Excitement was building in our household for an upcoming trip to the Colorado mountains. Restaurants, spas, hiking trails, and google earth have all been thoroughly searched several times. My personal travel guide husband loves the quest of finding hiking trails using various apps and computer programs. I have no use for maps--trail wise or otherwise. I try to be pleasant and patient about it as my traveling companion takes great joy in inviting me to view all sorts of geographic information on our destination. I love to research the history, culture, and things to do of our would-be destinations, but I have little interest in maps and directions.
All of that planning did get me thinking about our instant, app world. I realize that there are now countless apps for various kinds of mental health: apps for mindfulness, apps for meditation, apps for prayer, apps for inspirational passages from scriptures. We might understandably wish for more.
How great would it be if we had an app that kept domestic terrorists from massacring innocents? Oh, that I could have an app that could prevent school shootings, church shootings, and gun violence of all kinds. How wonderful would it be if I had an app that could help fractured families forgive and reconcile in love? What a gift it would be if we had an app that kept people from losing all they own to tornadoes and floods? What if we had an app that could get boring, difficult work done for us like a Roomba vacuum but for all undesirable work? Just think of an app that would make those people around us have better behavior and a deeper compassion for each other and the planet? I truly want an app to stop the dangerous and divisive leadership in our country. This list could go on for a good long while.
The truth is there is no app for those things and many other things that worry me. Since I cannot press a button and have an award-winning app fix all the world’s difficulties, or even my own, what must I do?
Choosing to Live and Breathe and Trust
I think of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. After he has been rescued, the scene shows him talking to a colleague about how he survived. He says, And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide may bring?
II Corinthians tells us to walk by faith not by sight. It tells us to be of good courage and look not to transient things but to unseen things that are eternal. That is all well and good, but the fact of the matter is, to live on this earthly plane, we must deal with the realities that are present. At times our faith is a call to action. As citizens of the earth and children of God, we are called to care for the earth and one another. We need to keep breathing and believing that the sun will come up and trust that the tide will bring in just what is needed, right when it is needed. Yes, the tide will and does come in and I am almost always surprised by God's good provision and grace.
Open and relational (process) theologians say that these provisions from God, always adjusted and adapted to the given situations of the world and our lives, take the form of fresh possibilities which are inherently promising and life-giving, but which we ourselves must actualize. God's providence is not one-sided. It is relational, needing our own cooperation for the will of God to be done "on earth as it is in heaven." We need God and God needs us.
Even in the face of powerful forces
I love the ocean---its power and beauty provide an energy that is incredible and life-giving. But I have to admit, its power frightens me a little. I almost drowned one time from a vicious undertow in the ocean off the coast of West Africa. The waves seemed tame at first, but as we ventured out, we realized the force was much stronger than we were and only some smart thinking and strength by husband saved my life. Life is like that. Faith teaches me to wait for the sun to rise and the tide to come in, all the while being willing to take a few risks and, at times, bold action. Choose to live. Choose to breathe. Choose to make a difference where ever I am.
Maybe if I had chosen computer science degree instead of journalism and child development, I could be smart enough to create all the apps I want/need. However, I doubt that even the smartest app developer in the world can make all the troubles and imperfections of our lives and the world go away. And besides, it is in the shadows and difficult passages that amazing growth and love can and does happen.
I have not downloaded an app for hiking in mountains or anywhere else. I will trust the maps and directional intelligence of my fellow travelers to guide my steps. They have all the right apps and aptitude to keep us on the right track. I will pack all the hiking gear I need and simply follow.
Yes, I will step out and follow. I might stumble. I might get short of breath in the high altitude, but I will be trekking along anyway looking for the sun to rise and the tide to come in. Along the way I will soak in the healing hot mineral waters of the mountains and let the love of God and the gifts of nature find me.
There is no app for that, but it is readily accessible and does not even cost $.99 cents. It is a free download. It's called faith. We need not generate it all by ourselves. We can respond to the palpable presence of the rising sun with gratitude, and to the companionship of friends with appreciation. We can respond with memories of when we ourselves have been creatively transformed, in good ways, through the provision of suprising possibilities from the Holy One. We might even respond to apps when helpful. But still the faith emerges from more than these influences, almost like a gift from the mystery of life itself. And it is indeed gracious, and free.