Once, when I was going through a very difficult period as a young Christian, I lay awake at night, unable to fall asleep. I was distressed and hopeless (and, in retrospect, in need of anti-depressants). I picked up my Bible, which was becoming a newly regular habit for me, and I turned to Ephesians 4 – randomly. And I started to memorise it.
I walked around my bedroom, reading verse after verse and committing it to memory – chanting the words under my breath in a way that strengthened me and slowly eased my pain until I was able to lie down and go to sleep.
December 11 is the anniversary of my baptism. It has been nineteen years since I have repented of my sins, confessed Jesus as Lord, and allowed myself to be baptised for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of my sins. And in all those years, I have not forgotten one of the first scriptures I memorised.
I don’t remember it perfectly – it comes and goes in patches –
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
YOU, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
You were taught , with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self
Do not let the sun go down while you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
And the one that comes unbidden, with crystal clarity, and guides my behaviour at all time (except when I ignore the nudging):
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
It gives me pause before I speak. Is my talk unwholesome? (Since I have a lively sense of humour, I am often tempted to fall into coarse joking). Do I build people up when I speak? Do I speak in a way that meets their needs, and not try to attain my own ends? Does it benefit them?
All this guidance from a scripture I memorised 19 years ago.
When the Israelites were led out of Egypt, and wandered in the desert for 40 years before being led into the Promised Land, they were given manna to eat. It collected on the ground each day and looked like frost, it tasted sweetish, and they were to gather what the needed for that day only. If they gathered too much it spoiled, and if they did not gather a double portion on the 6th day, they had nothing to eat for the Sabbath. This experience was a physical manifestation of the need for us to have a daily dependence on God’s Word.
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven,which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:49-51)
Memorizing scripture is a way for us to eat … well how can I put this … it’s a way for us to eat Jesus’ flesh the way he says we should. It says in John 1 that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The Word became alive in the form of Jesus – the same way characters in our favourite novels can spring to life for us. Except, in this case, of course – it’s the reality because God is the author. And as we digest this living Word, it becomes a part of us, and it changes us.
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) It sculpts our heart so that we are softer, more like Jesus – stronger.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekial 36:26
Recently, I have started memorising scriptures again. I think I was feeling dull in my spiritual life, but I also decided it was time to tackle some of the harder, stonier parts of my heart, which have to do with shame and feeling like I’m not good enough. I want to let God replace those hard parts in my heart with flesh. So I set about to memorise the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, and fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, in Hebrews 12:2-3. I think memorising scripture is most effective when you’re using the particular verses you need at that particular moment.
I also re-discovered the scriptures I have had posted above my doorframe for some time since.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
I wrote the Word on the doorframe of my house. 🙂
Last night I had a chance to speak with some of the women in my church who have been faithful for years, and whose children are all faithful. I asked them whether memory scriptures played a bit part in their lives. The (perhaps obvious) answer was yes, and they began quoting them on the spot!
And then Emma – a dear friend who is English and married to a Breton, and is the family who hosts our French Thanksgiving dinner each year – showed me the chalkboard she had in her kitchen (which is where we were gathered). I saw that she had put a guiding scripture for that week, which is there for her children to see as well. When I exclaimed at the brilliance of such an idea, she confessed that she had an extra chalkboard and had been planning to give it to me to do the same.
The women’s ministry leader is currently studying with a young woman, and every time she learns a new scripture, she says, “Oh that’s a good one! I need to remember that.” Carol – the women’s ministry leader – said, “well, why not take some index cards and write them down to memorise and carry them with you?” So that’s what she did.
I think … new Christian or old, we need to be renewed day by day through the power of the Word, and through exercising that power by writing it on our hearts.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
And you? Has memorising scripture been your practice? What are some of your guiding ones?