Somehow springtime has become one of the busiest seasons of the year, with end-of-school year events crowding our calendars and chewing through our days. As a busy youth minister, you probably don’t have a spare moment to read these days, but there’s an important book you should grab for your beach bag this summer. Kelly Kapic’s You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News is one of those rare books that has the potential to reshape how you live your daily life. Kapic wants to remind readers that God made us with a finite supply of time, energy, and attention, and this is a good thing.
You’ll want this book in your beach bag, but you’ll want to pack a highlighter in there too. You’re Only Human is a book to be savored slowly, discussed with friends, and revisited often. Kapic’s writing is rich; his tone, pastoral; and his insights, profound.
Kapic argues that starting in high school, Americans come to expect that they can do more in a day than is reasonable or even possible. When we can’t “keep up,” we “equate this inability with a moral shortcoming” and add shame to our already-burdened souls (p. 7). Especially as Christians called to love our neighbors, we think we can always do more and we can always do better. Kapic relates this to an underdeveloped understanding of creation: “… we must rediscover that being dependent creatures is a constructive gift, not a deficiency… Our dependency does not merely point to point to abstract ideas of divine providence, but takes concrete form when we rely on others… We must learn the value and truthfulness of our finitude, eventually getting to the point where we might even praise God for our limits” (10-11). In his infinite wisdom, God made us to need him and each other. Our failure to ever complete the to-do list and the ensuing disappointment we feel indicates we mistake our limits for sin, instead of simply evidence that we’ve bitten off more than God made us to chew.
Kapic wants readers to remember the goodness of God towards his creation. In his original design for humanity and again on the Cross, God shows us his love for us does not demand unceasing productivity. The command to love God and love neighbor is fully within our grasp through the power of Christ. “We worship him as he made us: dignified, purposeful, vulnerable, finite creatures” (15).
You’re Only Human answers a series of questions, chapter by chapter. Starting with the most fundamental, “Does God Love… Me?,” Kapic examines the limitations and needs of our physical bodies before moving into the question of identity. From there he looks at humility, time, and transformation as part of a healthy dependence on God and community. Pastors will appreciate his answer in the chapter “Do I Need to Be Part of a Church?” and he devotes particular attention to the needs of pastors for rest.
The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll of ministry is high, and very few pastors have a large staff or ample time off. Kapic’s approach is counterintuitive for sinful humans, but it is the way of grace:
… for pastors themselves, might true “self-denial” result in denying oneself the illusion of trying to do everything, to be everywhere, to solve all problems and help all souls? It can be painful to say no, and strangely enough, it can even feel like dying to self. It takes real faith to depend on God to care for others when you cannot (185).
As can-do Americans, we might be tempted to skip to the final chapter, which is the only one that tells us “how to live in this ordinary time” (193). But Kapic’s purpose here is to avoid giving us more things to do. He aims to help us absorb our limitations, rest in the finished work of Christ, and revel in our freedom from the burdens to produce and perform. This book will be balm for the soul of a weary youth pastor, freeing you to care for your students and their parents with more grace and compassion. You’re Only Human teaches that our need for grace is an inherent facet of that humanity, and this, too, is good.