Living in Southern California years ago, I was able to enjoy mini-escapes to a second run movie theater that was just a few blocks away from my home. This provided Mary Beth and I a much needed reprieve, especially during the sweltering heat of Coachella Valley Summers. I’m sure after enduring this last heat wave in the foothills, many of you can relate. If you are anything like me, you don’t mind parting with a little cash at Fresno’s $3.00 theater, if only to take a nap in someone else’s air conditioning.
I remember that this particular theater in So-Cal, had a very catchy slogan, “Escape to the Movies.” A straight forward little sentence that had a great hook for a culture that is heck bent on escape. Another popular, almost iconic jingle that connects easily with our stress burdened western society, “Give me a break…give me a break…break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar.” Or how about this one, “You deserve a break today…” (at McDonalds). Companies are very savvy at playing on, among others, these two things:
1. Our lust
2. Our need for tension relief
Breaks, escapes, vacations… are indeed necessary to help maintain a healthy mental, emotional and spiritual state. In fact, the word recreation carries within it a much deeper meaning than just simply going out and having fun. The word broken down is “re-creation.” The idea behind recreation has within it, re-connecting with the very Creator Himself… who created us in his image and empowered us to be creative beings. It is often times when we get those creative juices flowing that we experience a deeper intimacy with God and feel God’s pleasure.
There is a healthy measure of escape and an unhealthy measure of escape. This unhealthy measure of escape is a huge contributing factor as to why the foundation of our culture is eroding and the fabric of our society is rotting. Many of us no longer look at escape as a mode of recreation, but more for the sake of coping. We have a growing dependency on entertainment. This is subtly destructive because it detours us into avoidance.
As a child I used fantasy as an escape from the reality of alcoholism and a broken home. Like any other kid, it started out healthy and harmless…just a kid being creative and developing his imagination…I was Nolan Ryan on the mound for the angels…I was Larry Czonka running the ball for the Dolphins…I was the Marine falling on the grenade to save my brothers in arms. But as I wrestled with feeling unwanted and abandoned, as I struggled with never quite feeling like I measured up, I retreated more and more into my fantasy life. And as I began coming of age, those fantasies began taking on a more destructive pattern. Proverbs 23:7 rightly states, “As a man thinks…so he is.” My fantasies prepared me to act out in ways that would hurt others, saddle me with guilt and shame and hold me captive for years. This dramatically hampered my ability to fully receive and give love.
The media, the government, our parents, or whatever…can become convenient scapegoats for our struggles and our moral failures. But projecting or placing blame doesn’t provide any progress toward breaking free from being imprisoned in our own skin. I once heard Bible Teacher, Chuck Missler say, and I paraphrase, “God has given us this awesome and terrible thing called free will…and the best thing we can do is to give it right back to him.”
We each have been given the same opportunity. We can either own-up and take responsibility for our lives, our personal failures included, or we can do what so many others do…something that much of our culture deems acceptable and normal…we can become escape artists. We can regress into a world of our own making, avoid the truth and model an unhealthy way of coping, which we will then pass on to our children.
The prophet Jeremiah once said, “You can’t heal a wound by saying it is not there.” Escape may provide temporary relief from stress, but the problem is, you stay stuck…no forward progress.
It is a necessity that Jesus increasingly becomes our escape. Good small smart choices, over a long period of time, reap big beneficial results. Let us pray, “Father, help us to make choices that help us to renew our mind and fuel our faith, not feed our flesh and condition our thoughts to fear.”