Turning the Corner

Passion and Joy.

Both are tricky words for me.

I’m perhaps beginning to turn the corner on joy. I grew up in a family that claimed to be joyful but hid secrets of sexual trauma, addiction, and abuse. We were a happy, faith-filled family—or so I was told. There were good times, but they were built on a foundation of eggshells, emotional drama, and criticism. Joy, inevitably, has been hard for me to authentically claim. Through therapy, prayer, action, and community, combined with a willingness to face my suffering, I have journeyed to a place where I am starting to glimpse a real, circumstance-transcending, and honest joy.

Most often joy sneaks up on me in my times of prayer and meditation in the morning, sometimes through tears of grief or pain. Occasionally, I sense it in the feeling of autumn sunshine on my skin or through the comfort of finally being able to wear my well-worn and well-loved boots. Most resiliently, it is becoming something I know in my bones as I grow in the knowledge that I am held by God, even as I am—both where I am healed and where I remain fragmented.

With passion, though, I am still waiting for resolve. Bringing the word to mind makes my heart twinge with angst and discomfort. I have lived much of my life at full throttle. I went to a college that excelled in work-hard/play-hard. To ‘rest’ was really ‘to crash’ and sleep around the clock until there was enough in the tank to go at life again. I tried to take that energy into my post-college work life and suffered burnout (for the first of many times) after just eight weeks on the job. I had recurrent chest infections that were ultimately found to be due to stress. I lived my passions in the extremes, in the red zone.

I believe God has given me passions to embrace.

Yet these passions for teaching and ministry are in the process of being redefined, even redeemed. I look at those younger than I and see the innocent passion I used to have. That’s not me anymore. I look at those older than I and see mature passion, work, and commitment to many causes. That’s not me either (yet?).

My passions today feel theoretical. I wonder what God is up to—because I don’t believe they were all fantasies formed in denial. They were the fruit of seeking God and receiving surprising answers.

But today?

Today, I don’t know how to hold them.

I don’t know what the answer is, but this is what I have learned: In the past, I wasn’t gentle or kind to myself. When my passions are redeemed, I trust it will be when I am able to hold them compassionately and not to my detriment or ill-health. In the past, I thought what I did mattered more than who I was. My hope is that when my passion comes back online, it will be from a place of being the child God made me, freely and in abundance—from knowing who I am and to whom I belong. Then my passion will not be striving nor addiction, but what it was supposed to be all along: a gift.

Suse McBay has always found herself bridging different worlds, so it makes sense that she is a Brit living in Texas with her Texan husband, Stephen. She spends her working hours as an ordained Anglican priest and biblical scholar who specializes in dragons (well, apocalyptic). Suse enjoys rock climbing, gardening, occasional bursts of DIY, and life with their two goofy dogs.