How many of you grew up hearing the phrase, “Follow your passion! You can be whatever you want to be!”
Exciting, inspiring words. A bit misguided, though. After all, I’m pretty passionate about animals, but I’ve never reasonably considered working in a zoo. The whole biology thing trips me up—just ask my high school science teachers. My mom was pretty passionate about football, but at less than five feet and just over a hundred pounds in her younger years, she would have been marched off any professional, or even college, field.
No, my friends, you cannot be anything you want to be.
But, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on something that seems far-fetched. A career with tons of obstacles. A passion God planted in your heart as He whispered in your ear, “Let’s do this!”
The Big Dreams We Dream
It is your passion that empowers you to be able to do that thing you were created to do. ~T. D. Jakes
What are you passionate about? If you were to name a great dream that you think is out of your reach, what would it be? Come on, dream big with me for just a moment without letting money or education or negative thoughts hinder you.
But Doubts Assail
I know. Here come all the doubts and fears, parading one after another through your heart and mind. I know them too. Money is limited. Time is limited. Responsibilities surround us.
Before I started writing, I had one great dream, one I thought was ludicrous. Several years earlier, I’d sat in a huge arena filled with people listening to Beth Moore speak. Whether you like listening to her or not, it’s not tough to see that the woman has passion leaking out of her pores!
As I sat there listening, a thought passed through my head—one of those spontaneous thoughts that come to mind unbidden, maybe even uninvited. I want to do that. I scoffed at myself. At the time, I had trouble communicating with my own husband. Talking to strangers was unthinkable. Standing in front of a group of five or ten ladies to share my thoughts? Yeah, I didn’t have any thoughts worth sharing. And I had three little ones at home, all of whom I homeschooled. Writing or speaking couldn’t possibly fit in with them, their schooling, and their outside activities.
Or so I thought.
Follow your passion? Or not?
When God plants a calling in our life, He doesn’t exactly release us from it. It’s not like He doesn’t already know the obstacles we face. Can you imagine God looking at you and saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I forgot you still had kids to raise.”
Uh, yeah. That just doesn’t sound like the God of the Bible.
So, how do we know when to follow our passion? What indicators do we look for to make sure it’s God guiding us forward and not our own desires racing ahead? I can think of three.
1. Analyze your passion.
Is this really a passion? Or a passing fancy? Is it something you love and can see yourself putting tons of effort into doing—learning, studying, going to conferences or meetings or webinars, investing massive amounts of time and energy and possibly money into? Or would you rather just do this thing when it happens to fit into your schedule, or maybe tackle it occasionally on the weekends.
Author and management expert Kenneth Blanchard once wrote, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.” If your passion isn’t yet in the full-time commitment range, if it doesn’t currently consume all your daytime thoughts, don’t assume this won’t change. Or, that it will.
2. Next, consider your talents and abilities.
Even though my mother loved football and basketball and baseball, she did not have the God-given physical structure for playing any of those games on a professional level. No matter how many sit-ups or bench presses she did, no matter how strong she got or plays she memorized, the Cleveland Browns (her favorite team—let’s not mention their record) was never going to ask her to sign-on as a quarterback or defensive lineman. She had the passion, but not the talent and ability.
No matter where you measure your current level of passion, you must consider what God put into you that will help or hinder your passion. No amount of education will help you grow taller and no amount of education will make your brain function differently than it already does. I am not wired for science or calculus; therefore, I crossed careers dependent on those fields of study off my list of possibilities and accepted that my passion for anything in them is delegated to an interest or a hobby.
3. Finally, ask God about His plan.
Often, God has plans for us that we do not yet know about. Before I got married, I didn’t know I’d homeschool our children or that we’d join the Air Force and be moving every couple of years. In fact, in college, I was passionate about accounting. I still love crunching numbers and analyzing numbers. But while I thought I was heading for some sort of corporate job, God had in mind something very different. Something I couldn’t even begin to dream about because my perspective was so limited.
All I knew as I sat in one of my classes one morning is that I was on the wrong path. Walking out of that class, dropping every class on my schedule, and ending my college career with only an Associate was not in my plans. It was not in my parents’ plans, either, and my mom was not happy with my decision. But I knew it was what God wanted for me.
I would rather die of passion than of boredom. ~Vincent Van Gogh
If you look through the pages of Scripture, you can see many moments when passion guided some into their God-given assignments. You’ll also see some stories where passion guided them straight off of God’s path. Passion is another one of those things within us that is a great indicator but should never be your sole, guiding star.
In Kindling Embers, Cassandra McCarthy boldly steps into a career dominated by men: Fire inspecting. Fire science fascinates her, even though the obstacles—limited money to pay for college, single mother to two young daughters—intimidate her. But she conquers her fears and overcomes her doubts so that by the start of the first book, we find her doing what she loves.
Inspector Cassandra McCarthy never thought she’d be raising her two daughters alone, but her husband’s unexpected death forced her to find a career. Now working beside a retired Special Operations soldier and veteran fireman, she serves her small North Carolina town, protecting them from hazards they don’t understand. She loves what she does and trusts God to provide—until a series of unexplained fires hits too close to home.