rebuilding after deconstructing: 6. igniting passion

blog igniting passionthe glory of God is man fully alive.” – st. irenaeus

here we are, at part 6 of this crazy-intense series on rebuilding our faith after deconstructing.  the previous posts are introduction1. honoring the process 2. acknowledging losses 3. discovering what remains  4. finding what works  5. celebrating what was.  

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the idea of this series is to provide a loose framework & practices for the big themes of rebuilding.  for some, it’s challenging & stirring up hard stuff. for others, it’s hopeful and brings relief.  for others, it’s just plain annoying because the thought of rebuilding anything is too difficult right now.  may we honor that we’re all in different places and integrate this material in ways that work for us.

the deconstruction process can often feel like dying.  because it is.  old parts of our spiritual life need to die so that new ones can emerge.  what i appreciate about seasons (even though i’d love to live on a beach where it’s perpetually summer) is that we need winter for spring to emerge.  dying-winter-grief can feel so dark, ugly, painful and cold but if we hang in & hang on, new life can rise out of the ashes, buds can start to form on bleak, stark limbs.

a core piece of rebuilding is beginning to resurrect parts of us that have been lost, squelched, stifled, ignored, unvalued over the years. 

we can’t think our way into a new life, but we can live our way into a new life.  part of rebuilding is really somehow about our souls being “born again.”

and this requires getting in touch with what brings us life, what ignites our passion.

this stage of rebuilding is different from “finding what works” because that is centered on discovering new ways to connect with God.  igniting passion is about finding purpose, meaning, and ways to channel our hearts & energy & time in directions that bring life & hope. 

in stage 3, the productive life, before we hit the wall & things began to disintegrate, serving was about doing, working, contributing to toward a system in need of helpers.  igniting passion is part of the transition from stage 4’s messy painful journey inward to stage 5, the journey outward.  it’s where we begin to serve & love & live with much greater freedom–out of passion instead of duty. 

we all have some kind of dream–things we’d like to do, build, try, be-a-part of, live out.

these can be little things, big things. “church” things, not-clearly-related-to-church things. exciting things, simple things.

regardless, part of a renewed faith is acknowledging our passion & desire those “things” and stepping into them somehow, someway, without having to ask for permission.

a sad part about many of our church experiences is that unless our passions “somehow serve the system” many haven’t been encouraged or nurtured (i always say churches have made handing-out-programs-at-church sound like the greatest spiritual gift ever!).  there is so much beauty & hope & passion & wildness & glory waiting to be uncovered as people are set free to live, serve, love in whatever ways God is calling.

also, please try to hold on to this:  having passions & hopes & dreams are not selfish, no matter what people or churches may have told you.

God’s image is best reflected in his people, fully alive.

as we thaw out our hearts and find our way, it’s important to get in touch with what lights our fire:

what do we love to do?

who or what do we care about?

what gets our juices flowing when we start talking about it?

then the question is:  how can we fan that flicker of passion into a brighter flame?

it’s not all-inclusive but it seems like a lot of our passions fall into these 3 primary categories (they overlap a lot, too, and i’m sure there are many other areas of passion but it seems like so many come back to these).

many of us are passionate about:

love. we care about loving people, presence, caring, serving, being Christ’s hands and feet, reflecting God’s image in hard places, restoring dignity.

justice. we are advocates and care about causes.  we want to change systems, stand on behalf of the oppressed, raise awareness, and make what’s wrong right.

beauty. we care about beauty, nature, creativity & the arts and the power of it to heal & restore & inspire & uncover God’s image in ourselves & other people.

some of us have already found ways to live out our passion.  the flame has been lit and the fire’s roaring.  others of us may feel more scared to step out because we know it will be without the support & encouragement of the systems we used to be (or are still) part of. others are somewhere in between and not quite sure yet; any kind of passion still feels buried pretty deep.

regardless of where we each find ourselves, part of rebuilding faith is igniting our passions–ones buried underneath a lot of rubble or ones recently discovered.

passions don’t have to look like starting new nonprofits, planting churches, adopting kids, writing a book, or moving to africa tomorrow (although they most certainly can!)  they can also look like taking a class we’ve always wanted to take, volunteering at a nonprofit that does work we care about, learning something we’ve always wanted to learn, doing something we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t because we’ve been too busy at church. it can be stepping out in any small way that feels like movement toward life instead of standing still.

the best way we can participate in bringing change & hope & goodness to this world is to live instead of die.  try something instead of nothing.  fan a flicker into flame instead of letting it be snuffed out.

what are some passions that are starting to ignite for you (or that you hope will)? 

