Fully Human – Fully Alive

I stopped calling myself a Christian.  Sounds radical I know.

I have found that the term Christian has become compromised to the point where I can barely identify with many sharing the claim.  Being a follower of Jesus feels more fitting.  Fitting because the invitation from God to humanity through Jesus seems much less about what we declare we believe and more about who we become as a result of that belief.  Who I become in my real life matters. Whether I learn to love God and others seems central to being fully human.

I realize I am a little slow to the end game… I wear a special badge for that gift.

One of the barometers for gauging who I am becoming and who I am is my relationships.  The book of 1 John made little sense to me at one time, now it rings true (I John 2: 3 – 11). Without falling into the trap of perfection or performance I am longing to become fully human and fully alive in God.

I am committed to the journey of becoming….I am longing for authentic relationship with God and people.  Aren’t you?

Fully human, fully alive somehow those words breathe in easier.  The idea of authentic relationship opens up longings within me.  It hasn’t always.  As a young man, changing the world was much more interesting than relationship.  Authentic relationship costs and requires.  It is going to cost me a journey into self – awareness and it requires me to connect to my brokenness from what I can see about spiritual journey.

Both are inward and painful.  It demands of me that I let people and God into my dark.

It requires me inviting feedback and perspective from others and even more disconcerting is what if I find ‘my bad’ when I peek inside?   Without those two ingredients, self – awareness and connecting to our brokenness,  authentic relationship is either limited or isn’t possible.  These ingredients are the seeds of humility.  Humility enables us to be authentic.  By authentic relationship I am not just meaning intimate relationships.  Authenticity falls on a continuum from intimate to social relationships.  Authenticity is more about the honesty of those connections at the various levels of relationship.  From my perspective, to only have one level of authentic relationship is unrealistic and to require all authentic relationships to be intimate seems unhealthy.  Yet I want all my relationships (with God and people) to be authentic, no matter where they are on the continuum.


Authentic relationship is a catch word these days.  Mostly in Christian community.

Maybe because the trajectory in Christian community is often away from embracing our humanity and more towards presenting ourselves as having our life together because we now believe.  We can often live out of our declarations rather than our street reality, which is not that attractive to relationship never mind mission.  If part of our spiritual lives is about the rub of living missionally with people, our real lives will be known to them.  The make of the human model we all received has a built- in authenticity detector. A radar that goes off when we are experiencing a lack of authenticity in another.  In my experience and observations when we enter into relationship, we either hide behind our beliefs or we come out in full view.  Hiding behind our beliefs as a way to connect creates limited authenticity in our relationships.

If we live out of who we are (not just what we believe) in our relationships what we think and feel about spiritual things will come out naturally, if we let it.

Acknowledging our brokenness and need for God doesn’t disqualify us in relationship or make us any less missional.  However, condemnation is paralyzing and the cure for that is confession.  Connecting to our brokenness does the opposite, it creates security and safety in people. To the extent that we are in touch with ourselves is often to the extent that safety is created in others.  That safety allows relationship to form around a greater reality.

If we choose not to step into authentic relationship we end up cowering more in the darkness and adding to the compromised view of what it means to be Christian… But our singing is good.

Authentic relationship requires a connection.  It is certainly possible to be relational and not have relationship.  It is certainly possible to be friendly and not have friends.  It is certainly possible to be a part of spiritual community and not have spiritual community.  It is certainly possible to believe all the right things about God and not follow Jesus.   Where I am going with this?  Maybe to start the journey to fullness in God we have to start by finding fullness in our humanity, to let go and to love. To be real with real things.

The way forward is not around but through our humanity.

It is not to live in denial or minimize our brokenness but to face the darkness and insecurity and find grace, love, and kindness from Jesus.  To find the wonder of God and connect to him in the middle of our humanity… That is where the journey towards fullness certainly started for me.

I want to live fully alive in relationships.  This is just the starting point isn’t it?  What do you think?  Am I barking up the wrong tree on this question of relationship?

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on January 18, 2010.

15 Responses to “Fully Human – Fully Alive”

  1. Great piece Todd! Imagine if we could shine a light on a path for all people to become fully human. A space for everyone regardless of their spiritual, religious, political or culture leanings to embrace an idea that would bring people into deep relationship without fear or reservation.
    This was very illuminating – thanks!

