Trading Up: TV for True Life
I love when the lights drop and I can just lift up my eyes to some easy story on the silver screen. I sip my favorite orange tea with honey and fall into some new AMC adventure or epic remake, like Superman: Man of Steel. Ryan and I were heading into one of those AMC escapes when we started talking about something so moving that we both just lost interest in whatever movie we were planning to see. We left the theater and began our initial search for … how to begin an adoption process.
No clue which movie we missed that day, but we definitely gained. We gained our own family adventure story along with piles of CPS paperwork, nights of prayer over an empty room, and days of therapeutic nesting. I painted blue and white ocean waves on the bedroom walls where we hoped our two sons would be. We waited and prayed and waited. After what felt like a long season of being fully licensed and still waiting, I remember asking God in confusion: Why is this taking so long? Is something wrong with our family profile? Is something wrong with me? Do You really want this for our family?
You know, God is a fan of good questions. He often shows up smack in the middle of people’s lives asking fair questions. Take the Samaritan Woman, for example, she was a super sinner riddled with questions, and Jesus took time to actually answer her. He one upped her spiritual interest by revealing Himself to her as the Messiah (John 4:11, 20-26). The Samaritan Woman was so moved by His answers that she completely forgot her water pot and ran off to tell her entire city about Him (John 4:28).
Ironically, she was already off telling her city about Jesus while His disciples were talking about food. This new convert is off inviting others to meet Him, while Jesus is trying to get His disciples to “lift up their eyes and look on the fields, that they are [already] white for harvest” right in front of them (John 4:35, emphasis mine). Jesus wants His disciples’ eyes opened even more, spiritually. (It’s not like the disciples’ eyes were literally closed, but He wanted them to “epairo” which means to “lift their gaze upon” the spiritual reality.) So often we can thumb through Pinterest, hang onto Happy Hour, or even chase the next Bible study but miss the actual harvest right in front of us—that mom at swim practice or the neighbor not doing much of anything tonight.
I know I’m frequently fixing my eyes upon quick community and fake rest found inside a Hulu episode and ignoring reality all around me. And the truth is the story on screen does not restore my soul for long, it just brings temporary escape and relief. And if I’m not careful with what I watch, then sewage entertainment seeps in and clogs my relationship with God. It also irritates my spiritual sight, like a pink eye infection.
Most of us like reality TV or it wouldn’t be such a booming industry, but those real people are not our real friends. It’s amusing, but too much of it can prove little more than an empty well. It’s like TV on tap; it might as well be a bar with unlimited offerings. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m paying attention to, then I can down an entire sewage series in one weekend and poof … miss out on my own crop of kids and community right around me.
Sure, a glass of wine, a sip of Netflix, or a relationship with another man other than my hubby is not inherently sinful, but if we use them to somehow fill our hearts, our mind, our time instead of God, then they are, to us, a counterfeit spring. They become an idol. We choose the remote control or our little movie apps before God. We lift up our eyes to the screens, give them our time, our eyes, and bow down.
But I don’t want to love my little iPhone; I don’t want to worship the next episode. I want to want to love God enough to … leave more theaters, re-delete TV apps, cancel Netflix, refuse counterfeit relationships and any other “water pots” of our time. Again, a water pot is not good or bad. It’s neutral, but the question is: What is better? What is of greater value? If I really stopped and looked above these created things toward the Creator God, then I would gain slivers of insight into His heart and how the next scene of my actual life can expand His Kingdom, whether that be teaching my children or challenging women toward unchartered ministry territories.
For example, a year or so ago, I was praying for direction to lead women, and I do believe I heard God speak to my heart: “If you give Me the television, I will give you vision.” My progress toward obeying His voice has been intermittent and slow, but during a rare season last year of leaving my screen love, God turned up.
I remember this one morning when I wanted to skip work so bad and just stay in my PJs and watch an entire series of that old TV show Felicity [insert judgment here]. I knew I had to drop my fake friend Felicity and go instead to our staff meeting. Curiously, during our staff prayer time, a co-worker prayed about our adoption process. As she prayed, I began to “see,” literally see in my mind what I can only describe as a dark, cosmic swirling. It was something like the Milky Way that morphed into an bright blue and white ocean wave, just like the one I had painted on the bed room wall when I was nesting a year before.
