Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When Retreat Means Changing the Channel

I work out at a gym that began as part of a hospital's cardiac rehab unit.  I usually fill up my water bottle in the hallway that leads to the spin room.  It's a wide hallway that also serves as a waiting area, so there's a small sofa and a T.V. amidst the doors that lead to individual offices.

Yesterday, as all the other gym televisions blared the local news, I noticed that the one on the hallway was tuned to the Nickelodeon channel.  I asked the woman in the opposite office, a woman who's also a spin class buddy, if she had chosen the channel.

She laughed and said she'd changed it when there was a child in the waiting area.  She said she decided to keep it there because she's so tired of hearing coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.

I can relate.  I remember my younger years, when I was more easily moved to outrage.  I'm not sorry to lose my easy capacity for outrage.  But I do worry that I'm losing my capacity for empathy.  I worry that I'm slow to grieve.

I think of Jesus who wept over the plight of various humans.  How would he react to our 24 hour news cycle, especially when almost all of the news is so negative and there's so little that individuals can do?

The human brain, indeed the whole human body, was not built for news on this scale.  It's no wonder I feel like I need to harden my heart.

But yesterday's encounter reminded me of a different way:  I can change the channel.

It's a form of retreat.  There are times in the Gospels when we see Jesus as hounded celebrity.  How does he handle this constant neediness that surrounds him?

He retreats periodically.  I imagine he would advise us to retreat too.  Even if we can't physically travel to someplace remote, we can leave the world's great gaping needs behind for a bit.  And then, we're likely to return refreshed and ready to help heal the world's hurts.

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