  2. Very well said Todd, and obviously I am wrestling with the majority of those things at this point in my journey. Thanks for sharing these truths in such a gracious way so we are able to assimilate them rather than hide from them…my soul is very glad for that. 🙂

  3. Todd, if you stop calling yourself a Christian, you might not get the privilege of being thrown to the lions in the Colesseum…oh, wait, we don’t have that source of entertainment anymore. I guess if you live in Iran or Pakistan you could get killed for it; in Israel, you’d be made fun of behind your back (silly Christian, you have no idea how we manipulate your naive, yet good, intentions for zionistic means)….
    …Oh, Darren, my mother says, so critical….

    I really enjoyed the blog entry and my fiance and I talked it through over dinner on Monday. On a personal note, it is really encouraging to hear others’ longing for relationship that, three years ago, when I felt isolated in these longings I experienced embarrassment and shame – wondering what was all twisted up in me and wrong with me that I would so desperately crave relationship. I’m certainly a failure from our individualistic culture’s POV.

    There is, however, something I want to add to the mix. While pre-Fall intention would have it that we have a built-in Authenticity Detector; I disagree that the kind of existence we have now involves that. Caucasian sociopaths aside (whitey’s have by far the largest concentration of sociopathy…) it has been my experience that many people do not have an authenticity detector; or if they do, they have learned as a survival tactic to bury their authenticity detector.

    This seems backwards, so let me come at it from the point of view of safety. There is a value in relational Christianity to create and protect an atmosphere of safety. OK. But the question I ask is to what end?

    Are we encouraging safety to let people know that the messiness in their lives can be known without being “measured” or “judged”? I hope so.

    (sidebar: I fully acknowledge that words like “measure” and “judge” have so wide diversity of meaning, yet are as loaded as a bazooka; so in a sense they become meaningless unless specifically defined; so ignore my usage of them as mere generic filler, since I’m not going to define what I mean by using them…sidebar over).

    So, my fear is that as we carefully seek to ensure a place of safety, we inadvertantly shoot ourselves in the foot. Safety is like a sweet old grandma who has her wallet open for the cute-faced kid who is raising money for boyscouts. That is until the boyscout starts smoking meth from a lightbulb and goes to see dear old granny to get some “boyscout” money that is really just for putting holes in his lungs.

    So, in the same backward way, when we bury our authenticity meter, we can all agree that everything is fine when nothing is fine. There are a million fables, stories and examples of people musing on this throughout history: we bury our heads in the sand to avoid rather than to have deal with stuff.

    If I know that I am full of shit AND I have a conscience, that is gonna hurt. But if I make my survival choice to not want to deal with stuff and not go through the pain of surrendering my brokenness to Jesus (since there will NEVER be a point this side of heaven where I’ve ARRIVED at wholeness…sorry John Wesley), then the answer for me to is to refuse to be authentic or refuse to recognise it in others in order for my conscience to rest like a tuckered out mastiff in front of the fireplace.

    The reason why I say this is because I actually believe that most people, including most Christians (the reason why Todd doesn’t want to identify himself with them anymore, I suspect, is because he sees this too) don’t want to let Jesus into brokenness, don’t want to actually experience abudant life with relational community; but want to be strengthened or enabled to live individual, selfish lives making sure their ass is covered by Jesus’ blood from the fires of hell. Ireverent? Yeah, I’d say. Makes me want to clear a Temple. Only problem is, I’d be tipping my own stall over and whipping myself…

    I wanna be like Jesus…less swears more whips.

    Anyhow, long blab blab blab. Sorry. I just find this stuff so dern stimulatin’!

  4. I think authenticity is rooted in knowing oneself first and feeling free to be our self. This in turn is rooted in our relationship with God. Until we connect intimately, heart to heart with our Father and have an understanding of who he created us to be, and we accept it, then it is nigh impossible to extend ourselves authentically in relationships with others. There are many barriers for people to never make that father/child connection with God. There is risk involved in opening yourself up to this most important relationship where you have to be totally vulnerable. People have control issues, things they don’t want to surrender, unable to trust fully the promises of our Father. To overcome fear at all levels in your life and to trust the One on whom we should depend….not always easy! I believe that unless we can come to this place we never get “know” and/or “accept” our real (authentic) selves.

    • Louise,

      Love and miss you guys. So good to hear your heart, and be reminded again what treasured friends you are.

