I was on a train again this weekend headed into Center City Philadelphia and noticed it. For some reason the train car I entered was really full even on a Saturday morning and I discovered the only seat available was right in the front. I had never been in the front of a train before and certainly not close enough to see the train engineer at work. He had a window shade pulled down on his side window so all I could see were his hands. That was enough though. His strong hands would wait until the signal from the conductor and he would put the train in gear and we would get moving. It was fascinating. So fascinating that I almost missed seeing the young man beside me. He was clearly a teenager, but seemed like he had an important task. He was wearing an official SEPTA (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) cap and jacket and was holding a clipboard. At each stop, it seemed like he was recording our time of arrival and when we stopped suddenly, he made a note on the sheet of paper. I presumed he had been hired to monitor the activity of this relatively new train that had recently been put back into service after having been repaired when cracks had been discovered by some inspectors and it became big news in our city.
Watching him work, I couldn’t help admiring how methodical he was and how much he seemed to enjoy it. Then I saw something else. Just like many other young people I knew, he was wearing earbuds and listening to something that held his attention as well. Somehow, he could multi-task. He recorded what he needed to, waved at passing trains, kept an eye on the conductor and even said “Bless You” when I sneezed. Yet, the entire time, he was listening to something else. It got me thinking. I wonder what his soundtrack was. Must have been something he enjoyed, because he seemed to be quite content and even focused. Music can do that and so can the right words. As I looked around the train, I realized that lots of people had headphones on or were reading books. They were creating their own soundtracks – those patterns of words and sounds that come back to us over and over again when we least expect it and often need them the most.
Our minds are a lot like our stomachs. What goes in shapes us in ways that we don’t expect, even though we are warned about it from childhood. Eat junk food and you are going to be overweight. Listen to lies and juicy gossip and we become suspicious and skeptical adults as the world continues to disappoint us. My parents knew this and decided that my spiritual health was as important as my physical health and served up a healthy dose of biblical wisdom each day right alongside the casserole we were going to eat. They shaped my mental soundtrack one verse at a time with a rigorous commitment to scripture memorization that was so natural, it was like eating the delicious rolls my mother used to cook. Mom was really creative and relied on our unique personalities to make this process as normal as possible. In my, case she knew that I had a competitive streak and decided to incorporate Bible drills into our weekly kid’s club. It was never enough just to find the verse quickly, she wanted to see if we could quote it from memory and if so, you got an extra prize. On our table for several years, we had a plastic box shaped like a small loaf of bread that held Bible Verses. It was a big deal among us siblings to see who got to read the verse for the day.
I am so grateful for that spiritual nurturing of my mind. When I am tempted to question God’s love, I remember that “he sent His only son…so that I might have eternal life”. When I am tempted to give up, I remember that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. When I get anxious and afraid, I remember that “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind”. As things look bleak, I am reminded “all things God works for the good of those who love him”. These are not just nice sayings or spiritual platitudes; they are soundtrack of my life. Yet, just like the food I eat, I must keep eating good things or my body will show it. Resting in the truth of scripture should be a daily practice or my soundtrack begins to get warped or even worse, I start listening to other voices than the still small voice of my heavenly father.