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Draw Near: Praying to love our limits

Lynne Baab • Tuesday April 18 2023

Draw Near: Praying to love our limits

Take a look at this cool book title: You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News. I truly love that title, which seems increasingly relevant as I get older and experience the limitations (and even humiliations) of aging. The author is Kelly M. Kapic, a professor of theology at Covenant College, who has written numerous books. This latest book, with the title I find captivating, was published in 2022. 

In an interview in Christianity Today, Dr. Kapic mentions the gap between our high expectations of ourselves and the limits we live with. He says this gap probably comes from an underdeveloped doctrine of creation. We are creatures, made by God to depend on God’s goodness and provision with every breath we take. Kapic writes, “Dependence goes against a lot of our instincts. Just think about how we use the language of dependence in our culture. It’s usually negative.” [1]

He discusses the unrealistic expectations for ourselves we often have. We can’t measure up, so we beat ourselves up in various ways, including addictive engagement with gaming or social media, overwork, and compulsive achievement. Part of being whole is choosing love over unrealistic expectations. This includes love for others but also love for ourselves, refusing to compare ourselves to others. Love also includes embracing the finiteness of our physical bodies as creatures made by a loving God.

Dr. Kapic believes we miss “the good of dependence. We need to cultivate an awareness of how our dependence and needs open avenues of love.” He uses the word “interdependence,” which I find to be a vivid word. A neighbor does a favor for me, and I watch for opportunities to do something helpful for her. I experience a web of interdependence with family members and friends. Interdependence requires some admission of our need, along with a willingness to give back in some way, even if our contribution seems paltry compared with what the other person has done.

In the interview in Christianity Today, the closing question asks for practical application: “How can we begin embracing our human limits, even today?”

Dr. Kapic answers:

“The first way sounds so spiritual, but I genuinely mean it: by prayer. Part of recognizing our limits is getting comfortable in God’s space and growing in dependence on him. Sometimes I think we’re actually scared to death to pray, because if we actually take the time to get quiet, we might begin to fear that God’s not there or wonder whether he’s apathetic or just really angry.”

I see a bit of a cycle in his words. We are sometimes afraid to pray, fearing that a lack of response from God will reveal that our fears are true: God isn’t real or doesn’t care. When we don’t pray, our fears grow deeper. As Christians, we are ashamed of those fears, so we shove them deep inside, where they become subterranean forces, further motivating us not to pray. So we pray less and less.

I hope that cycle never will be true for you or for me. I hope prayer for you is usually a comfort, a joy, a source of strength and support. I hope prayer for you really is “getting comfortable in God’s space and growing in dependence on him.”

Dr. Kapic continues his recommendation for how to embrace our finiteness and limits: “Only in prayer will we discover how compassionately God views us.” This is a new thought for me, that in prayer I learn about God’s compassion for me. I want to ponder this more, and I want to begin watching for the ways God’s compassion for me flows in and through my prayers.

Beginning to pray is often challenging. I want to affirm the significance of jumpstarting our prayers with the two major ways God speaks to us – in the Bible and through the beauty of nature – as well as with hymns, praise songs, poetry, books, and all the other places we are reminded of God’s good news in Christ. In addition, most of us need both individual and communal prayer experiences in order to persevere in prayer. All of these companions to prayer will hopefully make it more likely that we will perceive God’s compassion for us.

Dr. Kapic has encouraged me to watch for the ways prayer teaches me about God’s compassion. I think this challenge will be comforting and empowering. I hope it will also help me embrace my limits as God’s creature, dependent on the Triune God for everything.

(Next week: praying to view “friend” as a verb. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below under “subscribe.”)

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[1] All quotations in this post come from “Learning to Love Your Limits,” an interview of Kelly M. Kapic by Erin Straza, Christianity Today, January/February 2022, 80-81.

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