“shaping our minds in the moment”
This isn’t another article about how to use all the extra time you have during quarantine.
Because honestly, many of us don’t have any extra time. In fact, ever since my college went to online classes, I felt like I had less time to spare (and I was taking the equivalent of nineteen credits this semester!).
There’s a multitude of reasons for this. The mental and emotional stress of an international pandemic—all the fears for yourself and others, massive uncertainty, personal upheaval—don’t exactly give you tons of energy and motivation.
On top of that, all the changes have given many people new responsibilities—taking care of younger siblings, cooking and cleaning, figuring out new technology and online platforms. I found I was also spending a lot more time on the phone, checking on people I hadn’t talked to recently and keeping up with friends from whom I hadn’t expected to be separated.
I would see posts on Instagram about how to add this or that habit or learning experience to your life during quarantine. And I would think, With what kind of time? I was just trying to survive without tanking my GPA.
No, this article is not about how to use that extra quarantine time to memorize Scripture, like you might use that stimulus check to buy a new phone you don’t really need (not that most of us will be getting a stimulus check in any case!).
This is about how we need God’s words even here. Especially here. Especially when we’re afraid, stressed, feeling the groaning of this earth under the weight of the curse, trying to hang on, trying to survive.
Both for personal and pandemic reasons, the past several weeks have been hard. But one thing I didn’t expect was how much more real Scripture would become for me. Passages have hit me with a force they never did before.
I read about how Joshua came face to face with the commander of the army of the Lord and got chills realizing this same God is with us now (Joshua 5:14). I heard the prayers of the psalmist in a whole new way because I was praying them too, and they gave me the words to pray that I needed but didn’t have.
Now, it does feel a bit hypocritical to be writing an article on the importance of Scripture memory when I just started back into it this morning—two days after I took my last two finals and stayed up until two in the morning to write my last paper. There’s a lesson here, too, because spiritual disciplines don’t all look the same at every moment of our lives (there’s also a lesson about my lack of time management, but that’s another article for another day). There’s a time for memorizing long passages of Scripture, and there’s a time for clinging to a verse at a time in the middle of the chaos.
The discipline of Scripture memory wasn’t absent from my life, though. All the verses I’ve memorized in the past have shaped me in profound ways—and continue to do so. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” echoed in my head for several days (Psalm 27:1).
Sometimes we don’t physically have the time or ability to do things like memorize wide swaths of the Bible. And that’s okay. That’s where God has put us, and he uses Scripture we’ve learned and absorbed in the past to sustain us during those times.
But that’s all the more reason to use the times we do have the ability to engage in the discipline of Scripture memory. Even (and especially) the hard times. Because memorizing Scripture isn’t just about increasing our stock of verses to fall back on when times get tough. The very act of memorizing is further ingraining the truth into our brains. “When we memorize lines from the Bible, we are shaping our minds in the moment to mimic the structure and mind-set of the mind of God” (David Mathis, Habits of Grace, 68). This is a discipline and a gift we desperately need in what are often called “these trying times.”
With all that said, here are five passages I’ve found especially helpful to have memorized (in full—trust me, you can memorize more than you think you can!).
I’ve already mentioned this one. It’s all about how we need not fear because God is our salvation. It’s about the desire to dwell in his presence and how he will never forsake us. One of my favorite verses is at the end: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14).
One of the biggest and most important questions any human being can ask is, “Who is Jesus?” This passage is both one of the clearest and one of the most beautiful answers to this question you will ever find. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
This is another one of my go-to passages. The image that comes to mind is that of a hurricane—God’s awesome, terrifying power—but his children are standing in the eye of the storm, in the shadow of the cross.
The pandemic has taught us a lot about relationships. It’s shown us how important they are, through deprivation. And it’s shown us how hard they are. Being stuck in one building with other people, all under stress, for several days, often ends badly (see all the parents posting about how much they hate having to spend so much time with their kids!). This passage not only tells us how we’re to live with other people: “by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”, and ultimately, in humility (Philippians 2:2-3). But it doesn’t just tell us what we need to do (we know we can’t on our own—we see that every day); it also shows us how. We have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself unthinkably for us (Philippians 2:5-6).
Yes, another psalm, because I think we need them right now. This is one of my all-time favorite passages—it’s not only a prayer for salvation and help, but a powerful declaration of faith. “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). My prayer for all of us is that we would set the Lord before us always.
A Competition to Shape Your Mind Like God’s
All of these passages have stuck with me for several years, ever since I first memorized them as part of the National Bible Bee Competition. This program was one of the most formative spiritual experiences I had as a teenager. The Scripture I memorized and studied over the years I participated keeps coming back to me, even though it’s been almost three years since the last time I competed.
If this is something that interests you, registration for the Bible Bee’s Summer Study portion is open now until May 31. If you’re looking for a more structured way to get into the Scripture this hard, strange summer, I’d encourage you to check it out!