6/17/2010

Death To Television: A Modern Day Miracle

Welp, a miracle just happened.

To start, here's some back story. In our first year of marriage, a month or two in, Jason and I were discussing our budget and how to make more room for paying off debt. I was in the kitchen, cutting up some component of our dinner with our large, sharp Santoku knife. Jason meekly and humbly suggested that we consider cutting cable. 

I freaked out. I mean, I lost it. I stood there, knife held up like a psycho killer (he was a good 20 feet away, for the record) angrily gesturing with it as I screamed at Jason. I said that he was selfish and just wanted to cut something that was important to me but wasn't willing to get rid of something that mattered to him. I remember the feeling- I felt threatened, like this thing that was so precious to me was being ripped away from me and I had to protect it with everything in me.

Needless to say, we didn't turn the cable off. We spent upwards of a hundred dollars a month for over half of our marriage just so I could spend countless hours watching HGTV, the Food Network, various prime time shows, etc. For one year we didn't spend money on cable, but that's because it came free with the place we lived- a huge selling point of that particular place to me, despite other drawbacks it had-like no space to have friends over. Yet another sacrifice I made- giving up community and people to be invited into our lives physically- to get what I wanted.

See, I am a creature who tends to crave escape. I have spent much of my life dealing with the various anxieties, pressures, pain of being hurt, guilt and shame of sin, etc, by hiding from them. The absolute easiest way is to escape into TV. Other means work- the internet is a close number two. I know I'm not the only one who is "just gonna check facebook real quick" and comes up for air 43 minutes, 7 picture albums, 5 status likes, 12 "Ugh, why am I even their friend?" but I don't delete them, and 16 cases of envying something in someone else's life- their babies, their money, their house, their vacation, their family that has big lovely holidays together, etc.- later.

Still, TV is just my favorite way to hide from life and ignore everything. Worried about a bill that we shouldn't have to pay but someone screwed up and demands that we fix their mistake by sending them our money? DVR and watch an entire day of Iron Chef America marathon! I remember at one point having 35+ different programs in the season pass / subscription portion of our DVR, all weekly airing shows. Spending money we didn't really have to get a better TV so that we could then spend more money we didn't have on HD channels and an HD capable DVR. When I attempted to control my behavior, I "wisely" made a limit of only 20 subscriptions in our queue. That was still over 4 hours of television a day, on average, with me being "good".

Sad, right? If your heart is soft toward Jesus, you are feeling pretty horrible for the chains I lived in. If your heart isn't soft, then either you are self-righteously thinking I'm pathetic or you are defensive because this hits too close to home. 

Praise Jesus, miracles happen. Ezekiel 36:26 includes God's promise to reach in, take out a heart of stone, and put in a heart of flesh that wants to love and obey God so that his name will be made great. God's will is that I would be present in every moment, and turn to him. 

Am I sad because someone hurt me? Turn to Jesus. Cry out for him to meet me there and comfort me, because he was betrayed and hurt by sin. He gets it, he loves me, and he wants to give me himself as comfort. 

Am I angry that someone is taking our money and it's not right and it's not fair? Appeal to God as a provider and ask him first for himself, secondly to give me the faith to believe that he's a provider who takes care of us, and thirdly that he would change my heart so that I would worship him with the money he's provided but not worship the money itself. And pray for the offending party, that our faith, patience, and trust in Jesus, and grace in the midst of their offense, would make Jesus palpable and tangible and alive to them.

Am I anxious about something that I really want to happen but I won't know and just have to wait? I don't have to hide in TV until I know! I get to turn to Jesus, believing that I can cast all of my cares on him because he cares for me, rest in his love, his will, his timing, knowing that his plan for my life is good and meant to bring glory to his name. 

Let me tell you, sister (or brother!), TV will never satisfy the way Jesus does. Once the end credits roll, the issue(s) I'm escaping from are still there. One can't perpetually live in TV land- I've sure tried, believe me. Jesus' blood shed for me on the cross covers more days of my life than I can count where every spare minute- including 16-18 hours on Saturdays- was spent with my mind and heart traipsing around an office in Scranton, PA, a hospital called Seattle Grace, lots of baby stories and gobs of 30 minute meals. 

My favorite show- at one point, despite owning every
past season on DVD, I would record and watch 4 reruns
in syndication every weeknight, M-F, plus the new episodes.
This was in addition to over 30 different other shows.
Ouch.
Here's the praise- I told you in the beginning that miracles happen. They do. About 6 months back, Jason and I rejoiced and praised Jesus because our hearts both desired to turn off cable. It wasn't easy- think me pathetic if you must, but I felt like I was telling my best friend we couldn't hang out anymore. We planned to build our own DVR and record on our HD over the air antenna, but then that desire was replaced with a desire to spend more time talking to one another and praying together. 

The most amazing thing happened just last night- a guy showed up at the door, and said that due to recent upgrades, Comcast was offering us free limited cable, or digital starter cable (what we had before) with free everything, including a free DVR, for only $10 a month. Jason thought about how much he loves how little TV we watch these days, but then remembered that I do enjoy TV (in a healthy, worshipful way now- as a means of entertainment but not to escape from life) and said that he'd see what I thought. The guy said that to get the deal they had to make an appointment right then and there, so they did for this next Monday. Then Jason asked me what I thought when I got home.

We lay there in bed, snuggled up in one another's arms, and I felt the pull- we could have Food Network and HGTV and shows that aren't on Hulu back without hardly affecting our debt-killing goals! But then I thought about how free I feel. That's right- in the midst of feeling pain and anxiety and anger and sadness I have found that I also experience sweet, fresh-air-like-just-after-it-rains-bursting-into-my-lungs joy and freedom. I feel more alive than ever before. I exercise and pray and spend time with friends, and we have people into our home and we are worshiping God with the money he's given us like never before. Jason and I connect, talk about life and plan having babies and pray for people and love one another in a way that we never did while watching an episode of Criminal Minds during dinner (we still eat on the couch and not at the table- we're works in progress, people!).

And you know what? A few minutes ago I called and cancelled the appointment. Sure, I still watch one episode of 30 Rock too many from our Netflix instant queue sometimes. My redemption isn't complete. But God has given me a new heart, and I want him more than I want to escape. And we do still enjoy some shows, but they are drastically reduced and they are a sweet blessing now and then, but not what our time as a couple is centered on.

God is good. He changes hearts. I barely recognize myself- but you know the sweetest part? It's not the new me, the one that wants Jesus more than TV, that I have trouble identifying with- it's the newly married Tami that loved TV more than Jesus and literally hated her husband for threatening her idol that I don't quite understand. I'm not her, and she is no longer part of my identity. I belong to Jesus and I look more like him and less like the sinner I was then. I'm still a sinner, to be sure, but I'm being redeemed.

TV is increasingly dead to me. Jesus is increasingly alive. I would have it no other way! Glory be to God! 

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