Imagine your favorite lyrics had been set to a jarring soundtrack. How long would you keep listening?
When the soundtrack of our religious experience has been set to a terrifying, fear-inducing, or mechanical jam, it’s hard to change it on our own. Every time we think about God or religion, we hear the same jarring mental music.
We hear the grating broken record of OCD warning us that we lied three years ago and may not be saved. We hear the voice of a pastor or church leader telling us we haven’t tried hard enough. And we hear the music of anxiety blaring that God may not love us after all. Christopher West explains, "What affects the heart more: the words or the melody? We may have been given correct teaching in our Christian upbringing, but if it was set to the wrong music—that is, if Christian teaching was presented in a dry, cold, mechanical doctrinaire way, for example—our hearts couldn't respond openly and positively. No matter how awesome the characters in the plotline, if a movie has an abrasive soundtrack, you'll still want to leave the theater.”
Changing the soundtrack can completely change your experience. This video demonstrates how music changes your internal world.
When beautiful music is playing, what do you imagine around the bend?
When the dramatic, suspenseful music is playing, what does your body tell you is around the bend?
Try it out here.
But changing the soundtrack is not easy. At four years old, Karl Lehman heard a sermon that terrified him. The preacher was talking about Matthew 19:21: "Jesus told him, 'If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Young Karl assumed that if he sold all his possessions, that would include his clothing. He imagined himself living outdoors, naked, hungry, and hopeless. He finally decided he could hide under porches during the day and rummage through the garbage bin at night in order to survive. This fearful story was the soundtrack that played in his mind when he heard about self-denial.
For many decades, the same soundtrack continued to play when he heard about God, giving to others, or following Jesus. No matter how hard he tried to rewrite the narrative with thoughts of God's kindness, it was difficult to do.
Why is it so hard to change the soundtrack that is playing in our minds? Karl Lehman says that we all have implicit memories that are based on past experiences. Whenever we encounter a similar situation, our mind’s orchestra cues the same “background music” that we heard the first time we experienced that situation. The “background music” in our minds is automatic.
Is it difficult for you to sense or experience God? Perhaps your mind is playing the wrong soundtrack. You hear the terror in your minds and shy away. You're afraid to come close to God.
Karl Lehman experienced freedom when he learned to invite Jesus into his traumatic childhood memories. He learned to experience the kindness and sweetness of God.
God’s values and character would seem vastly different if your mind had a different soundtrack. To learn more about the Immanuel process, click here. Let's change the soundtrack to a lovely melody of empathy, inspiration, healing, and art.