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You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News

"No one person is meant to do it all, but together, as the Church, we can accomplish much for the restoration of our world."

Kelly M. Kapic
Brazos Press, 272 pages
Published January 18, 202

As I first flipped through the pages of theologian Kelly Kapic’s latest, it was the closing acknowledgements that first grabbed my attention. Kapic writes, “Not many of us claim to be God, but our unrealistic expectations for our work, our children, our bodies, our churches – for just about every aspect of our lives – show that we actually do imagine that we are God. We act as if we should never grow tired or weary, that we could and should always do more and be more.” Kapic’s words were a cup of cool water to this dry soul. Even with limits imposed on us by the pandemic, I struggle with feeling guilty about not accomplishing more.

This is not purely a Christian problem; Kapic points out that our American economic and cultural context teaches us that our value rests in our productivity. We see not only time but our bodies as mechanisms that, if we push hard enough, will do whatever we want. We then glorify busyness and exhaustion as the true measure of a life well-lived. Christians buy into this mindset, believing that their limitations are a result of sin and must be overcome. In Kapic’s view, church leaders are sometimes the worst examples of this mindset, burning out because they refuse to rest, believing that meeting the endless needs of ministry is God’s calling on their lives.

Scripture teaches a healthy view of creaturely finitude, but Kapic argues that Christians often ignore this antidote to the cultural lie. “All creatures are limited by space, time, and power, and our knowledge, energy, and perspective also have always been limited,” Kapic writes. We need a more robust theology of creation that acknowledges our God-given limits as good. When we own our limits as good, we have a far more accurate (and healthy) view, not only of our dependence on God but of our mutual dependence on one another. No one person is meant to do it all, but together, as the Church, we can accomplish much for the restoration of our world.

I found myself wishing I could dialogue with Kapic as I read. I longed for more nuanced exploration of which human limits are God-given and which Kapic sees as caused by sin (such as death, and I would presume, disease). So often, it is when we are faced with our mortality (through sickness and death) that we come to accept and make peace with our limits. What role does our view of “perfection” in sanctification play in our acceptance of our limits? More crudely, which limits are good and which are bad? And how do we know?

That said, I believe this is a good and necessary read for pastors and congregations in this season of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. How might a view of healthy dependence change our patterns of congregational life? How might it gird us to resist culture’s message that our value lies as “human doings” rather than “human beings”? There is plenty of fodder for good discussion in this book.

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