by Angela T. Khabeb
At some point in our lives we encounter a hobby, an interest, a cause that intrigues, inspires, or provokes us. Some passions are sparked from within, while others swirl around us, inviting and enticing us to come closer and closer until we are captured.
According to the dictionary, passion is “a strong liking, desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept”.
Passions are not one size fits all
They come in all shapes and sizes and one person’s passion might be another person’s bane. I have a dear friend who loves to cook. She can spend hours in the kitchen creating edible works of art — while I’m annoyed by the very thought of making dinner tonight.
Sometimes passions simply smolder unnoticed until we recognize them. Other times we stumble upon a passion – a new idea, activity, or career that we didn’t know we would love.
When I was 15 years old, a classmate invited me to her church youth group. I went to the midweek service, not knowing what to expect – and can you believe it? My friend’s pastor was a woman! A woman pastor! I had no idea until I heard Pastor Jeanie preach the Gospel with power and authority that I needed to be in ministry myself. That “chance” encounter changed the trajectory of my life.
Some passions captivate us
They call us by name and blaze brightly, lighting a clear(ish) path for us to follow. Without explanation, we simply know, “I have to do this!”
That happened to me in my twenties. One day during my morning devotions, I felt the undeniable stirring of the Holy Spirit. My heart was turned toward Mama Africa. I just had to get there! I confidently pursued that passion and before I knew it, I was an ELCA missionary in Namibia! I lived and worked in Africa for over two years.
Looking back, it seems that, to some degree, some passions are time-sensitive. When Mama Africa called my name, I was twenty-something, single, with no kids. Certainly we can serve God at any age, but global ministry is easier when you have fewer responsibilities. Now that I am married with children and a mountain of student loans, it might be harder for me to heed the call to serve overseas. However, I trust the invitation to international ministry will reemerge once the kids are grown and I’m retired and ready for a global adventure.
The disciples were well acquainted with captivating passions. Mark’s Gospel teaches us that when Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John, they immediately left their fishing nets and followed him (1:17-20).
Passions that just show up
Then there are some passions that barge into our lives violently. They show up uninvited and demand our immediate attention. You discover a lump in your breast and it’s malignant. The obstetrician tells you there is no heartbeat. Your best friend dies by suicide. Then, suddenly, we find ourselves immersed in breast cancer awareness, pregnancy loss support groups, and mental health resources.
I remember when my doctor told me at a routine prenatal visit that our baby had died in utero. Stillbirth was inescapable. After laboring all night to bring forth a baby I knew was already dead, a passion for grief ministry was born in me. Now, many years later, it is my honor to walk with people who are struggling through stifling grief.
It is my experience that when passions are thrust upon us, we are reminded that we are part of something larger than ourselves.
Years later, when our son Konami was three years old, I remember sitting in front of team of experts and hearing the words, “Your son is developmentally delayed in every area. We commonly refer to this as global delay.” My husband and I sat there in a silent daze while the experts continued talking for at least twenty more minutes. Our brains simply could not process anything beyond the initial statement. Without invitation, autism was added to our family lexicon.
It is my experience that when passions are thrust upon us, we are reminded that we are part of something larger than ourselves. In retrospect, I’ve learned some passions are rather expensive. I’d rather be a mom who’s blissfully ignorant about Autism Spectrum Disorder instead of dreading each public outing, worried about the next meltdown and ensuing spectator judgment. And please believe me, I’d rather have a twelve-year-old daughter than a burning passion for grief ministry. But ultimately, we do not choose our passions. By definition, they often choose us.
Perhaps your passion plate is full because you have chosen to fully embrace life. Or maybe you’re still discovering your truth. But like most things in life, our passions have cycles. A passion may dim for a season, but they never die. And so–let us remain open to the breath of new life. The Spirit blows where she chooses and she may have plans to blow a small spark in our souls into a bright and consuming passion.
The Rev. Angela T. Khabeb is a pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wisc. She enjoys an active home life with her amazing husband, Benhi, and their three wonderful children Konami, Khenna, and Khonni.
Photos by Andrew Peloso and Jamie Street on Unsplash. Used with permission.