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Relisten: Does everything happen for a reason: Compass 86

When Kate Bowler received a dire cancer diagnosis, she confronted a difficult question: Did God make this happen? In this classic episode of Compass, she helps us see the surprising movements of God.

This conversation with Kate Bowler was originally recorded in early 2018. At the time, Kate was a well-regarded but not-so well-known college professor and author. She was on the verge of releasing a book called “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved…” which then blew up.

The book came out of Kate’s cancer diagnosis. At the time, it was a stage 4 diagnosis… which is a pretty bleak diagnosis. So the book details her wrestling with the idea that God is behind this diagnosis. And it’s somewhat ironic because as an academic, Dr. Bowler researched the prosperity gospel–the idea that faith makes good things happen.

It’s an internal conflict as old as belief. So this episode is timeless.

We’re going to revisit it. With the good news that Dr. Bowler is still with us and thriving, now 6 years after her diagnosis. She’s written a couple best-sellers, including "Everything Happens…" She hosts the Everything Happens podcast. She’s still teaching too…

Let’s kick on back to 2018 and talk with Kate Bowler!



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Ryan Dunn (00:03):

This is the compass podcast where we try to disrupt your every day with divine moments. It's summertime in the United Methodist church. It does not mean it's vacation time. Instead. It means it's annual conference time. And that means that we're out and about making plans for future church. And it also means the summer schedule is a bit tight. So I'm asking the indulgence of your patience on a new episode, and I'm offering this look back at one of our first episodes.

New Speaker (00:32):

This is a conversation with Kate Bowler, who at the time was a well-regarded, but not so well-known college professor and author. She was on the verge of releasing a book called "Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved," which then blew up. You can probably understand why.

New Speaker (00:51):

The book came out of Kate's cancer diagnosis at the time, it was a stage four diagnosis, which is a pretty bleak one. So the book details her wrestling with the idea that God is behind this diagnosis. And it's somewhat ironic because as an academic, Dr. Boer researched the prosperity gospel, which is the idea that faith makes good things happen. It's an internal conflict as old as belief itself. So this episode is timeless and we're gonna revisit it with the good news that Dr. Boer is still with us in thriving. Now six years after her diagnosis, she's written a couple bests now, including everything happens for a reason. And she hosts that everything happens. Podcasts. She's still teaching too. So let's kick up back to 2018 and talk with Dr. Kate Bowler.

Ryan Dunn (01:48):

Well, Kate Bowler is with us. She's a mom, a wife, she's a professor of religious history at duke university. She's the author of blessed, which is a history of America's prosperity gospel. That's this, this belief that if you have enough faith, then health and wealth and happiness are gonna follow along in line. She's also a Canadian. She brags about that quite regularly. So I feel like Kate, that's fair to say, that's a part of your identity. Also back in 2013, you you taught a, an upstart young pastor in training named Ryan as memorable as I'm sure that was anything noteworthy happy since it happened since then. Oh,

Kate Bowler (02:28):

For me? Yeah. Oh yeah. Whoa. well, yes. My life is a lifetime movie. But about a plucky upstart, young professor, <laugh> who <laugh>, who started living her research. Yeah. So as you mentioned, I am an expert in the prosperity gospel. And when you're an expert at like 35, it means that you started too young. <Laugh> like, it was, it got too weird, too fast. So when I was maybe 23, I started already getting excited about this message of health and wealth and what it meant. And so, yeah, I studied that for about 10 years and wrote that history called blessed. And then in the last two years, I got really, really sick and had to kind of grapple with the implications of what it means to be facing death in a culture that says that everything happens for a reason.

Pierce Drake (03:21):

Hmm. So Kate, what was that, what was that first remembrance that first time you felt like you encountered that prosperity gospel, that, that thought process, where were you? Was it in a room? Was it on TV? Was it on the radio? And then, and then also I'd love to know, like where were you in life at that moment? Yeah.

Kate Bowler (03:38):


Pierce Drake (03:38):

That connected with you.