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tomorrow, the second-to-last part: 7. exploring possibilities








Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Wow! Kathy! Thanks for this reminder! I have been so focused on my empathy for others (which is an easy flame for me to ignite) that I have turned away from the blazing fire which is its source. It is easy for me to pray “Lord, help me feel what she feels.” It is, of course, way too scary to pray “Lord, help me feel what You feel.” I don’t dare go there!

    … and …

    It has been over a year since I have prayed “Lord, help me feel what You want me to feel.” The last time I prayed that prayer, I ended up giving back-rubs-and-prayers-of-healing to Haitian refugees in the DR (click on my name for more of THAT story!).

    Yikes! Do I dare do that again! Can I really afford to have my entire worldview changed (again!) that much? Can I afford not to?

    My daughter is currently on fire about getting her entire town — schools, businesses, churches, clubs, friends — to gather “under the bridge” for a day to pack a quarter of a million meals, and then send a small team to the DR to deliver the food to the Haitian refugee camps — and to have their lives transformed in the process. Talk about passion! She is soooo pumped!

    It’s a joy to watch.

    *sigh* But, I don’t feel quite up to the task of having a passion like that ignited in MY soul just now. I guess I’ll settle for fanning the flames of my daughter’s.

    And what I am discovering is that in doing that, the heat from her soul warms the one in my own … preparing me, giving me the strength … to pray that prayer again.

    • thanks for sharing such a pretty story. you have so many good ones! i love that through her passion, something in your soul is stirred, too. i also like that it’s okay that we don’t have to be where others are at. i always hope that all of us reject a common response to other people’s passions: “here’s what good passion exactly looks like and i don’t have that kind so i suck”. we each have to find our own unique way. i love that last line: “the heat from her soul warms the one in my own, preparing me, giving me strength to pray that prayer again….” beautiful!

  • A friend of mine asked me late last year what I did to refresh and renew myself and I couldn’t give him a good answer. That’s a bit different than what you’re talking about here, but I think it is related, because it pointed to a deeper disconnect between my activities and my passion. I’m in the process of discovering what my passion is and trying to figure out how to restructure my life around it. You’re right, it’s a scary process, but I’m feeling more alive as I explore new areas of interest and engage more in things that I feel strongly about.

    I’m becoming passionate about sustainable living, about being an advocate for women, about learning other languages and helping others to do so, and about many of the things you have written about in Down We Go. Many of these were passions of mine in my youth but got sidelined over time as I lived in stage 3.

    • it’s always so inspiring to hear stories of where passion is beginning to come alive….thank you for sharing.

  • Excellent, Kathy! Excellent.

    You are familiar with the mentality that church is a production. We need this, this and this but we don’t need a drummer or a portrait painter. We’ve decided what picture we want to paint, and what colors we need. Isn’t it pretty uppity of us to ignore half the palette of colors God has sent our way? Maybe the picture God has in mind is more beautiful.

    When we lived in northern California I accidentally heard a few minutes of a Christian radio program (not my usual fare). The program featured a discussion between three people on how to choose a church. All three agreed that the number one thing to look for is a church where one can use the gifts God has given them, where they can live out and exercise the passions God has placed within them. Wow! They were right on target.

    Rebuilding includes finding places where we can live out the passions God has placed within us.

    • yep, to me, that’s it. being set free to lean into our passions and go for it is a beautiful thing. i know some communities who do that so well. they don’t limit gifts to what is part of their local church but rather support people in whatever work they are doing, encouraging others to just “go for it”. it’s always awesome to see. it’s about letting go of control and trusting God really flow through people so let’s just be part of unleashing it instead of constraining it.

  • Whew. This is a tough area for me. Throughout my childhood and church experiences, anything I showed and passion for was quickly dealt with. In church, I was just plain never ‘good’ enough. Besides, because of the home stuff, I was ‘tainted’ by their stated standards, even if they didn’t know it.

    At home, it was much more subtle. I was allowed to engage in the things that moved me, but it was made clear I did not have the character and determination to really succeed at any of them (music, art, writing) – all of which I am gifted in (wow, that still feels awkward to type, like I’m lying, or something). Everyone who has seen any of the things I have done in these arenas – and isn’t immediate family – all say the same thing. I’m good at them.

