“I don’t even know how she got on this show if she can’t harmonize,” I said as I leaned back in my chair and looked at the TV.
“Megan!” my roommate snapped. “You’re not supposed to be watching TV! Get back to work!”
“I’m not watching, I’m just . . . ” I trailed off, unable to come up with an excuse. I sat back up in my chair and started in on my schoolwork again.
The reason I wasn’t supposed to be watching TV was because I had given it up for Lent. And my roommate had no qualms about keeping me in check, despite not being in any way religious.
It was my senior year of college and that spring I had started to notice myself forming a very particular habit. I would wake up, and turn on the TV. Prepare lunch, and turn on the TV. Come back from class, turn on the TV, and then take off my coat. I had the TV on all the time. I watched whatever happened to be on – mainly Sponge Bob, Fairly Odd-Parents, and reruns of CSI. I wasn’t using TV to put off doing other things, like school work, but it was always on as background noise.
And that’s all it really was. Noise.
When C.S. Lewis writes about hell in The Screwtape Letters he describes it as “no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either [music or silence], but all had been occupied by Noise” (Letter 22).
I think the reason is clear. When you fill your life with noise it becomes difficult to focus on the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of the Holy Spirit.
God speaks to us, but we have to be able to listen. It’s important that when we pray we cut out the noise so that we can hear His voice. Distractions like the TV, cell phones, and even our own thoughts can get in the way of communicating with God.
The noise also prevents us from finding Jesus in our neighbor. Jesus said, ”Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
This means that when we’re talking to our neighbor, whether it’s our mom, brother, teacher, or BFF we’re talking to Jesus. We need to really listen and pay attention, but that’s not easy if we’ve got something like the noise-making TV pulling us in the other direction. We can’t build up relationships if we’re not giving 100% of our attention to what the other person has to say.
Why do we feel the need to surround ourselves with all this noise? Is it because we’re afraid of what we might hear?
There’s a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including TV. But that spring I felt like TV time was becoming all the time and was distracting me from more important things. I cut it out so I could become more receptive to the voice of God and people around me.
And let me tell you, I didn’t miss it.