Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feeling and Filling Needs

We stopped watching regular TV almost 15 years ago and we are probably one of the few families who have never had cable TV.  Since we´ve been in Bolivia we buy copies of TV shows (at least one season behind) on DVDs.  So we do know and watch some of the shows that are on and some blasts from the past like I Love Lucy, The Cosby Show, The Pretender, and MacGyver.  When we stopped it´s not like we had been watching tons of TV.  Our oldest kids were small and they watched an hour or so of kids´ programs in the afternoon and Joe and I watched an hour or two a few nights a weeks.  At first not watching TV was an experiment, but we liked not having it so much we never went back.  Even after we turned off the TV for good we still rented movies, so I guess we were kinda ahead of the Ti-Vo curve.  We still watched movies, just no commercials.

Anyway something unexpected happened that first Christmas after we unplugged our TV.  When we asked our three young children what they wanted for Christmas they could not think of a single thing they wanted.  This was so different from years past when they had long lists of toys.  Finally one of them came up with the idea that he wanted a sucker that spun around like he had seen in the checkout line at K-Mart.  WOW!  We couldn´t believe it.  They couldn´t think of any toys they wanted.  To get away from all the advertising and marketing is not why we stopped watching TV, but it sure was a nice side benefit.  That´s when we realized the impact that all the commercials had on our kiddos and on us too.  We didn´t want or need the newest gadgets or toys or cars or even the newest cleaners.  We didn´t even know what they were.  When we felt a need we went looking for something to fill that need.  We didn´t feel needs created by ads on TV anymore. 

I was thinking about that this morning.  What a powerful impact advertisers have over us.  They make us feel needs that we didn´t feel before.  Needs that aren´t even natural.  Otherwise how can you explain how Americans spend millions or even billions of dollars on things like spray on hair, pocket fishermen, and knives that can cut through cans.  How often do you need to cut a can, really?  Why do feel like our old cars without the GPS, without DVD players and butt-warmers on every seat just aren´t good enough anymore?  Why do we think we need the newest smells, the newest frozen food, the newest clothes?  Because we are made to feel discontent with our old ones like they just aren´t good enough anymore.  Someone else has created something better and other people are getting it.  I need it too!  For instance, before I had been perfectly content with my old pen, but now there is one that writes even better.  I must have that one.  I have a need for a new pen that just a few moments ago I didn´t even know existed.  But these advertisers aren´t finished with me yet.  I must buy it now because for a few days only it is ´on-sale´ and if I want it later I will have to pay more money for it and that would just be stupid to wait.  So I rush down to the store to buy the latest thing in writing, and also newest toothbrush that technology has invented so my teeth will be cleaner and while I am there I buy the newest detergent to make my clothes cleaner because that will make me happier.  How shrewd these advertiser guys are.  No wonder they make so much money.  They CREATE needs.  They make us feel needs that we didn´t have before and they make us feel as if we must get these needs met TODAY. 

Now to spiritualize this principle for a moment.  Why as Christians can we not do that with REAL needs?  Why aren´t we as shrewd at discerning and showing people their real needs and pointing out the ´lack of fullfillment´ with their old way of life?  We have the REAL answer to REAL needs...not imagined ones.  A restored relationship with God through the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit really does FILL a need.  A real need.  I know that many people are afraid of or even opposed to ´marketing´ Jesus.  But I am not talking about trying to sell people something or even trying to convert them to a certain kind of life.  I am not talking about trying to get them to attend a certain church or buy a certain Bible or a particular Bible study book or sell them on my way of life.   I don´t want to have people feel needs that aren´t there I only want them to realize the need that they do have.  I don´t want to ´sell´ them anything.  I just want them to consider if all the things they are cramming into their lives really are meeting their needs or are they still feeling like something is missing.  I just want them to know that there is Someone who can meet all their needs.  I want them to know that there is a realationship that they can have that will exceed any need they´ve ever felt.  I think most people, even sadly many Christians feel like if they just had more time, more patience, more energy, more money, more power, more organization, more (fill-in-th-blank) they would be more content.  They feel like something is missing and they spend their lives trying to fill that need.  As Christians we have the answer, yet many times as I said our lives don´t look that much different from anyone elses.  We are not content either.  We are looking for something else to make us feel fulfilled.  We don´t find our contentment in God and following His plan for our lives. 

I guess I am answering my own question here.  I was wondering why we aren´t showing people their real need for God and the fulfillment that only He can give.  Why aren´t we ´hipper´ in finding ways to reveal to people their needs and better at showing them the way to the One who can meet those needs?  Why can´t we see people´s needs, point them out, and direct them to the Answer?  I guess maybe it´s because even we don´t truly believe that we have the answer.  Maybe we don´t believe in our own ´product´.  We feel unfulfilled ourselves.  We are trying to meet our needs elsewhere too.  What is wrong with us?  How are we so easily influence by others and their ideas when we should be the influencers?  We have been sucked in.  I guess the answer is that first we as Christians must see that in Christ we have all we need.  We have all we need to be content to be fulfilled.  Once we figure that out for ourselves and live our lives according to that knowledge, maybe then we can convince others of it. 


Christy said...

EXCELLENT post, Denise! Well said! You are an encouragement to me.

Caris said...

Fantastic!!!! I love life analogies like this. Great lesson! Thank you!

Lori said...

I once bought an exercise kit from a late-night TV show. How silly of me! I didn't even use it! You're right on about giving up TV--we don't watch it either and we don't miss it at all!

Shalee said...

Dearest Denise:

I came across your post while doing a recipe search, of all things ;)

Just wanted to thank you for sharing your insight regarding TV viewing. Growing-up we had TV, but Mom let us view very little, aside Saturday morning cartoons, Little House On the Praire, and occasionally in the morning was Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, or Green Jeans/Kangaroo (cannot recall the show title exactly). We had farm animals, and all needed to be fed before us girls even began to think about breakfast, choosing clothes for school, heating our curling irons, etc.

As an adult, my children are active, and more interested in playing outside, coloring, cooking, etc., than TV or video games. Why ... I can only guess it's because I do not watch television unless I am folding laundry and it is the Discovery Channel/National Geographic if the kids are up, Food TV if just me (my passion), or otherwise its tuned in to a meriad of music channels we get, with no video. Occasionally we do enjoy a Disney movie, or the like.

Long story, but here is the short. I am now separated, no money for TV, and my children have not missed it (much at least), as they have never been used to watching it in the first place. I concur that the toy, etc., advertising is out-of-control, and never gave it a thought until I read your post! Christmas this year seemed much more 'personal' and simple instead of 'themed' .... instead of Toys-R-Us being 1st stop on the list, it was the craft store, pet store (that's not new), and putting our Christmas money towards more food for the deep freezer.

My littles ones are 4 and 7 ... wise, beautiful, and I am so blessed for having had them! Times are so hard for so many, but we try to look at the bright side of life ... food, heat, a home, and can still afford our blessed lab and 2 cats (who are also family).

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours, and thank you for sharing ;)

Peace ~


The Holmans In Bolivia said...

Thanks Christy, Caris and Lori for the encouragement. I really seem to be needing it these days...more than usual. ;^)

Shalee, glad you found my blog and connected to it. May God keep you in His ever tender hands. I´m so happy you took the time to write a comment. Keep in touch!