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In Praise of Passion

She calls from overseas, where she's been teaching through 3 months of quarantine. The loneliness has worn her down; she's ready for a change. Her heart calls her to Central America, where she has dreams of making a difference, dreams that have persisted for years. But who is she to try and change the world? She wonders, is it time to just be practical, try and live like everybody else? He's about to start a new semester, his junior semester, trying on a brand new major. He was going to be a doctor. Microbiology was intellectually challenging; medicine would be lucrative. But it was boring. Now he's going for marriage and family therapy. He's opened up one of his textbooks and he keeps shouting out with joy over something he reads. "I think I might finish this text before the semester begins," he says. Dreams, they say, belong to youth. Age wears them out. Eventually, when we've had enough hard knocks, we come to prefer practical realities and we let go of our dreams. Or, most of us do. There are those few who never stop dreaming. For example, the one who wrote her first novel on coffee shop napkins, faced countless rejections and then finally got published, only to become the best-selling author that created a whole new genre. The rest of us gape at such success. Who are these successful dreamers? They seem almost a race apart, quasi-superhuman. But me? I'm just a nobody from nowhere. How dare I think that I could do something grand? Actually, how dare I not? In the words of Marianne Williamson, "You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world... We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone." Here is what I've learned: not all dreams are created equal. Dreams of wealth and fame call like a siren from a fatal shore. And the price we pay in our vital relationships, in our integrity, to follow that siren call may, if we are lucky, awaken us to our peril and persuade us to turn away. Those are the dreams we need to grow out of. But there are other dreams that are born out of a call we hear in our souls. They arise out of a particular gift with which we came to Earth and they respond to a need we perceive in the world around us. There is always someone who denigrates the gift as uncool, impractical, unimportant. But it is part of us and if we neglect it, deny it, starve it, it's almost as if we are smothering ourselves. We can listen to the denigrating voices that call themselves "practical." We can live out our lives on the safe, well-beaten path. We might even be considered successful. But the fire is missing. The best we can look forward to is a retirement spent trying to distract ourselves from the pain of our own self-betrayal. Or we can listen to the particular love that burns within our heart. We can treasure it, nurture it, protect it from those that would have us put it out. It may be years, even decades before God gives us the means to bring it out into the world. It may be longer before its kindles a corresponding flame in others' hearts. But kindle a flame it surely will. That is the way of love. And whether that's during our lifetime or after, if we've been true stewards of our flame, it won't matter whether we became rich or famous, who saw or what they thought. It will only matter that our hearts became filled with love and that we go back to God having burned brightly, having done what we were sent to Earth to do. Passion is the raw material of excellence.

(Originally posted April 17, 2020)

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