It was close to midnight and my wife and I were snuggled under the covers reading our favorite anthologies. Katie, as always was reading someone smart, someone dead, someone Russian. I as always was reading something Conspiracy, something Bourne, something Ultimatum.
Nearing lights out, Katie and I start talking and I was swamped with a wave of how much I loved this incredible woman. At that moment, perhaps sensing weakness and vulnerability in me, she leaned over and said “I left my Bible downstairs, can you go down and get it for me?” The heat had gone off in the house hours earlier, it was freezing outside the covers, we had hardwood floors, it was dark downstairs and I was exhausted. Besides, I saw our intimacy leading in a whole different direction and unless she was reading the Song of Solomon, this was the Christian equivalent of “not tonight I have a headache.”
So I got out of bed, went downstairs, located the Bible and on my way up the stairs I had this thought: “I’m glad that was hard.” I was too. I was glad to have the opportunity to express my love through sacrifice, to have a vehicle through which I could spend these almost intolerable feelings of love and adoration.
Passion is not just the willingness to sacrifice or die, but a longing and desire to. This is important and bears repeating: passion is not just the willingness to sacrifice or die, but a longing and desire to.
Passion is a paradox: finding joy in pain, pleasure in sacrifice. When we think of passion we typically think of it as a burning romantic or sexual desire, like lust. The flames of passion can certainly move in the direction of lust, but passion itself is innocent of such insatiable or destructive consumption. For one can and should be passionate about God. It’s the same fire, just burning in the right direction.
Passion, like all fires, seeks something to consume, a way to spend and satiate itself. Indulgent by nature, passion compels us to find the most extravagant vehicle of expression to satisfy and satiate its raging intensity and, no, buying the object of your passion a stuffed mammal or Beanie Baby isn’t going to cut it. What about baked goods or candy? Perfect for a house warming but this is not a house warming. What about jewelry, diamonds, precious metals? Getting warmer. How about a Hallmark card? Hmmmnn…nah. How about I cut off my ear and send it to you in a bloody shoebox? Now we’re talking. Now you’ll know how I feel about you, now I might finally be able to get some rest.
Passion longs to sacrifice (or die) in order to satiate, saturate and demonstrate its burning obsession. If this were a film instead of a chapter, it would be shot like an ad for Calvin Klein’s Obsession, romantic black and white with tight crops of offered body parts.
Passion is how we sacrifice for God and feel grateful for the opportunity. Passion makes us feel privileged to suffer and not self-righteous. Passion never suffers or sacrifices reluctantly.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
T.S. Elliot, Little Gidding