      I couldn’t agree more (and Daniel’s comments are along the same lines.) Let us never forget the ultimate importance of Jesus to the Jesus Follower. Simple, but so easy to loose sight of.


  5. Okay, here I am being “authentic” in response to the authentic article that Todd wrote…it made me laugh when he wrote …but our singing is good…refreshing.
    I need to laugh more…enjoy people around me more and not take “mission” so seriously…seriously. A loving God has made us for loving relationships…with Him, ourselves and others…so I will enjoy the relationships He hands me on life’s great adventure. I need to laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep, share their burdens and their great joys…as I would hope to not be alone in mine.
    I work with a great team in palliative care where all is laid bare and I have learned so much from both my patients and my co-workers about “keeping it real”. I am so greatful for this sacred place…there is much love, compassion, fears, weakness, vulnerability and life shared in this place where labor and delivery into life ever after happens.
    I think we are all born knowing that this “here and now” is not “as good as it gets”…so we share the great quest of longing to be known and loved.
    The more we share with others the richer we do become…I’m starting to get the hang of it.
    (so now you know I’m not a great philosophical writer…oh well – just my blurb..ah blog note.)

  6. as i read the above, i was reflecting on how it all started…right from the beginning…the first crisis in all of humanity wasn’t “original sin” in Gen. 3 (that was a big one…but it wasn’t the first crisis), the first crisis in all of humanity was “…it’s not good for man to be alone…” Gen. 2:18…
    so maybe we can understand from that, that we were created for community to ‘rob the enemy of the weapon of aloneness’ in our lives…unfortunately, original sin still comes with the package…so living ‘authentically’ becomes rather difficult…
    …posturing, molding to culture around us, behaving in ways institutions require of us…these ways (and many others) are all ways where ‘authenticity’ gets eroded…we hide to preserve & protect…
    our only hope seems to be to find our ‘true selves’ in our Creator where we are ‘real’ (what we were created to be) and can be at rest in that…then to live that out within a community of others trying to do the same…and show lots of grace for the confusion that may still exist…

  7. Call yourself a Christian, follower of Jesus, or a duck. Doesn’t really matter a whole lot to most of us… it is unquestionably more about who you actually are, and how you actually live. I’m reminded that originally it was others who began calling Jesus followers as ‘Christians’. I wonder if we’d be willing to stop labeling ourselves in order to afford those around us the opportunity to speak out who we really are (based on what they experience/see when they’re with us.) Do they even know we’re there? Would our lives warrant a distinction like ‘Christian’?

    My heart so identified with the following statement: “I am longing for authentic relationship with God and people as a result.” I completely agree that our focus and commitment needs to be towards really living, and sharing that life in ways that actually matter. Ways that aren’t connected to advancing ideas, programs, even the relationship itself… but rather ways that reflect what Henri Nouwen called ‘The Ministry of Presence.’

    Jesus was brilliant at this! As I read through the gospels I’m struck over and over again by His wiliness and ability to be fully present in a diverse set of circumstances (dinner w tax collectors, debate with religious leaders, prayer time with the Father, teaching opportunities with the disciples.) I consistently get the feeling that when you were with Him you knew he was fully ‘with you’ in that moment.

    I think we need to continue this journey of forsaking our ‘plans’ and ‘agendas’ where it affords us the opportunity to really ‘be present’ in this life.

  8. These are all really great thoughts and seem to echo the idea that being fully human is a critical activity we must partake in during our finite time on earth. The question is, regardless of belief, politics, gender or tribal association, what is the recipe or idea that we can embrace to live a fully human life?

    • I think that’s a good question. I’d add to it the idea of ‘life’ needing to come from Jesus. I think it’s a key belief statement in this discussion, because it shapes our desired outcome/hopes around ‘living a fully human life’.

      For example – a difference in belief on this point would most definitely hinder our ability to find an agreeable ‘recipe/idea’ that we can embrace. If a person or persons doesn’t see Jesus as key to obtaining a ‘FULLy human life’ the pursuit becomes fundamentally misguided.

      • My primary vision of Jesus is that he is a source of godly empowerment who calls me beyond all my boundaries into a greater love an deeper understanding of all those who yearn for that ground of all being. Whether there doorway is Jesus or another avenue, elevating myself above them or condemning them for connecting to god in a way that is different from mine would reduce me to nothing more than a spiritual racist. If god is the groundwater of the world than I can I deny that other people use a different well than Jesus to access god?

