I had a pretty darn frustrating week last week. Actually, it’s been one of those character-building months, but I learnt something pretty amazing in the last seven days. I like to think psychologists are on to something when they tell us our brain is wired like a computer. And so, furthering this analogy, I also like to think that when I learn something, it’s like opening up a whole new area of wiring. Or maybe adding a new application – I don’t know, I’m not the best with metaphors, but you get the idea.
Monday was a normal day, if such a thing is possible. I remember exactly where I was – in my comfy black writing armchair (or more likely on the floor below it) – praying to know about rest. That prayer could perhaps have been my downfall. I was happily writing thoughts out on my blog, meditating on the busy-ness of our lives, and how we don’t really understand the idea of ceasing to work.
And then, something happened. This something I anguished over for seven full days.
The bottom of my laptop was wobbling. It was making an annoying sound. And I turned the laptop over, pulling the cover off. Inside was the battery, and some other stuff I know nothing about. (My response was similar to the day we disected rats in Biology, “hmm… yeah… as expected, there’s *stuff*…. in there…”). But here was a little clear tab, and with all of the magnetic attraction of the “Drink me” label in Alice of Wonderland, I pulled… ….
It happened to be attached to the battery – and the computer froze. And no matter how much I pled with it to restart, no matter how much I jiggled the battery or the cover, no matter how often I walked out of the room to ‘give it some space’, I had to return and accept that my computer had died.
So, a train ride and long walk down Chatswood to the Apple store ensued. It’s amazing how much I can slow my life down in order to deal with a computer problem – and maybe this is another lesson I should also take away from the week’s episode.
No matter how much I pled with the “Genius” to fix my machine (I’m tempted to get one of those badges and wear it around the house), I was unable to get a positive outcome. Apparently, the hard-disk had failed, and it would be three to four days before one came into stock. Then they would attempt to get the files I had been working on back… So, he said “I’ll see you Friday or next week”!
I relayed our conversation back in my mind on the defeated train ride home – my “Genius” seemed to think that the ‘Drink-me-brain-freeze-moment’ had not caused the computer problem, but I had a sneaking suspicion that he was just being nice. Sitting there with my empty laptop bag, I wondered if my “Phoebe” computer would ever come home. Or if the songs I’d left on the desktop would ever be recoverable! And, as the week continued, there were more sickening realisations. My address-book had not been backed up. So every sms was answered with a polite “you too!” eliminating any specifics that would indicate I had NO idea who was talking to me. My diary was gone, so I was completely unable to work out what I was doing – each day became a game of Cluedo, hoping each conversation would drop another hint. And I lamented, cursed, prayed… and then repeated this cycle.
I finally was called into the store – but they could give no specifics over the phone. So today driving in, I had an epiphany. An epiphany as defined by dictionary.com as “… a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience”.
In many parts of Africa, pastors have come to the realisation that there is, as Paul Hiebert has termed it an “excluded middle” for those who convert to Christianity. While in Australia we separate the spiritual and the mechanical issues of life, in African life, all issues are spiritual issues. And there are a range of experts. An African would head to the appropriate person to deal with the appropriate issue. Kind of efficient… for example – the larger, existential issues of life are dealt with by priests. If you woke up with a burning desire to answer why you were here, how the world was created, or why people were good/bad, then you would head to the temple. If however, your tribe was beset upon by a natural phenomenon – a flood occurred, or your crops were failing, then of what use would it be to ask the priest? He could only tell you that the world was created, that order would return and that your place inside the whole was still secure. No, the appropriate course of action would be to visit a spiritual man, to find out what specific act of yours had angered the gods. And if your wife had a stomach ache, you would not bother the spiritual man, as it was not the gods – it may be a demon or it may be your wife’s spirit ailing, so you would head down to the local healer. If this problem persisted and you began to think that she was pregnant as well, you would head off to the shaman to escalate the issue. The shaman would probably also suggest you checked out the issue with the diviner as a second opinion, to cover your bases.
When Africans converted to Christianity, the structures for dealing with life were left incomplete. While the church pastor served to meet the existential issues of life and could explain the origin of the world, and the purpose of humanity, the entire “middle” sector of life, and its’ worries, questions and agonies were now ignored. So African villagers sought to bring their issues to the church, and to the pastor, only to be told that they were too trivial for the pastor to deal with, or even worse, the pastor had no answers and did not even try to reassure their fears. And so, in the middle of the night the shaman secretly re-opened his doors for those Christians who didn’t have answers to the “excluded middle” of Christianity. And so now, Missiology is struggling to engage with these questions.
So here’s my “aha” moment. See, we can read this information about Africa and the state of the shaman meeting the needs of the Christians late at night, but actually never engage with the fact that WE DON’T THINK GOD IS CAPABLE OF BEING GOD OVER COMPUTERS. Because we can see that a wire plugs into that socket, we think that this puts a computer outside the realm of God’s domain, and into the realm of science and technology. And this was my lesson today. For the first time, I challenged that thinking in my mind, that God was unable to be God over mechanical objects. And it opened a whole new “application”… imagine if God was able to govern those things that I have considered simply scientific….so I prayed;
God, I’m in this car headed to the Apple store to talk to a Genius who I thought held the ultimate power over my computer. But I realise that You actually are God over computers. And probably other appliances too, but that’s not important right now. I pray that you would fix my computer. And I completely trust and believe that the computer is in YOUR hands right now, not in the Genius’ hands. He’s only a conduit for your ability to restore things. So let your will be done.
So there you go. And it did get fixed – yay…. but that’s not the point for today. The point is that I learnt that I have areas of my life I put down to ‘Science’ and ‘Technology’ – as if they were an equal gods, standing next to God. And yet, He is unparalleled…
So, I bet if you’re reading this, you’re at a computer. Here’s my question: Do you believe that God is God over everything? Or just the things you can’t explain?…