I will never forget the first few months of my relationship with Ike. The early days of dating are SO intoxicating! Everything is new, constant butterflies in your stomach, simply the sight of them is exhilarating. Their smell, their touch, sends tingles up your spine.
About a month after we “officially” started dating, Ike took a summer job in Charleston, SC, which has got to be the dreamiest city on earth. There are carriage rides and historic homes and sprawling plantations. Whenever I visited, we spent our weekends strolling the cobblestone streets, eating savory food, and lazing about on the porch swings by the river. It was one of the best summers of my life. I wish I could bottle the romance of those days.
I sometimes think back to that season in our lives. We were young and passionate and we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Our love was so simple back then, and sometimes I really miss it. Especially in this season. It’s hard to feel romantic when the baby just puked in my hair, or the toddler is throwing a tantrum. When Ike touches my arm, or I breathe in his smell, I don’t experience the same thrill.
These days, our love is less about passion than it is faithfulness. The passion isn’t gone, but it’s not the primary expression of our love, and I think that’s the normal course for married couples. Most of us move past the honeymoon stage and into the grit of building a life together. It’s different, but a different kind of good.
It’s also a great metaphor for our relationship with God.
I became a Christian at a young age, but it wasn’t until high school that I began to fall in love with God. And it was magical. Everything I learned was fresh and exciting. I couldn’t wait to read my Bible, and I devoured every book and sermon I could get my hands on. It was exhilarating, a lot like the early stages of dating. I was wide-eyed and enthusiastic and PASSIONATE about Jesus.
Fifteen years later, my love for God looks different. My days with God are fairly ordinary, quiet, and steady. My love for Him is not a feeling so much as it is a commitment. I show my love to God by serving Him, talking with Him, getting to know Him, and telling others about Him.
In other words, my relationship with God has followed the path of my marriage. Passion has given way to daily faithfulness.
Here’s why I think this matters.
Sometimes I go to conferences or listen to speakers or read writers who are SO PASSIONATE about God. They just seem to love Him so much. SO MUCH. It’s like, they must jump out of bed with praise hands. They don’t even need coffee because they have the SPIRIT. They are on fire and it’s absolutely contagious. I love these women.
But then I look at my own life and wonder, Should I even be doing this? Should I be leading other people in this Jesus thing, when I’m not like that? What kind of teacher am I? What kind of writer am I, if I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about God ALL THE TIME? I mean, I’m not exactly racing to spend time in the Word every day. It’s a discipline. Most days I make myself do it. And when I do, I’m not singing the Hallelujah chorus or sobbing or walking away with a vision. Usually I’m reading it on the fly because I have small children who won’t STOP, so I’m pretty pleased if I can just get it done.
So no, I’m not that woman who has Jesus feels all the time. I’m not passionate about God every minute of the day.
And for awhile, that made me feel a bit like an imposter. On a head level, I know following Jesus isn’t glamorous stuff, but when you listen to a woman preach her heart out and she is so inspiring, it’s hard not to see that as the standard. It’s hard not to believe, even to the smallest degree, that you must not love Jesus as much as her.
I struggle with that doubt sometimes. It makes me question my own authority, even here, on my very own blog. Why should you listen to ME, when my daily faith is so uninspiring?
But here is what I have come to realize. When it comes to passion, most of my friends who are writers and speakers (including myself) fall into two categories:
- Passion is the rule, not the exception. These people are among the VERY few who are passionate all. the. time. (or most of the time). They’re like the rare married couple who still gets goosebumps after 60 years together. I do think these people exist, but it’s more a function of their personality than loving God more than you.
- Passion is the exception, not the rule. This is most of us. Like 99% of us. Most of us feel passionate from time to time, but it’s not our state of existence. Instead, when you see a passionate teacher, what you’re really witnessing is this: the fruit of them using their gifts. When someone uses their gifts for the Lord, they often encounter the Holy Spirit in a powerful way. It produces passion in that moment, but they don’t live in that place.
When you hear a passionate speaker or preacher, it’s easy to wonder why you’re not like them. It’s tempting to believe you should be more like them, and that loving God should be loud, or emotional, or high energy.
That’s why I’m so grateful for the witness of marriage. It reminds us that after the fire dies down, something deeper remains. A good marriage is not passionate all the time. A good marriage is marked by steady, daily, ordinary faithfulness. Love isn’t something we feel, so much as show.
We also know this is true because of how God loves us. He didn’t simply TELL us how He loves us. He didn’t write love letters about how we make Him “feel inside.” God expressed His love by becoming human, entering our lives, relating to us, and then He “demonstrated his love for us in this–while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Roman 5:8). God showed us His love.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus’ death is also known as the “passion.” That’s because the word “passion” can also mean “suffering,” which tells us that “passion” is more than sustained excitement. True passion for Jesus means following him in and through all things, no matter how we feel on a given day. It’s the kind of passion we witness in long, faithful marriages. A good chunk of our relationship with God is simply showing up every day, being there, trying, pursuing.
So don’t compare yourself to the woman on stage. That’s not her whole picture either. Most of us are just showing up, every day, for Jesus…knowing that he showed up, and pursued us, first.