        I’m convinced that his is time to move Christianity beyond that historically inaccurate and psychologically damaging definition of humanity that has resulted in a constant denigration of human life, deprave, sinful and in need of divine rescue. The suggestion made by so much of Christian theology of the past that every baby is born with the stain of original sin distorting his or her goodness is abhorrent to me. To spend our energy concentrating on the presumed lostness, the moral depravity, or the hopelessness of human beings, so easily called sinners by traditional Christian theology, is to fail to appreciate the most incredible product of the whole created order – namely the human mind. When I look at what human beings have achieved, from great works of art to magnificent symphonies , from architectural wonders to surgical and medical skills that are breathtaking, I stand in awe of human life. Each of these wonder may gave begun in the ‘mind’ and were executed with love and passion of the ‘heart’.

        Somehow traditional Christians seem to believe that to denigrate humanity as broken, fallen, evil and sinful makes the reality of God who is perceived as external to life more believable. The human sense of incompleteness that begs to be explored and understood but could the concept of original sin simply be a theological construct to protect tribal boundaries? I do take evil seriously, I simply find its origins in a different place than traditional Christianity. If evil is a distortion of love and then I think we have all see our fair share – just open a newspaper or watch the TV news. I cannot deny there is evil in the world that is unseen and not fully understood by largely sin is the result of an action or lack of action that begins with a human thought and we each must own our thoughts – they create our own reality and the physical world we inhabit. To be in hospital nursery full of babies is not be surrounded by brokenness but by miracles that God inhabits every cell of their being with all the potential to love selflessly they way Jesus did. Jesus to me is an image, a sign, and indeed a promise of that birth of a new humanity. A theology that is based on convincing us that we are created in God’s image but born flawed, broken and lost cannot make sense out of my life.

  9. A quick question on the definition of being “fully human” – does this idea mean:

    A. Enlarging ones mind and heart to be the best they can be and leave the world a better place for having lived here.

    B. Having a personal relationship with God.

    or is it a combination of these ideas or something else?

    • Great question Michael… I am sure others have their thoughts but let me give you mine…. I think it is a combination. I think the journey to embracing our humanity includes coming to the realization that we are broken and can’t fix ourselves. To be fully human in my journey acknowledges our need of God and then the journey to becoming fully alive is fully activated. Having said that their are people loving and doing great things to leave the planet a better place without that acknowledgment. Are they diminished? I would conclude there is an aspect to being fully human they didn’t concede to. Does that make them lacking? As far as the road to becoming fully alive I would say yes. Having said that there are those who claim to have encountered God who are reckless and diminish others and the planet in the process. Therefore they to are not fully embracing their humanity and are damaged and are damaging the road to becoming fully alive. But history has proved that sometimes the guys wearing white hats aren’t always the good guys. So we leave it to the judge of all while we love as Jesus called us to love.

      I am acutely aware that many

  10. Well, I’m all for abandoning labels~especially the “Christian” one…right now I am ashamed to have ever been associated, even by name, with a person/group of people (Pat Robertson) who could condemn a whole country based on some urban legend in the midst of the horror that is taking place in Haiti…he has a voice, and has abused it in the most horrifying way…

    Why can’t we focus less on trying to convince people that Jesus is the “only” way, and more on just living out his message~LOVE~ACCEPTANCE~GRACE

    How could a God who created 9000 species of birds alone, have only 1 way to access that relationship? That sounds more like someone’s “agenda” than a pathway…
    It’s like we’re more concerned with belonging to some exclusive group than actually being fully human.

    We are not broken. We are not pathetic sinners.
    We were born divine and we will die divine.
    How we choose to live the in-between is 100% our choice. We choose our life based on our thoughts and beliefs~so if we choose to believe that we are pathetic losers who need to be saved, then I guess that’s what we will manifest~

    But if we choose to embrace the essence of who we are~God~then we are free.

    You don’t need to walk into some over-priced building with stained glass and get “put in your place” by someone who is struggling with their own questions to experience God.
    Just lift your face up to the sun, feel it’s warmth upon you and say “Thank You” and know that, that same sun touches all 6.7 billion of us.

    I will end with one of my favorite Rumi quotes:

    “I looked for God everywhere and didn’t find anything, because we were in each other all along”

  11. […] Fully Human – Fully Alive January 201014 comments 5 […]

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