I just enjoyed a breakfast with my two grandsons (6 and 3) before they took off for school and I flew back to Boston (I’m writing on the plane). Dad had made them waffles, cut them up into bite sized pieces complete with syrup (their favorite breakfast). I sat down with my coffee and toast between them and anticipated a last chat with them before we were to be separated until Christmas (Lord willing). But a couple of things surprised me. First, their plates were still pretty full, largely untouched. Second, I barely got noticed. What was up? The TV was on, Lego Star Wars cartoons. Dad noticed what I noticed, too and went over to turn the TV off.
Suddenly, they came out of their trance; the oldest one “got it”, but the youngest asked, “What happened to the TV?”
Dad answers, “You boys need to eat your breakfast and talk with Pawpaw.”
“Why?” the youngest asked.
“So you’ll grow big and strong and you won’t get hungry before lunch,” I responded.
The youngest one flashed a look at me as if to say, “Well, OK;” and soon the boys were eating breakfast, and we were enjoying a great morning conversation about school and what they anticipated playing at recess and when I planned on coming back.
There’s no blame here for anyone. Boys are acutely visually oriented—it’s hardwired in. Dad and Mom needed the boys to be sitting at the table and safely occupied for a few moments, while they finished breakfast preparations. And when the TV distracted from the main purpose of the breakfast gathering, it was turned off. I tell the story, because I think there’s a little metaphor here about ourselves and our Father in Heaven.
How often do we ourselves get distracted by the entertainments around us? How often do our minds and thoughts become too diverted to feed ourselves with God’s word? How often are we too distracted with the bubblegum of amusement, sports, and pleasurable activities that we miss the opportunities we have to “visit” with our Heavenly Father? Perhaps more often than we’d like to admit. We like to claim that we’ve been too busy (poor excuses, too) to read God’s word or attend worship services, or pray; but truth be told in the great majority of our lives, we’ve spent a lot of time “staring at the TV”—literally and figuratively—trading mental bubblegum for what is nourishing, deepening, strengthening, wisdom imparting, wholesome, encouraging, and more.
Now, entertainment, sports, video games, leisure, and other various diversions are without question the major emphasis of our culture, and realistically we can’t easily eliminate them, if we are to live in this world. But just because we are surrounded by a sea of diversions, doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to turn them off or tune them out, when we should, and tune-in to the truly important things. Entertainment is not bad in and of itself. God actually commanded such things as feasts in the Old Testament; a little diversion refreshes the mind. But too much just wastes our life, interferes with relationships, and weakens us.
I like to think perhaps God occasionally “turns the TV off” for us in the form of storms that take down the power lines. Some of us “get it” and thoughtfully return to the real priorities at least for a while. Others of us ask, “Why?” Doubtlessly God would want to reply something like, “So you’ll grow spiritually big and strong; and you won’t be spiritually starved, when you need strength the most.”
Do we need to “turn the TV off” in our lives—literally or metaphorically? Do we need to finish our spiritual “breakfast” and engage in spiritual, relationship-building “conversations” (i.e., Bible reading and prayer)? Do we need to put fun, video games, entertainment, sports, and smart phones in their proper places—at the bottom of the list?