Kate Bowler (03:40):

I was on our only freeway in Winnipeg, this super, super crappy. I honestly, I love my hometown so much and it is the worst roads. So we only have one road that goes fast and it's the perimeter goes around the whole thing and they put up a stoplight and I almost lost my mind <laugh> and I was like, guys, give this to me. And so I was sitting at the stoplight and I was watching all these people file out of what I assumed was a warehouse. And then I looked over and realized oh no, this is a church. And, and I thought, my first thought was no we don't make churches that look like warehouses. We are, we are Canadians <laugh>, this is not us. There's

Ryan Dunn (04:21):

No steeple on it. Is that what you're saying?

Kate Bowler (04:24):

Just, it has that sort of lovely industrial chic and you know, how, like, in the inside of megachurches, it all looks like it's the set of the musical Rent.

Kate Bowler (04:33):

It's scaffolding. And just a lot of song, a lot of lingering song <laugh>. And so I heard that there's this huge church on the outside of town. And so I asked around about it and heard that there was really slick pastor who celebrated holidays, like pastor's appreciation day and that he had gotten the gift of a motorcycle and that he'd ridden it around on stage. And I almost lost my mind because I thought one, this can't be us. This is for Americans. <Laugh>

Kate Bowler (05:06):

How is it that so many of my Mennonite friends are going there mm Mennonites, who are historically committed to pacifism and simplicity and ruining everything with jello. And and I thought like this, this is not the kind of simple faith that I was raised in and that I've come to know. So it sort of started started with that more car accident feeling you get when you notice something new and you think, Ooh and then gradually became an intellectual interest. And then something I felt, I mean, pretty much deep empathy, almost defensiveness towards for its for its ability to keep its finger on the pulse of something. I thought most people were too quick to ignore.

Pierce Drake (05:49):

So were you before that timeframe, childhood churched? Unchurched?

Kate Bowler (05:54):

Yeah. Very Jesusy. Okay. My parents, my parents both became Christians a little bit later in life, which meant that I skipped a lot of the full on indoctrination of an evangelical youth. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I was probably 16 before I realized there was a man out there somewhere named James Dobson. And he probably didn't want me to be a pastor, even though I didn't imagine being a pastor, I just knew he didn't want me to be. And and so it was a kind of later a later inculcation into evangelicalism, but it was mostly Mennonite churches. Gotcha. Which were just lovely, cheesy pacifists

Ryan Dunn (06:32):

<Laugh>. So now as time has worn on, you have written another book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lives I've Loved. Where did that come from? Why'd you write this book?

Kate Bowler (06:46):

When I got sick, I, I was sort of horrified to realize that there were aspects of the prosperity gospel, something I thought I had studied only intellectually that, that I started worrying that maybe I believed all along. So like for instance, when you get that sick. So I, I go from just being a regular person with no cancer in my family to suddenly getting a stage four cancer diagnosis at 35 mm-hmm <affirmative> it was, it was, it was just like a bomb. It like, it felt like it was, it was just utter devastation. And in the midst of that, I had, I mean, I think all the natural feelings of shock and, you know, fear and horror. And, but then I just started wondering like, what did I really hope for? Like, what did I really expect? Hmm. And did I really think that maybe this was all going to work out and were these, were these theological beliefs, like, were these, you know, like you're trying to figure out why you're so angry at God, and then you have to wonder, like, did I really think that you promised me this all along?

Kate Bowler (07:59):

So I wrote the book sort of as a kind of painful, hopeful, theological excavation project where I just tried to dig into the hardest things about who I am like, did I, did I think that I was special? Did I think that I was the exception to the rule, that bad things just happened to people mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> and it's, it was it gave me, I think were nude compassion for the people that I've studied for so long who want, I think really average things from God. Like I think we imagine the health and wealth gospel as like everybody wants a Mercedes, but like, I think people really mostly want the things that keep our lives together. They want, you know, kids that don't despise them and clothes that look okay on them and enough money in the bank to feel comfortable. And just that feeling like your life is moving forward, you know? And then when you have to imagine that your life isn't going anywhere, like, because it might end it is, it is bracing <laugh> let me, you, and it really, it really caused me to wonder and to question and just to try to get real about what Christian hope really looks like.

