Imagine for a moment you are enjoying your favourite coffee with friends at a popular café. Your conversation has drifted to the topic of music. One of your friends begins a story about a jazz musician, but he can’t remember the woman’s name. He hems and haws and explains to the group that the name is stuck on the tip of his tongue. You say, “Let’s Google it!” The musician’s identity (Billie Holiday) is magically retrieved, and within minutes the story continues and the temporary awkwardness of a memory malfunction melts away.
Thanks to the Internet, we have a tool at our fingertips that seemingly has the answers to all the questions that pop up in our daily lives. Now I can hot-wire my car, stuff a turkey, misdiagnose myself with untreatable diseases and save my marriage, all at the click of a mouse. On the surface it appears that we can rely on the Internet to solve any problem, big or small. But who is giving the advice? With the constant flow of information and the barrage of choices we’re exposed to today, it’s becoming ever more important to check our sources and read the fine print.
Let’s suppose the company you have worked for over the past 20 years has just collapsed, and you have a spouse and three kids to support. You turn to the Internet for advice because that’s where all the solutions to our problems are bundled up in a neat and tidy package. Soon you discover an online company willing to pay you $1,000 a week. What do you do? Do you attempt a quick fix? Or do you dig deep and pray for the courage and conviction needed to reinvent your career?
God told Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Since the arrival of the digital age, we as a society have become more impatient, demanding information and solutions to our problems right here, right now. We need to slow down and look within before we take action. When we peel back that superficial first layer of ourselves, what are the tough questions for which we really want answers? Can we find the answers through Google, or are the answers “unsearchable”?
In 2003, I was offered a teaching job in a remote, predominantly Cree community in Northern Ontario. I accepted the job without hesitation because I had always been fascinated with Aboriginal culture. I read many articles on culture shock before arriving at my new home. After about a month, however, I realized no amount of reading could have prepared me for this experience. Isolated and alone, I struggled to find my place within a community of people who had become accustomed to strangers coming to their territory and then leaving. There was no easy Google search that would help me feel accepted.
In that moment, I remembered a verse from the United Church’s New Creed: “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.” Google could tell me about culture shock and how to set up my cable TV, but it could not give me the inner strength to persevere through a challenging time. Only God can answer the questions that truly matter — “great and unsearchable things.”
Kelly Salter is a freelance writer and educator who lives in Moosonee, Ont.
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