Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Gift of Passion
I wake up with it every morning. It dogs me in the middle of my honey wheat bagel breakfast. Turn around, and there it is again while I flip stupidly through droning radio talk show hosts in the car. Checking my emails, vacuuming the living room, worrying about my children, chiding myself for being not being a good enough wife. Always the passion is there. Always it haunts me. The passion to know God.
Me, a fallen woman living in a fallen world, can’t escape the Glory. In Walmart of all places there is glory. Walking among the power bars I hear the words spoken by God to Moses:
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7
Moses asked God to let him see His face. And God said no, because he didn't want a dead deliverer on His hands. Trembling, in the presence of the Ultimate Fact, Moses’ passion to know God trumped his fear of God. And God, wanting Moses to experience Him, made a way by showing the prophet his back.
It hits me like a meteor hurtling from space. This truth that has defined me for my whole adult life, that I have often taken so very lightly as if God were some good fairy looking for good little children to bless, this truth that is terrifying and compelling at the same time and I can’t escape the passion. Some days I want to. I want an easy, dignified life. I have had neither. Nor did Moses. Or any other person with a passion.
Passion in any context is messy. It stumbles over itself in the learning. It impacts everything around it.
I met a man when I was working in public television who was a model train expert. This man wore the railroad hat and everything. I mean, this was before the Thomas the Tank Engine craze, and this guy was completely off his rocker for trains. His wife was “on board”, or else he would have been divorced. His entire basement and many of the other rooms in his house were completely taken over by tracks, trains, little plastic people and animals, fences, and all manner of miniature railroad paraphernalia. When he talked about trains he was transformed from a guy living in a little house in New Jersey to a railroad king. He would converse about something else for a little while, but under every other word his passion for model trains leaked out. It was part of him, and he couldn't have escaped it if he wanted to.
In all the sorting out of my relationship with God I have done over the past three years, in the midst of excruciating pain and deep humiliation, He has left me with the gift of passion. I couldn't escape it if I wanted to. In fact, when my desires have been for the lesser joys of this material world, and the great passion has waned, He has been to me as he was to Moses and shown me a glimpse of Himself. I’m ruined for anything less. CS Lewis, as always, says it best:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I’m no special case. We were all made for passion. Those longings you have for something greater than yourself, for something more than your own small desires, those are the whispers of a passionate God, who takes it slow so as not to kill you with the glory. But make no mistake, we aren't dealing with a fairy. This is the Ultimate Reality, who wants us to have ultimate joy. He won’t settle for anything less. Hence the passion of His very own Son.
I’m off to seek ultimate joy, in the midst of buying jeans for my son, making meatloaf and sweeping my dining room floor. Because God does not dwell on a mountain, but in the hearts of men. And passion can abide in the most unlikely places. You seek it too, friend.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,