Ryan Dunn (09:17):

Hmm. I, I think we probably need to unpack a little bit what your diagnosis is: that at the age of 35, you were diagnosed with stage four cancer and well, what does that look like for you now?

Kate Bowler (09:30):

Well, it's been two years of treatment, which is not fun. It mostly just means that your life is usually in the hospital and it doesn't seem weird when people are wearing face masks when they're talking to you. And you're really good at small talk while people are taking out needles that are, seem like they're for horses, but they're for people. And you sort of develop this pattern of life around the normal world that everybody else lives in and then hospital world. So I started hospital world about almost not quite two and a half years ago, maybe like a little over two years ago. Yeah. And so it's the liturgy of scans and blood work and and standing in line for a very expensive copay. So that, that takes up much of my life <laugh>.

Pierce Drake (10:23):

So I wanna go back to that kind of core belief of you need to have faith and the way that you show you have faith is, is through your giving your tithing. Right. And yeah. And it goes deeper than that, obviously. And so somebody that was for you that was in that world to some degree that you talked about, you studied it and now on this side of it, where do you see faith really being played out and how does it really be played out and, and versus how it's been abused?

Kate Bowler (10:53):

Well, I think I think the prosperity gospel is confused because it's gotten con it's it's, it's blurred the distinction between hope and certainty. Hmm. It is at its heart, a theodicy right? An explanation for the problem of evil in the world. And it looks at the have nots. And it says like, God has provided a solution through giving through prayer, through intentional spiritual hustle. Like you really can have what God has promised to you. And the beauty in that is that it expects God to show up in the details of your life. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I, I found that to be really inspirational when I would go to church on Sunday with them. They were really expecting God to do something that week. I thought that was a kind of lovely anticipation that is often missing in other churches. Yeah. Yeah. But the saddest part of course, is that immediately then tragedy becomes a burden on those who can't get it together.

Kate Bowler (11:54):

And it forgets it's like, it forgets what it's like to stand on the side of the losers, like me, like the trodden. And I mean, that's partly why I'm really excited. My book is coming out at lent because lent is the time when the church is supposed to be on my side, nod the side of the winners, not the side of like the Easter faith and the, he has risen indeed. It's the marching toward death facing down the darkness, standing on this side of the abyss and saying like what could ever paper over the difference? Hmm. Think we have to practice being lent in people. And the problem, I think fundamentally is that the prosperity gospel is, is outta practice.

Ryan Dunn (12:39):

Hmm. Your book, it expresses a kind of a dissatisfaction with extremes, like when you're diagnosed and yeah. And you kind of make this, this announcement to the public you get a lot of people sharing, a lot of different things with you. Yeah. On one hand, there, there are like the atheists who write to you to say, you should probably just give up the search for religious meeting. Yeah. And then on the other hand, and this is not a, a bandwagon that you're really to willing to jump on either. There are people who are writing that are saying, there's a plan for this, right. This is, this is God's. Will this happened for a reason,

Kate Bowler (13:13):

Every Reformed dude out there is convinced there's a lesson I haven't learned <laugh> that's

Ryan Dunn (13:18):

Right. Yeah. And it's still coming.

Kate Bowler (13:20):

<Laugh> so

Ryan Dunn (13:22):

Your experience is it really, it, it's not really driven by divine design, but it's not devoid of like divine presence either. So

Kate Bowler (13:33):

No, I think that's right. Like, I mean, cuz here's here was the great surprise for me about being sick is that, and I really mean this as a legitimate surprise, but God was there anyway. And like it gets me so emotional, just like saying that to you right now. Cause it's like, it was, you know, I'm a pretty cerebral person and I like categories and now I'm experiencing a world that sort of despair beyond categories. And I was genuinely surprised that in the worst of my hospital moments, I could actually feel God's presence. And like, let me tell you how grateful I am. <Laugh> grateful that I don't have to, to invent God. Mm. I didn't have to. And I didn't have to pray a special prayer and I didn't have to have a special faith because I was unconscious most of the time <laugh>, I mean, God is, was just there.

