In high school, I hated studying Spanish grammar. Hated. (No really, with a passion.) I did not want to memorize whether muchedumbre was masculine or feminine. I did not want to make flashcards of verb endings. I found grammar both tedious and unintelligible. Then two years ago, I started trying to get back my Spanish proficiency after ten years of silence, and I got on Amazon and ordered a copy of the Spanish grammar book I hated most in high school. Then I ordered two others, with a yearning that surprised me. Suddenly, I longed to know how to use the subjunctive.
If I tell my kids to set the table, they groan. If I invite them to decorate the table, they set it and add place cards, fresh flowers, and a lovely vegetable plate.
I’ve learned three things about passion as I’ve unschooled:
- Passion is completely, utterly surprising. It does not honor categories like “things kids like” or “work” or “hard”. It smashes down the barriers between “learning” and “play”. It pops up in completely unexpected places and will grow like kudzu if left unchecked.
- Passion is ridiculously powerful. People who are passionate about what they’re doing are like crazy fiends. You don’t have to worry about teaching them because you’re simply trying to shield yourself from their crazy energy.
- It is possible to believe all this airy-fairy stuff about intrinsic motivation and following your passion and still be scared about the day to day work of honoring passion in yourself and your kids. It takes time to get used to seeing your life this way. Going slowly, with grace, is okay.
To wit: I have used any number of ways to motivate myself. Guilt, shame, fear. Comparisons, arrogance, ego. I’ve used discipline to power my life. All of these things can get you places. But they can also make your soul sick.
They have made my soul sick. I have wanted to achieve things just because they will make me look good. I have tried hard because I am afraid I’m nothing if I don’t succeed. I have wanted to impress other people instead of loving them.
I am using the past tense here. That is a slight over-exaggeration.
I don’t have this stuff down. But that’s okay. The point of passion is that it needs space to grow on its own, not that you have to have perfect conditions to make it happen. It’s more like gravity, and less like flying.
Now, can I say one more thing about passion?
Jesus talked about having faith like a mustard seed. How the kingdom of God would grow like crazy from a tiny seed.
I think passion and the kingdom of God are related.
I think if we’re cultivating the smallest amount of passion in our life, if we’re paying attention to the things that give us a shiver of excitement, if we’re taking risks on things that make our heart sing, I think that’s one way to start entering into the kingdom.
I think that shiver of excitement will translate into the long-haul commitment necessary to carry our cross and love our enemies. Past labels like “hard” and “work.”
Instead of us doing work of faith, it’s God doing the work through his Spirit—a crazy, no-holds-barred power that takes us out of our limitations and categories and understanding.
And I think that power leads to things like beauty, and justice, and wholeness, and reconciliation.
So passion isn’t just about our kids learning math, or us getting work done. It’s not about becoming self-actualized. No, it’s about reorienting our motivations, our way of being, to connect with God’s power and direction. It’s about letting go of “achieving” the kingdom, and letting something more organic and exciting happen in our souls.
Its about listening to that still small voice in our souls, and then doing something revolutionary: taking it seriously.
Image credit: RC Designer