tv

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

By Gary E. Mueller

Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference

I have this thing about TVs. And truth be told, I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I became aware of it when we got our first color TV (a Curtis Mathes) the day before the very first Super Bowl more than 50 years ago. It manifested itself again when I bought one of the first stereo televisions on the market (never mind that the right speaker never quite worked right). It ratcheted up when I purchased my very first HD TV (with accompanying surround sound speakers set up all over the den), and watched my first HD telecast – a NASCAR race replay that had me transfixed for an hour because of the clarity of the picture and real-life sound. I think, however, it recently reached its zenith (although there have been many more mountaintop experiences over the years) when my new OLED TV with an ATMOS sound system arrived that provides a clearer picture and more precise sound than my old eyes and ears can appreciate. 

I know you’re probably thinking there’s nothing remotely spiritual about any of this – especially for a bishop! And I agree. But let me be absolutely clear for the record. There’s no way I’m going back when it comes to sight and sound!

It should not be surprising, however, that God can take my unrepentant heart and use it to teach me what God knows I need to learn. This is what happened last Saturday evening as the Hogs showed the Texas Longhorns how the game of football is played. I was watching (and trying to get my children who attended Texas to respond to my texts) when I realized that there was so much background crowd noise that I hardly could hear the announcers describe the action on the field. Not surprisingly, I did what I thought was the most rational and reasonable thing to do. I turned up the volume. And I kept turning it up until it became a point of deep theological discussion with Karen, and I did the thing I probably should have done in the beginning – I turned up my hearing aid volume as high as it would go.

But guess what? I could not hear the announcers any more clearly. Sure, everything was louder. But nothing was any clearer.

In that moment, God struck. I realized this is exactly what happens all too often in my life. There is so much background noise from social media, 24-hour news cycles, ideological diatribes, music, conversation that doesn’t have much substance, my failed attempts to be in control of my life, and my own negative self-talk, that I simply don’t hear when God is speaking to me. That’s a crazy way to live. And it’s time to change. So please pray for me, that I will listen to God in a way that I may truly hear. And if by chance you find yourself in the same kind of struggle, know that I will pray for you.