Kate Bowler (14:29):

And like that I think is, is the deep hope of grace that like, that God will make up the difference just because of who God is. And I love that. That takes me to a place beyond formulas and beyond because I didn't deserve it. You know, I didn't do anything to get it. And there's really no like special formula for getting it back either. You know what I mean? Like when you're walking or like, you're just having a moment and you can sort of actually suddenly realize that God is there and then there's the rest of the day where it just feels annoying and the person beside you's coughing and like, you know, you hate your neighbor and you know, then there's just the rest of ordinary time. And so the great surprise is learning to live without being able to conjure up all the feelings and the proof and just to live with the hope and that, that in the worst of it, there is something beyond ourselves that's like determined to pursue us.

Ryan Dunn (15:31):

What were some of the specific moments that made you aware that God was there?

Kate Bowler (15:36):

A lot of it was just people like <laugh>, this is so stupid that when I first came to duke, I was really, this is, this is gonna sound really ungrateful. I really bummed out that I had gotten my dream job so early and that I would have to live here for the rest of my life and probably die in my office. It's so lame. But like I achieved my dreams. I was so happy. Thank you, duke got my job. And then I had all these lingering fears about dying in my office some day, like lonely and sad. And and I read, I was a part of this book group and it was about this other guy Reynolds price. Who'd gotten sick mm-hmm <affirmative> duke. And that when he was rushed to the hospital, the guy who he shared a printer with, like took him to the hospital. And I remember like ruining this poor book group of mostly strangers being like how depressing, like you're stuck with the people you share a printer with <laugh>

Kate Bowler (16:31):

And then of course I, I get sick and my family can't be here in time. Like nobody can get here in time cuz it's such an emergency and guess who's there at the hospital. Well, it's everyone I share a printer with. And like every beautiful person I was just in a faculty meeting with or down the hall is showing up to anoint my head with oil or like get me socks or, you know, make sure the temperature of the room is great. Like it was the most intense feeling of like feeling ministered to, with the hands and feed and face of Jesus. It was so I was so blown away by how ungrateful I had been by the possibility of this and then just how grateful I was when it came true.

Pierce Drake (17:19):

So in those, in those moments for those that are listening and, and and as part of my story as well, walking away from the fate and coming back to it what do you say to the person that just goes, man, you were just surrounded by good people. God really wasn't there mm-hmm, <affirmative> like you just, you had caring people around you that loved you and, and was there for you in that moment. How do you, how do you differentiate that in that moment? To know that there there's more than just

Kate Bowler (17:47):

Good people here. Yeah. Yeah. The sort of day to day stuff was the good people, but the divine present stuff was something more and it was something actually I was so uncomfortable talking about that. I just sort of kept it to myself <laugh> cuz I didn't. I, because you get to the part where it's very hard to explain or rationalize. Yeah. mostly because I think maybe as growing up in evangelicalism, you feel like everything that's true, you should be able to put in a pamphlet. Mm-Hmm the presence of God, to me feels like overwhelming love. And sometimes it comes through people, but so much of it was just lying by myself, listening to the beep of hospital machines. Pretty sure. Because they told me that I was gonna die that year and not feeling angry because all I could feel was love

Pierce Drake (18:50):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. Yeah. I think for when I was in that part of my journey and then even, you know, today having friends that that would, would put themselves in a classification of atheism or agnostic, you know that whole idea of God's presence and knowing God's there like for those people that do have faith, it kind of freaks us out too.

Kate Bowler (19:12):

Oh, I mean, honestly I think, I think really in retrospect, I don't think I'd really felt it before.

