Passion-Spirituality and Church (May 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Fred Peatross

We all know what it means to be moved by a strong, mysteriously compelling force that emerges from deep within us. It’s called passion.

For some, the most driving force occurs at the dinner table. For others, it’s a passion to buy and possess. For still others, passions surface in the privacy of a hotel room.

Simply put, passion thrives within each of us. Some will say they feel no passion. However, people who feel no passion have simply buried it. They may present themselves as drab and colorless, entirely unengaged with anything that would provoke strong feelings. In reality they are passionately engaged in the pursuit of something. They may not feel the energy within them anymore than they feel the earth rotating beneath their feet, but it’s there and it’s been there since Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden (Genesis 3:21-24). With fierce determination, we are all searching for a plot of land with fewer weeds.`

I have not given up my claim on land here in favor of a heavenly mansion, but I have a strong passion to make life outside the garden a little more like I imagined it would be inside. Let me say it another way. I have been busy and more committed to making life work in the here and now than I have been in making a life in the conventional church.

I am a very passionate, determined individual, but the deep passion I once had for conventional church and the spiritual (as I used to understand it) is far less than it once was. Why? Two reasons: church life experience and my struggle with a reality that cannot be experienced with one of the five human senses.

Church Life
My creative side had a difficult time finding a comfortable place in church culture. Faith communities generally ride the prevailing trend and often interpret creativity and inventiveness as impractical. I grew weary, tired, and transitioned. Today my creative outlet is photography. The acceptance and rewards I have received in the artistic genre for my photography has given me the creative license and freedom I desperately needed as an expression. A close second is my passionate obsession for exercise. It is a return to a passion of my early adult years. You will find me at the gym three to four times a week.

My passions spring, like yours, from a core passion to make life better. With fierce determination, I am searching for a plot of land with fewer weeds and thornbushes. To feel a deep throbbing passion about my well-being and my family’s well-being is as natural as breathing. Nothing is wrong with that. Now, before you become too critical of the all I have said, let me finish.

Knowing God
Personally, I cannot generate passion for God by an act of will. No formula will produce the passion I am after. Biblical metaphors— panting after God, drinking living water, eating bread from heaven—make it clear that finding God is not an academic endeavor nor is it about understanding multifarious truths about God. It is about encountering God. Regularly reading the Bible, disciplined resistance to temptation, giving, and worship—are all good things, but are simply not enough to generate passion for Jesus. And the task is not easy for a complex thinker who struggles with a reality that cannot be seen.

I have many questions for God. I know that God will not yield to my impudence and answer them, but still I ask, because something in me wants to ask questions, whether I get answers or not. The point of the questions seems to be in the asking. Putting my confusion into words generates a satisfying sense of power that helps me survive the inexplicable madness of life. Honesty requires that I tell you there is a perverse energy in my soul that actually wants to “have it out with God.” The prospect of winning seems dim, but the fight itself feels devilishly invigorating. Could this energy be the same as the passion that drives Satan?

I refuse to judge myself at this point in my journey when other passions feel stronger than my passion to serve God in traditional ways. Time has taught me that the enjoyment of God increases and subsides with the recurring rhythms and cycles of life. The extremes of faith, and everything in between, vary from person to person. When bad passions appear to have the upper hand, I remind myself that God is working to entice me with the prospect of knowing Him, and He is appealing to parts of my soul that are not drawn to the lesser pleasures. Those are the parts that define who I really am as a Christ-follower.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a connection with God and Jesus, however slight it may be at this moment. With full right I can say, “I found God” or better, “God has found me.” However, in a far richer sense I must also say, “I am still looking for Him.” Even Paul longed for more of Jesus. Paul was aware that he had not yet apprehended all there was to knowing Him. (Philippians 3:12-14).

So here I am being brutally honest—cruising on this here-and-now-road looking to get off at the next ramp and begin my real search for God. I am certain as I begin navigating the many spiritual opps available I’ll once again find struggles, setbacks, and confusion. Confidence in a God who does not always make clear what He is doing at any given moment does not come easily for me.

Is God really good? Do I believe it? Do I have the energy and desire to pursue him? Is He still there? Will he let me find Him? Sometimes I wish I could settle for engaging pleasantly with life, brushing my teeth, paying my bills, showing up at the Sunday assembly, raising my hands in worship, and believing without contemplating the exact nature of what a relationship with God might look like. However, the pursuit of God requires much more of me.

I want to know Jesus well enough for him to be recognizable in me – even through my moody, fickle weirdness. Yes, I want Jesus; sometimes I want him more than life itself. But sometimes that scares me more than I want him.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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