The Tension of Passion and People

relationship and work photo

Photo by geralt

Thank-you to Tatyana Clayton for joining the Emerging Scholars Network’s blogging team by sharing a pair of 2018 Lenten devotionals. Looking forward to next Sunday’s piece: The Hope of Eternity. To God be the glory! ~ Tom Grosh IV, Assoc. Dir., ESN


For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. — John 6:38 ESV


In a pivotal scene from the movie Mona Lisa Smile starring Julia Roberts, the brilliant but single professor confronts a female student who is giving up her dreams of law school for marriage. The student counters that she wants a family and there’s nothing wrong with her choice. Whispering almost to herself, the teacher comments, but “you can have both.”

Though this dilemma is presented as a primarily female problem, those with great visions of their futures often struggle with the demand of relationships upon their lives. This conflict is presented in a variety of ways in other movies and books—the husband who works too much and neglects his family or the intelligent woman who is forced to choose between a career and starting a family. Also prevalent is the academic who lives in a world of books and seems afraid to engage people. There is no denying that there is a tension there between relationship and calling.

Jesus too felt this tension, probably more keenly than any other person in history. Coming closer to His crucifixion, the tension more than likely reached astronomical levels. Here is one with a calling from God but with earthly responsibilities. His life is an example of how to live in the tension of both.

An important aspect to consider is that there are seasons in life. Jesus Himself had seasons of change—He experienced the times of normal human growth and the cyclical pattern of Judaic festivals, bringing a rhythm of work and rest to His life. He also waited thirty years before beginning His ministry.  I often wonder whether this was God’s grace to Mary, most likely widowed. Perhaps all of history hung on the needs of this one gentle soul.

We cannot forget that our lives are not just about callings as external, abstract thoughts. Our passions are integrated in our lives. We can be inspired and stretched and shaped by our relationships with others who give our work meaning and value. Most important is our relationship with the Heavenly Father who does not give us the full plan of our lives. He calls us instead to walk with Him. As we read the biblical narrative leading up to Jesus’s fulfillment of His calling, let us consider how He walked with His Father. He didn’t try to rush God’s plans, but instead looked to see what God was doing so that He could fulfill His purposes.

He did not shirk his human relationships in the light of His glorious calling—instead, even on the Cross, He made plans for the care of his mother. Relationship with his disciples, including his mother, and relationship with His Father were always paramount.

For us, life will always be a tension-wrought balance between what we are good at and what we must do. In the everyday work of relationships and tasks, we can still fulfill our purpose as we focus on our Father who walks with us.


  1. How do you find balance between relationships and work?
  2. What can you learn from how Jesus handled this tension?


Heavenly Father, It is so very hard for us to walk in the balance of two competing visions. We lean too far to one side and lose our passion. We lean to far too the other and are bogged down in the everyday tasks of life. Show us a new way—one where every step is illuminated with a heavenly purpose. One that imitates the relationship that Jesus had with you while on Earth. Call us to a vision that exceeds our imagination but grounds us in relationships that shape and mold us. In Your Name, Amen.

Note: Follow this link to explore more of ESN’s Lenten devotionals.

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Tatyana Claytor

Tatyana Claytor is a high school English instructor, blogger, mother, and wife pursuing her master’s degree in Professional Writing. She has been following the Lord for 20 years and is married to a youth pastor. Tatyana gets her passion from reading a wide range of books from apologetics to the classics and enjoys connecting those relevant themes from books and current issues being faced by believers to the Bible. You can see more of her work at

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