The next day, we got “the” phone call from CPS. Two young brothers needed a home, and I immediately pondered the image from the day before. It felt like a picture of God moving in the heavenlies, changing the dark tides of abuse and neglect for these two boys into a new space of love and light. Interestingly, one of our boy’s names translates in some languages to “ocean.”
Jesus oversees galaxies, ocean currents, and the redefining moments of our lives. He is not constrained by time or bound by kryptonite. He is greater than our doubt, our sin, and even our obsession with film and Super Man. He’s greater than any dream we could imagine, and He’s more than capable of super-charging processes as we set our eyes on Him. He loves when we give Him our attention, just like we love it when kids look us in the eyes and actually give us their attention. God is jealous for His children’s’ eyes, too. We’d be so wise to lock the eyes of our heart on Him, El Olam, the Lord Everlasting, who supersedes time, need, finances, and weakness.
It is baffling how such a weak, selfish woman like me could utterly love and adore two boys so very much who did not come from my own womb. I so hope to be a gateway of blessing to my sons and daughters for the rest of my life. The Samaritan Woman was a gateway of blessing to her city, and there is nothing stopping you or me from being the same. She simply asked Jesus for His living water, and He redirected the conversation toward His next steps for her: “Go and call your husband to come here” (John 4:16). She saw Christ and surrendered her excuses. She didn’t decide to start tomorrow. She just left her water pot right then and there and called many men to come and see Jesus for themselves.
She brought her sin, thirst, need, questions, and willingness. God wants our need behind what drives us to the TV, our deep questions, and our willingness to drop whatever person, screen, or dream we are using to meet our own quick needs. God promises to “withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11b). So if we would just surrender the stuff in our hands and walk right toward the direction He is pointing out to us, we’d see His blessings overtake us. Take a moment and ask Him now:
How am I meeting my own needs with created things, people, drinks, or TV?
What do You want me to do next, Lord?
If we could just see a sliver of what hangs in the balance of our decisions, then we’d give up the lesser loves. John Piper once commented on our need to see from God’s Reality. He said, “Seeing a thought of God for what it really is, and seeing a thought of a mere man is the difference between seeing lightning and a lightning bug.” If we could catch a glimpse, even a streak of insight into God’s supernatural vantage point for our lives, then we’d be sprinting off every morning toward Him and His greater intentions for us and His Kingdom. He has a harvest of real people needing His help right in front of us. He also has harvest of dreams latent within us. His Spirit can wash any sewage from our eyes so that we can see rightly. We just need to ask. I wonder what would happen if we actually lifted our attention toward Christ right now and asked Him to point out His next steps for our lives, our families, our workplace, our spheres of ministry, or even the woman in front of us at AMC.
Let’s ask Him and see:
Father, forgive us for putting You off for all the screens. Forgive us for worshipping the created over You as Creator. Take the lust of flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life driving our heart’s fixation with all the lesser things. Gift us with the spiritual sight to see what hangs in the balance if we fail to lift our eyes higher than creation. Please increase our passion for Your Son, and show us what You could do in and through our lives, if we would give You, our Creative Director, more of our attention. Gift us with Your vision for a new season of inspiring ventures, actual dreams, real friends, and living moments that display Your reality and glory in and through us. Make our lives a motion picture of Your kingdom to our own cities…
- Is there one thing you’re holding onto that you sense God would have you leave behind? Ask Him to help you see why you are hanging on to this instead of going to God to meet this need. (Ps 121:1)
- God shows us what is and isn’t worth watching. Notice the contrast: Deut 4:19, Isa 40:26.
- Want more spiritual sight to see and faith to pursue paths that are of higher value from His vantage point? Ask God for eyes of faith and heart of willing obedience. Then, check out: 2 Kings 6:17; Deut 28:2.
by Adrianne Schwanke with Shabby Chic Ministries
For more from Adrianne and Shabby Chic Ministries, host a Fashion Your Weapons event at your church or share Shabby Chic Ministries’ event info with your women’s ministry leader. Stay tuned for an upcoming Bible study from Shabby Chic Ministries: How to Pour Your Man a Drink: Love and Loss at the Biblical Well.