Why You Need Not Be Afraid of Being Human

 “…to become what I am born to do…it is about living to the highest boundaries of my humanity and making life more human around me.”

Joan Chittister

I’ve been afraid to be a human for thirty-seven years. But I guess, it’s justifiable. Being human is hard. I am not sure any of us would have signed up for this act if we knew what it entailed.

There are mood fluctuations to ride out, haunting thoughts of our own death to deal with daily, messy friendships to navigate, children to nurture and then release into the wild, the healing of our hurts, the begrudging yet unceasing task of forgiveness, and finding our way in a society that feels constricting and overpowering.

There is sickness and chronic illness, unavoidable pain and suffering, constant let downs and deflated hopes to trudge through, and all the while trying to sleep, sweat, have sex, get dressed, eat, keep a clean house, water the plants and pets, and be kind to others.  

To say we are learning as we go feels like an understatement.

We are stumbling all over the place, a bunch of determined toddlers trying out our wobbly legs, intent on walking from here to there without any help. A messy situation if there ever was one.

Accidents are bound to happen. Scraped knees, goose eggs, fractured bones, twisted ankles, tangled limbs, black eyes, bruised legs, and tears, lots of tears.

I can understand how people deny there’s a God with all this unfolding before our eyes.  

I’ve wondered about His existence myself. The doubts rise to the surface, the questions bounce around my mind. Life doesn’t always make a bunch of logical sense. But if I return to the basics, and believe God is love, then why on earth did He make this being human thing such a struggle?

I can think of a hundred other things I’d rather be before surrendering into my limited humanity with all its agony. All my life I’ve tried, with no success, to be different than everyone else, to be set apart and live in the supernatural.

I see the distance between us, pointing out all the obvious ways we are not the same. Behind closed doors, after the pleasantries and cookies are exchanged, I reaffirm how “other than” I am from her.

We are either above or below one another, yet rarely do we see eye to eye.

In his book, The Bigger Table, author John Pavlovitz bemoans, “How did we, the human race, get to this position where we judge it natural not just to band ourselves into groups, but to set ourselves group against group, neighbor against neighbor, in order to establish some ephemeral sense of superiority.”

The thought of all of us being one, sharing the same spirit, yearning for the same kind of belonging, asking the same questions, and struggling with the same issues makes us uncomfortable.

I don’t want to be like every other human on the planet. I want to be ME.    

Most of our money, time, and energy is spent on perpetuating our individual mission to be something other than my neighbor, to at least have an edge over someone else.  

I’ve spent exactly 37 years highlighting what is exclusive to me, absorbed in my one-of-a-kind talents, honing my strengths, becoming an expert in my personality and pursuits, obsessed with my unique calling and vision.

We might criticize our President, but aren’t we all building our own towering walls, afraid to see the other in ourselves, afraid to let them into our country, our city, our circle?

We fear dissolving into the pool of humanity, becoming just another face in this world.

But in doing so we will unfortunately never be able to curb our fears of being fully, gloriously human; it’s so much more than a struggle for a sense of power, significance, and special-ness.

In Jesus, God reveals to us how beautiful the world becomes when we rest in our stretchy flesh and flowing blood and move into the neighborhood. (John 1:14)

When we confess our one too many needs, most of which center around life-on-life relationships and our innate desire for connection and camaraderie, we start to notice and encounter God with us.

The consumption of more stuff we don’t need is killing everyone and everything.

What I want as I walk down the aisles of Amazon is actually to hear your secret stories and for you to listen to mine.

We all know the real reason behind the hours we spend staring at screens. Isn’t it because we miss the eyes of our fellow travelers, we want to gaze into the soul of another and find a sister, a friend for life, another human like myself?

We like to deny our complicity, to remove ourselves from the poor in Pakistan, our dying Earth, and the nature around us crying out for restoration, dare we look in the mirror and see any resemblance.

But if there’s anything Jesus came to give us it’s a robust love for being human, for being alive, and reaching our literal hands into the earthy soil and eternal souls of one another, honoring our sameness.

In the name of being “set apart” we drift further from God’s dream of heaven on earth.

Wendell Berry on his Hopes for Humanity said this and I can’t stop reading it, “Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet. Your hope of heaven, let it rest on the ground underfoot. The world is no better than its places. Its places at last are no better than their people while their people continue in them. When the people make dark the light within them, the world darkens.”  

The New Year approaches and along with it our radical commitments to be this and accomplish that, to ultimately differentiate ourselves. What if we resolved to be a human this year? I want to stop thinking the goal is to make a shining name for myself out there, when really it’s about accepting the light already within.

Going for a walk, breathing deep, touching our spouse, eating a bowl of fresh greens, speaking to the librarian, sharing our eggs and our time, singing in the car, nothing particularly noteworthy, but could this be our first and most sacred calling?

Being human is supposed to be a holy endeavor.

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