Note from Kat: This post is from my good friend and monthly contributor Liz Griffin.
Let’s be honest. Google is pretty great. It can give you directions, show you photos and sort through billions of facts to deliver the information you want. Its so awesome it is both a noun and a verb. There are nearly 6,000,000 Google searches a day. One of the most common questions people type into Google is “What is the meaning of life?”.
I’m not nearly as smart as Google, but I imagine what people are really asking is “What is the meaning of my life?”. When you type it into Google all kinds of quotes, articles and opinion websites pop up. Data to sort through for days. And yet, that doesn’t really answer the question people are asking.
Rewind a few weeks…
I recently returned from a trip to Burundi. This small country is nestled in the heart of Africa between Rwanda and Tanzania. Currently, my family is in the middle of adopting two children from there. One evening when I was organizing all the things I had to bring with me, I watched a film called Closure. (If you are interested in adoption, I highly recommend it.)
It is a documentary about a trans-racial adoptee, Angela, who searches for her birth family. As someone who is adopting I was struck by her search for identity. Her adoptive family was incredible and joined her in the hunt for her biological family. There was one scene that stood out in particular.
Angela was using Google to hunt down information on her family. And Google was giving her answers, but she was looking for more than facts – she was looking for people.
Fast forward to last week in Africa…
I was sitting in a shelter surrounded by orphans. A little girl who was 5 shared my seat as I listened to the nun across the table talk about the kids who were in their care. She was sharing the facts and stats of all the children there – how old they were, their medical history, how many are available for adoption…
The children in the room were not very interested in the stats and data on their lives. They were focused on this one particular nun who tickled them, looked them straight in the eye and snuggled them while whispering something in their ears. I don’t know what she was whispering, but it sure made them all smile.
I couldn’t put my finger on it at the moment, but sitting in that room I started thinking of Angela from the documentary. Later that night I sat under my mosquito net and processed out the day. That is when I realized what the connection was.
The similarity between Angela and the children in those shelters is that they didn’t want facts or data. Angela could Google a million personality quizzes to help her shape her identity or search online for her missing family. These kids in Burundi have information in their files which gives a brief glimpse of where they have come from.
However, this information is not what these children are craving. I saw it watching them interact with the nuns. They want people to look into their eyes and really see them. They want a voice to speak their value out loud. Someone to tell them what they are great at and help them dream into what they could become.
For all the information that is out there – personality quizzes, scholarly articles, personal medical histories – there is no substitute for an actual person looking you in the eye and telling you why you matter. It is what everyone craves and I recognized it in the little eyes all around me.
While Google can spit out loads of resources and facts, it can never be a mom. It can never hold a hand, sing an original song or squeeze into a toddler bed to snuggle a sick kid. Google can never really answer the most asked question in the world, “What is the meaning of my life?“.
For the rest of my time in Africa, I thought about those children’s mothers. Many of them died from HIV or complications in childbirth. My imagination can’t comprehend how hard it must have been for them to realize that they would never have the chance to watch their babies grow up.
They would never get to tell them the story of how they were born, tell them the potential they see in them or share with them memories from their own childhood. Those mamas never got the chance to give their kids what they are longing for – identity.
I am reminded of the powerful privilege of motherhood. The ability we have to touch, speak and develop our kids is one not every woman is given. God has granted us the honor to speak identity into our kids. Who they are in Christ and who they are to us. It is a question the world is asking. Google may be smarter than us, but we have the answers.
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Elizabeth is a church planter, speaker, writer and naptime abolitionist. She lives in Texas with her husband and two little kids. Her other hobbies include wasting time on social media, trying to remember where she parked her car & browsing Pinterest for DIY projects she will never actually make. You can visit her over at Lark & Bloom or on Twitter @larkandbloom.