By Audrey High
I began quarantine with only one list that I was eager to conquer. I wish I could tell you it was the “things to organize” list or the “hobbies to acquire” list. It wasn’t. It was the “tv shows to catch up on” list.
I was about 4 seasons behind on a show that even my parents had seen, and now was the time. Every evening and day-off went to catching up on it, and let’s just say it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I still can’t decide if I should feel embarrassed or incredibly accomplished, but at least I wasn’t alone. According to Forbes, during the first week of stay-at-home orders in March, Americans streamed for a total of 156.1 billion minutes, double the amount compared to the same week last year.
I don’t think our tendencies will change that much after COVID-19. We will always love to consume content, especially when we’re bored or find ourselves with unanticipated margin.
I also don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. God, the author of the greatest true story ever told, has wired us to be creatures who love a good story and who want to get caught up in watching one unfold.
We just have to recognize that the stories and the kinds of content we consume affect us deeply. And some of that content hurts our relationship with Christ. As Christians that should really matter to us.
We’ve all heard the cliché, “you are what you eat” and deep down we know it’s true. Our eating habits directly affect our emotional and physical health. But what about our spiritual health?
I’m going to be honest – in the midst of binging my show during quarantine, I noticed some subtle changes within me. I was incredibly impatient with co-workers one day for no particular reason. I reached for sarcastic wit instead of empathizing with a sibling. My irritability with a friend quickly ignited into anger.
Why is this significant? Because these sinful behaviors are rampant within the show I was consuming. And I was slowly conforming to them in a way that didn’t honor Christ.
We might think we’re decompressing by mindlessly watching something after a long day of classes or work. But the truth is, we are affected by what we’re consuming. It’s inevitable. Just as the body is influenced by what enters the mouth, so too is the brain by what we stream.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself: how often do you mimic your favorite character’s snarky habit of roasting others for laughs? Do you ever justify your disrespect toward authority because it’s celebrated in your favorite show? Or how often do the elicit sexual scenes in movies trigger your struggle with lust? Most likely, you identify with at least one of those examples or can think of something similar. We are sponges soaking up the water we’re bathing in, whether we realize it or not.
We are what we consume.
So, as Christians what are we supposed to do? Avoid all tv shows and movies? Run for the Wi-Fi barren hills, join a monastery, and delete our Netflix accounts?
Well…no. I’m not advocating for us to become monks in order to hide from any content that could lead us to sin. Instead, I’m advocating for the solution the Bible gives us: fight the tendency to conform to what we consume. How? By renewing our minds.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”Romans 12:2
Ever walked upstream against a river’s current? Depending on how deep the river was, you might have struggled. The force of water is strong, and it’s much easier to float along with it than challenge it. But Romans 12:2 reminds Christians that this is what those who have been redeemed by King Jesus do. We don’t conform to patterns of the world or passively float along with the current of culture.
We follow a different King. And this means we have to walk upstream. We don’t mindlessly consume anything – we fight to renew our mind by filling it with things that will help us love God and love our neighbors.
Maybe this would be a good time to evaluate:
If you are what you consume, what are you becoming?
Are you becoming arrogant, spiteful, irritable, or crude? Does what you consume help you flee sin and honor God? Or is it hurting your relationship with Christ and others? How can you also fill your mind with things that will help you grow spiritually and love others more? How much of your mind is influenced by God’s Word compared to other things?
These diagnostic questions aren’t meant to shame us but rather to function as a spiritual “check engine light.” Let’s be Christ-followers who mindfully examine what’s influencing us so that we might honor our King and love our neighbors in ways that glorify him.
For guidance on how to renew your mind by filling it with the life-giving Word of God, check out this podcast by Crossing Pastor Dave Cover.
Another great way to focus your mind on positive things that help you grow as a person is to remember all that you have to be thankful for. Check out this free 30 Days of Gratitude calendar for help reflecting on the good things in your life.