Five Things We Learned From a Year of No Netflix
Words by Lexy Sauvé
In the deep of last winter, my husband rolled over in bed one night and said he wanted us to delete our Netflix account. Since I can’t keep my eyes open longer than five minutes into a show, I was pretty on board. As we talked through some of his reasoning behind the decision, I realized immediately that God was leading our family into richer, greener pastures through Brian’s particular conviction in this area. After reading James K.A. Smith’s book You Are What You Love, Brian had come to the conclusion that our hearts are made to be catechized and to worship. Every interaction we have in life is a liturgy shaping our affections towards Christ and heavenly desires, or the world and baser desires. For us, we realized, more often than not, Netflix was doing the latter.
It’s been a little over a year and we are still without Netflix. Maybe it won’t always be this way, especially as our children get older and we are able to connect with them through entertainment in more meaningful ways, but for now we are growing to love the life God has given us as we’ve stepped out from behind at least one screen. Here are five specific things we learned this year by deleting our Netflix account, which we wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
1. We learned how to read.
When you don’t have much free time to do something, you simply can’t learn how to do it—especially how to do it well. Brian feels that having, at the very least, two extra hours each evening to spend time reading, both widely and deeply, has enabled him to recover what is indeed the “lost art” of reading. We both set some reading goals and, plodding along very slowly at times, were able to accomplish them. Instead of spending our twilight hours of energy disengaged in front of a device, we poured into our hearts with literature that’s true good and beautiful and more able to fill us up, in order to continue pouring ourselves out to serve others. Some of our favorites from this last year included a trip through the ESV Reader’s Bible, meeting today’s greatest Christian writer, N.D. Wilson, on the page, and diving back in to classic fiction that’s good for the soul, like Louisa May Alcott’s hilarious book, Little Men (in her own words, too, not abridged).
2. We learned time is a gift.
Morals aside, television and screen time are arguably some of the biggest time-wasters in everyone’s life. That being said, when we realized we suddenly had about 14 hours to spare each week, I literally felt like I had been given the greatest gift! As a mom desiring to always grow into more mature faithfulness, I’m busy. Really busy. My full-throttle days often mean skipping a veg-out session on the couch or musing over an extra cup of coffee. But as this opened our schedule, I wanted to figure out how to best steward our time to continue my education as a human. This purposeful use of our time led to the other things we learned.
3. We learned how to give time to relationships.
Something I’ve noticed with my many young children is that they have to wade in the waters of boredom to enter into the lively flow of creativity and sibling relationships. For example, I spent the better part of this morning moving furniture, sweeping, and mopping the floor, leaving my two boys to sit on the couch quietly and watch. After a good half hour they realized they could bring all their bedding to the couch and pretend to camp together. Not only were they working out their brains in creative play, but they were getting along so much better than they had most of the week.
This same principle played out in our relationships as parents, as well as in our marriage. We were no longer treating Netflix as a vending machine, inserting our debit card in exchange for the instant gratification that a marriage relationship doesn’t always give you. I really feel our vibrant reading life has allowed us to actually have more to talk about as people, spouses, and parents. I’ve been able to encourage my husband as a father with what I’ve gained from my reading of the Puritans, and I’ve seen him grow in his understand of the importance of relationships between fathers and sons because of his Scripture reading. Proverbs 2 portrays wisdom, knowledge, and understanding as things requiring much work and effort to gain. Simply put, these treasures would have never been recovered if The Man in the High Castle had held our attention much longer.
4. We learned how to work with our hands.
With our extra time, Brian and I also developed some skills with our hands. In our family it’s important that we continue to grow in skills, and we encourage the same in our children. We feel a plethora of skills in one’s life is simply a large toolbox that we may use to serve others. For Brian, this means woodworking. For me, this meant learning how to quilt. With the birth of our first daughter, I really wanted to pass on some feminine skills that I felt I was severely lacking. Even though it’s been a discipline to invest time picking up something I’m still not that great at, the extra time we were daily given took away a stumbling block for me.
5. We learned how to deepen our joy in Christ.
The greatest thing we learned this year was that, as we pursued other life-giving forms of rest, our joy in Christ greatly increased. We believe God has given us physical life to live in our physical bodies with our physical five senses. God wants us to experience his abundant grace when we smell the pies in the oven, when we speak hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs to one another, when we cuddle a giggling baby girl, hear the first birds of Spring, and when we see gorgeous creations of cinema. May we not neglect the full-embodied experience of joy God’s good creation has to offer simply because we couldn’t resist the plot line of the newest drama series. Even if this hasn’t encouraged you to turn off the TV for at least a short time, I would encourage you to grow your joy in Christ by widening your physical experience of his world in God-glorifying ways.