What's Your Passion?

by Joanie Butman

The first hotel we stayed at in Mexico had an interesting custom. Every member of the staff wore a nametag – not particularly interesting in itself; however, underneath their name was this statement, “My passion is _________________.” It became a game for us. We couldn’t wait to see what passion each person chose to reveal. Many selected their families, others a pastime such as fishing, and yet another expressed his love of Moovies. Clearly, English wasn’t one of his interests. After we moved into our second hotel, we missed the connection that small effort offered. All of a sudden we wanted to know our waiter’s passion. How cool is that?

I thought about all the labels people wear today and wished they would be of a more personal nature. What if we all chose to share a glimpse into who we are instead of wearing other people’s names on our clothing and accessories?

At dinner one night I brought the nametag subject up and posed a question to our group. “If you had to pick one passion to put on your nametag, what would it be?” No one took the bait. I wasn’t trying to be philosophical; I just thought it would be a fun exercise. I could tell by the look my daughter gave me that she assumed I was headed down the God road – not a path she cared to travel while on vacation with friends. She has a sixth sense when it comes to “those kind” of conversations and how to avoid them. I got the signature eye roll and a quick shift to another subject. I made one last attempt, but everyone’s passion at the moment appeared to be NCAA Basketball. 

No one had any desire to converse about their passions. How weird is that? This generation will tweet any inane thought that pops into their head, but I couldn’t get them remotely interested in discussing what they are passionate about. Maybe that is their passion: social media. It certainly consumes much of their time.

When I was growing up, our interests became hobbies (an antiquated word), which eventually grew into a passion but that was after experimenting with lots of different ones. Kids these days don’t have the luxury of free time to pursue hobbies that won’t necessarily add to their resume. I went to hear Jeff Immelt (General Electric CEO) speak once about common attributes of successful people. Interestingly enough, one of his recommendations to the high school audience was “Get a hobby!” He defined it as something you pursue for the sheer joy of doing it.

Which brings me back to my original question. Truth be told, my daughter’s instinct was spot on. I probably was trying to steer the conversation away from college basketball, but not overtly pointing to God as she expected. Nevertheless, I do believe that whatever passion(s) we have are given to us for a reason. They are our God-given interests, gifts and talents. We come out of the womb with certain predilections. They are the lights we are intended to shine into the world. It is through them that our purpose will be realized. For that reason, I’ve concluded that a person will never feel truly satisfied unless those gifts are being used in some capacity.

Personally, I have a number of passions. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite figured out how to support myself through them so I worked at jobs I wasn’t passionate about, which is how I arrived at my conclusion. When I worked on Wall Street, I was surrounded by (and envious of) people who were passionate about their work. I would love to go to a job every day doing something I was passionate about - a luxury many people can’t afford. I was proficient enough to earn a living but was always restless and fearful that someone would figure out that I had no idea what I was doing. Who knew that all these years later I’d learn that apparently a lot of other people on Wall Street didn’t either, or we wouldn’t have found ourselves in such an economic mess!

So, what would my answer be? At this point in my life, I would definitely put God first, followed by my family, then writing. It took me a long time to sort it out though, and no one is more surprised than me to think about where I started and where I am now. Looking back, I spent most of my life figuring out what wasn’t my passion. What a relief to finally reach a place where I recognize my purpose and can begin to fulfill it with passion. I suppose that realization is the gift of aging – along with the boldness to express it in writing, hopefully shining His light into the world in some small way.

Finally, the reason the subject of passions is foremost on my mind today is because we are entering Holy Week when Christ’s passion will be commemorated. I can’t put the reason for my first choice any simpler than this:

We are His passion,

so I choose to make Him mine.

Once I made that choice, the gifts and talents He intended for me to use bubbled to the surface effortlessly with new meaning and direction. And thus my purpose became aligned with His purpose.

What's YOUR passion and how do you choose to pursue it?