Worshipping at the Altar of Television

By JMathis

femmefuelThe television. Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer. This is what I know about television.

Yet, I ingest this poison nightly.

I have all these dreams that I want to fulfill in my life—dreams which require much prayer, thought, planning, diligence and hard work. Yet, after a long day of work and going through the nightly motions of making dinner and putting my daughter to bed, I am too “exhausted” to even dream my dreams. Slowly, these dreams fade to black as the drone of the TV replaces them one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until they are no more and bear no more significance to my life.

How many times has this scene played out in your home?

Nightly?

More than you care to admit?

My husband and I are guilty-as-charged, as there are nights when we huddle in front of the television without saying a word to one another. So depleted and choked by the worries of the day, we forget to even speak to each other, as we give into the comforting glow of the television set—the television set that appears to give so much, and demand so little in return.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I worry that all this television watching will play out like scenes from one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Without giving the premise of the movie away, the film takes us through the relationship of a couple—once vibrant in their love for each other, they soon become estranged as their differences become magnified in the boredom of their day-to-day relationship. Here are scene notes from what a typical day was like in their relationship:

Joel and Clementine sit and eat dinner in front of the TV.

It’s hard to make out what they’re watching. They sit on opposite ends of the couch. They look bored. The scene quickly degenerates. The room fades.

Joel looks over at the faded Clementine across the couch. She stares straight ahead at the TV.

Joel watches TV. Clementine walks by in her underwear, looks at the TV. She slips into a skirt.

The scene starts to fade. Clementine puts on her shoes and heads out the door.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I find tremendous irony in watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), where Oprah is telling me in earnest to be in hot pursuit of my dreams, while I just, well…sit there. And, then sit there some more. It is abundantly clear to everyone else but me, that I am in hot pursuit of absolutely nothing when I watch Oprah “challenging” and “prodding” me to “live my best life”.

Even though I might convince myself that her words are somehow inspiring and propelling me to live life to its fullest, why then can’t I get off of the couch? Who am I kidding? Is this a sign of a highly-successful person?

Since when is it acceptable to watch other people (like Oprah) live out their dreams on television, while you lean back and forget about your own hopes and plans for the future? The notion seems so ludicrous if you were explaining it to a young child, and yet we adults have no problem succumbing to it night after weary night.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Now, I am not going to act like some rabid, self-righteous, hypocritical zealot claiming that television is evil. However, as I glaringly point the finger towards myself, I am going to challenge you today to examine your mind’s consumption of what is offered by the boob tube.

Apart from the spiritual and physical ramifications of wasting your life in front of the television, have you ever examined its role in how it interrupts your thoughts, your day-to-day to do list, your plans to start and grow a business or a ministry, or even your ability to relate to others—particularly your significant other?

Are the seconds, minutes, hours and weekends somehow dissipating as you find yourself worshipping at the altar of your television?

After all, your new job will not fall into your lap while you lie on the couch.

Your soulmate will not find you while you lie on the couch.

You will not get your body back while you lie on the couch.

Your marital problems will not magically disappear while you lie on the couch.

More importantly, you will not find out God’s purpose for your life while you lie on the couch…and watch TV.

Did God put you on this earth simply just to lie in front of a TV all night? Isn’t there more to our lives than watching Rachel Berry fulfill her dreams of Broadway on Glee? Than seeing which housewife mauled another housewife on The Real Housewives of God-Knows-What-City?

Rather than feel guilty, let’s chip away at this altar one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until it is no more and bears no more significance to our lives.

In this 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, will you fast with me some parts of our daily television viewing?

Maybe we can take time to call a friend instead?

Read the book or the magazine that has been collecting dust on the shelf?

Do simple stretching exercises?

Spend time in the Word?

Surround ourselves in the stillness of God’s presence?

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3: 17.

Take time today to really free yourself from this Time-killer. This Brain-killer. This Relationship-killer. This Dream-killer.

I’ll do it with you.

