Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human

by Mark Votava

15Is our humanity really evil, bad, sinful?  I think there is some reality to sin in the world and in ourselves, but is there anything wonderful, beautiful, compassionate and loving too?  I am tired of seeing myself and the world as bad or “sinful.”  There is so much potential and beauty missing when I do this.

This seems to be the major paradigm that is taught by the church.  We are “sinners” and there is no capacity for beauty, goodness, community, authenticity, truthfulness, relational connection or exploring a deep contemplative life where we embody our true selves in the place we live.  Being fully alive and deeply human is a different experience than just being locked into the box of “I am just a sinner.”

Why all this hyper-focus on sin?  I think it is a play on manipulation by the church.  If the church can scare people into fear by talking a lot about punishment, guilt, shame this is to their advantage because it stimulates control.  People become locked into an unhealthy system we call “church” because they do not want to be punished in some way.

But what about love and community?  Has the church forgotten about the teachings of Jesus on love, humility, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, peace, gentleness, goodness, beauty and kindness?  Maybe the church doesn’t relate to Jesus anymore and has just become a system of subtle control and violence using religious language to scare people into submission.

Who wants to be a part of this?  I certainly don’t.  If you want to be a part of this than maybe you don’t want to be deeply human.  God is calling us to a new way of life where the church is embodied in community through love, humility, and compassion.

Maybe we need courage to shut the whole system of “church” down to start over and find something more authentic in the twenty-first century.  There is a way to live deeply human and fully alive, but it will not come through the systems of what we know as “church” in North America.  We need to move away from being Pharisees so that we can embrace a life of love and compassion.

  •  Becoming fully human through our love

Our spirituality cannot be holistic without becoming fully human through our love.  Our spirituality needs to be lived through reflection and rest.  Our spirituality needs to be embodied in our humanity.

  •  A lived, holistic spirituality

David G. Benner writes, “For only a lived, holistic spirituality can be transformational, integrative, and capable of helping us become fully alive and deeply human.”   

  •  Without our humanity

Without our humanity, we cannot be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  Without our humanity, there is no possibility of life.  Without our humanity, there is no humility or compassion.

  •  No relational connection in our local community

Without our humanity, there is no relational connection in our local community.  Without our humanity, there is no faithful presence.

  •  Shells of individualistic illusions

Without our humanity, we have pretty much nothing.  We are shells of individualistic illusions.  We bring colonialism and destruction to the land.

  •  Practicing reflection and rest

We need our humanity more than we realize.  We need to practice reflection and rest to become human as we cultivate the mystical imagination in the parish.

  •  Experiencing an everyday conversion

In reflection and rest, we experience the mystery of the gospel within ourselves.  We experience an everyday conversion where we are constantly being shaped as we change the world through allowing this change to happen in us.

  •  Constantly convert ourselves to a relational way of life

The gospel is for us more than it is for others as we live it out without words to define it.  We need to experience the good news in us, in our local community, to become human.  We need to constantly convert ourselves to a relational way of life in the place we inhabit together.

  •  Every aspect of existence and human experience

My friend Tony Kriz says, “…the gospel has something to say about every aspect of existence and particularly every part of the human experience…”

What keeps us from living fully alive and deeply human?