University is a time for exploration and self-discovery.
Many of my older peers have told me to try out different clubs, courses, and take risks! I still remember walking around the annual club recruitment event wide-eyed, with a huge smile, and feeling the buzzing energy emanated by my fellow undergrads.
Many people told me to find what I was passionate about, as it was the root of my happiness. Almost everyone would agree that pursuing your passion while earning (an abundant sum of) money is the jackpot in our generation. Too often we hear the phrases among student circles:
“What are you passionate about?”
“What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”
I took it as a quest to discover my passion.
To try out as many different clubs and courses until I hopefully encountered something that I found worthy to invest in, I dabbled in music clubs, volunteering/humanitarian clubs, academic clubs, all while pursuing courses from almost every discipline, from studying the physics of quantum teleportation (for beaming up Scotty) to learning to play a Bach concerto on violin.
All those clubs and courses were great experiences, and I acquired a wide breadth of knowledge.
But I never encountered the spark of passion as I had expected.
Perhaps it was something that I missed out on. Where was this incredible experience that I had so eagerly anticipated? At the end of all these adventures, I felt more incomplete and emptier than ever before. I had unknowingly created a vacuum in my heart that became the source of my motivation. In the words of Timothy Keller, as long as I thought I had a shot at achieving my goal, it was my inner emptiness that I called “drive,” and my anxiety that I called “hope.”
This phenomenon was observed by historian Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He writes,
“[Our society] tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can … We hear again and again the [societal] myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life.’”
For me, it is fascinating that a non-Christian, studying humanity through an anthropology and history perspective, had arrived at a similar conclusion as Keller. I truly resonated with pursuing the “ideal experience.” I anticipated an experience that would come along and take me away into everlasting bliss.
Jesus describes this yearning as a deep inner thirst that is unquenchable by worldly means:
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14)
Jesus claims to be THE experience that we are all seeking. Not an experience-dependent on external circumstances, but rather, the source of incredible contentment and a sense of soul-quenching satisfaction that he will plant WITHIN you.
I had failed to realize the depth of my spiritual thirst, as I had masked it with the search for finding my passion. I had imposed an expectation onto an experience that is virtually impossible to satisfy.
By extension, this idealized experience can manifest itself into romantic love, places to travel, social status, high enough marks, career opportunities, money and what it can do for us. Anything outside of Christ on which we set our ultimate hopes replaces him as the object of our worship and the source of our happiness.
Jesus identifies the problems in the human soul while offering the solution. In the end, I set realistic expectations on my experiences when sourcing my ultimate satisfaction in Jesus himself. I had much clearer judgement in finding my passion since it wasn’t this ache of emptiness that motivated my choices. It was the spring of water – the outpouring of God’s love – that was imparting divine comfort, and imbuing within me a profound sense of purpose, with passion that lights the way.
This article was written as part of the Writing Mentorship with our P2C-Students Editorial team.