    But getting the familial undermining out of my head is not as easy as I would like. I have succeeded in cutting my mother’s physical presence out of my life (and I can’t tell you what a difficult mental fight that was), but her voice lingers in my head… And there is the churchy stuff, too, that says the arts ‘aren’t appropriate’ unless you make them ‘Christianized.’ I was told by an aunt who had gotten religious (after a lifetime of not being) that God would not allow me to succeed in writing fantasy, especially if it had a D&D feel to it, because he didn’t approve. If I wanted to write, I should write Christian Fiction. Sigh.

    So the difficult part about this to me is that it requires unleashing hope. And hope is scary. Hope hurts – like hell. Convincing myself that allowing hope to flow will not end in the painful smackdowns of the past is not easy. Especially right now, having just pulled away from a fellowship where I had let hope out of the box a little with. Passion feels very dangerous, yet talking about these things stirs passion in me….

    • thanks for sharing, jeanette. yeah, hope is so dangerous. and hope & passion are all tangled up together. i love psalm 9, the hope of the afflicted shall never perish. try as the world might, it can’t completely kill off hope. but boy is it tough to fan into flame when we’ve had so many unsafe and unnurturing experiences with it. sometimes when we can’t feel it, my friend tami says “we can borrow hope” (and passion) from others. it’s why we need each other somehow.

  • “a core piece of rebuilding is beginning to resurrect parts of us that have been lost, squelched, stifled, ignored, unvalued over the years.” <—mmmmhmmm. I like how you gave the clause about everyone intersecting with this material in a different way, because this line struck me deep in lieu of my personal work. Finding how much rubble there is to sift through is not the idea, I get it 😉 , but instead looking at it as more of a treasure hunt? The more intention, hopefully more dignity, less shame. Yes, please. 🙂

    • yeah, i was thinking how in different ways so much of this applies to personal work, too, that’s not just about faith stuff–although of course, it’s all tangled up together…glad you are gleaning what works 🙂

  • I’ve been giving myself permission to wax analytical more often 🙂

    I used to write fiction, but any desire to do that was killed off about six years ago. I keep hoping it will come back. I guess we’ll see.

    I’ve been trying to foster my passion for justice, and trying to figure out how to use it to help others. Maybe I’ll write a nonfiction book someday. (I’d rather find a way to turn it all into a fictional story; but somehow these days, thinking about writing fiction feels like planning the manufacture of propaganda. Hmmm. Need to ponder that one.) Right now, I guess I’m concentrating on exploring social issues, practicing dialogue, and learning all I can.

  • I think I was doing a lot of what I was passionate about in my church setting, but I was overdoing it and adding extra on top. There is a quote in one of the Lord of the Rings trilogy books where the character wearing the ring of power says it makes him feel, “spread thin like butter over too much toast”, and I always felt that way about doing church stuff! There was one point a few years ago where I was mentoring a young woman in the sex trade, hosting a 35 person small group each week, leading a weekly mom’s group, working with kids on Sunday mornings, trying to corral a group of church people to mentor a 14 member refugee family, plus trying to manage a rental and be a mom to 3 toddlers and be a wife, all while dealing personally with the collapse of my birth family…. it was complete insanity and it was NO fun. I mentioned to my pastor’s wife during that time that my marriage was a little strained (ya think?) and was encouraged to sign up for the upcoming six week marriage workshop (not helpful). It was only my friends outside the church system who could tell me the truth that what I really needed was to slow down.
    I still like lots of insanity, and I still want to really live (unbalanced and passionate), but I did come out of that church experience a little wiser and slower as it all came tumbling down. I learned just how much I need a genuine, supportive community and for things to be good with my kids and husband. And I now know that focusing on justice is what gives me life back (whereas hosting and leading the moms’ group did not – even though I loved the people it didn’t feed me). I’m working on being more of a thoughtful justice person than an urgent, breakneck activist. I’m also allowing myself to be the passionate, “secular” academic that I was always discouraged from becoming. And now I can honestly say it’s fun!

    • oh it’s so funny (well not, but you know what i mean), how we don’t take very good care of each other and pile more and more and more on. i am so glad you got some clarity and are finding ways to do what is good for your soul and also respecting what is life-giving and what is just something nice to do. those are two different things. i keep learning this, too, and still sometimes find myself doing something i really don’t want to do but the more wise and intentional i become, i can then chalk it up to “yep, not doing that again” instead of being mad at myself or staying in too long. i love “a thoughtful justice person than an urgent, breakneck activist” so good!


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