Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

You’re Only Human BOOK CLUB

You're Only Human

We are reading through You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly Kapic. The list of demands on our time seems to be never ending. It can leave you feeling a little guilty–like you should always be doing one more thing.
Rather than sharing better time-management tips to squeeze more hours out of the day, Kelly Kapic takes a different approach in You’re Only Human. He offers a better way to make peace with the fact that God didn’t create us to do it all.
Kapic explores the theology behind seeing our human limitations as a gift rather than a deficiency. He lays out a path to holistic living with healthy self-understanding, life-giving relationships, and meaningful contributions to the world. He frees us from confusing our limitations with sin and instead invites us to rest in the joy and relief of knowing that God can use our limitations to foster freedom, joy, growth, and community.
Readers will emerge better equipped to cultivate a life that fosters gratitude, rest, and faithful service to God.  Here are a few quotes from each chapter.

Chapter 1: Have I Done Enough? Facing Our Finitude.

  • Many of us fail to understand that our limitations are a gift from God, and therefore good. This produces in us the burden of trying to be something we are not and cannot be.
  • All of us bounce between the illusion that we are in control and the world’s demonstration that we are not.
  • Whether through tragedy or simply as the result of aging, we all are repeatedly reminded that we are fragile and dependent creatures.
  • We have far less control of the world and even of ourselves than we would like to imagine. Some people respond by living as passive victims, while others aggressively seize as much control as possible.
  • The odd thing is that, even when we run into our inevitable limits, we often hang on to the delusion that if we just work harder, if we simply squeeze tighter, if we become more efficient, we can eventually regain control.
  • Denying our finitude cripples us in ways we don’t realize. It also distorts our view of God and what Christian spirituality should look like.
  • Finitude is an unavoidable aspect of our creaturely existence.
  • I think we have a massive problem, but it is not a time-management issue. It is a theological and pastoral problem.
  • We must rediscover that being dependent creatures is a constructive gift, not a deficiency.
  • We must learn the value and truthfulness of our finitude, eventually getting to the point where we might even praise God for our limits.
  • Each of us must face our limits and weaknesses at some point, whether we want to or not.
  • This book focuses on the limits that are part of God’s original act of making us, which he called “good.”
  • This book aims to help us discover the theological and pastoral significance of embracing the gift of being limited: it is just part of being human.

Chapter 2 Does God Love . . . Me? Crucified . . . but I Still Live

  • In light of the cross we happily see that Christ, not our sin, defines us!
  • God’s goal is not for all of us to end up looking, sounding, and being the same. That confuses sameness with godliness.
  • Your Christian identity needs to be shaped by the fact that God in Christ loved “you,” and gave himself for you—you!
  • God delights in you as you use the particular gifts he has given.
  • God wants you to flourish as the particular you that you are, to enjoy his creation and to enjoy him. That is your calling and privilege as a particular human creature he made and delights in.

Chapter 3: Are The Limits of My Body Bad? Praise God for Mary

  • The Creator God is not embarrassed by the limitations of our bodies and his material world but fully approves of them in and through the Son’s incarnation.
  • The doctrine of the incarnation of God, that the Father sends the Son in the Spirit to become human, includes the teaching that God puts a high value on the particular humanity and finitude of each of us.
  • Eve sought to escape her finitude, whereas Mary embraced it, opening herself up in utter dependence to the Creator Lord.
  • If we are ever going to move from a time-management view of our limitations to a theological one, we need to reconnect creation with re-creation, Genesis 1 with John 1.
  • If we are ashamed of our bodies, of our physicality and finitude, we are in danger of being ashamed of our Creator. But God is not ashamed of our physicality. Why are we ashamed of what he freely loves?

Chapter 4: Why Does Physical Touch Matter?

  • We are designed for communion with each other, and our physicality supplies a medium for that communion.
  • A truly Christian spirituality must always also be a body-affirming spirituality.
  • Our bodies and their inherent limits are a good gift from a good Creator.
  • Our corporate worship time together changes us, and part of the way we are changed is through the way the church treats our physicality.
  • God has made us for physical touch. Physicality isn’t the problem; the perversion and inappropriateness of abuse is the problem.
  • I suspect we would do well to recapture this ancient public practice (foot washing) in our churches with more regular consistency: it is meant to foster humility, grace, physicality, and service, all realities that we urgently need in our individual and corporate lives.

