Where's Your Head At?
I'd been encouraged to enjoy some fictional reading this summer and thought that sounded like a fun idea. However, I've had a lot of limited time to read lately so I thought this might best be accomplished through audio book. One book I decided might be good to read was Stephen King's It. Quite frankly, I don't enjoy scary movies, but many students in my youth group raved about it when it was released. I thought it might be good for me to know about it and that the book sounded like a safer way to experience King's tale. Boy, was I wrong.
Based on what the narrator was saying, I didn't make it past chapter three. I couldn't believe the things that were being said and how even such narration—read aloud—affected me. The things being said were gruesome and perverse. The sense of evil overwhelmed my heart and I desperately hope the movie the students were raving about had been modified to be unrecognizable from the book.
I don't say this to express some sort of "holier than thou" attitude. I say it because whether we acknowledge it or not, what we consume really affects us. Music, movies, television, podcasts, social media, and books all our sending messages that affect us internally in one way or another. They affect what we think and feel, so like with food and drink, we must be intentional and responsible with what we consume.
I believe this is why Paul encourages us to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). The mind can be the gateway to the heart. What we think about shapes and affects our feelings. When we are stressed, we are constantly thinking about the thing that stresses us. When we feel joy, we think about what is making us so joyful. When we are sorrowful, we think and grieve to process our sorrow.
I often notice—and I've heard many others say this too—that when I fill my mind and heart with worship music, my whole demeanor changes. There is a "pep in my step" so to speak. This is because I am dwelling on lyrics heralding God's love, mercy, grace, and provision for me. I'm dwelling on whom God is. I'm setting my mind on things above.
The same thing happens when we memorize Scripture. We are intentionally meditating and dwelling on God's Word, which is living and active and has power. Our hearts and our gaze become focused on the eternal rather than the temporary. We need that.
When we set our hearts on things above, we focus on the sovereign God who holds the world in his hands. We rest in the fact that he is not surprised by what we will experience or face. In fact, he is working those things for our good and his glory. We are doing just what John reminds us to do over and over—abide in Jesus.
Abiding produces joy—joy that isn't found in the media we consume, joy that the world can't offer us, and joy that many people (including Christians) are looking for. I see many Christians full of stress, worry, fear, and anxiety and I can't help but wonder what they are putting in. Are they abiding in Christ? Are they setting their minds on things above?
I notice a real difference when I focus my heart toward the eternal rather than the temporal. Listening to the book It left me feeling low, bothered, and disturbed. In contrast, later that week, I listened to a song declaring what I deserved as a sinner and what Jesus did for me and my heart soared with joy, gratitude, and awe. May we be those longing for something better and not just cheap entertainment.