Friday, June 1, 2012

On Being Passionate

If you asked me what I thought was the biggest problem of our modern age is, I wouldn't say abortion.  I wouldn't say a culture of death, or the HHS mandate, or sexual immorality, or liberal theology, or the impending zombie apocalypse.  No, while all of these things are concerning to various degrees, the biggest problem of our modern age is the lack of true passion.  With the rise of skepticism, the notion that doubt is the greatest form of criticism and that belief is the greatest form of weakness, we've begun to erase any sort of true passion in our lives.  We have affections, we even have obsessions, but passions?  We're nearly bone dry.

Passion, unlike obsession or affection, is challenging.  Its easy to have affection towards something.  Its easy to become obsessed with something.  But to become passionate?  Such a thing is difficult.  Why?  Because passion requires sacrifice.  Passion requires effort.  Passion requires discipline and dedication.  Most of all, passion requires devotion, and devotion is a dead.  In a culture in which freedom, as the Supreme Court defined in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case, " the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," being devout is very near impossible.  We love to make gods of ourselves, to tout our own freedom, to place the universe in our pockets and claim it for our own.  We take on the world with sword in hand until we get a triumphant breath and realize that being God is so very lonely.  We'll climb the highest heights, we'll stand on the summit of Everest and think ourselves giants, and realize that this world wasn't created for giants, it was created for men.  And men are devout.   Men believe.  They look for goodness, truth, and beauty and believe in it, they dedicate themselves to it.  Gods, however, craft their own definitions for goodness, truth, and beauty.  They say "What's good for you isn't good for me, what's true varies from person to person, culture to culture, era to era, and beauty lies only in the eye of the beholder."  They mean to create a world in which everything is good, true, and beautiful, and instead they create one where nothing is.  They discover, much to their chagrin and dismay, that they grasped once again at the fruit and thus fell from Eden.  No, a man cannot make himself into a God, lest he quickly discover that he lacks God's power to create and only retains the power to destroy.  

Men must be devout.  They must submit, the must find the greatest of all things and kneel before it, the must adore it.  If we are ever to enjoy the world, if our hunger for unfading joy is ever to be filled, we cannot set ourselves above the transcendent values of the world.  No man forces beauty, nor does he control goodness, nor can he create truth.  He can only recognize these things, and in the act of doing so, devoutly submit himself to them.

After devotion comes dedication and discipline.  Devotion, though it is wholly natural, is not wholly easy.  It requires discipline.  If I am to love goodness, truth, and beauty, that is, if I am to truly value the world around me, I must be changed by it.  If I admire goodness, I must become good.  If I seek truth, I must become more true.  If I sigh in awesome admiration of beauty, I must become more beautiful.  Devotion leads to discipline, to a change in myself.  Discipline forms people, it molds them and changes them.  It humiliates and disintegrates people, but only that they might be exalted and have integrity.  Like clay on the potters wheel, discipline molds potential into actual, clay into vessels, men into saints.

Through discipline comes sacrifice.  All great loves, all true devotions, all worthy disciplines require sacrifice.   The process of submission, of humbling oneself before the beloved is painful, because it strikes a direct blow to enemies within us.  Sacrifice is a battle, a battle of the scale of St. George and the Dragon, because in sacrifice, we fight ourselves.  Our temptations face our aspirations, our virtues battle our vices, our loves face our fears.  Sacrifice is the battle for our soul, for our very heart.  Only through sacrifice do we strike a blow upon our worst enemy:  ourselves.

This is passion:  Devout, disciplined sacrifice.  Passion should be invigorating and exhausting all at once.  It should empty us, and because we're so empty, we're full.  Paradoxical?  (enter obligatory Chesterton quote) "The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."  Passion is more than strong feelings.  Its more than affection or obsession, its sacrificial.  There's a reason why we call the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ his Passion.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the most sublime of all examples of passion, for in it, he demonstrates absolute sacrifice, discipline, and devotion.

We need passionate people, especially Christians.  We desperately need people to rediscover devotion.  We need to stop taming religion.  We've created a religious climate that looks less like Calvary and more like a group therapy session, and its proving to be a sorry failure.  People want to kneel at the cross of Jesus Christ.  The Cross is the junction of human existence, it is the pinnacle of what it means to be human and the signature of God's relentless love.  Here lies the root of true passion.  Every passionate longing of the human heart is both fulfilled and ignited from the Passion of Jesus Christ.  If it is capable for you to feel passion, for you to love, it is because of the love and the Passion on the Cross.

Be passionate people.  Find your devotion, make sure it is worthy.  Discipline yourself in it, make the necessary sacrifices for it, and discover your passion for it.  Find something good and be good.  Discover the truth and be true.  Delight in beauty and become beautiful.  The human heart is not meant to be dull and tame.  It is an organ of true passion, of disciplined devotion, chiseled in sacrifice.  Be passionate!

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