Chapter 5: Is Identity Purely Self-Generated?

  • A healthy Christian view of human limits and differences encourages mutual delight, an awareness of our dependence on others, the integrity of relationships, and contentment.
  • All of us owe our existence not simply to God but to other human creatures.
  • Only when I stop thinking of myself as chiefly an isolated center of consciousness and begin to consider my identity in terms of my relationships to others can I start to see clearly who I am.
  • We are more a product of things outside us than things inside us, and we cannot talk about what we love without referring to other people.
  • Humans are necessarily social creatures with histories.
  • Our identity in Christ isn’t something apart from our cultures and backgrounds but rather his transformation of them as he brings us to himself.
  • We need our neighbors to even know ourselves in relation to God.
  • Knowing one’s self rightly can only occur in the context of being known, of being in relationships, of being loved.
  • It is not our creaturely limits that make us sinful, but rather the absence or deformation of love.
  • Because our identity is found in Christ, the problem with our sin is less that we have broken a rule and more that we are not acting according to who we are.
  • We turn away from sin because it is unfaithfulness to God and it destroys fellowship with him, his people, and even ourselves.

Chapter 6: Have We Misunderstood Humility? Joyful Realism

  • Within a Christian view of the world, humility consists in recognizing that our limitations do not threaten us but liberate us both to worship God and to cherish others.
  • If you don’t see your own finitude as a gift and a way of appreciating the gifts of others, then all you see in others will be their problems and the ways they could be better.
  • True Christian humility does not simply bow down and worship our triune God; it also elevates others and gives us an appropriate assessment of ourselves.
  • Humility is a distinctly biblical virtue because it begins with the knowledge that there is a good Creator Lord and we are the finite creatures he made to live in fellowship with him.
  • Humility consists in a recognition of (and a rejoicing in) the good limitations that God has given us; it is not a regrettable necessity, nor simply a later addition responding to sinful disorders.
  • Simply put, pride ignores God as the giver of one’s mind and skills, while humility gratefully employs these gifts as an expression of worship and as a way to help others.
  • Sin has clearly distorted and disordered not only our individual lives but also our ability to live in community with each other.
  • The clearest way of cultivating self-denial is by replacing sinful self-centeredness with the practice of treating the needs of others as more important than our own.
  • We can happily praise people, because such praise recognizes God’s own work.
  • It is not that we can’t benefit from our talents and developed skills, but we should subordinate our personal benefits to the interests of others.
  • Sin perverts our perception of humility and opposes our efforts to live humbly. God’s invasion of our world and our lives, however, corrects our vision and enables us to live for others and not only for ourselves.
  • The life of humility puts everything into God’s hands, only to realize that it was already there, so you may as well trust him for it.
  • One of the main results of genuine humility is that we cease to condemn or have contempt for others.
  • We find it is easy to be judgmental when either of two things happens: when we are ignorant of the details and complexity of a situation, or when we are ignorant of our own shortcomings and sin.

Chapter 7: Do I Have Enough Time? Clocks, Anxiety, and Presence

  • Clock time has become the main way we now experience time. And this shift to the dominance of clock time has affected us in important ways.
  • The problem is that we have changed our expectations and how we relate to time, with the result that we try to do more than we ever used to: that “more” includes not only work but all the other areas of life. This makes us feel perpetually hurried, disappointed, and in a state of longing.
  • The more interconnected we are between our jobs, homes, and leisure, the more accelerated our lives feel.
  • Even if we don’t “work” more actual hours than we used to, we still don’t feel that we ever rest, because work never begins or ends, and because digital technology allows us to fill every open moment with a quick diversion.
  • Clock time and modern technology foster in us the belief that we can and should be doing something every moment we are awake. Productivity and diversion now rule us, leaving no quiet empty spaces for the mind and body.
  • Your ability to react to stress is a gift from God.
  • Anxiety whispers in your ear not that you are a good creature made by God but that you are insignificant, a disappointment, even a failure.
  • Being present, in the sense of being fully engaged with God and others in our immediate circumstances, does not fit our world of hurry and its demands to do more, better, constantly. We struggle to be present, and I think this makes us all the more susceptible to anxiety.
  • We live the majority of time assuming God’s absence rather than his particular presence—not because he isn’t there, but because we are not attuned to his presence.
  • Those who experience the fear of the Lord discover that praying without ceasing does not require that we enter a monastery, but it does require a mindfulness of God’s presence. This fosters the fear of the Lord.
  • The fear of the Lord is not an escape from this world, but the only way of fully living in it Coram Deo, before the face of God.

