Rector's Ramblings November 28, 2018
I consider myself to be fairly technologically-able. In the days before I had a Mac and my windows-based computers needed regular maintenance and tweaking to keep running smooth, I did all my own work. I never had a virus or other major software glitch. I did have a motherboard die once, which required outside help. When a previous laptop screen died though, I was able to repair it myself. I even do my own networking. I like that devices have become more and more “plug and play”. It’s fairly easy to get things set up and connected most of the time.
Which is probably why I was terribly frustrated this week to struggle mightily with the innocuous-looking Google Home mini. It’s one of those smart speaker devices that allows you to simply talk to the speaker and get it to do things for you. It came as a free bonus gift with a recent purchase. I’ve had an Amazon Alexa at home for a year now. She was easy to set up and although we don’t ask her to do much heavy lifting, she does control the living room lights. Each light can be controlled separately (named for the closest artwork or landmark furniture near each lamp) or all at once. I love it.
I was excited to have the Google equivalent in my office, since our whole platform is based on Google. It would be nice to simply ask, “what’s next on my calendar,” for example. (Because looking at my computer or phone is so much work to get the same information, right?) But the devices are fun to have around. They can find answers to questions, tell jokes, and even order food. We use Alexa most often to control lights and listen to music. That’s probably the direction my office Google Home would take.
It seems, however, that it is not to be. After two attempts to set up the device, using the app that accompanies it for my iPhone, it simply doesn’t want to work. It wants to get hung up during setup and refuses to do all the things it says it will do upon initial setup. It’s not nearly as intuitive as my Apple and Amazon devices, and so I haven’t gotten it to work with a relatively minimal amount of effort – the standard I am used to these days when it comes to technology. If it isn’t easy, it isn’t good. Isn’t that how so many things feel these days?
The truth is, I haven’t devoted enough time to the problem yet to even identify if the problem is hardware, software, or connectivity. It could even be a combination of those three! Something isn’t right, and that’s causing a breakdown in the whole notion of what this product is supposed to achieve and perform. Because it hasn’t been seamless, I’m tempted to give up on it already and just re-gift it to someone else who might care enough to baby the thing into working order. I hate recognizing that tendency, but there it is.
When I was younger, I think I had a similar tendency. I was quick to do the things I liked or the things that came naturally, but I tended to avoid the things that required serious attention and commitment. I didn’t stay in that place; I have learned to love a challenge and how to work through them. I even enjoy it, for the most part, to this day. There was a time, however, when I simply gave up on the hard stuff. I didn’t want to put in the effort. This principle applies to my spiritual life, too.
I’ve always had a sense that spiritual life “should” be easy. Like the engaged couples that sometimes balk at conversations about how relationships take work, I placed a value judgment on the notion that I would have to work at having faith. I mistakenly thought of work as a four-letter word. Since then, and what I now share with young couples, I have learned that the work that so many of our relationships require is not the kind that involves trudging through a day and punching a clock, but rather work in the sense of devoting intention and attention to things and people that are important. A spiritual life, a relationship with God, will not just take care of itself. We have to put something into it to get something out of it.
Most often, when there seems to be a connection issue between us and God, it is a combination of things. It’s not necessarily a problem with hardware (us), nor is it likely that we can blame it on software (method of prayer). We might mistakenly blame the service we attend, the devotional we’re reading, the preacher (what?!?!), or lack of confirmation of our faith (show me a sign, God!). All of those can be factors, but they’re not likely to be the scapegoats. It’s a host of things that can be just off of where they need to be, all of which add up to a sense that our faith isn’t producing much and we might be tempted to give up on it.
What our spiritual life calls for is a relentless faithful hope that God is, in fact, with us and listening to us. It requires an ongoing assurance within us that God’s intentions are good and holy, and that God wants good things for us. It is a repetitive mantra that reminds us that God’s purposes are working for a big picture resolution to so many of the world’s problems, including our little problems. We just have to keep believing that God is speaking to us and to the world, and that God is still acting to bring creation into the fullness it has always been intended to have.
I haven’t given up on connecting with God over the years, although I have had my fair share of problems. As annoying as the Google Home has been, it at least indicates that it hears me when I call out its name. God’s much quieter and more frustrating in that regard. I have had to remind myself that easy does not equal good or important. In fact, some of the things we give the most attention, and approach with noble intention, are the most important parts of life. Don’t give up too easily. In that regard, I’ll give Google Home another shot. Maybe Alexa’s just messing with things because she’s jealous.
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious
favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our
works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify
thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting
life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.