“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

We live in a world that where passion is often sadly absent.  Financial realities force us to take jobs that slowly drain passion from our lives; we learn to be efficient and productive, but we forget to be passionate.  Responsibilities beyond our jobs frequently siphon whatever passion remained.  Cleaning up kids’ messes, mowing the lawn, vacuuming the house, sorting and washing and folding laundry: the list only stops when we are urged to sleep by Ambien or valium.  The modern American life is one where highs are experienced vicariously through the television or internet.  It is a corporate culture that judges success on helping the corporation; it is a consumer culture where our biggest and most monumental decisions are what washing machine to purchase or what new pair of jeans to buy.

Our faith community has been talking about passion.  We have been looking at an ancient writing from an early follower of Jesus named Paul, who wrote to another faith community in the cosmopolitan city of Rome.  Rome, at this time, was the New York City of today.  It was a center of commerce and government and culture.  Paul’s letter to this community is a passionate letter, and it details his thoughts on God and life and freedom.  

Toward the end of this letter Paul encourages the community in Rome: he tells them that they have different strengths, different gifts, different passions.  And he tells them to live out these passions.  He ticks off passion after passion: if you love to lead, do it with zeal; if you love to show mercy, do it with cheerfulness; if you love to encourage others, then encourage to no end…  He is saying to the community that passion is paramount, and life without passion is not really living.

Almost two-thousand years later another man, Howard Thurman, further articulates this idea.  Dr. Thurman is not well known, though he was a mentor to a much better known man: Martin Luther King Jr.  Thurman reminds us to live lives of passion, to do the things that make us come alive.  He reminds us that the world will constantly ask other duties of us, and we are constantly aware of our individual needs, our family needs, and in today’s society, even needs from the other side of the world.

But what if we dropped our “needs” for a moment.  Do not misunderstand me: I do not mean to ignore financial realities or care for loved ones.  I mean what if we did not worry about getting a cleaner house or nicer car or more presentable children or edge at work or latest sports news?  What if our biggest concern each day was coming more fully alive, living more passionately?  What if we took time everyday to foster our life, whether it meant painting or writing or running or praying?  

Paul advocated this — living out our passions — and it sparked a movement still growing today.  Dr. Howard Thurman advocated this, and at least one person listened.  And Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement still moves and grows today.  Movements start not by looking at needs and duties, but by coming alive.  

May we be people who are coming alive.

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