Once, when I was going through a very difficult period as a young Christian, I lay awake at night, unable to fall asleep.
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 sixth 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.