I've been thinking a lot about television lately. Mostly, it's because it has been more tough for me than I thought it would be to practice silence on Thursdays! Of course, we're only two Thursdays into Lent, but both of those days, I've caught myself reaching for the television. Not turning on the television (or radio) is harder than you may think .... try it sometime. For me, television watching is a moment to escape reality .... not that my reality is bad or anything! It is a chance for my mind to essentially, turn off. I don't get the chance to slow down or turn my mind off much during the day so (as an introvert) having this time in the evening is a must!
Some statistics might help us understand this whole television phenom. better!
*According to Wikipedia 99% of American households have at least one television (and the majority have more than one).
*What's more than that, 49%of Americans say they watch too much television (I'm certainly one of that 49%!).
*According to the A.C. Nielsen Co. the average American watches 3 hours and 46 minutes of TVeach day (that's more than 52 days of nonstop TV-watching per year).
*By the age of 65 the average American will have spent nearly nine years glued to the tube.
*Now think about this! On average, a parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.
But there's more to it than television being my "me" time! Bad or good, this obsession we Americans have with television - I'm convinced it's a learned habit, for sure! I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing because it is part of our accepted norm and we can't escape it. I am saying we really ought to give this some thought. As a pre-teen and teenager, I spent many a weekend over at my grandparent's house. My Nanny and Pa had this tremendous and meaningful tradition that EVERY Friday night they ate dinner out and EVERY Saturday night my Pa grilled steaks. Anyone in the family was invited as long as you let them know ahead of time that you were coming. So many weekends, I would pop over for dinner and then spend the night! Two things I remember about those evenings - a timer on the den lamp and Atlanta Braves baseball!
Every evening around dusk, my Nanny had the lamp in the den ,programmed on an automatic timer, set to turn on. And every evening after dinner was cleaned up and digested, there you could find my grandparent’s sitting in their respective recliner watching baseball (or movies when it wasn't baseball season). Period, the end. That was their tradition. Many of those evenings, I would watch with them or I would sit in the kitchen and watch a different TV.
I think there are some lessons - relevant to our spiritual journey - through this example! In a way, I think the fact that my grandmother programmed the light to come on speaks to her sense of hospitality. She was intentionally making the den warm and welcoming for she and my Pa (and us family guests). And, because their house sat up on a hill in a caul-de-sac, the neighbors and cars passing by could also see the light coming from the room or the family gathered there, together. There's also something to the tradition of spending a set aside time together as family, daily. Every single evening, my Nanny and Pa shared that time together. That speaks volumes! But, even if they never spoke to each other during the time, there's still something to be said for the level of commitment they shared in spending that set time together.
These two facts are much like our relationship with our God! If we really sat down and thought about it, how many ways and times does God prepare the "den" of our lives? In other words, how often does God make things a little more comfortable for us? I bet 9 times out of 10, most of us miss that expressed hospitality or take it for granted!
And, what about our commitment to spending time with God? As long as I've been teaching youth about God and God's relevance in our lives, I've tried to help youth understand how personal their relationship with the Living God can be! For me, the great thing about my relationship with God is that it is just like any other person I would have a relationship with .... it requires work and intentional effort to get to know them, to keep in touch, to express my devotion/love to, for example. Of course, it is also different, but the point is it takes commitment and effort!
I am convinced that it is the commitment that is the key. Our commitment is more than just going to worship .... it's honestly worshipping God and not expecting what we need out of it. It's more than just calling out or praying to God in the times that we need help ... it's about prayers of thanksgiving and intercession (for others) and adoration of God! It's more than sleeping in on Sunday morning and promising we'll go next week .... it's about getting up despite your tiredness and coming to coffee and fellowship to share fellowship with all aged church members and then go to Sunday school and learn more about God! It's more than us just doing the fun kickball games at youth group .... it's participating in youth group and Sunday school or setting up for the yard sale fundraiser. It's more than us just giving $5 to the poor or hungry ... it's taking 6 days of your summer vacation and going on the mission trip and physically working to improve living conditions, even though you hate doing it and being in the summer heat! After all, God doesn't pick and choose when God is going to show up in our lives, why should our commitment to God be any less? Now, does that commitment mean you have be at everything and do everything? Absolutely not. That's probably not even possible. Bottom line - sometimes commitment does require a little uncomfortableness and sometimes it offers great fun! It is a tremendous opportunity for the "den" light to automatically be on and permeate our "neighborhoods!"