Our lives are full of entertainment. One can scarcely imagine a day without music, YouTube, Facebook, movies, Netflix, NFL, 19 Kids and Counting, video games, and iPods. It seems as though all our time is caught up with some form of entertainment. In the old days, entertainment consisted of playing one’s own musical instrument, attending a play, or reading aloud. I imagine Laura Ingalls spent many evenings with books by a crackling fire. One sought entertainment after a hard day’s work, during that window of time between chores and rest. Today we can barely go to the bathroom without electronic devices to distract us.
This week, an evening meeting I was to attend was cancelled and I found myself alone at home. The news was on television as my wife left for her meeting. After watching the news, I went to the viewing guide; there must be something on. I have to admit that I landed on C-SPAN. I had never really watched it before. I tuned in at the moment my very own congressman, Howard Coble, was being lauded for his thirty years of friendship and service in the U.S. House. I watched for over an hour; the time was not wasted.
But why did I immediately decide to fill my time with television? Why would that be my default mode? As I challenge myself to love God with all of my mind, I realize that I need the right “default mode” for my soul.
For more and more Americans, entertainment has become their default mode. We look for entertainment in virtually every waking hour. Indeed, entertainment has permeated every aspect of life: travel, rest, sleep, grooming, shopping, resting, eating. Clever marketers make sure that every crevice of life can be filled with entertainment. As entertainment seeps into all the crevices of our lives, it begins to fill the wrong spaces in our souls.
Christians rightly debate over which entertainment is valuable and which is not. I say that too much entertainment is harmful, regardless of its content. We have lost the “off” button for entertainment.
Entertainment has value. It inspires, challenges, comforts, and cheers. It can enrich our lives in profound ways. Everyone has a favorite movie, novel, and song. However, the proliferation of entertainment may have a detrimental effect—too much of a (possibly) good thing.
We were created by God to have periods of rest. The Fourth Commandment tells us to remember and honor the Sabbath. Jesus reminds us that the Sabbath was made for us; it is God’s gift of rest to us. We need rest in every aspect of our personhood: heart, mind, soul, strength. God wants us to rest our hearts in him, letting go of emotional burdens. He wants us to rest our minds, laying down the puzzles and plans of life. He wants our souls to find rest as we take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:28-30). He wants us to rest our bodies with sleep and appropriate, regular exercise.
While our minds need to rest, we crave distraction and information. Electronic devices allow us to take entertainment with us everywhere. Our hearts, minds, and souls crave the candy of mindless entertainment, and now we can feed that craving everywhere. In every spare moment, we whip out our smart phones and check in on Facebook, send out Tweets, fire off texts and emails. Evenings at home consist of watching movies or binge-watching old television shows. We gravitate to entertainment when we should gravitate to God.
For some, being in God’s presence may feel too uncomfortable. And so the uncomfortable silences of life are filled with any available entertainment. We cannot draw near to God in the bustle and noise of life. Jesus himself withdrew from the noise of his day, so that he could hear the Father’s voice.
St. Augustine confesses, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I want to pursue God with intentional, daily times focused on Him. And I want to fall back on God in those unscripted moments of every day. My mind needs the rest.