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I didn’t grow up in a church that taught Lent or giving up things as a sacrifice. So, when I decided to participate in it this year, my husband was a little . . . surprised.

I gave up TV for Lent.

I love TV, I love watching “stories” as much as I love reading them. I love getting involved with the characters and know there is another “chapter” next week (If it’s a good book, it always irritates me when stories end.) Not to say I don’t have my standards, but having a plot and good quality writing are the main two prerequisites.

What I realized has happened though, is that I’ve gotten far too attached to those stories. When I’ve been living a currently stressful life, watching some of these shows just send my stress levels and blood pressure through the roof. (For some reason, most of my favorite shows this year are “suspenseful.”) I get too wound up watching them, and it takes me forever to calm down enough to sleep. And let’s not talk about the crazy “Fringe”-induced dreams!

Somehow, my emotions and anxiety levels have forgotten that those folks on TV aren’t real! Dude, it’s an actor on a set, saying someone else’s words and faking a nonexistent life! So yeah, taking a break is probably a good idea to do. Even if not knowing what is happening on some of my favorite shows is driving me bonkers.

Recently, I came across this book, Shall I Pray or Watch TV by Vic Zurly. (Note: very poorly written, goes off on tangents all the time, but makes a couple good points. And oh, it’s free, and I was desperate for something new and different to read.) If you can get past the poor writing, it actually convicted me quite a bit.

  • How much time per week am I avidly watching TV?
  • How many of those shows are “have to watch” because I’m just “dying” to know what happens next?
  • How much effort, time, and money are we putting into making sure we don’t miss anything? (I’m talking rearranging our schedule to watch certain things, paying for DVR on the TV, spending time programming recordings, etc.
  • How much time do we spend talking about TV, what we saw on TV, or wish we saw on TV?

Those are the practical questions. The ones we know the “proper” answer to.

Now here are a few, that I’ve had to start asking.

  • How are these shows affecting me?
  • How am I using TV? Or perhaps, am I actually using TV, or is TV using me? What am I avoiding, ignoring, or replacing?
  • What kind of influence does TV have in my life? Specifically, my spiritual life?

I guess what is really poking at me during this Lent sacrifice of TV goes back to my Pastor’s message on priorities. Am I giving this electronic box too much power over my life? What could I be spending that time on that would have eternal value, instead of temporary or little (or, for some shows on TV, LOL) or no value? How could I be making positive, lasting, differences in the lives of our families or others during this time?

Even more, my husband and I have been talking about what “the world” is trying to tell our girls. We’re already very strict about what we let them see on television. But why are we that strict with our selves? Sure, we’re older and tell the obvious differences between fiction and reality . . . but are we truly wise to the subliminal lessons that “the world” is trying to infect us with, and protecting our own hearts and minds?

None of this is to say that I’m ready to cut the cord and get rid of the television completely. Not yet, anyway. It’s still quite a powerful bond, and I admit that I’m looking forward to this being over! It hasn’t been very easy. No one else in my family is participating by giving up TV and we’re living in a hotel room. There just aren’t that many rooms here for me to escape to, so I’m having to work extra hard and make strong conscious decisions in the evening when my husband is home to ignore whatever is on. (Thankfully, it’s been a lot of basketball, which I am more than happy to ignore.)

And it’s quite as easy to give the TV addiction up and insert another one, like Facebook. I need to put much more effort into using that time more wisely and productively.

What I am enjoying about this Lenten fast – getting to sleep at a decent hour is so much easier. And after hours of nonstop girly time, I treasure the peace and quiet and SILENCE that comes after they are in bed!

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