In Pursuit of Passion

Everywhere I turn, I see my generation as a collective, passionate people. We are passionate about photography. About music. About the perfect brew. Passionate about Uganda and sustainable agriculture and travel. Passionate about Red vs. Blue and the Blackhawks and skinny blue jeans.

But most of all, it seems, we are passionate about passion itself.

Growing up, us Millennials—the moniker given to my generation—feasted on a diet saturated in encouragement to “discover our true passions.” Whenever we asked “What should I do with my life?” our teachers and parents often advised us to “follow your passion” wherever that may lead. (1)

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed this Millennial-specific career advice working itself out in two distinct ways. On one hand, there is no shortage of twenty-somethings espousing unusually strong passions for everything and anything, from the grandiose to the mundane. People in this group tend to be the creative, artist-type. The entrepreneurs, using and exaggerating their passions to serve as a selling point for their wares, a raison d’être for their business and being.

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New Year’s Resurrection : Part 3 : Personal Connections

(Author’s Note: This post is the third in a set of three considering the importance of Christ’s resurrection in the Christian’s life. The first and second posts post can be found here and here…)

PERSONAL CONNECTIONS

To make the subject of resurrection and it’s importance in the Christian’s life more personal, I should share some of my own struggles with those same fears of calling and legacy, meaning and purpose.
Immediately following college graduation in 2007, I began work as a graphic designer. My job was a “cushy” one in the sense that it offered great benefits, good pay, and promised to be everything a new graduate could want.
Around this same time, I learned of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life. Now, I must first admit that I have NOT read the book in its entirety…but I’ve read enough of it to know the book’s central plea to forgo the pursuit of success as the world sees it and, instead, focus on finding your purpose and success by serving in ways that glorify God. Living a God-glorifying life of purpose certainly isn’t something to scoff about, but there are two major hiccups with predominantly be a Christian striving to “not waste your life.”

First, the appeal to “not waste your life” requires it be possible that you can wast your life, even if you have Christ in it.

Secondly, that the Christian life is more about what you do than who you are.

These two lies dominate much of Christian teaching today, especially teaching directed toward young twenty-somethings. In a stage of life marked by discovery, these early years of independence are often under girded by pressure to “finds one’s calling.” The task of finding a calling is wrapped in language of vocation and suggests that what is we do with our time and how we make a living somehow contributes to our value and worth, or lack thereof.

For me, the pressure to discover my “calling” led me down a path of fear— fear that no matter what I did, I was going to end up feeling like I wasted my life. That no matter what job I took, it wouldn’t be big enough, important enough, Kingdom-changing enough to not be considered a waste. That no matter where or how I lived it wouldn’t be enough.

Add to the struggle of trying to discern my calling I was getting really stressed out about the possibility of dying before I had any chance to do anything worthwhile. Even if I did discern my calling, I feared that people would consider my life a waste if I hadn’t fully accomplished that calling before I kicked the can, so to speak.

It’s in this place of fear that Christ’s resurrections speaks loud and clear of freedom and joy. 

You see, if I believe that I have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, I have to believe that I never, ever run out of time. That I have no “deadline” at which point I no longer have a chance to do what it is God has called me to do. The truth is, that our life on earth is just the beginning of a thousand times a thousand years of my life…Yes, we are mortal sinners in flesh, but through faith in Jesus Christ alone, we are truly eternal.

While this mindset could give way to an attitude of laziness, but I think that risk is well worth the gain of complete freedom in the knowledge that our life does not have value because of what we do or don’t do. Our personal worth—and the worth of our life—is not determined by whether or not we accurately discerned God’s calling for our lives and successfully carried it out.

No, the truth of the matter is that Christ’s resurrection allows every believer the freedom and joy to live, knowing that they are enough, by themselves, just as they are.

Why Farming?

When people ask me why I have a sudden interest in farming, I generally give the reply “I dated a farmer and the interest in farming lasted longer than the interest in the farmer.” While I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is true that an attractive boy is what first attracted me to farming.

This farmer was a bona-fide corn and soybean farmer from small-town Indiana. Our romance lasted just a short time, but long enough for me to get a rudimentary crash-course in the realities of the farming lifestyle. For me, meeting someone my own age who was a real farmer—one who owned land and spent days out in the tractor planting and harvesting corn—was a culture shock. Even more penetrating was the realization that seemingly “old-fashioned” ideas of bequeathing the family farm to the first-born son, the consequences of family inheritance feuds, and the ever-increasing cost of land are ongoing realities for hard working American farmers. In short, farming became a real occupation and farmers became real people to me after meeting and dating a farmer.

As I got to know a farmer and about the work he did, it didn’t take long for my ideas about food to change. All of a sudden, I began to wonder if I knew the person who had grown the corn in my corn flakes (highly unlikely, but still a possibility!). I began to consider the logistical gymnastics required for a mango to arrive fresh from the southern hemisphere in the middle of December to the local grocery store. I began to listen for agriculture news and read the “buy local” labels at Whole Foods a little more closely. I’ve never been much of a foodie, but all of a sudden “where food came from” became a BIG idea for me.

Other, small things, also brought my attention increasingly to the world of agriculture. I’ve heard missionaries say that when they received their calling to the field, God places specific locations on their hearts. God then confirms these destinations by little “signs”—the country is mentioned in the news, a story they hear from a friend, a native they suddenly meet. Similarly, the idea of “farmsteading” sprung into everyday normalcy after my initial encounter with a young farmer. For instance, I randomly stumbled on a www.centralvafarms.com and discovered that a house with land in and around Charlottesville, VA (absolutely stunning country, for those who haven’t been…) is actually quite affordable. I read an article in Vogue magazine while waiting for my tires to be changed, of all things, about a young writer-turned-farmer. I learned that the local park district rents garden plots for a mere $25 to residents, all of a sudden making it possible for me to start growing food of my own.

Clearly, agriculture/farming/gardening etc. was top-of-mind as I sought the Lord in giving a vision for life. To some, that may seem I simply grabbed at what was my most immediate and recent fascination. To me, though, the Lord laid these things in my path in His own timing, uniquely aware of their greater significance.

As I’ve meditated and prayed about this entire concept/endeavor, I’ve come to additional understanding and appreciation as to “why farming.” Kristin Kimball writes in her novel The Dirty Life, “I think that in some way, human begins are hard-wired to be agrarians. This is what most people in the history of the world have focused their energy.” It’s this realization, and appreciation for agriculture’s necessity and normalcy in human endeavor, that enchants me as I move forward.