“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” -Bishop T. D. Jakes
The other day Evie and I were in a restaurant in the Minneapolis Airport on our return trip to Philadelphia. From the moment our waitress stopped at our table, it was obvious she was passionate about her job and the people she was serving.
She immediately asked us where we were going and when our flight was scheduled to leave. Once she found out, she encouraged us to relax and enjoy our meal because we had plenty of time. Throughout our meal she seemed to come by just when we needed her and when the time came to pay our bill, she handled it with great warmth and efficiency.
It may be in a restaurant in an airport or a candy shop in Phoenixville, passion for what one does bleeds through our very pores. I have seen it in the eyes of an Amish farmer and have heard it in the voice of a world-class architect. I have felt it in the air when a teacher communicates his love for his subject or a photographer describes where she took that perfect picture.
Passion. It really does make all of the difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke of it in his “Address to the Divinity Class,” which he shared on a Sunday evening on July 15, 1838. Emerson was 35 years old, and on that day he shared this amazing message to his class of seven students, which had only six students present.
I understand why he was known as “The Concord Sage.” His statements like “Thefts never enrich; alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls.” Or, “As we are, so we associate.” Or, “It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.”
But, I am always struck by his profound words in his “Address to the Divinity Class”: “Whenever the pulpit is usurped by a formalist, then is the worshipper defrauded and disconsolate. We shrink as soon as prayers begin, which do not uplift, but smite and offend us. We are fain to wrap our cloaks about us, and secure, as best we can, a solitude that hears not.”
I ponder his next words nearly every time I am about to preach a sermon: “I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon.”
“A snowstorm was falling around us. The snowstorm was real, the preacher merely spectral, and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out the window behind him into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined.”
“If he’d ever lived or acted, we were no wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, namely to convert life into truth, he had not learned. Not one fact in all his experience had he yet imported into his doctrine.”
“This man had ploughed and planted and talked and bought and sold; he had read books; he had eaten and drunken; his head aches, his heart throbs; he smiles and suffers; yet there was not a surmise, a hint, in all the discourse that he had ever lived at all. Not a line did he draw out of real history.”
Without passion, any profession will be mediocre. With passion, we really can change the world. As John Wesley said, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to see you burn.”
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be emailed to email@example.com. Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer. Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer. Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.