Pierce Drake (19:18):


Kate Bowler (19:19):

I mean, like, I think I'd had worship experiences. I'd enjoyed. I felt, I, I sort of experienced the truth of what I see as the gospel, you know, I was like very convinced mm-hmm <affirmative> but that's but like, was I shocked by the presence of God? No, <laugh>probably not, not really not until then. Yeah. And like, it was to the point where I went around asking all my theologian friends, like, is this normal? Will this stay? Like, I had a lot of questions because I was, I was genuinely surprised. Yeah. But luckily I work with mostly theologians, so they like took the book off the shelf and we're like, look what is said it best <laugh>, which honestly was really helpful. Cuz you feel like you, you wanna, I mean, it's like anybody when they like have a weird thing on their toe, they're like, is this normal? And then they Google it. That's sort of my theological experience where I want always going, is this normal? And then everyone,

Pierce Drake (20:20):

Your duke colleagues are your, your are your spiritual web MD.

Kate Bowler (20:23):

Yeah. They <laugh>, I, I really, that is exactly right. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (20:28):

In the midst of finding God in these moments. And being a person who's well academic and you have a broad understanding of what religion is. Yeah. Why hold to a Christian world view? Like, like what is it about Christianity that, that paints a, a different light or a different color onto

Pierce Drake (20:48):


Kate Bowler (20:50):

In my story, everything comes apart. And I find in the story of Jesus, a guy who <affirmative> a guy who gets nailed to the cross and then he just hangs there, like his humiliation, his, the inability for it to be a shiny story is so moving to me because I mean, there's, I just imagine like there's all these books that actually I have in this bookshelf beside me called like Jesus CEO, right? As if like this one that we imagine, if we imagine Jesus as the like past entrepreneur, like he knew how to have an efficient day. He knew how to maximize his time. That's

Ryan Dunn (21:41):


Kate Bowler (21:42):

All kinds of, you know, inspirational tweetable things to share. And and like I picture the person I was trying to become and then someone who didn't waste a minute and was always moving forward. And then I look at the example of Jesus and like, it was that that really stayed with me when I was facing the exhaustion of a life that wasn't gonna come together. And I find in the Lenton church, all kinds of beauty that in the cracks, the presence of God fills it and lets something grow. And this sheer impossibility of that I think will always allow me to see Jesus as like the full expression of hope in the crushing darkness.

Pierce Drake (22:34):

Yeah. I think that's a great line seeing Jesus in the crushing darkness because sometimes that crushing darkness is, is your situation, right? It's a, it's a, it's a diagnosis. It's an uncertainty of, of what's next and when is the next happening? Yeah. And then it's also that moment of going to a job every day and that same person making that same comment, that's eating you away and you can't get past it. And so it comes in, in all different forms for all different people. But within that context of that darkness, there is a hope and there is a light and for people of faith it's, even for us, like we've been talking about it, it it's, it can surprise us and shock us in the moments. But I love what you said. One of the things that you took away from, from the prosperity church and faith is, is that they came in with some expectancy

Kate Bowler (23:29):


Pierce Drake (23:29):

It did of, of seeing God move of being active in our life. And that's the thing I think that most churches and most Christians across the theological spectrum probably lack, you know, is that expectancy that, that we serve a God. And, and, and we we're in love with a God who is active. I heard, I heard preach the other day, the sermon out of acts one, right where Jesus, his last moments with his disciples right before they go and, and he tells 'em all these things and he says, I want you to go here and do this. And he like final instructions before he leaves. And, and, and he tells 'em to wait right. For the holy spirit to come. And so it's that moment of him going, you have, you have my words, you have my directions, you don't have my spirit yet. So wait.

Pierce Drake (24:12):

And so I've heard that sermon preached I'm a pastor's kid, right? So I've heard that past all the time. And so I was hearing it preach, and I was like, yes, this is a good sermon. This is good stuff. And then the guy flipped it and he said, if you go back and I had not done this yet, he goes, if you go back to the original language, the word wait, we've kind of translated it wrong. It actually means to expect there's an expectancy there to wait with expectancy and such a beautiful thing for us. And that it's throughout your book and throughout your story of going, like, I'm, I'm waiting on God, because I know God is there. And I will see him in that crushing darkness.

