Saturday, February 22, 2014

That God is better than Wifi

Leanne Payne, in a book called "Believing Prayer", writes that modern people suffer a severe split between our heads and our hearts, without even knowing it. Our culture trains us to be separated from our own hearts. In the seventeenth century, Rene Descartes attempted to ground all human experience in his own confidence in reason, and his attitude has stuck. After all, they didn't call it 'enlightenment' for nothing.

She goes on to say that many of us are anxious to accept head knowledge about God to feel that we have a handle on Him, while we don't understand the powerful ways we have at our disposal to actually 'know' Him. These ways emphasise such things as intuitive knowledge, gut feelings, imagination and those things which can't easily be explained in words. Just the sort of thing that traditionally gets shunned by many of our universities' most highly esteemed intellectuals.

As a result of growing up in this climate, many Christians find it hard to believe in one of the basic tenets for believers, which is the presence of Christ within us. I can certainly relate to that. I always felt that Jesus was foisting a wishy-washy substitute on us when He said, "It's better that I go, so that the Helper may come and live within you."

"Huh, I'd far rather have you," I would have told Him. "Which would you prefer? A real flesh and blood friend and hero who gives you definite counsel you can hear and facial expressions you can see? Or the chance to blunder along, trying to guess where the vague impressions inside your mind are coming from? It's a no-brainer. How could I possibly think the second option would be better?"

It seems I was stuck in post-Enlightenment thought. When we deny and downplay our insubstantial impressions, of course they're going to get blocked. Perhaps the carnal mind and those things which can be measured with our five senses have been elevated to where they shouldn't be, which is a supreme position. Maybe we need frequent reminders that the spiritual world is, in fact, more 'real' than the physical world. Our trusted physical/sensual world has it's beginning in the unseen spiritual world, after all. Our persistence in putting feelings first results in feelings of loneliness and futility. We assume that if sensory experiences are not forthcoming, then God isn't with us.

For years and years, I never really understood what carnal thinking meant. I assumed it just meant that people are shallow thinkers, but it really means that we tend to live our lives based merely on the evidence of our five senses. Perhaps the automatic minds of many in the twenty-first century are carnal. Carnal people get browned off with prayer, because we assume that nothing is happening and we're just talking into thin air. Or we start, but then give up too quickly, for this same reason. 

I've certainly been there. Sometimes I'd stop praying altogether for long stretches of time, reasoning that I'm doing a foolish thing. As I can't feel anybody here, it feels as if I'm a grown woman, talking to a pretend friend. Ridiculous. I won't pray until I have some tangible evidence that I'm not wasting my time. Well, Leanne Payne's book suggests that we frequently need to remind ourselves that He really is there, closer than our next breath, faithfully listening to us, whether or not we 'sense' Him.

I bought that book last year, during a holiday to Victoria with my husband and our two youngest children. With these ideas in my mind, we were driving around Ballarat at night wanting to get onto the internet. We had Emma's laptop and my new Ipad mini with us in the car. (It's way different to holidays in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid with my parents). So we were looking for Wifi hot spots. We spotted a KFC outlet, parked on the street in front of it, and managed to log on. Andrew paid the rent while Emma checked Facebook. Then, as we were driving, she was able to tell us where other hot spots were, for future reference. 'That cafe over there has Wifi, and so does that Taco Bill and that Maccas.'

Well, it's quite amazing, when you think about it. All I could see on the street were shops, restaurants and old gold rush era buildings. You can't detect Wifi signals with your physical senses, but they are there nonetheless. At our last house, a cheeky neighbour kept managing to latch onto our internet. Our big boys, Logan and Jarrad, kept trying to block him, but his name would keep popping up, sucking the internet time we'd paid for. And at our current address, the kids quickly realised that we are easily able to tap into our neighbour's internet if we ever wanted to. You can't see or sense internet or Wifi signals, but boy, do we benefit from them! In those moments when I'm feeling that God might not be real anyway, it helps to think of Him a bit like Wifi, but far better, because we don't have to drive around a city trying to find spots where He is. He's always present everywhere and we can always connect freely and easily.

So those times I've stopped praying because it feels ridiculous may be even more ridiculous. It's like somebody walking into KFC where they've seen there's free internet and choosing not to turn on their phone, tablet or computer, because they can't see or sense the Wifi signals.


  1. I really enjoyed your post, Paula. Lots to ponder. In recent times I've been challenged to NOT be a carnal Christian ~ living as if only the flesh determined how we fell and should act. This post fits in well with that thinking.

    Dotti :)

  2. Hi Dotti,
    Thanks. I've been thinking about it in recent time myself. I think it's well worth remembering that what we see is really only the tip of the iceberg.

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  4. Thanks for the prompt. I have an iPad mini and have yet to make the most of the hotspots. I tend to use up my plan's offer rather than make the most of what's out there.

  5. Hi Ruth,
    Yes, you might want to take advantage of them when you go overseas. Wifi hotspots are popping up everywhere. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Hi Ruth,
    Yes, you might want to take advantage of them when you go overseas. Wifi hotspots are popping up everywhere. Thanks for stopping by.

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