The Human Experience
What Is The Human Experience? I cannot define it for you, but I can certainly define it through the lenses of my own 62 years of personal life experience. As I sit and type, I can recall numerous encounters of joy mingled with sorrow; life and death; and everything else sandwiched in between. In a nutshell, the human experience is as light hearted as the annoying faucet drip from the kitchen sink, to the holy hush within the depths of a human soul the first time they are awakened by the presence of God. I was 8 years old when this took place for me. The human experience involves the inner workings of our organs sensory processes of taste, smell, sight, and touch, such as enjoying the fresh aroma of a rose; or that first sip of a good cup of coffee; the simple pleasure of a rainy afternoon after a busy day at the office. Maybe it's the piercing eyes of a lover; the loving touch of your mother's hand; or to dive in deeper, an elderly woman taking her last breath on earth, while in a delivery room just down the hall a newborn baby takes her first earthly breath?
Life is short. In the blink of an eye we are here then we are gone. Life gives, and it takes away. It is a beautiful dance, choreographed with ups and downs; a road full of joy, yet, laced with tears. Every lesson learned, every victory won, even our failures have purpose and meaning, if we can get passed the weeds which prevent us from finding that elusive silver lining behind the clouds. The sun still shines on the other side of those clouds, despite all that entangles our hearts and minds and keep us from seeing it. What I have come to learn is even the slightest glimpse of hope can pierce through the darkness of night.
Any attempts we make to come between someone's human experience, in order to make their painful life encounters magically disappear only dilutes the authentic process of the human experience for that person. Furthermore, it delays life lessons that person may need to learn. Some days the cup is half full, sometimes it's half empty. Oftentimes, when life gets really messy and that cup gets spilled over and becomes completely empty, we humans are far too quick to fill it up with man made counterfeit remedies for the troubles we face in this life.
Who said there was anything to fix? Who said we were put here on this Earth by the Divine hand of God to magically cure the painful entities of this human experience? Who the heck are we to impose such a ridiculously arrogant belief system on mankind? We live in a fallen world, period. No matter how hard man tries to avoid this harsh reality, people are going to continue to get sick and die; and if we’re lucky, our bodies will grow old and fall apart.
Perhaps the most perplexing disruption of the human experience is this battle against conflicts of the sinful nature of mankind. Marriages fall apart; lifelong friendships break up, and wars break out at the drop of a hat; sometimes over an issue no one is even able to recall. Civil unrest weighs heavy on the hearts of humans, no matter where on earth you may roam. Not a single sojourner goes unscathed before reaching the end of their destiny in life. No one escapes the piercing stain of Sin. No man has conquered the complexities of humanity, much less, cornered the market on the mysterious ways of The All Knowing Omnipotent God. Anyone who claims otherwise is only fooling themselves and making a spectacle of religiosity for personal gain.
Of the many harsh realities we humans face in this world, I have come to the conclusion that death is one of the most fearful factors of the human condition. Fear of the unknown drives us to fix something that ain't broke. Death will be a part of the human experience, This Side of Heaven, no matter how hard we try to change the trajectory of this providential force that is at the core of the human experience. There is no cure, no ceremonial prayer vigil that will super naturally erase the sting of death. It is what it is. Just let it be what it is and stop trying to fix this finite human condition The same can be said for every sickness in this world. No matter what the root cause, illness is an ever present reminder that we are not home yet. If mental disease, addiction, or chronic medical conditions cause you to feel uncomfortable, driving you to control an uncontrollable circumstance, perhaps you need to step away from the person you are trying to magically fix, (maybe even yourself), and fix the misguided notion in your head that you have been given the divine power to cure yourself, or anyone else for that matter of man’s fallen condition?
Does God heal the sick? Without question, yes, I believe He does! Does this mean He heals everyone of every single disease that has infected this planet? I think it goes without saying, COVID 19 is a fine example that not every illness can or will be cured in our lifetime. Even influenza has yet to be completely eradicated from this earth, and it has been around for many a decade. Even Jesus did not heal every sick person He encountered while he walked this earth. Instead, He told His disciples, "Go and heal the sick". That said, He did not say, go and heal them ALL. He did leave the disciples with this one mandate though, before Jesus ascended back up to heaven, He told His followers to, "Go into all the world and make disciples". This begs the question, how many of those disciples today do you think have died of cancer, or have dropped dead of a heart attack? While we wave our magic wand filled with empty promises, a disabled veteran battles with mental illness, due to brain trauma; a lonely teen accidentally dies of an overdose; children, young and old are killing themselves because they can no longer take the bullying from their peers, no thanks to modern technologies and the downfall of social media. A wife takes her last breath as she succumbs to some dreaded disease; or a husband has been killed by a drunk driver who made a poor choice to get into her car and drive inebriated one tragic day, taking a father away from his children, and a husband away from his wife. The list goes on and on, and on, and we must be on our guard against any delusions of grandeur which sets man up as a superior being who possesses supernatural power to heal every human being on the planet earth.
