We admire passion in people but pity those with addictions, however, there’s not much difference between “a powerful or compelling feeling,” and “being enslaved to something that is habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

Love is a passion that creates habits and causes havoc when it’s frustrated or denied. The same is true of a vocation: “a strong impulse to follow a particular activity or career.” Our word comes from a Latin word that means a call or summons.

A vocation is a divine calling but the Divine doesn’t always clear the way for its cultivation. In his book Windows of the Soul, Kern Gire describes his struggle with God over his passion for writing, a struggle I share:

I couldn’t understand, when I felt so passionately about writing, worked so diligently, sacrificed so completely, why nothing was working out. Where was God in all this? Why wasn’t He helping me? I needed His help, wanted His help, asked for His help. Didn’t He hear the words I prayed, see the tears I cried, understand the confusion I felt? I didn’t know.

In Ernest Hemmingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea, he expressed something of what I felt when he described what it was like for a fish on the other end of the fishing line. “The punishment of the hook is nothing. The punishment of hunger, and that he is against something that he does not comprehend, is everything.”

Suddenly I found myself against a God who baited me and then set the hook. But it was not the punishment of the hook. That was nothing. It was the hunger in my soul that I was against something, or something was against me, that I did not comprehend. That was everything.

If God kindles the “hunger in the soul,” why doesn’t he do more to encourage its expression? Do we really need all this inertia and opposition to reach our full potential?

Apparently so, despite the “severe trauma” caused when our calling isn’t recognized or rewarded. Van Gogh is the tragic epitome of being baited and hooked by God while being ignored by everyone else. (I recommend the new biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.)

Vincent’s vocation has been vindicated over time but that won’t happen to most of us. We will live and labor in anonymity. So why are we so engrossed in our divine addictions?

We can’t help it. We’re hooked.

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