Kate Bowler (24:46):

Yeah. I think it's so hard to wait. Like, because I mean, we're, we're incomplete and everything comes apart all the time. Right? So like you reconcile with someone and then that friendship comes undone. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> you have hopes for your kid. And then there's a setback at school. Like there's a, a million ways where we're trying to put a bow on things. I think just because we're always seeking endings so much, I think of having to live the Christian life is, is to learn. I think you're right. To wait with expectancy and just know though, in the midst of it, you are inherently not a problem to be solved. Yes. Just because you're in pain. Yeah. You know?

Pierce Drake (25:31):

Yeah. I,

Kate Bowler (25:32):

We, we're in pain because we are, the kingdom of God is not yet here, period. Yes.

Pierce Drake (25:37):

It's good.

Kate Bowler (25:39):

And like it, there will be enough. Like that's the prosperity gospel we can believe in. God will give us enough. But what enough means will not be very easy to see with the naked eye.

Pierce Drake (25:53):

I love the little, since I'm a millennial, I love the little tweetable statement that says you're not a project, but you're in process.

Kate Bowler (26:01):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>

Pierce Drake (26:01):

And something I've held onto for a while.

Kate Bowler (26:05):

Oh no. Everyone wants you to be a project though. They want lists. Yes. Les. Yeah. No. If one more person tries to fix me, I will do something that requires them to be, <laugh> needing of a little assistance. Sometimes soon I'm getting close to just threats and <laugh>

Ryan Dunn (26:25):

So we're gonna let you vent for a moment then. So the appendixes of your book, which by the way, is, is a fantastic book. And I'm gonna realistically recommend this for everybody that's listening. No matter what stage of life that you're in, everything happens for a reason is, is a wonderful read. And well full of lot of profundity or profound thoughts and statements. For me, I found that the appendixes like really profound. Yeah. I wish that they taught seminary classes just on, on that kind of stuff. And in fact, if you wanna like make a poster, people would sure, sure, sure. Probably purchase that so that when we're having those moments we know not to say like, well, you know, at least you have plank or

Kate Bowler (27:12):

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a lot of, so this is, this is the part that moves me to threats lately is okay. Is like two things. One is I wrote two popular pieces, like, and the first one, the point of the piece was please don't pour certainty on my pain period. That was it. Like, Hey, the world is hard, please. Don't try to force me to say that everything's happening for a reason. Yeah. And then what did thousands of people do? <Laugh> he wrote me letters to tell me why everything happens for a reason. And I was like, guys, you're killing me here. And then the second popular piece was like, Hey, try not to minimize other people's situations. And just like, don't treat them like problems to be solved. And then of course I immediately get email. It's like, look, <laugh> I looked it up and you're not in the hospital right now. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (28:07):

So were really that bad. Yeah.

Kate Bowler (28:09):

Yeah, exactly. There's so many ways. I think people forget that there presence really matters to someone like me. Like there's a thousand things to do that. Don't require them to have perfect things to say. Like, I, I have found that I'm usually not looking for reasons or explanations or, or the right words. I'm just looking for someone to show up and to let me be a human, whatever that means that day. So I love presence. I am not above receiving gifts of all kinds. And it's so much better if they're not cancer thematically appropriate. Like just like, I, I, I just, I like stupid erasers or like a potted plant. Like people just love it when you remember them and they love it when you find a way to compliment them without seeming like they're talking about you in the past tense mm-hmm <affirmative> and they just want to know that you recognize them where they are, but you're not asking something.

Kate Bowler (29:09):

So all you can just say is like, man, I'm so sorry. It's been such a tough year and then pivot or describe that you wanna be there. Like my, my friend says like, when in doubt, describe you say, you know, I'm, I'm so glad to see you. And I've been worried about being a bad friend. And I don't wanna say the wrong thing. I just want you to know that I love you done like chasm overcome <laugh> to solve the world. So there's, there's so many ways to be present, I think, without being trite and and trying to offer someone an explanation for what's happening to them

Ryan Dunn (29:48):

In the book. There there's a line that I, I can't quite get over. I think it's because it speaks to me so deeply it's this line that where you said, I failed to love what was present and decided to love what was possible instead. And now I must learn to live in ordinary time, but I don't know how, and you're speaking to this idea that you'd always kind of been in love with things that were gonna happen in the future. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, you know, working towards your, your career and, and, and building a family. And, and now you're learning to, well, to be present in, in the day. What have you figured out now about living in ordinary times?

