The Difference Between Joy and Passion

(This will be one of those “for me” posts that may untangle someone else’s thoughts as well, but is mostly for my own benefit.)

About a month ago I read a reference to a book called The Renaissance Soul. I popped over to my library’s reserves page (have I mentioned yet I *love* that they’re on-line?) and snagged the next available copy.

It is a mouthful, and takes some chewing (and sifting– as it’s such a broad topic and she tries to cover everything), but it has been helpful in several ways.

First of all, the acknowledgment (that I always fought for) that I’m not weird, just different, and don’t have to have ADD just because I have more than one or two things I love to do.

Second, with that understanding as the foundation, the author (a renaissance soul herself) suggests tools techniques for

  • Narrowing your foci to a manageable number (usually four), with the emphasis on not being locked in forever providing the psychological freedom to be truly present for these passions, this season.
  • strategies for staying focused in this season (when you’ve been in the frustrating habit of popping from project to project– almost as though you couldn’t help it) and
  • time-management for people with more than one passion.

When I started reading this book I followed the directions and made a list of everything I could think of that I loved and/or wanted to spend time and thought on.

Then, following the advice of the book, I went back through the list and whittled it down to my top four passions. Lobenstine emphasizes that your daily work (unless you feel it meeting one of your four focus points) should not take one of the four.

This troubled me as a homemaker and a mother, because, well, don’t we want to be passionate about our children and how they are raised?

The next day I was still pondering this when I met a friend and was telling her about my four focus points. I think I was seeking affirmation that I wasn’t being unbiblical in making these distinctions– putting writing on my list, for example, but not preschool planning.

“Being a mom is my job– my good work– but it isn’t my passion,” I said, searching for the right word, while the new vocabulary (“passion”) still sounded new and unnatural. My friend is married to a renaissance soul herself, and seemed to understand what I was saying.

“It’s not your passion,” she confirmed. “It is your joy.”

The relief I felt at having a new word! It filled in the missing piece for me.

~ ~ ~

In her excellent article, Getting Unstuck: Stepping Toward Your Dreams, Jenny Schroedel offers a quote for seeking one’s vocation (in this context I find a parallel in the word passion):

The intersection of your own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.
(Frederick Buechner)

Some Christians (seem to) click their tongues at the idea that one may need or seek fulfillment (“deep gladness”) beyond God.

That studying the Word is not enough for me (maybe I just haven’t done it enough?) , that I also *must* write, looks on some level like a character defect. But in my own defense I’d like to point out that nothing is beyond God.

I am convinced that as long as I’m in obedience, everything I do is an act of worship, and as such it brings Him glory.

Being obedient in my “job” of mothering does not mean it can be the only thing I enjoy. At times I may need to step back and make sure I do not lose my joy because of distractions like passion, but simultaneously I know that God made me to be passionate, because without that drive I’d never have the energy to move beyond my first job to pursue an additional one.

~ ~ ~

The interesting conclusion in all this is that I just dropped one of my four (a relief as I had been reluctant to put it there in the first place). And as I’ve been praying about how these all shake out in the new hierarchy I’ve been encouraged to see elements of my “job” and joy working their way into my four focal points.

Jenny’s article offers five steps towards solidifying “dreams.” Because I have followed something like this pattern for a (relatively) concrete passion– writing– I feel can now take what I’ve learned on that journey and apply it to mothering.

I know better what it looks like, now, see?

5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Joy and Passion

  1. I think these thoughts are related a bit to something that Catherine from Lyric Poetry and I were talking about recently. This thought that God is some sterile creature that can’t understand us and that we can only find joy in the scriptures is a concept that actually annoys me a bit. God is God, but He is also bigger and better. We were created in his image. That means if we love to write, maybe He loves to write more. If we love parenting, he loves it more. If we are understanding, good, and obediant, He is more so. I’m not expressing it as well as Catherine did in her post about whether people would rather be reincarnated or go to heaven. You should go read it.

    I also think that living your passion is as much about how you live it as it is what you are doing. Are you using your gifts to bring people to God, then I don’t see a problem. Are you keeping things in proper perspective? Then keep going.

    Without God we are nothing. With God we are everything.

    He is the ultimate parent, so we will have joy in parenting, and we can learn from Him how to do it. He created a world of beauty, interest, and variety. I believe that He wants that for us, else why would He have given it to us?

    God First, Family Second, Career (passion) Third. It’s a Mary Kay mantra that I happen to believe it. All of those things are part of us, we just have to keep the big picture.

    I love reading things like this!

  2. This is something I’ve struggled with, too, especially when all my children were little and just getting through the day to squeeze a moment to think a coherent thought was a huge effort. I think there are seasons of life where passions definitely have to take the back seat to the here and now, and no matter what stage of life, if unchecked, are sure to ruin relationships in their pursuit. I also think that in our generation (with more leisure time than ever before) we tend to focus on things like this simply because we have time to. Most of our great-grandparents had no choice but to pour their passion into pure survival. It’s a tough balancing act, but it sounds like you’ve found the place of joy in it all!

    Loved reading your thoughts on this,

  3. Joy is what delights us. Our children when they are happy. The garden as it unfolds in spring. The first blackboard. Getting it right when we’re doing something we love (like singing a difficult motet). Passion is what we MUST do in order to be that authentic unique self that God made us to be. So joy is often a side effect that arises when at least a few other things are in their place. There’s a lot of crossover in passion and joy, and I can’t think–having seen you with your children, Amy Jane, and heard you talk about them–that at this time in your life childrearing is not one of your four passions (this is I hope a navigable double negative). You couldn’t adequately raise your children if they were not your passion. But even when we are living our passion, it is not always joyful. For example, my greatest passion is my search for God and for Meaning in this very Muddled World. At times I am Joyful, for in certain moments the skies open and I can see how it Really Is. And then at other times I am stolidly carrying on, doing what I think is right, trying my best, reading sacred texts, taking time for contemplation–but Joyful is not always how I would describe these activities. Nevertheless I have a Passion for this constant quest, this need for a fuller experience of the Grail and the Divine Hand that brings it to us.. My second great pssion is, of course, Storytelling, which includes writing and reading. The fourth is probably design and creativity overall–under which umbrella I gather music, jewelry design, stuffed bears, gardening and cooking. Or are these things merely enthusiasms–and not true passions?
    At this point my relationships to family are important, but they are not a passion with me. The time for that is over. I am concerned, and when necessary I will let their needs dominate all but my major passion (the quest) but in the end family members are not my passion. Does that sound cold?

    Now where in all of this to we put friendship? Cultivating meaningful friendships is one of life’s richest occupations. And that’s a subject that weaves its way through all those passions.

    What I’m trying to do right now in Storytelling is work out a kind of workshop for people who are especially blue during the holidays. Have you worked with this kind of thing?

  4. I’ve decided thinking too much about it is a bad thing. It’s distracting, definitely. I feel a bit like a skipping stone, trying to get across a stream. Each touch is a true help, but the longer I stay there the less likely I am to reach my goal ;o).

    @ Antoinette: I found your comment about family interesting. Yes, it does sound “a bit cold,” but at the same time, I can’t imagine myself all that different in your season. Our lives are forever bound up with one another, but especially seeing how easily I go about my day w/o high interaction wih (say) my siblings, I can imagine responding, as you say, by seeing family as “important but not the highest.”

    Of course, that will always depend on how much they “need” me (which you also mention).

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