So I am a glutton for binge watching on Netflix. I love a show that I can start from episode one and carry all the way through for two, three, eight seasons. I love to see how the writing grows, the character development deepens. I love the mindless escapism into a story, especially if it was created by the BBC. (Although there are plenty others that I have found. ) But, Oh. My. Goodness. BBC.
I love all things British crime or drama or history… (Josiah I blame you for this addiction!) And I am truly embarrassed to admit, I can watch for hours while ‘putting away laundry,’ or ‘cooking dinner.’ Sometimes I get so caught up in a show, I stay up waaaay too late to finish a season or a plot line. I mean, late like, I’m-a-mother-of-four-and-work-full-time-and-have-no-business-staying-up-so-late, late.
Now, I recognized that there are worse addictions in the world, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not the worst thing in the world. But as I reflected on preparing myself for this year’s Lenten season, I realized that I was spending too much time in front of a screen. And I was distracted from productive things and meaningful things as a result.
So I decided to break up with Netflix for Lent.
When I say it like that, it feels a little pathetic. But there was intention behind this decision. Lent is a season where we fast from something as a way of identifying with Jesus’ suffering. It is a way of identifying with our own humanity and sinfulness, our own weakness and therefore our need for a savior.
Watching Netflix is not a sin, but my lack of self-discipline is. My inability to moderate myself to the point where I lose sleep and productivity, is a problem. We are called to “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) For me, the decision to break up with Netflix for Lent, is an exercise in making more room for Jesus.
So it has taken me some time to get there, but I found a fantastic replacement… Binge watching (or listening) to sermons. As a middle-schooler in the late 80’s and early 90’s, back before all things media were ‘On Demand,’ I used to listen to Christian talk radio in the mornings. The voices of Chuck Swindoll, TD Jakes and Tony Evans echoed through my bedroom every morning as I curled my bangs and fried them with hairspray. – I will just let that sit with you for a minute. Ladies, do you remember that special smell of fried hair and hairspray? Those were the days…
Remembering these voices that floated in the background of my adolescence inspired me to revisit them. I have found the most suitable replacement for binge watching Netflix is binge listening to sermons.
The challenge of making more room for Jesus is a difficult to say the least. There is a saying out there, that 90% of life is just ‘showing up.’ What does it mean to show up for Jesus? Making time to pray. I mean – I’m a pastor, I pray a lot during the day… but intentionally making time to pray. It’s not always consistent for me… it’s hard. Or taking time to read my Bible?
But then I started listening to Tony Evans sermon series, The Power of the Cross. I was challenged. The power of the Cross, or the power of Easter doesn’t end with the cross, it begins with the cross.
Evans got to the root of the Christian ‘problem’. It’s not just about ‘showing up.’ Showing up at church is different than carrying your cross. And Jesus, Jesus invites us to carry the cross. To carry all it represents into the world with us, into our families with us, into our hearts, our minds, our relationships, our finances, our politics.
The cross represents sacrifice, it represents sin, it represents intentionality, it represents love. If we are going to show up for Jesus, Jesus calls us to carry our cross. And the cross is not easy, it’s not about convenience. It’s not about personal fulfillment or a special feeling we get during worship. The cross is not about getting what we want, it’s about submitting to what God wants. It’s not about a ‘get out jail free card’ or a ‘ticket to heaven card,’ it’s about walking in the world in a way that embraces the loss of life and the new life which it promises. We are called to pick up our cross, the harsh, cruel cross and allow it to set the world free from the evil it contains here and now.
And there is plenty of evil in the world… Just turn on the news, or flip through social media.
Making room for Jesus requires that we take Jesus with us, in every part of our lives. If Lent is about identifying with the suffering of Christ, then it doesn’t end with Easter, it is where it begins. It is the beginning of everything that matters – Our salvation and our sending, our crucifixion and our calling.
So even though, I was only half way through ‘Call the Midwife’ when I broke up with Netflix, I’m glad I did. I mean, who would have thought that by making room for God, God might actually teach me something? What are the chances?
If you are interested in following Tony Evans podcast, it has been a really good Lenten practice. You can find it here: http://tonyevans.org/category/tony-evans-radio-broadcast-the-alternative/