Lent. It begins tomorrow. The forty days before Easter where we set aside time to reflect on Jesus – His suffering and sacrifice, His life, death, burial and resurrection. It’s a period of fasting and spiritual discipline, where we live without in observance of the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross.
In the past, Jeff and I have both separately fasted from certain habits and activities over the Lent season. We’ve given up coffee, alcohol, social media and junk food. This year, our decision to live with less for the month of February coincides perfectly with Lent. We also felt that our kids are at an age where they can somewhat grasp the concept of living without something. (Even if they don’t get it fully right now, we want the practice of sacrificing something in order to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us to be something Zoe and Elsie grow up with as a common practice.)
This Lenten season is going to be a stretch for us. In an effort to live more purposely as well as reminding ourselves of the miracle of the Cross, we have decided to fast from TV/movies. To any parent with young kids reading this right now, yes, we might be a tiny bit insane. In our house, supper barely gets on the table without the TV on in the background. There’s something about coming home from after school pick-up, knowing that I have about half an hour of quiet while I get supper ready, all thanks to the kids zoning out in front of the TV. I guess they call it “arsenic hour” for a reason.
While our kids don’t watch a ton of TV (about 45 minutes a day, always during the 4:00 pm hour as I get supper made), it’s been apparent that it’s effects haven’t been the greatest on our kiddos. Zoe has been struggling with some pretty scary night terrors for the past four months or so. Often when she wakes up, she mentions something she saw on TV. As well, even during independent play time, the girls often act out their favourite TV characters, which, to be honest, is pretty hilarious. But a part of me is also saddened by it…that their imagination is being dictated by something they saw on television.
Obviously we’re not just making the girls give up their TV time, but we’re also giving it up for ourselves. Right now. In the middle of the Olympics. At the tail end of The Bachelor. (We really might be a bit crazy!) But it’s been increasingly easy, once the girls are tucked into bed each night, to crash on the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of Bones that turns into three episodes. And we realize that we’ve barely talked to each other, that we haven’t made time to pray together or do devotions, and that we’ve stayed up way later than we wanted (which is never a good thing when you have a kid who wakes up with nightmares on a regular basis).
Clearly, a TV fast will have great benefits for our family and our marriage (two of our most important core values). But how will it aid in strengthening our faith, our contentment and our hospitality?
t’s a pretty simple equation to notice that less time watching TV equals more time doing something else (which usually ends up being something more constructive than TV). With our gained time, we can be more intentional with our faith, carving out time for prayer and Bible reading, both individually and as a couple. There’s something about zoning out and being mindlessly entertained that causes our ears to be deafened to the Holy Spirit’s voice. I’m excited to spend some time over Lent to hear and reflect on the direction that the Lord wants us to take as a family.
Chances are, the less time we spend in front of the television, the more time we will have to spend with others. We want to challenge ourselves to open our home more to others, to “plan” for more spontaneous invitations, to share a meal with friends, family and strangers alike (advance warning – it will likely be chicken nuggets because…kids. But the conversation will be great!). Turning down the background noise will hopefully provide us with the opportunity to be more in tune with the needs of others.
It goes without saying that discontent and watching TV go hand-in-hand. TV is probably one of the number one ways we get bombarded with advertising, both subtle and apparent. (To be honest, I’m looking forward to my girls not being subjected to advertising for the next six weeks. Treehouse knows how to market all the coolest toys and I’m in no mood to explain for the fiftieth time why we can’t get a My Little Pony hair salon.) For myself, whether I like it or not, I know that I have struggled with dissatisfaction in my relationships, my home, my own body and with my possessions during periods of excessive TV watching. On top of it all, knowing that I’m watching too much television also reveals an undercurrent of discontent and disappointment in my time management. I feel discontent because I don’t take the time to pursue the passions that I really desire, simply because I let myself be carelessly amused by fictitious story lines.
Giving up TV for the next forty days will not be without it’s challenges. I know that. Tomorrow is the kick-off to Lent. Tomorrow is also the day that Jeff works late and I have to do supper and bedtime routines with the kids solo. Tomorrow it’s going to be tempting to turn on just one episode of Paw Patrol. It’s going to require me to be more organized with meal-time. I won’t be able to rely on the TV to babysit while I cook supper. Maybe we’ll eat a lot more easy meals – cue the chicken nuggets and fries. I may not witness how many golds Canada brings home. Or who Arie gives the final rose to. But I’m pretty sure I’m not going to regret the hours that will be spent being intentional with Jeff, our girls, God and our community.