The glorious sound of a gospel choir soaring across an auditorium was a transcendent experience every time I led worship, played the keyboards for a choir, or participated in a special production. For nearly 25 years music was as deep in my core as the need to breathe. But things had changed.
Why I was singing began to grow hollow. What I was singing stopped making sense. I had serious doubts about God’s existence and my purpose. Turning off the power to my keyboards symbolically shut down the deity that I realized led to disconnection to my true self after years of torment and pain. But doing so left me feeling dead inside.
Whether you pastored a megachurch or simply gave up your spot in the pew, emptiness is often the only tie left to a passion you once knew – passion tied to relationships, activities, and connections that, even you have to admit, weren’t all bad. Nevertheless, passion, purpose, and meaning were traded for free time on Sunday mornings and the feeling is not the same.
Our passion about our version of God made us feel like we were part of something bigger than ourselves. We felt tied to a divine plan in which we played a valuable role. When we start rethinking our beliefs and questioning our truth, we can feel out of control, directionless, and lost, like someone let the air out of our balloons. Soon, if we’re not careful, depression, anger, and even guilt can set in leaving us in an emotional stupor.
So where do we go from there?
After drifting aimlessly for several years, I was coaxed into going back to school. More of a necessity than a passion, school did take the sting out of the loneliness I felt. More than that it, though, it allowed me to tap into the intellectual side of my personality that had laid dormant for the many years I spent chasing and espousing my beliefs. While I credit education for turning my life around, finding my passion again was a journey.
We must not think of passion as an intellectual endeavor, but a physical one. Passion as a thought too often leads to a “One day I should…” or “I think I might like to…” Passion, rather, is an action word. We find it by pursuing and doing. While I did ultimately find passion in education, it didn’t start out that way. My passion for education happened after I went back to school.
Following my exit from the corporate church, and after several years of emotional drifting, I opened a business and joined social groups that did everything from hiking to public speaking to playing secular music. I pursued almost every avenue that seemed the least bit interesting to me. Along the way, I made friends, worked through my emotions and eventually discovered what made me feel alive, connected to the bigger picture, and brought meaning. As I changed through those interactions, so did the possibilities; they became bigger.
To find our purpose we must be willing to discover ourselves outside of the social constructs and beliefs that used to confine and constrain us. What do we want to do that we felt we couldn’t do before? Who do we want or need to be that we felt we couldn’t be before? What passions are ignited in us when we become that person?
We don’t usually hit our sweet spot right out of the gate. For example, after writing my first book, I realized business leadership didn’t really interest me, but writing did. My next book was much more personal and gave me a platform to talk about the things that mattered to me, but I soon realized the LGBTQ arena was too narrow for what I wanted to talk about. My third book, over a span of six years, was the culmination of what I finally felt I was meant to do. Opportunities to expand my platform and passion continue to grow as a result of that pursuit.
Many of us who went into the ministry did so because we loved people and wanted to make a difference. Leaving the ministry doesn’t usually change our drive. Rather, as we see the bigger picture we see the bigger need. Social and political agendas disenfranchise people who need to know they are valuable, important, and worthy of love. Whatever our passions, they almost always lead back to fulfilling human needs for belonging, interaction, and love. For that to happen, however, we have to find and do the things that make us feel loved and connected.