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August 14th, 2011


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05:29 pm - The Very Flame of the Lord
I had a revelation recently: the opposite of fear is not peace, or courage, but passion.

This made sense—finally—of much of my life up till now: fears I long collaborated with, love I sought to give and receive but so rarely found, and how to exchange the one for the other.

I've always been a passionate person. I feel things deeply, attach myself to people at a heart level, and welcome into myself everything that seems beautiful and true and full of life. I have always longed to find something, anything, that I could pour my heart into, pour my energy into, pour all this intense emotion into.

I have always loved people. I'm not a romantic (at least, I wasn't), but I loved my family, I adored my friends, and I looked forward to someday having a boyfriend and then husband. However, my teen years convinced me that no one wanted to understand or even listen to me. My college years convinced me that passion for people was often met by apathy; that it was mostly a waste of time. And even that conclusion assumed that others are at least capable of loving with the passion I wanted to express and receive--the closeness of true friendship, like family.

So I tried pour my passion into God, and into people by way of God. I tried not to get so close to people that losing them or never feeling that I was special to them would matter, but not stay so far away that I couldn't care for them as I felt I ought to.

I tried to pour it into my writing. I'd convinced myself as a child that I didn't have any special talents, so when I found I did, it was startling. But writing, while a place of giftedness and confidence and life for me, is not quite big enough to hold everything that is in my heart.

Nothing I tried really worked. And only now, at 31, can I see what happened in my heart and spirit.

That passion never went away. I simply didn't express it to anyone but myself, and occasionally a good friend.

It's a rushing river that kept pouring through and out of my heart, but it didn't have anywhere to go. It's no longer a regular riverbed: it's now a canyon, deeper than you can guess without measuring directly. The water runs so fast it would whip you off your feet and away as quick as thought, but you'd never know it from the surface. It looks peaceful and clear and cold: the proverbial still waters running deep.

I know a lot of this had to do with fear, and I've realized that this fear of passion—as I've seen it in myself and in others—comes in two types: fear of being out of control, and fear of being unwanted.

Self-control is a virtue much prized by those who grew up in the Christian church. Keeping oneself away from sin, from harming others by our demands or desires or actions, is valued more than even active good works. We fear passion because it smacks of losing control: of exploding in anger, striking or cursing or breaking things; of unbridled lust, treating people as objects or taking advantage of their physical desires; of losing control of our tongues, gossiping and slandering and putting people down.

“Passion” also conjures up ideas of following our own desires rather than the will of God (whatever that may be). If we assume that we are inherently tainted or wicked, then the thought of listening to what our hearts tell us, much less what our bodies tell us, is kind of terrifying.

As a side note: there's an unconscious bias in a lot of religious communities against the physical world, as opposed to the spiritual. So passion, which involves emotion and often some form of physical connection or desire (not necessarily sexual), is seen as inherently and unconsciously dangerous, or is rejected in favor of “unworldly” pursuits such as prayer.

We may also go in the other direction, and fear to display how passionate we are because we know how easily we can be crushed. If we dare to open our hearts, to invest them in projects, in works of art or purpose, to surrender them to friends or lovers, we risk having the most intimate parts of our selves ignored, rejected, or misunderstood.

Neither of these fears are necessarily true. Sometimes they are downright irrational.

Passion brings with it energy and creativity. The more you are invested in something, the harder you tend to work to make something worthwhile out of it—and that goes for relationships as well as a book or a painting. Opening up to one's passions shows one how to take what one has and create new things from that. As an artist, it's indispensable; as a human being, it's freeing on the deepest level.

Furthermore, passion is not by nature self-focused. Fear is much more turned in on the self. When one is acting out of passion, one tends to forget oneself in one's concentration on the project or object or person that one is passionate about. It helps you turn towards others; it helps you find a way to stop obsessing over your own heart and spirit.

The apostle John wrote, in his first letter, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because [God] first loved us. If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

Acting out of passion is a lot like acting in love.

When people talk about conquering fear, they often talk about courage and peace. Courage is the ability to act in spite of fear. Peace is the absence of fear—the result of learning to live without it. Both are good, and courage is certainly the most necessary of all virtues. But the opposite of fear, the thing that can cancel it out, is passion.

When one pursues something, the opposite thing is usually displaced. Pursue fear, and passion fades or is hidden away. Pursue passion... and fear must give way before it.

Current Mood: goodgood

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Comments:


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From:kalquessa
Date:August 16th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
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This gave me some thinky thoughts, believe it or not, about parenting. Not sure I can even articulate them, yet, but I has them, and I think they will be fruitful. Thank you!
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
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If you do figure out how to articulate those thoughts, I would love to hear them!

You're very welcome.
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From:lizamanynames
Date:August 17th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
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Ohhh, this says so well what I have known but struggled to put into words. Passion, especially passion tied to a talent is of course from that same Love that God is, God and Love and passion are tied together very strongly for me.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:August 17th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad I gave you words! Yes, indeed, they are all tied up together.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:August 18th, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
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I wholeheartedly agree with the bit about fear vs. passion vs. courage vs. peace.

I'd hesitate to say that Christians who are too cautious/fearful are the majority: I'd say there's equal numbers of Christians who are passionate without direction/understanding/discernment. Instead of never leaving the dock, they end up shipwrecked.

But shipwrecking is not inevitable. We who are passionate should not be afraid of passion. I can't stop the storm, nor should I (my imagery has always been a storm - go figure). If I try, I suffer and wreck and sink. But I can direct the storm. If you've ever been sailing, you know how fast you can go, even when you tack. I can focus it. I can use it. And it can send me really really far: in all the right directions.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:August 18th, 2011 03:29 am (UTC)
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Well, the cautious ones were far and away the majority where I came from, anyway--possibly because some of them had run around and been wild children before they found Christ, possibly because of the part of the church others were brought up in.

I'd almost, at this point, rather get shipwrecked than never leave the dock. At least you've made something positive (in the photographic sense) rather than avoided making anything out of fear.

(I might PM you sometime; from your post a week or two ago, I think you may understand my own struggles with irrational fear a lot better than most people I know. Maybe.)
[User Picture]
From:scionofgrace
Date:August 18th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Well, the cautious ones were far and away the majority where I came from, anyway--possibly because some of them had run around and been wild children before they found Christ, possibly because of the part of the church others were brought up in.

Yeah, I think both kinds form enclaves. Human nature, probably.

I'd almost, at this point, rather get shipwrecked than never leave the dock.

I know what you mean. I have to remember that they're equal: being shipwrecked is NOT worse than never leaving the dock!

I think you may understand my own struggles with irrational fear a lot better than most people I know. Maybe.

Worth a shot, at any rate! (And if not, you'll have taught me something.)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:August 22nd, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
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I have to remember that they're equal: being shipwrecked is NOT worse than never leaving the dock!

Ha, yes! This is it exactly.

Worth a shot, at any rate! (And if not, you'll have taught me something.)

That's a much more welcoming attitude than most people in this world manage. I'm still thinking about it... also very, very, very busy, so. :) Thank you for making me welcome.

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