I have been reading a book by Liz Forkin Bohannon entitled “Beginner’s Pluck” – not “luck” but “pluck” with a “p”. The author has some good insights and she is not afraid to take on some sacred cows in our times and culture. One of these sacred cows is the myth of “finding your passion” in life and she addresses this in a chapter aptly entitled, “Stop Trying to ‘Find Your Passion’”.
Her point is that passion is not found but built. Here I want to share a quote from her book,
The critical difference is this: when you set out to “find” something, it requires that you know what you’re looking for. When we believe in the notion that we will eventually “find” our purpose and passion, we bide our time, living only half alive and gripped by fear. We look to others who have already “found it,” and we get jealous, overwhelmed, and confused when we try to run someone else’s race because we want to end up where they are.
We cling to the narrative of “finding” because it is self-soothing and gives us permission to be passive, and we fall asleep to the world and to the work that is right in front of us.
We can blame our lack of direction and purpose on The Universe and Other Vague External Factors instead of taking responsibility for our own lives and moving forward with courage and intentionality.
When we believe our passion and purpose is waiting to be found, we wait instead of create.
The mentality around creating and building is much different than finding or discovering. Have you ever heard an author describe the process of writing the novel without knowing how the story ends? They don’t talk about the moment when they finally found the perfect last sentence which then gave them permission to start writing. They talk about how each day, they sit down with an openness to where the narrative will go, and they know they must write it into existence. In the end, they sit back and marvel not at their discovery, but at their creation.
Your passion isn’t found in your dreaming. It’s made by your doing.
Here is the connection to this Sunday’s readings. In today’s gospel (Mt. 5:13-16) our Lord says, “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.” This is not meant to be a nice description we can pat ourselves on the back for. “Hey, look at what the Son of God said we are!” It is not that. It is a task to be lived. How do we recognize it is a task to be lived? Because immediately our Lord then goes on to caution that salt can lose its taste and a light can be hidden.
This understanding is backed up in the first reading from Isaiah (Is. 58:7-10). “Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…” These are all “doing” words, active verbs. They are not passive.
“Salt of the earth” and “Light of the world” are not meant to be nice little descriptions that the Christian can sit comfortably and passively within. They are a task we are given by our Lord himself – tasks to which we will have to give an accounting of.
I like Bohannon’s writing because she is quite honest and she is not afraid to even call herself out. The business she created helps women and girls in impoverished areas around the world but she admits she was not “born” with this passion, rather it grew over time as she made choices, as she investigated and explored things. This is how it really happens. The “Find your Passion” myth often cripples us because it seems so big and daunting from the outset that we just become stuck and not sure what to do. “Forget all that,” says the author and she offers some sound advice from her own life to get beyond that hurdle. “What are you interested in? What intrigues you?” Do the work of exploring that and then see where you go. Both our passion and our purpose our built – not found.
God provides his grace but God does not overwhelm our wills. God wants us to play our part in the equation. We are not meant to be passive bystanders to our lives and our time in this world. This is not what our Lord means when he says we are salt and light. By saying salt and light, our Lord has given us a task that we are each meant to live and to do.