Third Sunday of Easter
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:36-43
There was traffic on I-15 on our way back from Las Vegas, so our GPS took us on a back road, a road that decided it was also going to be a roller coaster. Our stomachs twisted and turned as we would dip and then pop up over the short hill, equally afraid of what was going to appear on the other side and whether our just-finished Cracker Barrel meal was also going to appear outside of our bodies again. Patrick would say, “Don’t take your foot off the gas! Don’t do it! It’ll be fun!” And I would cringe with each dip we’d take. And then with every hill we’d pop over, I’d picture that scene in every horror movie where a ghost/dead person/almost-dead-person suddenly appears in the middle of the road and the car flies through them, hits them, or swerves and ends up in a ditch, only to discover that the ghost has divinely chosen them to solve their murder.
I like to think this scene in our gospel reading is Jesus introducing horror movies to humans. “SURPRISE!” as he shows up in the middle of their circle. Gasps, screams and possibly a few wet pants (tunics?) fill the room. Maybe he mocks them for being afraid with a “GOTCHA! HAHAHA” and then reminds them that it’s not really a ghost, it’s actually Jesus, true God and true man. A human. But they won’t believe it. So he has them touch him and then he eats. Because what’s more human than eating?
Sometimes I like to think I’m not human. I don’t mean this literally, but subconsciously, there is something there. I like to think that I can’t mess up, that I don’t always say the wrong thing at the wrong time, that I’ve already achieved holiness. And then I royally mess up and it hits me like a ton of bricks, way harder than it should… because if I had already come to terms with my humanity, it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that I would mess up.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m in ministry, because I’m an Enneagram 1, because I trained for perfection in musical performances, or if it’s just pride, but I really do struggle with my own humanity. I made it all the way to college before realizing I wasn’t perfect. I laugh now, but it wasn’t really funny then. I landed myself in the hospital with intense pain in my abdomen. The doctor prescribed yoga and some muscle relaxants. He told me I was trying to be perfect in too many things and I needed to let go. There are recovering alcoholics, recovering sex addicts… I’m a recovering perfectionist. I met this guy that made me live in the present and for the first time in my life, I didn’t accomplish everything on my to-do list and I learned how to break rules and I felt alive and human, so naturally I snatched him up as fast as I could and married that dude. Because there is truly something about being human.
There is something about being vulnerable with someone, opening up a side to yourself that you know they have not seen before. There is something about messing up and then laughing because… well, we’re human. There is something about waking up the next day with what Brene Brown calls “the vulnerability hangover” as you’re reminded that you were vulnerable yesterday and now today you have to live with the regret of showing your humanity to someone else. Even that regret is a sign of your humanity. There is something about choosing to sing too loud to karaoke, dance around in your kitchen, laugh until you cry as you watch funny videos, tell your loved ones how much you really love them, admit that you made a huge mistake, date again after going through extreme loss, put yourself out there to be judged. It’s uncomfortable. It’s human.
I wonder how much of the struggle to embrace being human Jesus felt. I wonder if he felt vulnerability hangovers. I wonder if he laughed so hard he cried. I wonder if he had dance parties with his friends. But I do know this. He was vulnerable. He put himself out there. He gave his love out to people that betrayed him. There’s nothing more human than that. And so as we mess up this week (which we will), let’s give ourselves some grace, breathe in, breathe out and say, “I’m human.” When we need that extra dose of courage to show up and be ‘truly seen’ at work, on a date, with friends, let’s remind ourselves that Jesus was human, too, and chose to put Himself out there with courageous hope. When that song comes on and we want to close our eyes and sing it out or get out on the dance floor but years of squashing our intuitive desire to live in the present and let go keeps us in our seats, let’s remember that we are human. We’re allowed to dance and sing. When we lay in bed at night and our brain begins to replay the day as we give our thumbs up and thumbs down sign to how we reacted in each part of the day, let’s instead smile and say, “I was human today.” We only have one life to live. Why waste it being anything other than human?