‘Fully alive’: the summertime invitation to glorify God

The idea came on my birthday, one of those fully formed thoughts that arrives unbidden, a cerebral click. 


The day began with a brief summer rain, and a chill still hung in the air. I headed to the gym, rolling down my windows and cranking up the radio. Bruce Springsteen crooned “Dancing in the Dark,” the ballad of a listless young man searching for inspiration.


“Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself.”   


As the wind blew my hair and my body shivered from the cold, the words formed in my head: “I want to feel alive.” They had the weight of a New Year’s Resolution set on a birthday, the kind of goal-setting I crave each time I blow out candles. And the goal instantly gave me direction, a compass for the year ahead. 


So much of our modern quest for wellness hinges on good versus bad, indulgence versus deprivation. It is a reward system that never settles itself out, doling out guilt and gold stars in uneasy patterns. 


To seek out, instead, whatever makes us feel more alive — this fills the lungs with air. This feels simpler. No analysis is required; we immediately know the answer. Does it make me feel alive? 


Yes or no. 


And then we proceed. 


It is not hedonistic; it is, in fact, spiritual. It honors the Creator, reverencing the one wild and precious life we are given. It calls to mind ancient words from St. Irenaeus, a great theologian of the Church: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” 


God wants us to live our lives to their fullest capacity. He’s yearning for us to embrace the beauty of creation with the gifts He has given us — strong legs, clear eyes, big hearts, nimble fingers. One part Theology of the Body, one part Carpe Diem.


Presented with an iPhone full of apps, a pair of tennis shoes and a cloudless blue sky, what will we choose? Will it make me feel more alive or numb? 


This approach naturally finds a balance, combining thrills and comforts, requiring discipline while delivering fun. 


Sometimes it points us to a treat — tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich savored on a rainy day. Other times it asks us to resist the couch in lieu of a morning walk. Sometimes it means staying up late to enjoy a fire and fellowship. Other times it means going to bed early because your body needs the rest. 


St. Irenaeus’ mantra replaces all the secular metrics: Am I happier? Am I thinner? More popular? More productive? 


The overarching question: Am I fully alive? Am I glorifying God? 


Summer is the perfect time to pose this question and then enjoy simple childhood delights like walking barefoot in grass. Even if we don’t know the research affirming its health benefits, we know in our hearts: It makes me feel alive. 


I’ve been keeping a running list of the little things that make me feel alive. Some are cozy, like an old quilt paired with a good book. But many involve contrasts that tingle, shocking me awake. Putting on a wet swimsuit. Rising early to read Scripture. Pushing myself to swim a few more laps.


Gretchen Rubin, the bestselling author and happiness expert, has landed on the same path. She famously charted “The Happiness Project,” distilling reams of research alongside personal experiences. Her new book is titled “Life In Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World.” 


In an era of mindless scrolling, Rubin recognized, we have become so numb that the notion of embracing the five senses feels novel. And this season bursts with multi-sensory happiness: the smell of fresh-mown grass, the sound of frogs croaking, the swing of a hammock.


May we soak it all in, feeling the tingle of being fully alive, giving God all the glory.




Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.




Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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