Monthly Archives: November 2016

Of Smoke and Shadows


I have labeled failure as my greatest fear, but I am going to add specificity: a passionless, apathetic life.  Life without passion is, for me, the ultimate failure; it is breathing without truly living, a fleeting existence of smoke and shadows.

Caught unaware in my "natural habitat" as my family jokes! (My sister, of course, is always picture-ready.)

Caught unaware in my “natural habitat” as my family jokes! (My sister, of course, is always picture-ready.)

Due to a cold, I spent over two weeks with no sense of smell and, consequently, no ability to taste anything.  This circumstance makes food a thing utterly devoid of appeal.  You see, I am what people like to call a “foodie.”  I take great delight in preparing food for my family and friends on a daily basis.  From simple meals to delectable treats (all from scratch, of course), it is my mission to make food that is good in every way.  I enjoy flavors and textures and everything about the process of menu planning and food preparation.  I get a thrill when I tweak a dish until it is just right – the perfect balance of seasonings and ingredients.  And it is horribly difficult to cook when I can’t taste anything – how can perfection be achieved?  How can I enjoy the aromas and flavors?

At this point I have written out many of my recipes, tailoring them to my own preferences and the taste buds of family and friends.  However, to merely go through the motions and follow the recipes – to never smell or taste – became tedious by the end of the first day.  I knew what it would taste like if I could taste, what it would smell like, but knowledge and memories are no substitute for the real experience.  With nothing to back them, the pleasure and challenge swiftly evaporated.  It was there – I knew it was.  I could literally almost taste it: the essence of it, a lingering tingle of spice in my mouth, a hint of earthy vanilla bean or nutmeg, or a sting of fresh citrus.  For all my efforts though, I simply could not capture all the nuances, the heights and depths of flavor that transform food from something necessary to our bodies into something that truly satisfies, brings people together, and provides both nutrition and pleasure.

seasoningsBy now you are probably either thinking that I am a legitimate nerd (to which I fully admit being, in many ways) or that you really ought to procure a dinner invitation – or perhaps both.  But I use my hindered senses and my zeal for good food to describe a passionless life.  Life without passion is like food without flavor or smell – dull and monotonous, meant only to be just enough to scrape by.

We can so easily be satiated with a black-and-white existence: wrong or right, good or bad, adventure or security.  But where is the color to fill in the lines?  Where is the multi-hued explosion of beauty that makes life the masterpiece that God intended for it to be?  Where is the flavor, the aroma, the texture?  Where are the notes that create the song, the words that make the book come alive?  This is what passion provides.

My dear friends, we were not created for a passionless existence of smoke and shadows.

I am naturally a very passionate person.  I take on every aspect of life with zeal, from teaching my students to playing board games to “discussing” the best way to accomplish a task.  But sometimes I become color-blind, so trapped in the momentary ups and downs of life that everything fades to a drab composition of black and white.  And suddenly I’ll find myself in the place where there is no pleasure, no joy.  When the passion is stripped away, even getting out of bed in the morning and going about daily tasks feels like nothing more than motions.  Without passion, there is only existence.  Without passion, life cannot be fully lived.

You were not created for a life of smoke and shadows.

You were not created for a life of smoke and shadows.

Passion is not merely about cheap thrills and momentary excitement, and it does not mean you need to live like you are the Energizer Bunny.  True passion is a way of life that encompasses every realm of living.  A life of deep, abundant passion, given and sustained by God’s Holy Spirit in us, is God’s best plan for us.  It is bolstered by true hope, which does not disappoint (Romans 5:5), and it is an acknowledgement of the influence of God in our lives.  When Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10), He wasn’t simply talking about the fact that we would continue to “exist” and not be obliterated by God’s wrath.  He was talking about full-blown, extravagant, glorious life lived with, through, by, and for Him.  And so again I say, we were not created for a passionless existence of smoke and shadows.  We were created for the substance and fullness of life with our Creator, born again into Living Hope through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3).

My question for you is this: in what areas do you need God to share again His breath of Life?  What places in your life need passion restored to them?  What aspects need to be filled in with color and substance?  Beloved, you were created for so much more than existing; you were made to thrive.  When we make Jesus our Savior, we are set free by His love and life to take our first true “breaths.”  Now let Him breathe life again into the places where you have been living by mere smoke and shadows.

Take a moment to listen to this song as you continue to ask the Lord what are the places where He can give you fresh passion: “I Came Alive” by Shane & Shane.

You were created for a life of color and substance.

You were created for a life of color and substance.