A 10-year-old girl said something two weeks ago that has had me thinking about passion ever since.
Interesting word, passion. It gives us compassion, passive, dispassionate, and a host of related concepts. At its core, from the Latin, “passion” means “to suffer.” It’s opposite, passive, or impassive, means “unfeeling.”
I was teaching cartooning to children in the afternoons following vacation Bible school. At one point, I had to take a phone call and turned the class over to my teenage grand-daughter who was assisting me. Ten minutes later, I told the children about the call.
“One of the editors of a weekly Baptist paper in another state called about using a certain cartoon. I found the drawing in a file and scanned it into the computer and emailed it to her. Next week, that cartoon–which is still in that file cabinet in my office–will be seen in 50,000 newspapers in homes all over that state.”
Then I asked the question on their minds but which none dared to raise.
“Now, how much money do you think I made doing that?”
Some kid said, “Thousands.” The rest had no idea.
“Zero,” I said. “Not a dime.”
“Very few cartoonists make much money doing this. Almost all have to have ‘day’ jobs to pay the rent.”
“So why,” I asked, “do we keep drawing cartoons when it doesn’t pay much money?”
That’s when the 10-year-old girl raised her hand and said something I had never really thought of.
“You do it for the passion.”
Wow. Exactly right. Pretty insightful for a child, if you ask me.
I confess to having a passion for certain things in my life, from my grandchildren to cartooning to writing. I’m interested in a lot of things that cannot be said to be my passion. These might include the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Braves, my car, the appearance of my yard (that will come as a surprise to my wife who thinks I have little interest in it!), and the clothes in my closet. I care about them, but do not lie awake thinking of them.
We preachers often tell our congregations that “the meaning of this word in the Greek is such-and-such” as though we have just solved the riddle of life. The fact is, the root meaning of a word can be of little or no help whatsoever in telling us what we need to know about a word.
If the root of “passion” is “to suffer,” we would veer off track if we then asked, “What makes us suffer in our lives?” No one I know uses passion to mean suffering.
(However, I remind myself of the grand works of music and art commemorating the sufferings of our Lord as “The Passion of Jesus.” So the word is honorable with a noble tradition.)
My Greek professor in seminary, Ray Frank Robbins, used to remind us, “Words do not have meanings. Words have usages.”
The “usage” of “passion” is more related to a compelling drive, an inner urge that keeps us at something sane people would have quit long ago.
The thesaurus lists a hundred synonyms for passion, including zeal, ardor, eagerness, fervor, hunger, enthusiasm, mania, obsession, and energy.
Sean Payton has a passion for football. In season and out, colleagues say this coach of the New Orleans Saints championship football team is first in the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night.
Consultants tell businessmen and pastors alike that to achieve the highest level of success, one must have a passion for growing his business or his church.
Let’s speak to that, pastor.
What is your passion? What drives you? What springs you out of bed in the morning and still has you going late in the evening when normal people would be watching television?