I can’t quite place why, but this is weighing on me tonight and I thought it was worth sharing. In short, this is what’s on my heart: we have got to be vigilant about guarding what we let into our lives as entertainment.
My desire is not to create a list of do’s and don’ts as far as what one may or may not watch or listen to. Rather, I’m thinking of the words of the Apostle Paul: “…’Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1Cor 6:12, NIV). Within our systems of entertainment lie all sorts of subtle traps that try to master us. We let down our guard in order to be entertained, and don’t notice the strings attached to the things we allow inside our souls.
A little while back, I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and he was telling me about this great movie he had just seen. It was an awesome movie. It was the best movie he had seen all year. The rest of us should go and see it… provided we could “handle” the language. I didn’t believe him. Not that I doubted it was a great movie, but I wasn’t sure that he could “handle” the language… especially when a curse word slipped out of his mouth just a few minutes later (to my knowledge, he doesn’t routinely swear). My friend is a lovely, God-fearing guy with a great heart and a hunger for the Lord. But exposing himself to the barrage of cursing in that movie made it that much easier to slip into unintentional sin.
I remember another time, years back, watching the movie Emma with some girls from my youth group. I loved that movie. Still do. But on this occasion, when the movie was over, and Emma and Mr. Knightley finally got together, one of my friends mourned aloud, “Where’s my Mr. Knightley?” While Emma is overall a pretty clean movie, for this one girl at least, it was a stumbling block that thrust her into the path of loneliness. Watching it left her pining for the imaginary but ever-appealing Mister Right to come on the scene and solve her inner ache.
I had a similar experience once with this house I used to live in. One of my roommates had some Christian romance novels, mostly by one author whom she loved and raved about. One afternoon, when I was at home by myself and bored, I decided to skim through one of these books.
I hated it.
Now, when I read, I can’t turn off my inner writer/editor. I found myself constantly critcial of this author’s style. The plot was predictable. The dialogue was trite. The characters were shallow. Because the book was Christian, it was completely clean, but it made for terrible reading. I polished the book off in an hour or two, thinking that it would have to get better at some point, but it never did. I couldn’t figure out my friend’s obsession with this author. For some inexplicable reason — probably to find out if there was anything this person had written that was actually good — a few days later, I picked up another book. I read several of these novels, discovering that each one was practically the same as the last. It was set in a different era, and everyone had different names, but the plot and personality of the characters was nearly identical. I don’t know why I kept reading, but I did, mentally chwing out the author the whole time.
Yet I found out something completely unexpected. As I put down my latest read, inwardly composing a scathing review of the book, I felt something strange. I felt mopey. I felt alone. I felt a little depressed. I wondered why no guys had expressed an interest in me. Suddenly, I realized what I was thinking, and why I was thinking it. And that’s when I vowed never to read a romance novel series again.
I don’t tell that story to try and make a hero out of myself. I tell that story because I apparently have a weak spot in that area, and these novels — perfectly clean, inoffensive, cheesy books — inflamed that weakness in me. I didn’t even like the books, yet they threw my emotions off-kilter. So they became something that, for the sake of my own heart, I had to cut off.
I’ll tell another story on myself… a slightly less flattering one. A while back, I was having a frustrating bout with my self-image. I wasn’t happy with how I looked. I saw a million flaws in the mirror. I knew that the Lord wasn’t pleased with how I was speaking and thinking of myself. I wanted desperately to get my heart aligned with His, but I felt stuck.
It was then that He began to speak to me of the movies and online TV shows I had been watching lately. I hadn’t been watching anything dirty. I hadn’t even been watching very much of it — not compared to the average American, at least. But I was watching more than was normal for me, and had been filling my vision with these beautiful, “flawless”-looking Hollywood women to the point that I was losing sight of my perfect Creator’s opinion of me.
I tell these stories because I am feeling burdened again to guard what I let into my “eye-gate” and “ear-gate”. I can’t think of anything negative that has been stirred up in me lately, and I don’t think I’ve been necessarily grieving the Holy Spirit, but I feel this renewed need for vigilance in this area. I’ve decided not to worry about the “why” too much, and just roll with it… after all, periodic housecleaning never hurts. If there’s something specific going on, I’m positive that the Lord is able and willing to highlight it. Gotta love that kind of faithfulness.
I wanted to blog about this for a couple of reasons. For one, misery loves company. 🙂 Just kidding. Sort of.
But mostly, I wanted to set it out there that if you’re struggling with an area of sin or emotional turmoil — or hey, maybe even if you’re not, but this topic is speaking to you right now — bring your entertainment before the Lord and see if He points something out. It may not be as cut and dried as avoiding blatantly wicked films; there might simply be something that is making your battle harder than it needs to be. That’s something that only the Lord can speak to your heart about (and He’s really good at it). But if we ask Him, He can help us identify those stumbling blocks, and can do so gently and clearly. Praise be to God that we do not have to be mastered by anything.
So, I wasn’t intending to write this whole post tonight, but I seem to have done it anyway. I hope it resonates with someone. It seemed a little too random to be random, you know? Hang in there. God is for you. He is with you in the battle. And He is committed to see you through to the end.