Silence is really hard to achieve in this day and age. With music, Netflix, the internet, movies, video games, television, etc. at our fingertips, it’s sometimes difficult to realize how much media we consume and how distracting it can be. This is not to say that all media is bad. How much we use it and what we use it for, however, can be.
I began to realize this when it became hard for me to focus on my prayers due to the many different song lyrics and TV show antics running through my head.
These things started to become almost addictive for me – almost every spare moment of the day (when I wasn’t at work or praying) I was listening to music or watching Netflix.
I fulfilled all of my duties and obligations, but just barely, and I really wasn’t giving my heart to prayer like I should have. I also didn’t have much time to do things in the morning before work because I was staying up so late, caught up in the internet and watching my show, and therefore sleeping in late the next day.
I tried to make myself go to bed earlier, but every time I thought that night would be the night that I would conform to self-discipline, I would tell myself to wait a few minutes while I finished one more TV show episode. I always ended up going to bed at the same late hour.
One day a few weeks ago, I woke up and decided that if what was keeping me up so late was media, I wasn’t going to use it at all that day.
If I didn’t use it at all, I wouldn’t be tempted to use it for a few minutes more and a few minutes more until the minutes turned into hours and I made the same mistake again.
So that morning, I didn’t try to cram in an episode of a TV show before work, or listen to music in the car up to the second I stepped out of it. It was amazing how much good that silence was and how relieved I actually felt to not have something constantly creating noise in my mind.
When I got off of work that night, I decided to allow myself to listen to a little bit of music as a reward; I didn’t think music would keep me awake till the middle of the night. I listened to pop music for a little while, but suddenly got tired of it and wanted something deeper than the superficial lyrics.
All of a sudden, I thought of Rich Mullins, one of my mom’s favorite artists. He was a Christian artist who wrote a lot about his honest feelings, and his lyrics are really like prayers in themselves. I realized that I could pray along with his songs and that it would be contributing to my prayer time and not distracting me from it.
Somewhere in the middle of listening to his music, I got on Facebook for a few minutes and saw something that my dad had just posted. I read the first line of the post and got chills — that day was the anniversary of Rich Mullins’ death. The very day I suddenly felt the need to listen to his music after a long time was the anniversary of the day that he had passed away.
I realized that night that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in ways that we may not expect.
For one, we have to be open and free from distractions in order to hear His whisper. I would not have felt inspired to listen to Rich Mullins’ music if I had not been on my “media fast,” because I would normally have been watching Netflix at that time. For the other, all media is not a bad thing, as He can use it to speak to us, just like he can through anything else. I would not have known that it was the anniversary of his death if I had not gotten on Facebook.
Since that night, I have been able to push my bedtime back to almost two hours earlier. I still listen to music and watch Netflix, but I realize that there is a certain limit even to good things.
I’ve been learning to make God my first priority and to give Him the respect that He deserves. On the other hand, I don’t have to give up the internet and music completely in order to strengthen my prayer life.
The key is to leave more room to hear the Holy Spirit above the noise that comes from the media.
Madeline Elyse – Column: Encouragement & Motivation