Time Between Episodes

“One story told week by week” recently returned to my podcast app.

The podcast, Serial, became a huge hit with its first season in 2014, when its creators told the story of a man named Adnan Syed. One of the draws of Serial was the suspense created at the end of each episode and the reality of its tagline, “one story told week by week.” Adnan’s story was a long one that the listener wouldn’t hear all at once but rather required waiting. The same was true in season two’s story of Bowe Bergdahl, on which I reflected in a 2016 blog post.

In an age where streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu drop whole seasons of shows all at once, I was relieved when Serial returned for its third season with time between episodes. Of course, I am eager to know what will happen. A part of me wishes I could listen right now to what is next. But there is not yet an automatic playing of the next episode.

Like many of us, I am guilty of jumping into the next installment of a podcast or TV show while the credits are still rolling on the previous one. I could use the term, “binge,” to describe the continuous watching, but I don’t like that word. I associate it with making ourselves sick by overdoing a good thing. I associate it with eating disorders of excess followed by illness.

Sometimes I wonder if binging on stories, instead of allowing time between episodes, makes us sick in different ways. We are so eager to find out the end that we don’t allow our minds and spirits time to process what we have learned. We rush to a conclusion rather than drawing conclusions along the way. Serial is an excellent exercise in digesting a story a little bit at a time. In a world of information overload, we can unpack the loads of information with time.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
— Psalm 46:7-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

Throughout the psalms is a mysterious word with a debatable meaning: Selah. Scholars speculate on an exact definition of the word but agree that in it is a sense of stopping or pausing. The word calls readers of the Scripture to re-read from the previous selah, which encourages meditating on the Word—and its stories.

Meditating requires us to pause. Pausing causes us to reflect. Reflecting makes us wise. While we can enjoy watching or listening to a show without stopping between episodes, how much richer would be if we had conversations about what we had watched? In the study of Scripture, how much more would hear from God if we conversed with Him in the selahs?

Streaming services offer us tremendous benefits, but let us not get carried away by the current of impatience. Try pausing between episodes. Learn the stories “week by week” instead of “back to back.”

Selah.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian