– Taarika Chandy
Every morning for the last three months, I have caught a fast train in Mumbai that hurtles towards the dreaded Kurla station at peak travelling hours. This experience used to fill me with an increasing sense of doom-and-gloom as I battled my way through huge crowds in CST (singing “I Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot in my head and running in slow motion). But recently, the gloom has given way to an extension of my morning prayer time. Trust me, you have to be in a constant posture of prayer if you’re rushing through CST at 9am!
In my church, we all try to make time to do something we call Community Bible Reading (or CBR). We all read the same passages in the Bible at various points during the day and then we share our thoughts or convictions with each other on a whatsapp group. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing your phone vibrate, only to find that somebody has been incredibly inspired by today’s reading and is living their life differently because of it.
My CBR time is mostly in the morning. I potter around until I’m awake and then quickly do it before I have time to panic about how late it is. This means that while I pray a little during CBR, a vast chunk of my prayer time is actually once I’m seated on the train.
Honestly, I don’t know how I prayed before these months. I have never prayed more fervent, tear-filled, (sometimes sweaty) prayers of praise and repentance than I have on the crowded, freshly fishy smelling local train at nine o clock in the morning. It’s as if God loves to speak to me while we hurtle through each station together; I find meaning in almost every second whether my eyes are shut or not.
It’s that one ray of sunshine that floods my carriage when I really begin to see my sin, the twin reflections of train wheels on the tracks opposite that remind me exactly who I’m running this race with. It’s the jolts and the halts and the slow parts under dark bridges with the certainty that there’s a sun (Son) at the other end, just waiting for me to come out and drown in its (His) light once more.
Maybe I’m still half asleep or hallucinating and maybe God doesn’t speak through train tracks and sunshine and dark bridges but there’s no other way to account for the absolute joy I feel when that half an hour on the train is over. (There’s no other way to account for my patience with the hordes at Kurla station either)!
I don’t ever want it any other way. I’d battle ten times the crowd at CST, I’d travel all the way to Virar every morning, I’d even sit in the luggage compartment with all the fish, just so that I get this time with Him. It’s a blessing like no other; I have never done anything to deserve such a gift. All I did, all I do, is believe in Him. He does the rest.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NIV)
We looked at this verse at work on Monday and I realised that my God took something I disliked and turned it into something that gives my life meaning. He took my doom-and-gloom and made it into something I give thanks for. He’s that big, He’s that loving and He’s just that awesome; my God of the universe and Mumbai local trains alike!