When Google lets you down
I rely on Google maps. I’m not a GPS user, but a quick look at Google maps, or maybe some printed Google directions almost always gets me just where I need to be. Almost always. Twice in the last two weeks, however, Google maps have failed me. The first time they put a road where no road exists and that was the road they sent me down to get where I was going. The second time was hardly Google’s fault. It was one of those wonderful Bucks County things where the road numbers change from township to borough to township all in the same zip code and there are two #40s on the same road – no north or south, just the same road – within about a mile and half. Google had a 50% chance of being right. And a 50% chance of being wrong.
A little late for a pastoral call and a little bit later for a wedding rehearsal. I even had to bruise my male ego and ask directions one of the two times. But I guess we all survived.
Of course, Google maps are amazing. They’ve got to be at least 98% accurate. I can google an address not only anywhere in the U.S. and be pretty sure that the directions are good, I know that I can google an alley in Favela da Ventosa, Jardim America, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and get the 28 turns I will need to make along the 444 kilometers to Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
But Google is not infallible. I was ten minutes late to my pastoral call and a half an hour late to the wedding rehearsal. Google let me down. It sent me to a street that does not exist and south when I should have gone north.
Many of you have your own Google Map stories and they may involve a whole lot more than being a few minutes late. (Besides, how many times have I waited for late brides?)
In our Presbyterian tradition we use the word infallible only for things of God, and particularly for God’s Word. We say that the Bible is infallible truth as “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life…” (Westminster Confession, Chapter 1).
I love that statement. It means that we Presbyterians don’t get embroiled in endless arguments about whether there were exactly 5,000 men (plus the women and children) fed by the miraculous multiplication of five fish and two loaves. Not 4,999 or 5,001, but 5,000. It means that we know that the Bible, the whole Bible, will not send down ways that don’t exist in the real world, or morally or ethically south when we would have been better off going north. The Bible will never let us down. I believe that and I have never experienced anything but that. Not once.
Google Maps can show me turn by turn the route from the favela to Copacabana Beach. At least I’m 98% sure it can. But it cannot take me to see the beauty of those white sand beaches or to feel a gentle breeze off the Atlantic. It has no way to let me experience the hopelessness and despair of the favela – or the joy the Gospel has brought into many of its homes. It just calculates distances and marks intersections.
The Bible cannot give me turn by turn directions from my very fallible ways to the life of holiness to which God is calling me. But it can give me a foretaste of that life. Through the Word I catch a glimpse of heaven’s gates and feel the gentle breeze of eternity. I taste the sweetness of justice and am healed by the cool balm of God’s mercy. The Word gives me a vision of where I’m headed and, like a good compass, the bearing on which I am to head. It has never let me down.
If I’m late for the meeting, blame Google. If I miss God’s purposes, blame me. I was too busy looking at my map to listen to God’s Word.
When Google lets you down