What does it look like to be human? Truly Human?

1417639_83774630Today I want to talk about being human. And the truth is we don’t like being human. We want to be super-human. We want to push forward. We want to accomplish great things. We want to overcome our weaknesses and show the strength of our character, leadership, and endurance. We want to cover over our limitations and be self-made people.

The trouble is – this isn’t being human. This isn’t how we were meant to live.

How do I know that? Because Jesus is the true human. Jesus reveals how humanity truly is to look. Jesus often calls himself the “Son of Man”, which some scholars translate as the “Truly Human One”.

And if we look to Jesus we see someone embracing limitations. This might be shocking but it’s true. He sleeps, he says no, he goes off for quiet, and he doesn’t do everything or heal every single person in Israel. He has limitations.

Jesus also doesn’t cover up his weaknesses or struggles. And that too might sound shocking but it isn’t because he must have shared them with his disciples – because we read of them. We read of Jesus saying, Father if there is anyway out of this, please let me know. We read of Jesus being “hit in the gut” with grief when Lazarus dies. We read of real temptations from the devil.

We read of Jesus – being real. 

But we don’t want to be real. We want to be strong, limitless people, with it all together. But this honestly isn’t the way Jesus demonstrates to be human. Jesus doesn’t know everything, but trusts in God in everything. Jesus doesn’t pretend he doesn’t have limits, but embraces them. Jesus doesn’t pretend to be strong at every single moment – he has temptations, struggles in the garden and says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?

The point I’m trying to make is that being human is our calling, and our culture’s view of being human is just wrong.

Michael Gungor writes:

Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.

And that’s true.

So is there any area of your life where you need to say no? Is there any area of your life, where you need to embrace your limits? Is there any area of your life that you need to say – help please!? Is there any area of your life where you just need to embrace being human.

Because learning to be human is actually learning to be like Jesus.

Leadership Limits: The Art of Knowing When You’re Done

877270_52065388 Here is the truth: God created us all with limits.

This is just a simple fact, but one that so many of us don’t realize or accept. In fact, if you read through the creation accounts in early Genesis you’ll start to see that God created Adam and Eve with limits too. Limits remind us of something – that we need each other. We can’t do it alone.

And here is how this relates to leadership.

Leaders are often reluctant to embrace their limits. They push harder, they work longer, and dig deeper. None of this is bad in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s disastrous. To pretend that you can lead and push through and not acknowledge your limits will kill your leadership. It might not today, and it might not tomorrow, but it will happen.

When you refuse to admit you’re tapped out, you are actually denying part of the essence of leadership: relying on and empowering others. Pretending you don’t need anyone or don’t have any limits doesn’t help you, and it certainly doesn’t help your organization, business, or team. Limits are inherent to who we are, and knowing them helps us to lead better and longer.

Of course self-discipline, drive, and a strong work ethic are crucial to leadership. But so too is knowing when you start to run dry.

So here are two questions I ask myself at least once a month. And I think they are good questions for anyone in leadership to ask. It’s this:

  • Have I not asked for help this month when I needed it? 
  • Have I embraced both my limitation and my responsibilities?

These two question help me stay on track and I hope they help you too.

Confessions of a Pastor: Limitations

plaster, old damagedI have a confession. I’m an imperfect person. I have faults and flaws. I’m not sufficiently good, wise, or amazing to make things work everywhere. I know I have limitations, I know I have temptations, I know I make mistakes, and I have regrets. You might be like me too.

We live in a world though that sees confessions such as these as weakness. Imperfections and limitations are things to be covered up, avoided, or denied. But this is not the way in God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom limitations are not to be avoided but actually embraced because they are where God works best. As Paul says, it is in our weakness, our limitations, our imperfections, that God is strong and does his best work.

Sometimes I come to a situation, a crisis, or even a Sunday with a feeling like I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the experience, the skill, or the knowledge to draw upon. I have no idea how to make things work. I reach the end of myself and see my limitations. These, though, are precisely the times when God seems to act most. When I say to him I have no idea what I am to do – so this one is up to you. When I say to him – God, this is bigger than me, so it needs you. When I embrace the fact that God I am small and broken – but accept the fact that even in my weakness God wants to use me. And he wants to use you even with your weaknesses and limitations.

This isn’t about excusing sin and failures of that sort. This is about realizing that we are not God, that we are not perfect, that we do not know everything, or know how to act in every situation. This isn’t to be lamented but embraced because when we embrace the fact we have limits we embrace the fact that God doesn’t.

It is only when we acknowledge our limitations that we also acknowledge our need and dependency on God. As I said I am not sufficiently amazing, wise, or skilled to succeed without God. I need God each and everyday in my life, work, and in his church if I am to be faithful. I cannot rely on myself, my limits remind me of my desperate need for God.

So for you – when you come up to your limits – what do you do? Do you embrace them as a moment for God to work? Do you embrace them as a reminder of our dependency on the Spirit that lives and moves in us? Or do you avoid it, deny it, or try to compensate for it?

My suggestion is this – the next time you come to the end of yourself, embrace that fact because it is often the beginning of the work of God.

The God of Limits

limitsUsually we think of God as unlimited in everything. And in a traditional sense I think this is true and good. That his love is limitless, that his power is vast, and his forgiveness faithful and overflowing.

The trouble is that we forget that Jesus had limits, so we forget or pretend that we don’t have limits. The point is that if the Son of God had limits and created healthy boundaries on earth so should we as his followers. I know that it might seem weird to think of Jesus having limits, but that’s what the Gospels seem to point to. Jesus didn’t heal everyone there was. Jesus didn’t convince and save everyone around him. Jesus wasn’t able to change everyone. Jesus got tired. Jesus retreated. Jesus got frustrated with the disciples. Jesus had limits and he knew it.

The problem is that Christians, and pastors especially, forget that we have natural limits. We forget that we can’t save everyone, and having healthy boundaries isn’t a bad thing, it’s a necessary thing. The problem is that we believe it is our “mission” to change the world and save as many as possible, even at the expense of our families, friends, and personal health. The problem with that is twofold: first it’s not our mission, it’s God’s; second not respecting our natural limits and boundaries doesn’t follow Jesus’ example. Jesus got tired and retreated. Jesus provided for his family. Jesus as a human being had limits because all of humanity has limits. This is not a bad thing, in fact it is a wonderful thing. The limitless God above, wants to use us even with our limits, but we must recognize that we each have limits. I can’t meet with everyone. I can’t save everyone. I can’t give to everyone. Sometimes I have to say no. Sometimes I need to not check my emails. Sometimes I need to trust that God can handle things without me for a while.

Parker Palmer writes, “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to our true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves, but for the many others who lives we touch.”

I think he’s right, because that truth flows from the life of Jesus. Jesus didn’t run himself ragged, burnout, and falter because he took care of himself so he could accomplish something greater than himself. That’s our calling too. To take care of ourselves so we can accomplish something greater than ourselves.

So today take care of yourself, in ways that make sense for you: rest, pray, play, take a walk, read, cook a good meal, say no to something. Become aware of limits, and don’t worry about overcoming them, trust in God to work within them.