultaneously show love for our neighbors and for ourselves.
Some passions lead to clear missions. For example, someone who cares deeply about justice, freedom, and human dignity might build solidarity with survivors of human trafficking or advocate to change laws and social structures that lead to modern-day slavery. Other passions may lead less directly to a service role, but one can always be found with a little creativity. For example, people who love tiger stuffed animals can experience the fun of building a collection and then discover even greater joy by giving away adorable stuffed jungle cats to people who are sick, hurting, or lonely. Likewise, a person who loves tinkering on the piano can look for opportunities to play calming songs in hospitals, senior centers, churches, and other places where people gather. God will walk with us as we discover ways to do what we love while making the world a better place. As St. Paul writes in Galatians 5: 13-14, “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Another question that may come up is this: Can I make a living though my passion? Some interests clearly lead to career paths. For example, people who love math, science, and tinkering with gadgets might happily become engineers. Likewise, people fascinated by the inner workings of the human body might find their way to medical school. But other interests are typically less lucrative, such as philosophy or kickball. One could always try to be a philosophy professor or professional kickball athlete, but one might find greater satisfaction pursuing these interests outside of work. In addition, some fields are so competitive that it is difficult to find worldly professional success. This does not mean that such interests are not worth pursuing. It is nearly impossible to become a world famous actor, but one can find great meaning by bringing a character to life on a community theater stage. It is nearly impossible to become a famous painter, but motivated and inspired artists around the world create artwork that helps people in their community heal, grow, experience beauty, or learn some important truth about life. At the end of the day, some people make money while living out their passions, and some people work to support themselves so that they can do what they love for free.
The world sometimes tells us that our identities are forged exclusively through the roles we play at work and in our relationships. People say we are primarily firefighters, doctors, construction workers, teachers, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, or partners. These labels are supposed to define the totality of who we are.
Our jobs and our relationships are vital parts of our lives. Yet we must realize that all of our passions and interests come together to enrich who we are, augment the value of our professional work, and deepen our love for family, friends, neighbors, and God. For example, a business professional who loves photography could make beautiful photo collages to share with family members and colleagues. A nurse known for her patience, kindness, and tenderness might derive her spiritual strength from nights during the week when she plays guitar in a coffee shop. A police detective might be inspired to make the world a safer place by the profound love she has for her own children. God is with us as we write the stories of our lives. We must work with Him to put together the pieces of who we are and discover what we want to do with our precious time on earth. As is written in Colossians 3: 23, “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others.” Ultimately, what we do is not as important as who we are and how we live. At all times and in all things, we must choose to remain grounded in sincere love for God, tender concern for our neighbors, and joyful gratitude for our own lives.
Another question that might linger in the back of our minds is: How can I keep my passion alive? A new passion is a seed that needs tender love and care to grow. We must invest time, energy, and effort for a new passion to take root in our lives and thrive. Talent and interest is a great place to start with any endeavor, but we must work hard and draw our strength from God if we hope to accomplish meaningful goals. As is written in John 15: 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” God will guide us where we need to be and show us how to use the passions He gives us.
For example, I love books. I have a passion for reading and I learn about life through the characters in my favorite stories. I cherish novels from a variety of genres, including classics written by women, modern young adult literature, John Newbery Medal winners, and Japanese manga from the 1990s. Over the last several years, I decided to write my own stories. It has been a journey. When I write, I feel like I am partnering with God to create something from nothing. I love writing, but it is rarely easy. I must always study to hone my craft so that my stories, ideas, and characters take on greater life and depth. To accomplish these goals, I take classes, ask friends to critique my work, read books about writing, and spend time actually putting words on paper. I do not always feel excited to write. Sometimes I feel frustrated, exhausted, or empty. But my love of writing persists even in these moments because passion is more than a feeling. It is a dedication, a commitment, a deep desire to make something part of one’s life. My dream is to write books that help others learn something about God and something about love. This dream is a gift, and it will never die as long as I remain rooted in Christ.
God connects with us through our passions. When we offer our gifts, talents, interests, and missions to God, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. As it says in 2 Timothy 1: 7, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Sadly, the world sometimes tells us that certain passions are best restricted to certain people. For example, sexist stereotypes dictate what people are supposed to pursue based on one’s assigned place within a binary gender scheme. Specifically, women might be discouraged from pursing mechanics, math, sciences, and business, while men might be discouraged from pursuing fashion, art, dance, and childrearing. People who do not identify as men or women are often ignored or belittled. As gay Christians, we have a special calling to break down walls and encourage everyone to be who God created them to be. God is the one who places passion in our hearts. He does not follow human rules and prejudices. We must trust in Him and live as He calls us to live. As Jesus says in Matthew 5: 14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
And so, when you discover a new passion, enjoy it. Thank God for this exciting reason to be alive. Explore how this interest fits with the other pieces of yourself, and seek ways to use what you learn for the good of others. We are all connected, and God gives each person unique gifts to be shared with neighbors for the common good. As St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God works through all of us to reveal His love. I am so thankful you are here. You and your passions bring depth, vibrancy, and new life to the Body of Christ.