Understanding Media’s Light Pollution

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It was a big adjustment when I moved to Chicago right out of high school. Among the many changes was a disappointing discovery that it was nearly impossible to see any stars at night.

I had grown up in the country and spent many nights staring at the Milky Way, locating constellations, catching glimpses of meteorites and I even had the rare opportunity to see Haley’s comet. In Chicago you could see the moon if it happened to be standing over your street but that was about it.

They call it light pollution. There are so many man made lights in a city that it drowns out the view of the stars. They haven’t gone away, they are still there but they are clouded by a blanket of artificial light. The stars at night are not the only things in life that can seem to vanish. It reminds me of the times in my life when I think that God has disappeared. It’s not that He isn’t there, it’s just that I don’t see Him.

Have you ever struggled with your relationship with God in a similar way? Does He ever seem distant to you? Have you ever been uninspired in prayer or felt that reading the Bible was just a chore? Do you have the tendency to fill your life with noise because you are uneasy with silence? Do the things of the world seem much more attractive and interesting than the things of God? Did you know that Jesus gave us some direction to help us with these issues? He said “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

What keeps us from having a pure heart? One of the biggest factors in our time is undeniably today’s entertainment. The hours that are often spent each day in front of various electronic screens can appear so harmless. Even the artificial lights in a city are welcome at night until you have a desire to see the stars. Likewise, it is easy to get used to a constant stream of media until we realize that we are having trouble seeing God.

Having spent many summers working with youth camps I have often marveled at the impact they can have in the lives of young people. I have a good hunch that much of the effectiveness is due to the fact that the campers have to “unplug” from media for at least a week. During that short time the artificial light that has previously blocked their view begins to dissipate and they begin to see God more clearly than before.

It is not that they haven’t heard the same messages before at church or at youth group or in their homes. Often times the messages don’t get through to the heart because it is experiencing a spiritual form of light pollution. If my hunch is right about what that short break from media can accomplish, imagine the growth we might experience if we began to “unplug” some of those distractions for longer periods of time. I’m convinced we will begin to see God more clearly.

What are some of the media choices you make that might be distracting you from your relationship with God? Maybe it’s time to consider trading primetime for some quiet time (Psalm 46:10). From vegging out to crying out for wisdom (Proverbs 8:1). From being taken captive to taking captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). From idol time (oops, I meant idle) to redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16). From the light pollution of the world for the authentic light of Christ.