What it Means to be Human: A review of You’re Only Human

August 23, 2022
Author: Kelly Kapic
Publisher: Bazos Press
Publishing Date: January 18, 2022
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1587435102

A book conversation between Gayle Doornbos (GD) and Hannah Landman (HL)

Note from GD: 

Unpacking what it means to be human—creatures whose limits are good gifts from God—Kelly Kapic’s book offers rest to weary souls. It has quickly become one of my favorite books, and I have recommended it to colleagues, friends, and students. Kapic invites readers to embrace their limits and delight in our particularity as we depend on God and live in a community with others. Given the focus on community, we thought a review conversation would be a fitting way to engage in this book. This review is a written version of a discussion Hannah Landman and I had after reading the book. 

GD: My limits are not something I usually delight in. In fact, I usually find myself wishing I had more time and more capacity and didn’t really need sleep to function, especially during the hectic pace of the school semester. It’s easy for me to slip into thinking that overcoming my limits can be achieved by implementing a tightly managed schedule and drinking another cup of coffee. Kapic’s book, however, reminds us that to be human is to be limited. We are embodied creatures created by God to be limited by time and space and with our own unique set of gifts and abilities. Kapic rightly notes how a vast majority of western Christians have forgotten this reality, and confused human limitations with sin and consider dependence a sign of weakness. I found his invitation to explore what it means to be human deeply restful and beautiful, especially because it recasts what it means to live into Christ’s redemptive work. Our goal is not to become superhuman, independent people who can do everything, but rather people who delight in who God made us to be and grow into who we are in Christ through our dependence on Him and others. I’m wondering what struck you about Kapic’s vision of the goodness of human finitude? 

“We are embodied creatures created by God to be limited by time and space and with our own unique set of gifts and abilities.”

Gayle Doornbos

HL: First off, I’d echo what you said about often not delighting in limits—especially as someone who often likes that they have things to do. There were many instances in this book that I found myself both confronted by my own tendencies and comforted that I’m not alone in this, and that a cycle of nonstop work is not what God has designed us to do. I found Kapic’s reflection on Christian community to be encouragingly challenging, especially as it pertains to human finitude. As we explore our limits and begin to accept that we are incapable of being and doing everything (which is not a bad thing!), we are encouraged to look to the body of Christ and lean on each other, which, admittedly, isn’t something I feel I do well very often. Here, too, we can begin to let go of the control we feel we need and fall into rhythms of community with our church, family, roommates, peers, and coworkers. I appreciated Kapic’s exploration of human finitude in this context, as defined by embracing and participating in community with God, neighbor, and creation as a part of a whole working together. Something I particularly appreciated was the idea that loving often isn’t efficient, but we are called to love God and others first. There’s a feeling that God encourages us to take time to invest in each other. We’re not called to be hasty in our love because deep community is built slowly and intentionally, looking away from sheer productivity and towards relationality. There’s a lot to unpack, but I’m curious what you found interesting about the way Kapic discusses slowness and process?

“(Did I find myself) living in awareness of the sovereign King who is ever present, ever wise, and ever concerned?”

Kelly Kapic

GD: I loved the way Kapic invites us to reorient our relationship with time. I’ll be the first to admit that I often say things like “there’s just not enough time in a day!” but Kapic points out that this kind of statement reveals a particular relationship to time that idolizes efficiency and productivity.1 What if time wasn’t about what we got done but about living in and cultivating our sense of the presence of God? What if our question at the end of the day wasn’t ‘did I get enough done?’ but ‘did I find myself “living in awareness of the sovereign King who is ever present, ever wise, ever concerned?”2.’ The latter opens up a much more abundant and full relationship with time in light of God’s abundant presence. If time isn’t about efficiency but presence, there will always be enough of it. I also loved how Kapic’s discussion of slowness and process recasts our understanding of sanctification and spiritual growth. If our temporality is good news, then God delights in the process of our growth and sanctification. It’s hard to fully grasp the reality that God’s economy isn’t particularly oriented to efficiency, but to transformation and relationship. One of the things I enjoyed about the book was that Kapic offered practices to start to live into this kind of reality, like Sabbath and participating in the life of the Church. What practices did you find meaningful, and were there any that surprised you? 

HL: Honestly, I found Kapic’s encouragement (and challenge) to embrace the rhythms and seasons of life not particularly surprising, but rather a larger call to action than it seems. The tendency to pack a schedule as full as it can get and then scowl in disappointment when I can’t invest enough time in relationships (or sacrifice sleep to attempt to accomplish everything) is all too real. However, it is not necessarily healthy or fulfilling. There’s so much we miss in a life driven by a to do list. And, Kapic offers a reminder that a faithful life is not one driven by check boxes, but by resting in a Creator. Stepping back and looking at life from God’s perspective, Kapic speculates that our view of a faithful and rich life is likely “much slower, more ordinary and earthy, but also more beautiful than we anticipate.”3. However, I did initially find it surprising that Kapic specifically frames sleep as a spiritual discipline4. Sleep is one of the most powerful reminders that we are created dependent on a Creator and is a good gift of his as we are reminded of our lack of control and of the control of the one who sustains us. Even more broadly, rest is profoundly important, and it’s easy to be swept up in a cycle of ‘doing’ that I forget to sit and delight in fellowship with God and my neighbor. We need rest to be active in our living as a community of individuals, even though it often seems counterproductive. More importantly, as we see our own limitations in light of God’s design for and delight in community, and as we commune with God and others, we are blessedly able to rest in a good God who has no such limits. 

GD: We are so hardwired for productivity! It’s so ingrained that it’s easy to start to add Kapic’s recommendations to an ever-expanding to-do list (appreciate and get more sleep, Sabbath, participate in church, etc.). But, his work truly invites us to embody our lives in a different, more fully human way. It’s a call to rest and delight. It’s a book that I will continue to come back to and read again and again because it reminds me that my humanity is a gift from God to be delighted in and cherished, not overcome. 

HL: Yes! Kapic invites us into a way of life that embraces our limitations as gifts that encourage us to rest and look outside of ourselves, which he presents as vital to living faithfully. Part of the reason I will likely pick this book up again in the future is, as you mentioned, the beautiful reminder that our human finitude is not a burden but comes from a God who knows us. 

About the Authors
  • Gayle Doornbos is an Associate Professor of Theology at Dordt University. She holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from the University of St. Michael's College.

  • Hannah Landman is a student at Dordt University studying Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science. She is learning to delight in living gently and loving well as she dabbles in a bit of everything from poetry to hiking to good conversation.

  1. p. 126  

  2. p.142  

  3. p.195  

  4. p. 214  

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