When I was a new teacher, in my first year, I remember sitting in a break room with two older teachers, talking to them. I don’t recall what I was saying to them, but I do remember the response of one of the teachers (and the other didn’t exactly disagree with her). She told me to just wait, that I wouldn’t have that kind of passion for teaching forever.
I’ve thought about that comment on and off throughout my teaching career. I wonder what I sparked in her, why she felt she had to say that. Did she feel I was overdoing something–a little overzealous? Maybe she thought I would burn myself out? Or was she seeing something in a new eager teacher that she didn’t have anymore in herself? Did I make her feel a smidge guilty? Did it make her feel better to say that aloud to me?
I can’t stand as judge of this woman, whose name I don’t even remember. I don’t think I have been teaching as long as she has yet. However, I have been teaching in one capacity or another for nineteen years, and my passion for teaching has not dimmed.
Should I still be doing it if it had?
I’m not saying that I never feel burdened by some aspects of teaching. I can tell you that I find some of the work quite tedious (especially that which is done outside of the classroom). Nevertheless, for the most part, I still have a passion to work with people of all ages and help them understand what they need to know. Teaching is when I come alive.
Shouldn’t that be the way we should live our lives? Shouldn’t we find where we come alive; in other words, find our God-given passion (with an emphasis on “God-given”) and follow it? I love the way Frederick Buechner puts it: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Of course, sometimes we need to choose what’s right even when we feel no passion for it. Often, though, I think feelings will follow this choice of duty. C.S. Lewis has a beautiful thought about duty: “A perfect man wd. (sic) never act from sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc) can do the journey on their own” (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 97).
Emotions don’t have to be high for passion to be enacted–the crutch of duty can sometimes be used. Merriam Webster defines passion first as an emotion, but second as “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.” Passionate conviction can carry us through times of duty when the feelings aren’t as strong. I believe, though, as Lewis points out, that if we are growing closer to the perfection of God, we will act less out of duty and more out of the emotion of passion. It’s better to be walking on the legs of the emotion of love and conviction.
In addition, it seems to me that passion does not have to dim as we age. Think about all the great leaders who have affected positive change in the world over years of service: Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther King Jr., Elisabeth Elliott, and many more. Each had a passion for their life calling.
Speaking of examples, Jesus Himself lived a life of passion. He had compassion on the people around Him, regularly healing them of their sicknesses, despite His own grief and/or fatigue. He spoke out with conviction against the pride of the Pharisees and the thievery in the temple. In the end, His ultimate sacrifice took an intense, driving conviction to humble Himself before His Father and follow His will.
This is where our passion needs to start–where Jesus’ did–a passion to follow hard after God and what He has called us to, no matter our age, no matter our busyness, and no matter our weariness.
What is your God-given passion? Is it waning? I pray that God will either help you rekindle your passion or direct you to a new one. Please comment below about the passions God has given you!