A Difficult Focus: Better Thoughts

The other day, I slipped from beneath my covers to greet my Lord on my knees. Other thoughts intruded the sacred space, and I couldn’t focus. I said “Dear Heavenly Father” approximately 15 times until I started getting frustrated. Other scenes, words, and troubles crowded my mind. But they weren’t mine. What’s going on, Jesus?

The scenes were of characters. Made-up characters. People who did not exist with their created problems and lives. I had saturated my mind with media, and it stayed there, claiming its rightful ground.

This is one of the most sensitive topics I’ve encountered with people. People’s opinions range from calling every screen the devil, to asserting we are above being influenced and can consume anything. There have been times in my life where I put my claim on both extremes of the spectrum. Most recently, it was that moderation was fine.

But moderation isn’t fine, sometimes. Is cocaine fine in moderation? Is arsenic fine in moderation? Is sin fine in moderation? I realize media and cocaine are not synonymous in many ways, but in some they are. They can be as addicting. And, because of the ease of obtaining and the acceptance of its use, media can hook into the soul deeper. Ask me how I know.

Allow me to speak solely from experience. I like to watch shows only three times a week, once I’m done with other work, and only one episode a day. But I find that these fictitious people and their fictitious problems affect me in a real way. I’m eager to know what happens next, my mind turns there when it’s stressed. Understandably so—what can be more enticing to relax in a stressful world, than to put your mind into a different world entirely? Isn’t there enough to learn, to do, to help in the world without needing fictitious issues?

I’ve fought it for a long time, but there is one principle that can never steer us wrong in what our eyes consume: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8, emphasis added).

It’s simple. Simplicity does not mean easy (tired of me saying that yet?), and this world has set us up to fail. I’d be surprised if you’re not already irritated with this author for bringing up such an idea (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid to post this). But He’s never wrong, reader.

I’m watching less and less, and my experience of reality is better and better. Not because reality is always better, but because experiencing it with Jesus is. And even through my craving for escape, I nod in acquiescence to desiring a glorious reality over even the most fantastic escape from it, even for just 45 minutes.

Slowly, progressively, tirelessly, I’m asking the Lord: How may I use my time wisely? How can I relax in a way that keeps me close to You? Is there anything that should change? Please give me a craving for glory over the things of habit. Jesus answers these prayers.

I leave you with an excerpt from my journal entry that day, as the realization dawned on me in those early hours–

When I think about the pharaoh who refused to let the Israelites go, it’s easy to dismiss him as stupid, stubborn, selfish. Although he may be these things, I seem to be pretty similar. How so? “My” three shows took their mid season break in mid-November. It was hard to stop watching, but easy in the sense I had no other choice (no more available episodes to watch!). I felt the tug of the habit for awhile but it eventually wore off. Then all three shows started back up again in the past three weeks…And I can’t think of one truly positive thing [watching it] did for me. Shows me violence, explicit scenes, cursing, lying for a “good” reason; and it stays in my brain and is so loud when I try to have devotions…I’m tired of them being in my mind. But how can I, like Pharaoh, ask God to remove the plague when I know I’m not gonna let the Israelites go? How can I ask Him to remove these scenes and themes from my mind when I keep choosing to put them back in my brain, 45 min. at a time? These stories aren’t real, these people aren’t real, their dangers and issues aren’t real. It’s a false story that does not require me to know the false solutions. Lord, this is gonna be hard, and I tremble to commit. But [unlike Pharaoh] I don’t want to wait for my children to pay the price in order for me to obey…Lord, thank You for bringing to mind the Biblical example of Pharaoh. Help me not to run after them after letting them go.