In HOPE
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David Timms 

Issue 5.19

Ministry Resource

Henri Nouwen's last book, Adam: God's Beloved (Orbis, 1997, 125 pages), was published after his death. In the book he writes about the powerful influence that Adam, the severely handicapped young man he cared for over a 9-year period, had on his life. It confronts and challenges the reader to some radical perspectives.

HOPE Happenings

This summer, the University renovated and upgraded 15 classrooms to become "smart rooms" - complete with hi-tech equipment and new furniture. And the Fall semester starts August 23 for many of our students. Praise God for the year that lies ahead and the people He brings together in this learning community.

Our Passion for God

We usually think of passion as an emotion. But the Latin root of the word (passus) is the same root for our English word passive. The Old English use of the word passion referred to suffering - that which happened to a person, not what a person did.

 

In that light, Henri Nouwen writes:

"The great mystery of Jesus' life is that he fulfilled his mission not in action but in passion, not by what he did but by what was done to  him, not by his own decision but by other people's decisions concerning him. It was when he was dying on the cross that he cried out, 'It is fulfilled.'"

Our culture - even our Christian subculture - generally takes a negative view of passivity. Christian men's movements demand that men "reject passivity." Peers urge us to "seize the day, take the initiative, and just do it!" We glamorize the go-getters and those who "make it happen." In a performance-driven, power-hungry, action-oriented, competition-based culture, passivity is anathema.

 

But might this prove to be a toxic teaching?

 

Surrender can be either an act of resignation ("What will be will be") or a powerful choice to release control ("Not my will but yours be done"). Similarly, to be passive is not necessarily to become inactive or apathetic. To the contrary, it may be the ultimate suppression of my own desires so as to fulfill His desires.

 

Our passion for God then, is not a matter of whipping up some emotion, but the willingness to undergo anything to know Him more - perhaps sickness, bankruptcy, persecution, or failure. These experiences may prove to be our greatest allies in drawing us deeper into His Presence.

 

Mary's gentle affirmation, "May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1.38), was genuinely passionate. It did not involve hype, ecstacy, or wild gyrations. It simply emanated from the will.

 

In leadership, waiting can be perceived as weakness, releasing can be viewed as compromising, surrender can be confused with indecision. Consequently, we are sorely tempted to seize control decisively, to set an agenda forcefully, and to assert a vision aggressively. The world calls it passion, and will even applaud it. But somewhere along the line, as we begin to realize that the largest part of our lives are not under our control, that we are not as independent or self-sufficient as we have claimed, the emotion can no longer carry us.

 

Perhaps then (and only then) we are ready to loosen our grip and let God take the initiative ... to love us, and work through us. "In all things, God is at work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8.28).

 

The illusion of action is the fruit of a self-absorbed culture. As Nouwen briefly noted, "Passion is what finally determines the course of our life." Life - and leadership - is ultimately not what we make of it but what others make of it; people who care for us, support us, advise us, and provide for us in our youth, old age, and at every point in between.

 

May our passion for God mean that we are increasingly willing for God to do to us (and with us) whatever He wishes. The surrender of my dreams to His will is the first step of discipleship, and leadership.

 

In  HOPE -

 

Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831

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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

For back issues of In HOPE, see http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/