Becoming Fully Human

Growing in Love’s Likeness

Becoming Fully Human
Friday, March 30, 2018

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. —St. Irenaeus of Lyon [1]

Barbara Brown Taylor, an author and Episcopal priest, will be joining me at CONSPIRE 2018 (along with Barbara Holmes, Brian McLaren, and Mirabai Starr). [2] Taylor writes eloquently of the spiritual journey in her book Leaving Church:

Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again. [Matthew 16:25] In Greek the word is psyche, meaning not only “life” but also the conscious self, the personality, the soul. You do not have to die in order to discover the truth of this teaching, in other words. You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.

As hard as preachers may work to clarify this koan, I do not believe that it can be done. The promise contains truth that can only be experienced, and even when it is I do not know anyone who readily volunteers for loss again. Yet loss is how we come to surrender our lives—if not to God, then at least to the Great Beyond—and even those who profess no faith in anything but the sap that makes the green blade rise may still confess that losing really has helped them find their ways again. . . .

My losses have been chiefly in the area of faith, and specifically in the area of being certain who God is, what God wants of me, and what it means to be Christian in a world where religion often seems to do more harm than good. . . .

I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was, in other words, and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness. . . .

Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human is saving my life now. This is not the same as the job of being human, which came with my birth certificate. To become fully human is something extra, a conscious choice that not everyone makes. Based on my limited wisdom and experience, there is more than one way to do this. If I were a Buddhist, I might do it by taking the bodhisattva vow, and if I were a Jew, I might do it by following Torah. Because I am a Christian, I do it by imitating Christ. . . .

There are still a few [Christians] who believe that becoming fully human is the highest honor they can pay to the incarnate one who showed them how.

References:
[1] Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 4:20,7. See James R. Payton, Jr., Irenaeus on the Christian Faith: A Condensation of Against Heresies (James Clarke and Co.: 2012), 116.

[2] Learn more about CONSPIRE 2018, a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico and online via webcast, at cac.org/conspire2018.

Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (HarperOne: 2012), xiii, xiv, 219, 229-230.

Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We just die into silence. Die to the past. Die to the future. Die to the breath. Completely let go. The silence reveals itself as refuge, as awareness that can be trusted, tenderly loving and resounding with the majesty and the mystery of the sacred. —Kathleen Dowling Singh

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