Chapter 8: Why Doesn’t God Just Instantly Change Me?

  • God’s highest value is not efficiency, especially considered in any simple or mechanistic sense—it is love.
  • Love, beauty, wonder, and worship are God’s main goals.
  • God has consistently been concerned with process and not merely with a finished product.
  • Only the unhurried tend to value process, including God’s faithful work over the long seasons of our lives.
  • Thus, Jesus’s earthly life of normal development and growth also shows us God’s original creation design for humans. God delighted in process, just as he does in his restorative work of new creation.
  • Again, marks of growing in the Spirit do not include how many miracles one can do or how many astonishing experiences one has, but whether one is growing in love for God and neighbor.
  • Ordinarily, God changes our lives by persistently picking us up when we fall and slowly but consistently drawing us to the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Spirit. In this process he reconnects us with others, replacing our callousness with compassion, our hatred with love, and our fears with hope.

Chapter 9: Do I Need to Be Part of the Church? Loving the Whole Body

  • “Compassion fatigue” describes the reaction of our limited capacity and the unlimited need. People are always needed to serve inside and outside the church.
  • One sign that something has gone wrong in efforts to focus only on the “gospel” is that a church’s pastor and staff are endlessly active in proclaiming and doing the spiritual work, while the congregation remains passive.
  • Those who have experienced the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are called to a broad range of concerns and actions.
  • The central mission of the church is to point people continually to the Messiah: he alone fully reveals the love of the Father and pours out his Spirit on us.
  • Only when we live in our interconnectedness will we stop belittling those with “secular” vocations who honor Christ as painters and teachers, as landscapers and homemakers, as politicians and software engineers. Rather than disparage someone else’s work, we can see it as part of the whole, and thus we are liberated to really celebrate all manner of vocations and labor.
  • Whether you buy or sell, use pens or the plow, tend the hearth or the child, each is enabled to use their labor to honor God and for the common good.
  • Growing research shows that recognizing one’s needs and limits is essential for the long-term health of those in ministry.
  • If physical, emotional, or relational health is not honored by our minister, it will be harder for us to value it in our lives.
  • For the sake of ministry leaders, for our sake, and for the sake of the kingdom, let us deal with the full humanity of ministry leaders, reminding them and ourselves that they are creatures and not the Creator, that their finitude is not a sign of sin but the reality of faithful, creaturely dependence.
  • It takes the whole church to be the one body of Christ. Our interconnectedness is good not just for leaders but for the entire congregation.

Chapter 10: How Do We Faithfully Live within Our Finitude?

  • A healthy view of our finitude allows us to step back, take a breath, and think about the importance of different seasons in life, the rhythms of our bodies and our days, our months, and our years.
  • Different times of life bring different callings.
  • To be vulnerable, to have weaknesses and needs, is not just a trendy idea; it is part of how God made us.
  • Recognizing one’s vulnerability before God and others is fundamental to a Christian understanding of being human.
  • We can’t flourish emotionally and relationally and vocationally without others. We need, and so we are vulnerable.
  • God has made us dependent on his good work and gifts in others, so that affirming those gifts and encouraging them is no more than a realistic approach to life.
  • Lament and gratitude are mirror concepts that highlight the same fundamental truth: we are dependent on the God who rescues us. Only when we accept our creaturely finitude will this make sense to us.
  • Lament and gratitude together not only recognize our dependence on God; they also deepen our sense of his faithfulness.
  • Thanksgiving is proper and intrinsic to human existence.
  • We rejoice because we remember what God has done, we look for what he is doing, and we identify his presence and kindness in whatever is good, noble, just, peace producing, and worthy of praise.
  • The theological question isn’t how well you sleep or whether you wake up, but when you do wake up, to whom do you turn? Our worries and sorrows crush us if we are alone, but with God we find comfort and rest.
  • Sleep is a spiritual discipline that daily reminds us of our lack of control.
  • Sleep is an act of faith. It requires us to see our finitude as a good part of God’s design for us.
  • We were designed not only to work but also to rest, just as God rested after six days of creative work.