I recently found myself in a place of spiritual disconnection. (Yes, it happens to ministers, too.) Sadly, I got wrapped up in running my world and conveniently skipped chatting with God about how God wanted that world run.
In corporate America, if you went rogue and spent weeks planning a project without checking in with your boss, you’d probably be fired.
Thank goodness, unlike Citibank, God is merciful.
To remedy this disconnect, I decided to spend a little quiet time at our beautiful lake cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. Remote, isolated, and wild, this place is like Eden, but with a lot of Scandinavian Lutherans.
The first morning on the dock was spectacular — the sun was just coming up, the mist rising off the lake. And in this pristine setting, what did I do? I pulled out my iPhone. Why? Because of course, the best way to connect with God is to find a good God app.
Within seconds, I was in the dungeon of the App Store, oblivious to everything around me. As I perused the religious wallpaper, games, and virtual meditation sites, I suddenly stopped, having the distinct feeling that someone or something was watching me. A huge shadow floated over, darkening the iPhone screen. I looked up to see a bald eagle silently gliding about 10 feet above me, heading out across the lake.
I couldn’t help but think of the words from Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” How ridiculous was it that I was sitting in the midst of Eden, surrounded by the very face of God, searching for the holy in a tiny electronic box?
God is not in our cell phones, our iPads, our Instagram or Pinterest accounts. Sure, they’re great tools for sharing news of inspiration or healing, but if we find our spiritual tanks empty, the best way to refill them is to walk outside and look around. Nature is God’s greatest work.
Consider the work of other great artists. You get a peek into the mind of Picasso when you look at his paintings; you listen to St. Matthew’s Passion and get a glimmer of the heart of Bach; you taste a Shake Shack burger and find out a bit about restauranteur Danny Myer. In the same way, when we stop and notice the beauty of creation — God’s finest artistic work — we see a spark of the holy.
After the eagle soared overhead, I turned off the iPhone and began to look around, noticing some of the smallest, most intimate things in my vicinity, such as a spider web that was gleaming in the sun. The dew had caught in its intricate pattern, revealing a beautiful, sophisticated work of art.
The shimmer of the web made me ask myself this question: Who taught the spider to do that? No architectural school in the galaxy could impart that kind of talent. I immediately thought of the line from the book of Job when God gets annoyed at Job’s doubts, and says: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job 38:4. Every day we must take time to acknowledge nature, the evidence of a higher power in our midst, for it is a poignant reminder that we are not in charge — not even close.
It’s easy to allow ourselves to become spiritually disconnected in this loud, demanding, secular world. But the fix is easier than you think. As the old saying goes, “If God feels far away, guess who moved?” God is always there waiting. We just have to pry ourselves from the apps, iPhones, and computer screens and step outside to admire the work of the greatest artist of all.
A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. She is the author of two books, Laugh Your Way to Grace and Preaching Punchlines, as well as a nationally known speaker on the healing power of humor. Contact her through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or her website, www.SusanSparks.com.