I don’t really consider myself a big TV person. It’s so rare that I actually turn on the one television set in our house, that when I do, I usually have to ask for help remembering how to find the right channel.
But in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday (which was on Feb. 10), I was feeling increasingly convicted that I needed to give up watching TV shows during the 40 days of Lent. Despite my inability to make the TV work, I’ve started watching TV shows more than I would like to admit. It’s never in the standard form of actually sitting down in front of a big black screen at a certain time of day or recording something on some type of device.
Instead, for me, it was launching the Netflix app on my phone and binging on a commercial free TV series while I folded laundry or performed some mindless chore. That’s how it started anyway.
Then, it became my way of winding down before bed or vegging out after a hard day.
We all have our thing, right? That one thing we turn to so we can avoid thinking about something difficult. So we can just chill and relax. For some people it’s food or drinks. It could be drugs or alcohol. Chocolate or the Internet. Facebook or Twitter.
For me, watching TV shows was starting to become not just a distraction or entertainment, but an escape from real life.
As much as I didn’t even want to think of myself as a person who watched a lot of TV, I really, really, reallllly did not want to give it up.
I came up with lots of reasons why Lent is just a big legalistic tradition that I don’t even have an obligation to observe. But on the morning of Feb. 10, I was so convicted that I knew I didn’t have a choice. I deleted Netflix and any other TV viewing apps from my phone. I had gone to bed midway through an episode of Alias. But I knew that had to be it.
It’s always interesting to me how hard it is to start something new or stop something you’ve been doing for a while. I actually felt kind of jittery the first few days without any TV shows. It was almost as bad as giving up caffeine or quitting sugar. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my brain when I didn’t have the option to fill it with some quick entertainment. But after one week without TV, I feel like I’ve put my brain on a new exercise program.
Here are my results:
1. One of the main reasons I gave up watching TV is that I wanted to create more time in my schedule to read. Instead of reading the Bible or other books that could help me grow as a person, I was taking the easy road by consuming television. I’m happy to say I’ve been keeping up with our church’s Lenten Bible reading plan and reading more books than I have in a long time.
2. After a few days without TV, I couldn’t believe how much space I had in my brain! I didn’t realize that my mind wasn’t just occupied by a show while it was on. I continued to think about a plot line or character even when I wasn’t watching a show. Without it, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about things that matter. I’ve been working on some planning that I needed to do. I’ve been much more focused.
3. Since giving up TV, I’ve rediscovered podcasts. I used to listen to a lot of podcasts, but I had quit during the past few years. It’s amazing how much that world has grown since then! I’ve been subscribing to podcasts like crazy lately, and I love filling my brain with positive thinking when I’m driving or doing housework. I’m only listening to podcasts with an inspirational or motivational message. So this has actually helped me expand my thinking, rather than dumbing down my brain and avoiding life like TV did.
These are some of my recent favorites:
This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt
James MacDonald: Walk in the Word
Communicate Church: A Fishhook Podcast
Your Move with Andy Stanley
The Phil Vischer Podcast
With one week down in the 40 days of Lent, I really can’t believe how much better I feel. I’m not constantly distracted by wanting to find out what will happen next in some TV show. I’ve been filling my brain with more positive messages. I’m more focused and have time to think, rather than using entertainment as a way to dodge the need to work through the issues in life.
What about you? Did you give up something for Lent? How is it going? Do you love watching TV? Have you listened to any good podcasts lately? I would love to know!