“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”
James 4:1 NLT
I was hoping for a quick fix. I thought it would be an end to the quarreling. Maybe I even expected to see peacemaking blossom before my very eyes. Surely, the complaining and grumbling would abruptly cease. The ungrateful heart would be cured. I just knew it. So, on February 1st, we turned the TV off. For the next eight weeks, there would be no flipping channels, no Netflix binges, no movie marathons and no gamer’s thumbs. Our household would be “screen-free” until Easter. I hid the remotes. Exceptions were made for things like the Super Bowl and special outings to the movie theater, but overall I was determined to see our little experiment through to the end. And at the conclusion of it all, I would write how successful our new parenting technique had been.
I was hoping for a quick fix . . . but that’s not what happened.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’”
As Holy Week came to a close and the end of our time of self-denial drew near its finish, I wondered what we had learned, if anything. I still cringed at my children’s bickering and grieved at the selfishness in their voices. What had I missed? It wasn’t as though what they had been watching on TV had been particularly sinful, but I thought time away would do them good. In a lot of ways, that’s what weeks spent without the screen time did, but I had expected more. In a still, small voice, God spoke these words in my spirit: “It’s about heart.” I wasn’t looking in the right place. Rather than prayerfully considering the heart of my children, I had spent too much time focusing on what I could see from the outside.
“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul speaks of a personal dilemma he faced between wanting and doing. He said, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). We all face such a battle between right and wrong. My children are good kids, but they have a problem. A disease plagues their hearts. It’s called sin. Left alone to fester, this sickness corrupts their attitudes and actions. But there is a cure. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25)!
“[L]et us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”
The time spent without the distraction of media and entertainment wasn’t a total loss. We all learned how to be more creative with our time. There was more game playing and imagination action in our house. My son, previously a despiser of books, found out he actually enjoyed reading! Smart as my children are, they discovered ways to get Mom to bend the rules—watching streaming Bible study videos and listening to hours of family radio drama. No complaint there. My home was being filled with truth, and I believe we all grew in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). Television had become a weight laying heavy on our souls. Rather than surrendering our time these past two months, we spent more time surrendering our focus as we turned our attention back where it belongs—to the “founder and perfecter of our faith.”
It wasn’t a quick fix . . . but we didn’t fail.
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
Hebrews 12:11 NLT
Self-discipline is rarely pleasant, and it is never easy! There were many days I wanted to join my kids and find ways around the rules! We certainly didn’t come to the final day and decide to throw away our cable box. No, instead, we caught up on our favorite fairy tale drama and laughed at our favorite crime fighting team. Yet, we did learn some lessons while the remotes collected dust, and I don’t intend to go back to the way it was before all this began. But as long as we live in these fleshly bodies, we will still need times to pull away, rid ourselves of distractions and refocus. It won’t be easy or a quick fix, but it will be right.
March 31, 2016
My Home Office
Playlist: Painted Red
*Unless otherwise noted, all scripture comes from the English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.