Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Unbridled Passion

I have been thinking about the late Mike Yaconelli quite a bit lately.  The 10th anniversary of Yac's passing was October 30th, and a blog post I wrote 2 years ago - The Dangerous Wonder of Mike Yaconelli - has received a lot of attention over the past few days. As a result of that post, my friend Sabrina purchased Mike's book, Dangerous Wonder, and dove straight into it. We have spent a lot of time on the phone chatting about the book and about Yac himself, and my personal memories of that amazing man. There is one word that keeps popping into my mind as we talk- and that word is PASSION. Mike was all about passion, and Sabrina is also full of that zest for life that comes from loving Jesus. So I have been wondering about what living a passionate life would look like for me. What does it mean to be passionate about living, about relationships and about following Jesus? What does it mean to truly give yourself up for something, to go all in, to have unbridled passion?  Today I want to share a few thoughts on the subject...

I always thought that the primary enemy of passion was apathy. Passion is caring deeply about something, while apathy is not caring at all. And there is some validity to that thought. But when it comes to living with unbridled passion, I believe the thing that "pulls the reigns" in most of our lives is FEAR.  We fear failing. We fear looking silly or stupid. We fear judgement. We fear rejection. There are so many fears that enter our hearts and minds that many times we fail to "go for it" in life in the fear that we will fail. Too many of us...and I do mean US...end up pretending to be passionate, when in fact we lack that burning desire to live the abundant life that Jesus says he came to bring us (John 10:10)! Just think of all the times in scripture that God, His angels and His son speak the words, "FEAR NOT!" before revealing news that will change lives and bring joy to the world. Fear is very much the enemy of passion.

In my own life, fear kept from so many things. In fairness, fear often kept me from being too reckless, but it also kept me from trying new things, experiencing great adventures and enjoying life to the fullest. It kept from loving as recklessly as I should have. And it kept me from following the radical, wild, unpredictable Jesus of the scriptures instead of being satisfied with the tame, shrunken, boxed-up version of Christ our society prefers to see. Far too often in my life, I chose safe over adventure. I chose tameness, sameness and lameness over passion. And when we do that we miss so much! I love this conversation between an aging mother and her adult son in the movie Parenthood:

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Gil: Oh?
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it...

Mike wrote that "Passion is the roller coaster that can happen when you follow Jesus. It is the breathtaking, thrill-filled, bone-rattling ride of a lifetime where every moment matters and all you can do is hold on for life dear. Most people believe that following Jesus is all about living right. Not true. Following Jesus is all about living fully." For too long I settled for the merry-go-round. I had fun. My life was filled with wonderful people and seemingly endless activity. I appeared to be living life with zest and excitement. The problem was I was too tied up in "looking holy" to let the passion flow.  Fear was keeping my passion reigned in. It wasn't until I passed through the worst time of my life that I realized that fear had kept me from the abundant life. And it was at that point in time when I realized I had nothing left to fear. All of the masks were gone. It was time to jump first and fear later. All of visible facades I had surrounded myself with for all of those years had been torn down for me. The only thing left to define my life was the love of God whose name is Jesus and His grace poured out on me by so many people I love. How can you not respond to that with passion? When you are loved beyond all measure and have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, the only response must be to return that love with great zeal and great abandon. No more fear of failure or appearing silly. Instead, living like Peter. Always jumping first, never caring "what will people think if they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak..."

I do understand that the society we live in frowns upon such things. I this world, we should be careful, always looking before leaping and thinking before speaking. We should always make the safe and sane choice. Take the steady job with good money, not the risky one you absolutely love. Act your age.  Don't trust people, they will only hurt you. Don't get too "into" the whole Jesus thing, people will think you are nuts. And there are plenty of well-meaning people surrounding us who are anxious to remind of these things. Yaconelli referred to these people as "dream stealers." In scripture they were known as Pharisees. They want us to make the normal, safe and traditional choices in life, regardless of what it is that truly gets our hearts beating. I encountered one just the other night. A 7th grade girl was telling a group of us that her passion is dance, and that she wants to be a dance teacher when she grows up. Her mother, who loves her daughter and was seeking to be helpful and pragmatic, proceeded to poop all over that dream. The young lady was informed that maybe she could teach dance on the side of her real job someday, but that she couldn't really expect to make a living as a dance teacher. Dream Stealer! It is something we all have done, and we do it out of this fear- "But what if it doesn't work out? She might get hurt." How will she ever know unless she pursues her passion? Life is filled with pain and disappointments (valleys), but without them how can we fully recognized the joys (mountaintops)? We do need to jump first and fear later, because fearing first will often prevent us from jumping at all.. When we deny our passions, a part of our hearts decay. God created us to be passionate, to live abundant. And our passions come from him. Sabrina reminded me the other day of the great line from Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."  Our passion FOR our earthly passions come from the Creator.

Yac wrote in Dangerous Wonder that he hoped when he reached the end of his roller coaster experience that he would not look back with regret, but instead would be shouting out "What a ride!!!" I believe he certainly did just that. It is my prayer that I will be able do the same. How do we accomplish such a thing? By loving others the way God loves us. No restrictions or conditions, no expectations of conformity, no condemnation for failure. Just wild, radical, grace-filled uncontrollable love. We can have passions for many things and many people in this life. But the only way to LIVE passionately is to embrace the madness that calls on us to love those who hate us, pray for those who wrong us and follow the One who loved us enough to die for us. That seems absolutely ludicrous to the dream stealers, who will tell you all about the rules and precautions we must all abide by to survive. And they may be right. But you know what? I don't want to simply survive. I want to live with an unbridled passion. There is only one source for that. So keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and hold on tight. It's going to be a wild ride. full of huge highs and massive drops! But we'll be riding with Jesus. What could be better?

Because of Jesus,

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