Sunday, October 6, 2013

Waging War (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are fasting from Media this week as part of The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  While I did not post any blogs (nor check my comments or view count) for the entirety of the week, I did keep a daily journal.  Here are a few of my thoughts from Wednesday and Thursday.

Day 6: Wednesday

Dear adoption blogs, I miss you.  I read you diligently every day, even though I'm just a kid and still ages away from being legally allowed to adopt a child (Hey Em, you're turning 21 in less than two weeks... surprise!).  Regardless, your words of hope and familial love have warmed this lonely college student's heart.  I have only two more days to go without your adorable stories, insight into God's heart for the fatherless, and photographs of rainbowed families.

I went to a worship night tonight for my Life Group.  I led for half of it, but for the last bit, I got to sit back and listen to songs play sweetly from speakers across the room.  Songs I love, like "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle and "Mighty Hand" by Jon Thurlow. 

While doing my Bible study, I read John 17:13-18, which says, "I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them.  I have given them Your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

A quote from Jen Hatmaker about this passage that left me thinking hard was: "I grew up in a Christian culture that valued a sequestered worldview.  'In the world, not of the world' was the mantra that kept me separated from 'sinners,' isolated from complicated questions and quarantined with other believers.  ...A heavy emphasis on morality reduced my concept of discipleship into simple lists; do this and be esteemed, do that and be condemned.  ...I artfully skipped over the part where Jesus said, 'I am not praying that You take them out of the world. ...As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.'  I avoided this concept, preferring a protectionist view point, meaning pull out, detach, ignore, disengage, disconnect, wall it off.  ...But Jesus chose a different way to protect us: truth.  Evidently He deemed that enough to anchor us."  

I've grown up with this perspective.  A fast from media has many people expecting me to step back and say, "Now I see.  Media is of the flesh, not of the Lord.  Movies are bad.  Music is bad.  Facebook is bad."  And that simply is not true.  I'm fasting from media to refocus my heart on Christ, but media in itself is not sinful or wrong.  In fact, it is a resource that can be used for God-glorifying things.

Jesus didn't pray that we would leave this world.  He sent us into the world armed with truth.  And as I go out into the world, including the one of social media and internet, I want to be fully equipped with the truth of God's Word and the love of Christ.  Not naively boxed away into a Christian closet, but aware of the darkness and ready to fight against it with light. 

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  In the words of Jen Hatmaker, "Maybe remaining culturally savvy, sharp, and discerning, shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves is an advantage."  

Am I going to go immerse myself in pornography and listen to music riddled with degrading messages just because I'm a member of this world?  No.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, "'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial.  'I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive."

Am I going to intentionally become more aware of the hidden messages the media is throwing at me, like, "Everybody has sex.  You deserve to buy whatever you want.  Without friends, you are nothing."?  Yes.  I want to know the lies being slipped into those advertisements, materialistic messages, and even my classroom lectures so that I can stand against them with the truth of God's Word.  "The marriage bed should be kept pure.  Those who give to the poor will lack nothing.  Your name is inscribed upon the palm of His hand.  No other thing gives you worth."

It was a good day today.  I'm learning.
Day 7: Thursday 

I think I was tempted the most to cheat today, believe it or not.  The knowledge that the end of my media fast is coming up in ten hours, eight, six, four, has left my hands twitching near my computer, my brain murmuring, "Emily, it isn't that long until tomorrow.  7pm is practically midnight.  Go ahead and watch a show.  Go ahead and check your blog comments.  If a thousand years are like a day to God, then three hours must be like less than a millisecond."

Let me clarify: the point of my fast isn't ritual, legalism, cheating or not cheating.  The point is giving my word and sacrificing something to the Lord, saying, "I want to be uncomfortable for an entire week if it means worshiping You, focusing fully on You."  It's giving up something I thought I needed in reliance of the sustenance of my Father.  And He's been gentle with me this week, helping me to push past my silly temptations.

Out of the four weeks I've now fasted from excess in a row, the Lord has answered prayers the most clearly during this one.  Two specific prayers have been answered in the last few days.  I don't think it's because fasting from media is any more significant than the other fasts, which have all been transforming and challenging in varying ways.  But perhaps it's because I was the most frustrated this week, the most weary and desperate.  I've had to sit back and listen to the Lord in silence instead of fleeing to my own resources, and His calm voice is what I received instead of my usual accompanying noise.

I've been attacked viciously the last seven days.  Sleep has come sparsely.  I didn't sleep last night at all.  Not a wink.  As the alarm on my phone sprang to life at 6:30, I was still staring blankly at the wall.  Insomnia leads to exhaustion, which brings spiritual and emotional fatigue, not only physical weariness.  I'm most often attacked through anxiety, and I like to retreat from those feelings by escaping into movies and loud music and social media connections with my friends.

With all of that stripped bare this week, I was forced to face my anxiety, totter under sleeplessness and frustration, and finally collapse at the feet of God in utter desperation.  I'm tired.  I'm weak.  I can't do this on my own.  Not just the fasting from media, but taking care of me.

I like to cling to my own sense of control when I feel overwhelmed.  I like to think I used to struggle with these things and now I'm strong and independent, when in reality, it's a daily transformation to be more like Christ.  Jesus is gently loosening my grip on my self-centeredness and holding my trembling hands in His.

"You are Mine.  You are secure.  I will give you rest.  I will give you peace.  I'm giving you life to the fullest, Emily." 

As I end this week with only an hour and a half left to go before my fast is complete, I'm not left feeling a hatred or disgust for media.  Media is a tool that the Lord uses to connect people, to bring families closer together through shared photographs on Facebook and movie-watching experiences, to raise awareness about all sorts of issues, and to share His love.

How many times have I been truly blessed or challenged to be more like Christ through a blog, email, comment, or Facebook status?  More than I can count.  Media is a wonderful resource.

But media can be time-consuming and addictive.  It often projects false ideals and tempts its users to become inwardly-focused and hungry for constant digital interaction.  It leads people to covet (try looking for home design ideas on Pinterest, if you want to know what I mean), gossip, and fly into impulsive rages and arguments about silly things.  For me, media sometimes brings a weight of guilt when it shouldn't.  If I don't read and respond to every email or comment I get on my blog, if I'm not keeping up with what my friends say on social media, I feel bad.  I shouldn't feel obligated to keep up with media more than I do my face-to-face interactions.

There are good and bad sides to media consumption, just as I've also come to realize there are good and bad sides to food, clothing, and possessions.

The most important thing is placing the Lord first in my heart and allowing everything else to fall into place behind Him and people.  I want media to be a tool to grow nearer to my Creator, not a stumbling block that distracts my attention from Him.

As I finish this week, I'm meditating on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I refuse to allow media use in my life to be an addiction, coping mechanism, or distraction from the Lord.  Instead, I pray that it will be a resource to help me demolish every pretense in my life that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and an encouragement as I work to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ, online and off.

What has the Lord showed you this week?

One year ago: The Room
Two years ago: Plus-Sized Mannequins... or Not
Three years ago: Leave an encouraging note on the mirror.

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