by Christine Sine
An old story tells of a Godly monk who asked his students: “How do you know when the darkness is dispelled and the dawn has come?” Is it when yo can tell the difference between a dog and a goat?” they asked. “No” said the wise old man, “we know the dawn has come when we can see in the countenance of another the face of Christ.
In case you haven’t noticed I love gardens and I love nature. I particularly love to watch the sun rise over the mountains and the play of light across the landscape and on the dew drops on flowers and leaves. Not surprisingly, it is easy for me to interpret the need to see life differently as a call to retreat into the natural world. Even my prayers can focus on nature and my desire to praise the God of all creation. Yet like most of us, I live in a city. My life is ruled by technology and the light of screens.
I am a technophile. I cannot imagine a world without technology, or cars, or electric light. Nature is a great place to retreat into for an hour, a day or even a week, but it is not the place want to live most of my days. And though I dream of those far away tree covered slopes and tranquil rivers, I would soon hanker after the city and the conveniences of technology again.
Technology has transformed our world, our cultures and our language. It has also transformed our faith but how much has it transformed how and what we pray for?
How do I read life differently in this environment? Perhaps as the wise monk suggested to his students even in the midst of technology I need to look for the light of Christ reflected in the faces of those around me. I need to look for it in the images I see on my screen of violence and abuse and injustice…. and I need to incorporate those sights in my prayers and my spiritual practices.
I am not talking about using the latest Bible app or online devotional here. I am talking about a prayer life that is fully integrated with the world of technology in which most of us find ourselves.
Where Do We See The Light?
What if we read life through the lens of technology? Does it distract us from prayer or have we learned how to incorporate it in our prayers? Is it part of what we expect God to anoint and prosper or is it a disconnected, unrelated part of life? Where do we see the light of Christ and what if we crafted prayers that reflect that?
Where do we see the light of Christ in our use of technology? Does it shine in the images we see on our phones and computer screens? Do they flicker past too quickly for us to notice? Does it shine in the stories we read of violence and abuse or are we sated with a voyeurism that brings darkness rather than light? Does it shine in our addiction to too much social media and email?
I think that these are the type of questions we need to be asking.
So let’s take a moment to reflect.
Where do you see Jesus in the face of those you encounter – on facebook and instagram, snapchat and twitter? Where do you see him in the stories of mass shootings, domestic violence and abuse? Or in the atrocities done to children in detention camps and the injustices done to their parents at the border? Are you addicted to technology because of the sense of significance it gives you and your values?
Technology both connects and disconnects us. It helps us to both love and hate, to proclaim our rightness and everybody else’s wrongness; to call down fire to consume those who don’t think like us while expecting a double portion of God’s light and life and love for those who agree with us.
To read life differently, we need to listen to all the technology in our lives and discern where the light of Christ shines through.
So let’s get started.
How much time do you spend in front of a screen at home and at work? How often do you access social media and email?
Is it easy for you to handle these or does it make you stressed out and drained?
How much violence do you watch? Do you find yourself ratcheting up your consumption and seeking more stimulation than you used to?
Does this make you relaxed or energized, peaceful or overstimulated?
How does your screen time impact your prayer life and scripture study? What about your service to others and concern for creation and your neighborhood?
When you go to bed at night do you feel enriched and at peace with yourself and with God? How do you express this?
Scripture tells us that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22) Do the millions of pixels of light dancing across your screens and illuminating your face enlighten your soul or dim your spirit?
O God I thank you for technology,
Making connections to family and friends around the world.
I thank you for FaceTime that allows me to see
Expressions on faces of those I care for.
I thank you for Instagram and Facebook
That keep me informed of those to pray for,.
For those to celebrate and those to weep with.
I thank you for Google that opens up the world to me,
Unveiling the latest challenges that grip our world –
Migrants at the border,
Persecution in China,
Environmental crises across the globe.
O God I thank you for technology,
May it enlighten and strengthen me,
And not overwhelm me with its onslaught.
Bless me with its joys.
Protect me from its disruptions.
Bless me with its goodness.
Protect me from its corruptions.
Bless me with its guidance.
Protect me from its addictions.
In its screen let me see your face.
In its light let me see your light.
In its life let me see your life.