Images vs. Words

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As cultural observer and critic Kenneth Myers has said, "A culture that is rooted more in images than in words will find it increasingly difficult to sustain any broad commitment to any truth, since truth is an abstraction requiring language." As the images of television increasingly become the favored method of communication rather than words, people lose their capacity for reasoned thought. They therefore lose the ability to posses the mind of Christ. -Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Woman

The Lord has been whispering to me lately on the subject of what images I subject my eyes and heart to.  At first it was a more selfish thought-- if I'm going to spend time watching TV, I want to make sure it's watching something I really like.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere (although more likely out of the Holy Spirit), I read two blog posts (here and here) about this same issue and for the first time since we got cable/satellite five years ago, I considered the idea of, what if we didn't get it when we move back out on our own in the near future?

We've talked about this before-- because we really don't watch that much TV, other than sports. We always muse about how we wish there exsisted some kind of a la carte sports package, so we could ditch the rest of the channels.

I then, this morning, read a chapter in the awesome book I'm reading with my women's group, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, called Discipline of the Mind. The author, Barbara Hughes, brings up an idea that my college-time mentor and Bible study leader (who is still my dear friend) taught our little group years ago: garbage in, garbage out.

This idea of garbage in, garbage out is one I fully believe in, and for me, looking at gossip magazines or watching reality TV is something I don't struggle with-- they just don't appeal to me (thankfully).

For me it's more subtle.

Two years ago, I was pregnant, working part-time as a college instructor, and spending a lot of time at home eating brownies grading papers and writing lesson plans, usually with my beloved HGTV on in the background.

When Chiquita was born I sort of stopped watching it cold turkey. Not really on purpose, but partly because I was too busy and the free time I did have was spent otherwise. I also wanted to wait as long as possible before I introduced TV to Chiquita (she "met" and fell in love with Elmo at about 18 months), although that didn't entirely work because baseball has always been a constant in the background at our house.

I now occasionally turn on HGTV while I'm working in my mom's sewing room, but that's about it. And the truth is, I don't even really miss it. I realized, without a doubt, how it had been affecting me, albeit subconsciously.

Contentment has always been a struggle for me (see my blog's tagline). So what do you think two hours a day showcasing remodels, decorating (even on a dime) and first-time home buyers did to a perpetual renter with a long-time desire for the American Dream?

In the last two years, I can safely say that God has removed that desire and given me a heart that 's willing to rent for as long as He wills. I won't say it's all because I stopped watching HGTV but I don't believe in coincidences. In those hours, I was filling my mind and heart with a lot of lovely images, but not a lot of substance. Not a lot of words. Not God's words.

It's not like the images on HGTV are evil or anything, in and of themselves, but for me, I can see that it's not wise for me to watch it in large quantities. If I want to strive to have the mind of Christ, rather than conforming to our culture, I can't be filling my mind with images that make me want what I don't have.

I almost laughed out loud when the chapter in Hughes' book started talking about how her family didn't have TV when her kids were growing up.

You had to bring this up for the third time this week, Lord?

It'd be easy for me to give it up, I think. I'm perfectly happy with movies, TV shows we enjoy on occasion on DVD or online, watching baseball online, and one less bill per month. Moondoggie will, to be honest, have a harder time giving up SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, and MLB Network. But I know once they were gone, he'd be okay with it, and savor the small bits when we visited our parents' house.

I know the Lord can change our hearts as we seek Him on this issue. I'm not sure what we'll decide but even being open to the idea and aware of the power of images is a big step toward godliness for me. Words, especially God's word, are so much more meaningful than images.

I don't want to be legalistic about this issue. It's not an issue that's critical to my salvation or that will necessarily make me a "better Christian." I just want to make sure my heart is in the place that God wants for me at this time.

I can't even imagine the TV being darkened every evening (other than movies)-- what would we do to pass the time? ;)

For those of you who made it through this marathon of a post, I'd love to hear your thoughts!