Bryant called it the comment of the week. It was when Facebook mistranslated Jeremy’s post about his cortado in a way that made it seem like my coffee aficionado friend was giving up coffee. Of course, we were startled. As the conversation proceeded, Jeremy declared he could never quit completely, and Trevor rhetorically asked how one could quit their passion.
Then I said, “It just happens in your thirties.”
It was a joke, but you do eventually retire from the endless passion of your twenties. It should be noted, this is me writing in the middle of allergy season with a two-month-old, so passionate energy isn’t necessarily my main skill right now. But nevertheless, my approach to my vocation and even my identity has changed as I’ve grown older.
The Cell Leader Coordinators and the pastors don’t fail to remind me that my passion is often what drives me. Ben White would say that there is almost nothing I’m into that I’m not a die-hard fan of. But to be fair, it has changed since my twenties. I think I’ve grown a little slower, a little less impulsive, and maybe even wiser.
There was a lot of great things that my passion caused in my twenties, but then there were a lot of mistakes, too. When your passion leads you, it can result in success or pain. There is a time for everything, as the writer of Ecclesiastes notes. But the cost of running as fast as you can is that sometimes you fall and get hurt.
You can’t always run on that level of energy. And sometimes, when you grow older and you can’t act like you used to, or at least act like the idealized version of your past self, it feels hard and difficult. Like you are screwing up. Like you’re losing faith. Like you’re burning out.
Joshua Grace told me once that I should become “friends with my limitations.” In your twenties, you don’t always feel your limitlessness. Already, just in the first year of my third decade, I’ve hit some of those limits. Never underestimate the power of a three-year-old to humble you.
But the beauty of learning to be aware of your limitations is the need to rely on God when hit with them. As you grow up, your game has to change. I say this all the time, but the best athletes learn how to keep playing and keep winning even when their raw talent and inherent athletic ability fades; it’s what separates great athletes from Hall-of-Famers.
And when you learn how to grow and how to develop, you aren’t simply making an accommodation for the passion that you once had. You are relearning how to fall in love with what God has given you. Development is all about maintaining your passion, your love, and your heart, even when you face new limitations.
For many of us, the limitations of adulthood set in and the idealism of our twenties fades. The Washington Post is reporting that less-and-less millennials are buying into capitalism. A lot of my friends felt this way when I was in college, too. Those of us who are lucky enough to find a job, lose against (or rage against) the machine when we simply have to get by: pay bills, pick up groceries, do home projects. Add to that marriage, kids, graduate school, and all the TV we need to keep up on, and the idealistic revolution we were passionately planning in our twenties seems about as based-in-reality as “The Walking Dead.”
All of a sudden being the church, being intentional, and creating a counter-culture just seems exhausting. What can we do when we simply feel like our passion flame has gone out?
Reignite it. Here are four ways that have worked for me.
- Stay centered. Without prayer, nothing works. We need to stay centered on Jesus and relate to him intimately. Prayer has proven to be the best way to do it. I use our Daily Prayer regularly, but I also have to get creative about when I pray, especially when I’m up early with my kids. I have to carve out time in my afternoon to get to it. And I pray in different ways, often relying more on contemplation and meditation than uttering prayers or offering petition.
- Retreat regularly. A quarterly retreat in the middle of my week, ideally overnight, is a great way to rest and reflect. It helps me sort through my joys and pains of the last quarter. And there is no urgency, no rush. I don’t have to worry about getting through a task. I have time, just me and God.
- Study. This is more about stimulating what gets you passionate. Reading and writing are good exercises for me, and learning is something I’m usually eager to do. I think leaders are readers, so I recommend this discipline. But the stimulation you get from reading you may be able to get elsewhere. The point here is to return to what got you initially excited about doing the work that God gave you. See if refilling on that stimulation doesn’t fill you up again.
- Sabbath. This one is different than retreating because it has more to do with physical rest and having fun. Develop hobbies, take a run, and have some fun! My favorite past time? Baking bread. Another one I’m developing: homebrewing iced tea. They both help me unwind, and they are both fun.
Have any more to add to the list? Make a comment!