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When You Wonder If You Can...

Originally published Wednesday, 15 January 2014.

I got on a plane by myself and I took my laptop and I took a deep breath. I was traveling to a conference for women in ministry. The idea of being a woman in ministry was still new to me, like a pair of boots you haven’t worn enough to break in, that feeling when you wonder if they really fit at all.

And I hauled my computer out during a layover and I tapped out some thoughts–tentative thoughts about who I might be, words that were hard to write, even to myself. The words weren’t hard because they were about what’s wrong with me–they were much harder than that. The words were about what’s strong in me, what brings me passion and life, and maybe, just maybe, what God would do with that.

I stared at those words, slumped in a chair in the Atlanta airport. They looked back at me from the screen, blurring together  into one big question mark. The question mark was about the how, and the when. It was about the why, and the what. It was….? and nothing more.

But over the next few years, with wrestling and wondering, and tentative steps forward, with prayer and conversation with friends who forced me to look at the truth and find God’s fingerprints on it all…with all of that, the question mark got smaller and the passion grew larger.

I believe God has put that passion into all of us…a passion for something, a desire to create something better. This passion is about taking the stormy strength within each of us and channeling it into this generous, expansive place that God calls his kingdom. It’s a place of both rest and work, of effort and of peace.

So you start. You take the courageous steps toward that small voice inside, the voice that calls you “more”, the voice that calls you toward the unknown. And it’s hard. This is a place that takes effort–not just a lackadaisical, mediocre effort–but true effort. White-knuckled, hard-working, late nights, early mornings, one step at a time effort.

Following passion requires a single-minded focus and a fanatical intensity about the thing that you were made to do. It means using all of the tools at your disposal–be it your incredible penchant for research or your ability to connect to anyone or your grasp on spreadsheets–it means taking all of it and working really, really hard to keep walking toward that voice.

For a long time, I wondered if that kind of passion was a problem. I thought that intensity and effort and the desire to go toward the “more” was not balanced enough, not peaceful enough, not “Christian woman” enough. I thought I had to pursue peace, and that peace meant a really clean kitchen, a great knack for throwing children’s birthday parties, and the desire to teach Vacation Bible School. I thought that my desires were less noble and more ambitious than that–and that made my passion wrong.

But, my friend, can I tell you what I’ve learned? I’ve learned that passion that leads you to generosity and growth is worth pursuing. I’ve learned that we all have our own balance points, and that God equips us with our own definition of “balance” because he equips us for different work. I’ve learned that my passion that I bring to my work in ministry is important, and my friend’s passion for adoption is important, and my other friend’s passion for beautiful spaces is important, and my other friend’s passion for community is important.

I’ve learned that hard work is not a sin, and sacrificing a lot for the right thing is always worth it. I’ve learned it’s OK to let the dishes be dirty and to serve takeout at my house because I’m working hard at what God’s made me to do. I’ve learned that true passion means you have to say no to good things so that you can pursue the best things. Saying no is really hard but denying who you are is much, much worse.

So if passion means saying no to some good things because I know my “more” requires that, and if that means my laundry sits and my suitcase isn’t unpacked, and I answer emails at 10pm, if it means I work full-time and have a babysitter, if it means my kids take pre-packaged food in their lunch, it’s OK.

Our balance points are different.

Our passions are different.

What the world doesn’t need is our complacency masking as contentment. Complacency is about giving up the more. But  contentment means trusting God’s timing and plans while pursuing with abandon the person He’s made you to be.

What your world needs right now is your gifts–your heart, your hard work. Your world needs what you have to offer and offering that is hard work but it’s worth it. Throw yourself into your passion. Give yourself over to that single-minded passion.

If you don’t know what that is, that’s OK. One of my favorite verses is from Isaiah 43

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

If you can’t find that passion, if you feel like you are wandering in the wilderness, take heart, my friend. If you can’t muster up the energy for more than survival, if you feel thirsty and parched in the wasteland, confused and directionless–take heart, my friend. If you ask Him, if you seek Him with your whole heart, if you give your life over to God and commit to serve Him only, He will open your eyes.

He will fuel your passions–the passion that’s part of His kingdom. He will guide your steps and create paths. He will relentlessly pursue you because in his incredible, astounding plan, He wants you to be his expression of love, grace and creativity in the world. He wants you to bring His redemption and healing and mercy. He wants you to be the fullest expression of His love in the unique way He’s made you. So He won’t give up on you or who He’s made you to be.

And if you know what your passion is but are frustrated at the process, take heart. Remember that you can be content without having the picture of what you think you should have. You can find your calling even if your world feels small. You can use your passion even if it begins with small steps. You can keep learning, keep pursuing, keep becoming more. Allow God to shape your heart and your character in this time–find your place of contentment even as you put effort and heart into your passion and watch what He does with that. 

Not every dream I wrote that day in the airport has come to be–but some have. Every dream required more work and sacrifice than I imagined–but when it’s what you were made for, it’s worth it. Go after it, my friend. Dream. Write. Start.