A few weeks ago I did a week-long media fast. One day during my fast I got particularly frustrated playing basketball and found myself aching for a chance to rewrite my day with a few victories online. But I couldn’t. I had decided to close my escape hatch. You see, I recently discovered that my first response to being sick or dealing with a tough day was finding a new show to binge watch, or playing video games for a few hours to forget my problems. But when I went on this fast, it forced me to simmer in my boiling blood a little longer. I couldn’t play the game that I could end when I wanted it to end.
See, if video games are the only way I can calm down, it seems like it’s an addiction, not a strategy. If I can’t end my day without an episode of whatever Netflix is streaming, then it appears that the media is controlling me, training me to find solace in escape rather than face my latest reason to feel angry or ashamed.
Now, it is good to have ways to cool off and gain perspective, but if that perspective comes from seeing lives more messed up than my own or out-clicking some ten-year-old in a video game, then I can’t imagine how we learn to respond better during the next basketball game or rough day at work.
That week I came face to face with knowledge of my shame I could no longer escape.
I lost my fig leaf.
At first, I simply turned on those I felt “wronged” me. Just like in the garden, my impulse was to blame someone else for my frustration, redirecting my frustration anywhere but at myself. I failed to truly live through mistakes with love.
Because losing the fig leaf was not enough. The anger and frustration still needed to be dealt with. But by closing the escape hatch, I found new ways to break out. Prayer. Silence. Grace. I learned how to receive the clothes God provides without pointing any fingers or hiding behind pixelated screens.
For it is in the act of receiving grace that we find ourselves. In holding our anger, shame, and frustration and plunging headlong into grace, we can find a way out of our prison cells and back into the real world. Media can’t save us from ourselves, but Jesus can.
Cover image by Josh Riemer.