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Word to the Wise: June 7

by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor

NOTE: In a departure from our usual devotional format, this week I am quoting selections from a graduation present I gave my son Luke back in 1998, entitled “Musings of a Prodigal Father.” In it, I wrote about things I wished I had said to him and to our daughter, Charis, who graduated several years later, but may never have gotten to. I have done a bit of editing in view of the times and audience. My prayer is that these little reflections will help to reinforce the wisdom we’re hearing on the weekends during the “Word to the Wise” series.

Scripture. “Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” - Proverbs 4:23 

From “Musings of a Prodigal Father”:
Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, really caught my attention when it came out a while back, Luke.  In it, Postman argued that Aldus Huxley was right in Brave New World when he said that modern people would become too busy amusing themselves, thus paying little attention to powerful forces at work shaping society in harmful ways.  The book was prophetic.  Amusement is among our most prized gods in America, and it seems little can stem the rising tide of its powerful grip over us.

I wonder why.  Is it selfishness?  Boredom?  Too much money available?  Too much time on our hands?  Perhaps a little of all of these.  True, there is nothing inherently evil about entertainment, and play clearly has a necessary role in restoring our souls. God wired us for play.  But does it really warrant the kind of money we spend on it, or the kind of time we give to it?  Postman may be right in suggesting that we have become a trivial culture.  Are we giving adequate attention to the great questions:  Where do we come from?  What are we doing here?   Where are we headed?  Too often our preoccupation seems rather to be, How can we have fun?

Maybe people just don’t want to face reality.  Maybe they prefer to get lost surfing the web and changing channels precisely because they just can’t stomach the harsh realities they’re facing, things like broken relationships, vocational dissatisfaction, and lost opportunities.  In truth, I get lost in books sometimes (as you well know), pursue fishing with a bit too much gusto now and then, and surf cable television with the best of them.  Sometimes, I honestly need to fast from these activities in order to pay more focused attention to what ultimately matters in life.

My advice to you is pretty simple.  That which occupies most of your waking hours has the potential to become your god.  If you find yourself spending endless hours, for example, surfing the web, go cold turkey.  That is, just quit it, at least for a while, so that you can bring things under control.  This advice applies equally well to all forms of entertainment since they are all potentially addicting. But, more than this, ask yourself the simple question, Is this entertainment drawing me closer to God by restoring my soul, or is it distracting me from what really matters?  Is it an asset or a liability?  Does it enhance my relationships with my wife, family, and friends?  Is it a needed diversion or a crippling distraction?  How is it affecting my work and study?  Does it provide me with seeds of growth or destruction?  Bottom line:  Is it good for me or is it bad for me?” 

Father, you created us for work and play. Please, help us to hold these twins in balance, neither neglecting our responsibility to work hard at making a better world nor our need for rest and suitable entertainment. Help us to strike that balance which, more than anything, contributes to human flourishing, both for ourselves and especially for others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.