No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear)
By Kate Bowler
Random House, 224 pages
Kate Bowler seems to be everywhere. The gifted thinker, writer, professor at Duke Divinity School, wife to her high school sweetheart, and mom to one adorable son has been on the talk show circuit, is active on social media, has an enormously popular podcast filled with a wide variety of fascinating guests—and also produces beautifully crafted, short memoirs that instantly become bestsellers. All of this is true because she came terrifyingly close to being nowhere at all.
In her mid-30s, Bowler was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, beginning an intensely difficult journey of surgery, experimental treatment, and continuous wrestling with the big questions of life. Her second memoir is a welcome addition to the first, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved). In No Cure for Being Human, she continues to ask difficult questions—many without answers—and, at the same time, gives poignant testimony to the beauty and fragility of life on planet Earth.
Bowler is a historian who managed to produce a published version of her doctoral dissertation (on the history of the prosperity gospel movement in American church history) in the midst of her strenuous treatment for what was quite possibly a terminal diagnosis. Through it all, she wrestled with God, relied on friends and colleagues to help her with that wrestling, and emerged with what might best be described as a sanguine acceptance that we cannot know or understand a whole lot about life. And yet, we can know that we are loved in the midst of it all—the good, the hard, and the worst.
Here are just a few short quotes from this book that spoke powerfully to me:
“It became clearer than ever that life is not a series of choices. So often the experiences that define us are the ones we didn’t pick.”
“No matter how carefully we schedule our days, master our emotions, and try to wring the best life now from our better selves, we cannot solve the problem of finitude.”
And this one, offered to her by a dear friend: “You have felt the mighty and indescribable love of God. It is wholeness and beauty and holiness… but it is not Disney World.”
I encourage you to order or borrow a copy of this beautiful book and let it filter deep inside you. Reading Bowler’s story on a very rainy day reminded me of so many difficult stories I have seen, heard about, walked through with others, and lived through myself. Yes, this crazy, mixed-up life can be beautiful, rich, and instructive—but it definitely is not Disney World! There are no easy answers to the hard questions. But there are the lovely, miraculous moments of connection with another human person, unexpected beauty, and meaningful community—all of which can provide a deep awareness that we are loved. Yes! We are loved.