Kate Bowler (30:26):

<Laugh> I'm I am the worst. I think that book is like, I love <laugh> I've just noticed rereading parts. I'm like, I have learned nothing, but I do try to do this one thing where I, I try to notice like a peak moment in the day, because like, cuz it could happen at any time, like this morning my kid kid crawled into bed beside me and he passes me a stuffed animal that he brought me from downstairs. And then there was just such like a sweet little snuggle. And I thought like, what if this is the best part of my day? Like just stay there, you know? And so I try to learn to stretch out the time a little more and not to always be imagining that like the day is something I'm supposed to conquer, but something that will come to me that I need to be much more aware of the, of the moments I'm living in and not just the time passing

Pierce Drake (31:22):

In those moments that you're looking at. What are some moments that you look back and you wish you could have stretched out a little longer?

Kate Bowler (31:28):

I don't know. Do you, do you notice that some people's brains work backwards? Like they're able to, I isolate regrets. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. And some,

Ryan Dunn (31:38):

Some of those are just backwards thinkers.

Kate Bowler (31:40):

Is that what you, I think, yeah. Well I think I only think forward. So my, like I find I'm able to like forgive other people very quickly for instance, because I don't think backwards very much. Oh right. That

Pierce Drake (31:53):

A great quality. Yeah.

Kate Bowler (31:54):

Well, I, I did feel like, I think I was just wired that way. Most of my sins are forward thinking sins. <Laugh> ones in which I, in which I like gobble up time. Cuz I'm living in a future that does not yet exist. Hmm.

Ryan Dunn (32:08):

You've talked about the awareness of lint and we're moving into this season of lint what's what does Dr. Kate plan on giving up for lint?

Kate Bowler (32:17):

Oh man. Ooh. Ah okay. Well as someone who went to Catholic school, the answer is always of course chocolate, chocolate.

Ryan Dunn (32:26):


Kate Bowler (32:27):

Like yeah. Or said great. Exactly. We should do definitely do a thing about the great evils of blend, but like C chocolate, mild gossip about a shared enemy. I, well cuz last year I gave up like video games that were taking up that were just like numbing me out. Which is so dumb. But I needed to like actually learn to sit with discomfort. <Laugh>

Pierce Drake (32:54):

Wait, hold on now. Hold on. We got, we had to pause on this. We had to pause. What's your video games.

Kate Bowler (32:58):

<Laugh> well, that's the question I love oh I love turn based strategy games, you know like civilization and those. Oh yeah.

Ryan Dunn (33:08):

Yes. Got

Kate Bowler (33:09):

It. Because they're so great.

Ryan Dunn (33:10):

I mean I've heard that's cool. Yeah. <laugh>

Kate Bowler (33:15):

That's oh my gosh. Yeah. It's so fun. I couldn't play stuff like age of empires cuz when like things in which like there's no separation of time and all of a sudden you'd be like, do do, do, do like people are attacking

Ryan Dunn (33:25):

You. It's continuous movement.

Kate Bowler (33:28):

Exactly. So I'm trying to, I don't know. I think for lent, I, I don't know what it is, but it would have to have the certain, these certain qualities one, it would have to learn, teach me how to be a little bit more present. It would have to not be something that like diminishes the quality of day. Do you know what I mean? So that I don't actually enjoy other people. I feel like that's always people's like self-flagellation time with like, this is the worst and I'm like, no, my life is already the worst. I need my small comfort. And third I think maybe it would be something that allows me to think more about service. Cuz I think sometimes when you're in the middle of the tragedy, you forget it. It can be really hard to remember the pain of others consistently. So I don't know something that forces me out of my own head and into somebody else's problems, whatever that is. I wanna do that.

