Everyone these days is talking about “finding your passion.” The message is that we should do what we really care about, and not just the thing that earns the best living if we want to be satisfied in life. I agree with that. However, what do you do when you don’t know what your passion is? Maybe the storm of life has beat down on you so hard for so long that your passion fell off the boat somewhere along the way and you don’t even know which ocean it is in anymore. Maybe your passion isn’t glowing like a ruby in the treasure chest on your ship, but maybe it is like one of those beacons from a black box in a downed airplane in the ocean. You may have to tune in and circle a while in order to find it.
I was a middle-aged, depressed, stay-at-home homeschooling (!) mother, drowning in diapers and dinners, feeling like I was running the clock out on my life, ticking off items on my daily to-do list. I felt a longing to go back to college (but it costs so much) or return to work outside the home (but I would miss out on the childhoods of my babies). I felt intensely the loss of my youth–I was no longer a young adult on the cusp of life with my bright and important future ahead of me–I was now past the best years of my life with all hope and excitement gone, serving and assisting my children to live their bright futures. My only purpose was serving them. Serving others in the vocation of motherhood is a necessary and holy calling. But something inside me started to whimper, then cry out, then screech–I was extremely restless and unfulfilled. I was unhappy and unable to serve my family in the way I wanted to. I felt like the walking dead.
I believe that God created all of us with a purpose to fulfill. And to fulfill that purpose, he gives us certain traits and desires to drive us to and equip us for the job we have been given. If we love ourselves and the God who made us, we must find out who we are and what we should be doing. This is actually a lifelong task, because as we journey on, learn and grow, new vistas appear and our job description in the world may change–just like when you work for a company–as you gain experience and confidence, new opportunities appear that before you would not have been able to take advantage of. Our vocation can be obviously beaming at us, and it can be hidden and hard to find. It can be changing and confusing. It can be difficult to achieve because it is the wrong thing for us, or it could just be a test of faith.
Of course, if it is God’s will that we carry out the purpose he made us for (it is), then he will help us to do it. It is up to us to try to find it and to do it. Sometimes this may involve facing old fears and looking in to why our passion got thrown out into the bottom of some unknown ocean to begin with. We may get it wrong and go in the wrong direction for a while, but with his help, we will succeed. We must keep listening for and bravely seeking the blinking beacon. We will never be at peace ignoring the call of our heart. “Pay attention to what you pay attention to”, Austin Kleon reminded us in his post on Amy Krouse Rosenthal. What are you curious about? What seemingly trivial things do you ponder or bore people with? Follow those things where they lead. Maybe your passion is hiding because it is afraid–maybe at first all it can do is stick a toe in, but if you let it get comfortable, it will put a whole foot in, then slowly acclimate, take the plunge, and reveal itself to you. Maybe if you love yourself enough to dream and “waste time” enjoying little “pointless” interests, trying things, going places, you might start to feel stronger about something. Maybe a clearer picture will emerge and you can then make the decision to honor your heart’s request.
In the book of Acts, chapter 12, Peter was in prison, chained with guards watching over him. He was, in his mind, stuck and unable to go on with his mission. Then God sent an angel and he was free–the chains fell off, and the doors were unlocked for him to walk back out to fulfill his calling. If he didn’t believe he was free or if he didn’t truly want to be free, he never would have bothered to get up and walk out, and never discovered that, in fact, he was free as he wanted to be. He would have sat there in fear, in a prison of his own choosing. Instead, he wanted out, believed he was able to get out, and acted accordingly–he was indeed, with the help of God, free. This was true for me as well. I was not in contact with my heart’s beacon; I was restless and unhappy. Long ago, I went into hiding, afraid of revealing my true self and being vulnerable. I buried my heart’s fledgling call to write. Circumstances arranged themselves, in God’s timing, so that I had the time, the need, the courage, the ability, and strong desire to try writing. I had nothing to lose anymore, being as miserable as I was, so I figured I may as well give it a try. I decided I wanted to be free and that with God’s help I could be free, so all I had to do was to walk out of my self-chosen prison. If I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t need to wait for someone else to call me one or become worthy first–I just had to see myself as one who was called to this and who has something worth saying, have the courage to try and fail, and then begin to practice and improve to fulfill the desire I had to be a writer. Long before the doctor becomes licensed to practice medicine, he has to believe himself capable of completing the coursework and doing the job. Before the child reaches out for a hug, he must believe he is worthy of love. Before an author publishes his words, he must believe he is a writer and has something worthwhile to say and labor over.
Our restless hearts speak to us about what we need, and it is our holy obligation to listen. Having found the path I am to walk and growing some courage to take the first steps, I can feel some life coming back into me. If I die tomorrow, I would die knowing I loved myself and God enough to be true to my heart and I would die in peace. If we hear the calling clearly, we should courageously follow. If we don’t know where to turn to fill the aching void, we need to love ourselves enough to listen and follow those small soul whispers with the trusting and playful spirit a child might have while holding his daddy’s hand at the zoo. Playing and indulging in curiosity is serious business–circling in closer and closer to the beeping of the black box below, heeding the calling of our heart and our God, we will find our way.