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“What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, ‘You are limitless’? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of ‘the gospel’ meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”

Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved

I’m usually pretty good about this stuff, but the other night a photo of someone I used to know popped up on one of my social media feeds, and it prompted a hour’s worth of the kind of social-media-fueled-jealousy that I am smart enough to roll my eyes at on my better days. She has a really awesome job. She has really white, straight teeth. She seems to regularly eat interesting dinners with the models from a Benetton ad in an eclectically decorated dining room. Her life is wholly different, and visibly better, than mine.

Obviously, I ate a whole bag of chips while I was clicking through her Instagram feed. And then eventually clicked over to my own Instagram to see what I’d curated for the world — does Insta-me seem successful but not, like, trying too hard? Does the photo where Insta-me is holding a huge slimy salmon effectively communicate that I love my husband and not that I love sport fishing? Why are there so many photos of my son with snot in his nose? Should I go to grad school?

I don’t know, it all made me really weird.

One danger of social media, for me, is that it reinforces my natural tendency to equivocate about life. It makes all of life — parenting, working, marriage-ing, cooking, vacationing — into this huge dinner menu where everything looks really delicious but you can only pick one thing. And then I stare longingly at the food someone at my table ordered, wondering if it tastes better than mine.

There’s this Mary Oliver poem that’s always stresses me out more than it inspires me. It asks, “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” I don’t know, Mary. Probably watch Netflix. Leave me alone.

I can only pick one life, Mary Oliver and Instagram agree.

Of course the reality is that I can’t pick one life. I am given one life. I can live one life. I can appreciate and wrestle with and get bored with and make mistakes with and get surprised by only one life. But I cannot choose it, or curate it, or control it — well, not that much anyway.

Kate Bowler’s amazing memoir was, of course, an immediate cure for my evening of self-indulgent myopia — a woman my age, who is hilarious and brilliant and full of love for Jesus, and who is aware that she will soon die of stage-four cancer. With wit and grace, she reminded me that life isn’t a dinner menu.  

My little family opened up the lovely family devotional, Teach Us To Pray, after dinner tonight. In it, we were encouraged to pour water into a bowl, dip our fingers in, and remember our baptism. This was the highlight of the squirm-filled ten minutes for the boys, who found it fun and slightly weird. I read to them that baptism is “your dying and rising with Christ.” And they found this absolutely no fun. “I don’t get it,” said my six-year old.

But I got it, at least a little. I dipped my finger in that water, and I thought about cancer, and Kate Bowler, and dying, and Christ. And I thought about my glamorous friend, and my squirming boys, and my dirty floors, and my ordinary life. And my limits felt like grace, like the four walls of a home.  

Kate Bowler pointed me to that promise — the one where limitlessness will be found in God’s kingdom, and freedom found in a risen Christ. I get one life, and everything is not possible. And there is such good news: God is here. We are loved. It is enough.

Thanks, Kate.

Photo by Aaron Lee on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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