Ryan Dunn (34:22):


Pierce Drake (34:23):

Sounds like Instagram's getting deleted.

Ryan Dunn (34:25):

<Laugh> how do you know what other people are doing then Pierce? If you're not, you have

Pierce Drake (34:31):

To be present with them. That's right.

Ryan Dunn (34:33):

You have to be present <laugh> oh <laugh> well you are undertaking something new. You're gonna start a podcast of your own. What can we look forward to in that?

Kate Bowler (34:42):

Ooh, well I've got this podcast called everything happens. Yeah. And then for reason is scratched out because I wanted to talk to other people who have, I think, had to relearn their life after the worst thing happened. And I think I'd like to thicken up the language around being grateful even after tragedies of all kinds, without having to say trite, things like that. God is redeeming the situation, but like we really can learn things in the dark. So what are they? So I'm interviewing people like Nadia bowls Weber about what she learned about being a pastor through alcoholism. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> talking to my friend Ray Barfield who had to learn how to be a pediatric oncologist who lets little kids break his heart talking to let's see Lucy kolany who's the wife of the man who wrote when breath becomes air about his own fears of his passing and what she learned about loving, no matter what. So yeah, I'm talking to some really brave people and I'm, I'm really hoping to learn some things

Pierce Drake (35:58):

On that really quick before we, before we close, I was reading this book yesterday or last few days on gen Z. So this is this generation 1999 and above they're very different than millennials, a lot of things. But one of the staggering statistics from this Barner group study came out that said kinda asked what was the, what did they wanna do by the time they were 30? Right. So what are your priorities by the time you're 30 and only I think it was two out of 10, maybe three outta 10 said they wanna know who they really are.

Kate Bowler (36:29):


Pierce Drake (36:29):

Which, which kind of broke. I mean, not kind of, it broke my heart reading that, that it was that, that that's being put off so far by this next generation. And so one of the things I just heard you talk about in that was, you know, so often we wait till the moment of despair or we wait till the moment of tragedy to find out who we are.

Kate Bowler (36:48):


Pierce Drake (36:50):

Yeah. And so in that, for that person, that's listening, you know, they're in high school right now. They're getting ready to head to college or maybe it could be somebody else what's an encouraging word that you can give them for. They don't have to wait for the tragedy to find out who they are.

Kate Bowler (37:03):

Well, yeah. And like, I think, I always thought that my job at that stage was always to just get somewhere else. Yeah. Like, I mean, I, I look at my like 17 year old self and I think, oh my gosh, she was so afraid that like, she was not gonna be able to piece things together and like get into that school and get into that program and get those grades and like always thinking forward. Yeah. And I'm grateful for all the habits and whatever it takes to get things done. But like the problem is you can learn so much of yourself if you're not trying to skip to the end. I mean the great mystery of anybody, right. Is that they're a discovery and they're not usually the stories that other people have told them. And like we all have to like dig in and figure out who that person is. And it's, it's it's, we are usually a surprise to ourself <laugh>. Yeah. But, but I'm grateful that when I dig, I, when like, when I did take a minute that I had more than I thought I had mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, that like what I had already was enough. Yeah. And maybe I could be a little less panicked about the future if I could just linger a little more in the present.

Ryan Dunn (38:16):

So Kate, thank you so much for joining us on, on this episode the book is available February 7th, everything happens for a reason and other lies I've loved. And when does the, the podcast formerly launch?

Kate Bowler (38:32):

Oh first three episodes are the day of book release, so. Awesome.

Ryan Dunn (38:36):


Kate Bowler (38:36):

Right. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. This was so fun.

Ryan Dunn (38:39):

Thanks for taking this journey back into time with us. You can learn more about compass and check out our other episodes at If you were into this episode, you should definitely follow it up with a listen to our episode about UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence, because it wrestles with questions of life and meaning as well. So glad to have this time with you. My name is Ryan Dunn. Thanks to United Methodist communications for resourcing this podcast. We'll talk to you soon. Peace.