Let’s turn Oprah off and go live our best lives yet.

Don’t Be a Lady in Waiting

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

It was 1998. Friends ruled the local channels, and Sex and The City ruled cable television. The Internet was still taking the world by storm and just starting to change our lives. Email, surfing, and cyberspace were becoming everyday terms, and cell phones were just beginning to replace pagers. Oprah was nowhere close to retirement, and Michael Jackson…well, he was still weird…weird, but alive.

I remember looking at the world around me, and realizing much had changed since I had graduated high school and college.  And yet, in many ways, nothing had changed at all…at least not in my life.

I was in grad school at the time, living on my own in my own apartment in the Dallas suburb of Denton, a small college town.

On the outside, I seemed to have it all—a beautifully furnished apartment, a brand new sports car, all the freedom, all the free time I could have ever wanted…but on the inside I felt lost, dazed, and confused regarding my career and my purpose in life. I also had this vacuum of emptiness. Emptiness that longed to be filled with a relationship, complete with romantic candlelight dinners and the promise of a happily ever after.

A constant question mark seemed to loom over my head. When was my life going to start? And by start, I mean, when was I going to finally meet someone?  And not just any someone…The Someone.

This was not how I had planned my life. I was 26. Back in the 1990s, that means you were supposed to be married, engaged, or dating someone.  And I was not alone. I had six close girlfriends. All single…all just as confused, frustrated…waiting. Waiting to find the One. Waiting to Get Married. And Determined Not to be Happy Until One or the Other Happened. I was beginning to live my life like a Lady in Waiting.

Flashforward to 2011, and I’m on the phone with one of those six girlfriends, all of whom, by the way, are married. Before either of us had kids, we talked almost every day on the phone. After her first child, our conversations decreased to a one or two a week. After my daughter was born, they decreased even more. After her second child was born, we have snippets of conversation whenever we can catch a break. But that doesn’t hold true just for our phone conversations, we realized…it seemed to hold true for everything. Time for baths, cleaning the house, and even cooking all suddenly seemed like luxuries rather than something we no longer had a right to.

What were we complaining about in our twenties, she asks me. I can hear the exhaustion and exasperation in her voice. I have no idea, I reply with a laugh as I recall the ability to watch a movie through its entirety. Heck, I even remember having time to go to the movies! We were so stupid not to realize how good we had it, she says. Tell me about it, I reply. Together we breathe in a deep sigh of regret. Why didn’t anyone warn us back then how life just got tougher and more stressful after marriage and kids?  Oh, they warned us, I reminded her. There were plenty of married women and married women with children, encouraging us to enjoy our lives. We were just idiots and didn’t listen. Hindsight is always 20/20.

How ironic…we were finally at the place we had always wanted to be…and what were we doing? Lamenting, missing what we once had…

What I wouldn’t do to be able to jump into a time machine, march up to the second floor of Pace’s Crossing Apartments, and slap my former self back to reality, Moonstruck-style, “Snap out of it!”

Hindsight is always 20/20. But I realize, it doesn’t have to be. As I’ve been on the phone, my 1½ old has been tugging on my leg incessantly. I finally glance down, and she raises her hands and  “eeeehhh—ooooohs” like a monkey, begging to be picked up. I guess the lesson is enjoy whatever stage you are in, I remind my friend. One day, we may be tugging on our kids’ legs, begging them to stay and spend some time with us. Just the other day, I was holding this toddler in my arms as an infant.

Enjoy your lives, ladies. Whatever stage you are in. For our lives are like as James 4:14 says, How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

And that especially goes for you single ladies, particularly to those of you who are living your life as “Ladies in Waiting.” I’m not trying to stop you from wanting, dreaming about a relationship. I just want you to make sure you don’t allow that desire, that dream to stop you from living your life in the meantime. Because I know how those feelings can gnaw on your insides, further hollowing out the emptiness in your gut. You think there’s only one remedy for that emptiness…only to find out years later, it was never really about a boy.