So, No Apologies (Find Your Passion)

“Find your passion and make it happen.” -Kelsey Robb, Toastmasters Speech

A lot of the time it seems like our passion is tied to our work. But over the past couple of years I’ve been turning over in my head the idea that maybe my passion lies outside of work, and even outside of my leisure activities. I think I’m finding more and more that my passion lies in how I live my life. This sounds so simple, but I’m finding that my passion is to follow God, unreservedly.

I recently read an autobiographical work by one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, in which she talked about a good decade of her life in which she went through rejection after rejection as an author. She found it very difficult to claim her identity as a writer in front of others, and herself, when she had yet to be published and wondered if she had the right to pursue such a career when she could be providing more substantially for her family.

She had to give herself permission to be a writer. She had to let go of the self she thought everyone else wanted her to be and just be true to herself. And I think we all do at some point. We all need to let go of all the expectations of others and just be true to who we know ourselves to be.

For me, it’s been letting go of the mainstream idea that you are not living up to your potential if you are not pursuing a dream related to work or leisure. I had to wrestle with the question: Can I be all that I was meant to be without excelling (or without trying to excel) in a profession or hobby/interest?

Increasingly I’ve recognized that God is calling me to live simply, to be content with not excelling in a profession but living humbly, the equivalent of the “little way” for the lay man not hidden away in an order of professed religious. –to find my greatness not in what I do but in who I am and how I follow God. As such, I’ve been letting professional endeavors take a back seat to my spiritual journey. My job, whatever that is at the current moment, is a just a job and, while it may use and improve talents that I have, it should primarily enable me to focus on God and what He is doing in my life. Same goes for my extracurriculars.

I know some family and friends might want me to take jobs more substantial or professional, or life paths more certain and stable, only because they want to see me established and on a path that would give me success in whatever it is I choose to do. But, that’s just not me.

In the paradoxical complexity that is me, I value responsibility and excellence in myself and others. I hold myself to a high standard of doing things to the best of my abilities. And yet, here I am, choosing a way that goes in the opposite direction of proving to myself and everyone around me that I am capable, that I could do anything that I put my mind to, at least in the job arena.

You see, I’m finding that my passion is not proving to everyone that I can do amazing things given the talents that I possess. My passion is not saving the world, or humanity from itself, through works of service outside the workplace. It is simply to follow God and find out who He is calling me to be, to live quietly and in a disposition of always listening to God. — We all have different gifts from God. And I feel like one of mine is listening to other people. I love seeing another person through their words and helping that person to see themselves too. But I think that same gift also makes me more predisposed to listen to God.

Yes, I know that you can have other passions outside of this first one and that usually these other passions stem from it. But right now, I am focusing my energy on this first one and letting the other, lesser desires flow naturally from it. This is making me freer to discover who God is. Though I know I will never be called to be a hermit or part of a religious order neatly tucked away from the world, I still want to live a life that leaves the world behind in pursuit of God. I think I would rather like to excel at that.

It’s taken a long time to figure myself out (or at least begin to figure myself out). But the more I understand about myself, the easier it is to make decisions that do not deny who I am and who I am called to be. The easier it is to find my passion and make it happen.

So, no apologies. This is who I am and what I’m about.

On Poverty, Living in Unexpected Places, and the Christmas Story

Maybe it’s because I just moved to a new city where I don’t know a lot of people and don’t yet have a job, but this Advent and Christmas season Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt and experiences with poverty have struck a chord with me.

Here Mary is given the greatest honor of being chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, and Joseph, to be her husband and the human father to Jesus. Both were appointed these important roles by God out of all the people He created and would create. Well, I should say, both were asked to play these roles by God and both chose to say yes.

But what were they thinking when they said yes? Certainly not that they would continue to live lowly and humble lives not too terribly different from the people around them, at least on the outside. Sometimes I like to think the life of faith is one similar to the Weasley’s car or Triwizard Tournament camping tent in the Harry Potter books –that though it appears normal on the outside, the inside is so much bigger than you could imagine, but you would never know it just from a glance.

But Mary and Joseph still had to live on faith and hope, trusting God with each step in their lives. I’m sure Mary did not envision spending the last few days and weeks of her pregnancy traveling on a donkey, only to be turned away from any comfortable lodgings and forced to give birth in a cave/stable when she first thought of having the Savior of the world.

And I’m sure that Joseph did not envision fleeing to Egypt and having to provide for his small family in a place where he knew few if any people, cut off from his culture and family (one in the same then) when he agreed to serve as a human father to the Son of God.

Was this the right way of things when it seemed so difficult? Shouldn’t it be easier (and more comfortable) to follow God’s plan? This was for the King of kings after all. Shouldn’t things be richly provided for if God was behind it all?

But I think God’s ways of leading this holy family shows the example to us of how He moves in our lives too.
Sometimes it seems like doors of opportunity, safety, or comfort are being shut in my face on purpose. What did God mean by closing these doors to Mary and Joseph as they entered Bethlehem? I think it was partly to show us that even these pivotal and blessed people were led to and through poverty and uncertainty as part of the way to His coming kingdom, as part of the way to becoming holy.

They, too, were traveling in the dark, making things up as they went, and being directed by God when they would choose the wrong way.

I have had to rely on the kindness of strangers and friends as I find my place in this new city and it is humbling. But then, it is also making me surer that this is God’s way.

Sometimes the right way is not smooth and easy, but nonetheless serves to make you holier, that is, closer to God and His ways, more enlightened in understanding, and able to serve as a vehicle of grace to others (in the present and millennia in the future).