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.
that light, Henri Nouwen writes:
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.'"
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.
might this prove to be a toxic teaching?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.