Instead of the dogmatic insistence that all men and women must be healed and that we have anything to do with making that happen, let us challenge ourselves to embrace the all encompassing variables that come with living in a fallen world. Instead of wasting energy trying to fix it, maybe we should be investing our precious time in that person we so desperately want to fix; and ask ourselves why we are so determined to impose our dangerous mindset on an unchangeable circumstance; dangerous, because it sets the person up on the receiving end of your zealous belief for disappointment in Christianity, not to mention, God. Can we be content to simply be present while others walk through the difficulties in their lives? Leave the healing to Jesus. Our ultimate healing waits for us on the other side of this broken world anyways. Making ourselves available to the lives of the hurting is more valuable than words could ever bring to the table. So let us use our words wisely, and only when necessary, as Francis of Assisis would declare.
The human experience is not to be suppressed, as though hard times don’t come, and our hearts won’t be broken. It is intended to be enjoyed and celebrated with others, whether in times of rejoicing, or when in mourning, as Paul, the writer of Romans 12:15 wrote. This is especially true within the four walls of a church building. That said, there is a whole lot more Church going on outside those four walls than we can even begin to imagine. Coming alongside others and making meaningful connection holds more weight than putting a spiritual Band-Aid over a gaping wound for the person who is bleeding out. Let’s be intentional to pave the way for others to feel at ease in our environment; and give them a safety net to fall into when they need it, instead of driving people away with unrealistic expectations of wholeness before we reach the world coming to us, which holds all the healing and wholeness we could ever dream up or imagine!
Can we be humble conduits of unconditional love and give others a reason to believe? My prayer is that we are intentional to be the glimpse of hope that pierces through the darkness of despair; agents of grace, extending the hand of mercy and compassion to a dying world. Otherwise, we are just another well-meaning Christian who imposes our false belief that every broken human being who walks through the doors of a church is supposed to be prayed over and fixed. That just is not the case; and this ignorant posture only leaves a person to believe that there is something spiritually wrong within their hearts if they have feelings of anger, doubt, or depression. Have you read the Psalms lately? David would certainly qualify as a Bipolar suffering with chronic episodes of depression! No, I am not discrediting the power of prayer. What I am saying is, every one of us is flawed. We are all broken people trying to navigate the storms in life that sometimes knock us off our feet. This need to fixate on that which we are powerless to change only leads to broken hearts who feel like they have nowhere else to turn, leaving the wanderers of the world to feel like the singled out ostracized leper whom no one wants to touch unless they are perfect and whole. This attitude of heart will only serve to drive people away from organized religious communities, diminishing the finished work of The Cross. The human experience is messy! It would behoove us all to remember, it’s ok not to be okay sometimes.
In closing, might I add that this insatiable appetite to fix an imperfect world derives from man's false sense of control? It is my personal belief that the majority of mankind knows full well we have absolutely no control over the human experience and how it will play out in the lives of others, much less, our own. Imagine with me, what the canvass of this planet would look like if we humbly admit that this feeling of powerlessness is what drives us to fix ourselves and others, so we don't have to face the harsh reality that we live in a broken world where there are things in life we are powerless to change? We are never going to change it, so let's stop trying to fix it. Let's put that powerlessness to good use, come out from behind our weak facade and humbly acknowledge The One who is in control; the only one who has the power to change what we cannot. It is GOD who will make a way out of no way. As a dear friend once encouraged me many years ago, when I was in a battle between life and death, in the throes of addiction and mental illness, "Paradise WILL come". It's just not here yet. So why not enjoy the human experience in all its raw glory? Live life to the full; accept the good, the bad, and the ugly... embrace it all! To do otherwise, diminishes the human experience; and we forfeit many opportunities knocking on our door to encounter moments of deep joy, as we discover our authentic selves on this beautiful road laced with sorrow, which will eventually lead us home to our ultimate human experience!!