By Scott Hughes

Under a Naked Sky

“If Google responds to my search in 0.17 seconds, why does God seem to take so glacially long?...I say my prayers, I ask God for things, and I wait and I wait. But with Google returning millions of answers to my queries in the blink of an eye, prayer seems so slow.”1

Even technology has had an impacted on spiritual formation by conditioning us, further, to distraction. Our reliance on technology will not bring us quick answers to life’s big questions: “Who am I? What is my purpose?” Google cannot answer those.

Though Google has answers to many questions, most answers we find on the Internet are fact based. One of the reasons identity creation can be so confusing and difficult is that the answers to life’s big questions must be explored overtime and in various relationships. To truly be personal, meaningful, and substantial, identity must be sought after, wrestled over, and negotiated. More than an accumulation of data or demographic information, religious identity cannot just be conferred. It is not an achievement we obtain. And it certainly will not happen at the speed of Google.

Our religious identity does not have to achieved solo, randomly, or haphazardly as answers might be given to us through Google’s algorithms. I can pose all kinds of random questions to Google (or Bing or Siri, if you must) and get literally thousands of answers. Some results might be helpful. Most hardly qualify as wisdom. Attempting to negotiate through all the chaotic and competing answers about identity alone is irresponsible and imprudent. We need help. Technology can give us some answers and a quality of life that many of us benefit from, but it will never be able to answer our deeper questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? Should I eat Lean Cuisine or donuts for dinner?” Okay, not that last one. But I can’t help it. Sorry, I got distracted.

Reflections for Individuals:

  • The best parts of our Christian tradition have afforded us wisdom. Where do you look for wisdom? Who are some of your favorite authors who have helped bring clarity to your identity and purpose?
  • What are some stories in Scripture that guide us in identity formation?

Questions for Church Leaders:

  • As church leaders, how do we make time for those with more life experience to pass on their wisdom? How can we encourage adults to be intentional about mentoring others — especially during life’s transitions: young adults, newly married, college and career, people retiring, people going through a job transition, people going through a divorce, people experiencing grief, etc.?
  • If someone were to visit your church, would they conclude it is a safe space for questioning and exploration?

Optional Practices:

How might practices like Lectio Divina provide space for encountering Scripture in ways that are more about being present before God than just getting the right answers?

1 Thomas, Adam. Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World. (Abingdon Press, 2011), 85-86.