Despatches from the front line of the Church
There have been a number of technological developments of late that seem to ramp up the need to stockpile guns, tinned goods and medical supplies.
A few days ago, scientists revealed that they had grown a tiny ‘human brain’, which is in an impressively different league to the cress I grew at school when I was 9. This followed a robot who had been programmed to ‘fall in love’ with a female researcher – and promptly went crazy, took her hostage with his 100kg hydraulic arms, and had to be switched off. And as if these events weren’t eyebrow-raising enough, researchers in the US have apparently shown how some models of car can be electronically hijacked via a laptop computer while the owner is still at the wheel.
Back when Mars bars were 25p, and home computers were either the size of a fridge or made horrible screechy noises for half an hour before you could play a game, technological developments were more reassuring and prosaic. Cassettes turned into CDs. Lawnmowers became slightly more efficient. Betamax became VHS which became DVDs (which were just enough like CDs to endearingly confuse the elderly).
What the smiley-face developments of the 1980s and 90s have in common with the scary-face developments of the 2000s and 10s is that they’re all sophisticated variations on ‘Man get tools. Man use tools. Man do stuff.’ We’ve come a long way since our ape ancestor realised he could significantly streamline food acquisition by letting another ape do all the work, and then smack him round the head with a discarded femur (or since Cain first worked the soil, depending on your point of view – delete as appropriate).
Part of the reason we’ve come such a long way is that we’ve become really good at communicating with each other. We can communicate in all sorts of dimensions, ways and styles. We can use any one of more than 6000 languages, and when we do more than 50% of our communication will be subconsciously with our body-language alone. We can even communicate with people who are not in the same place and time as us – we can use writing, like signs and books. We’re so geared towards successful inter-human communication, that we interact with animals (ANIMALS, for goodness’ sake) as if we’re interacting with humans. We give them names, try to get them to recognise our words and make assumptions about what their facial expressions mean.
I am not so good at communicating with God.
I’m not alone in this, and I suspect the reason we struggle with it is because unlike the other brain-growing, robot-building, car-hijacking scientists, God isn’t human. Our sophisticated human communication methods are all about visual and aural perception and it’s hard to communicate with someone (or something) that doesn’t fit this framework (this is one of the reasons, by the way, that Jesus was such a wonderful gift – a human face to God, one that finally we could start to use to understand God more).
It’s hard work to pray, and not receive an immediate conversational response, as if you’re chatting to your gran in the car. It’s hard to try to divine what God wants and thinks when He doesn’t just drop you an e-mail with a Powerpoint attachment. It can even become a matter of belief or disbelief – “If God is real and loves me, why doesn’t He just appear to me now, then?” You mean, so that you can project your human communication framework onto Him, rather than adapting to communicating with Something Else?
This article is not going to spell out how to communicate with God – that’s something that varies from person to person. What we want to do here is recognise is that it’s okay that God doesn’t communicate with us ‘normally’. It’s not a fault in the system that He doesn’t communicate with us in the ways we’re used to; the easiest, clearest and most frequent ways. Your faith does not have to control-alt-delete because you have to work to ‘hear’ God.
It should be expected. He’s not like us. He’s different. He’s Something Else, something beyond. Something bigger. Much bigger.
So don’t give up hope, just roll with it. It may be that God isn’t communicating for now (see a recent post on this), or it may be that you need to be flexible, adapting to new ways of ‘speaking’, ‘listening’ and ‘seeing’ to communicate with Someone new. Adaptability, by the way, is another powerful human trait.