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More than a Memory
A Review of Memorizing Scripture by Glenna Marshall
“I specialise in a very specific kind of security, subconscious security.”
In the movie Inception, there’s a concept that I’ve always loved. In case you’ve not seen the film, it revolves around the idea that there are agents out there who can enter people’s dreams and either steal or plant ideas and memories by doing so. As a result, high-profile people arm themselves against such attacks by training figments of their imagination to protect them; to wake them up when agents attack, and to help them discern what’s real from what isn’t.
As Christians, it’s rare that we’re assailed in our dreams, but there is a very real danger out there, one which seeks to turn fact into fiction, and lies into truth. That danger is far more real than Inception’s team of dream-agents, but by the grace of God, our tools, our defence, is more than just a figment of our imagination. Often though, we leave ourselves defenceless by forsaking that tool. That’s one of the reasons I love Glenna Marshall’s new book, Memorising Scripture1, because it reminds us to keep scripture not just close on on the shelves in our homes, or on an icon on our screens, but to keep it close to our hearts and our minds, to guard and nourish them both; defending against lies, and reminding us of truth, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Perhaps when you opened this email and saw the title, you thought, that’s more than I could do, or that’s more for other people, or, great, more things to add to my list. I want to encourage you, that what Glenna writes about in her book, is more than than just more. Glenna knows well how difficult it can be to sit down, focus, and indwell the words in the pages of her Bible. After Glenna began to suffer with an autoimmune condition a few years ago, she noticed a distinct difference in her innate ability. She says:
In addition to copious amounts of chronic pain, digestive disorders, sleeplessness, and anxiety, brain fog has been a fairly regular companion…My sluggish mind has made my attempts at Scripture memorization feel unbearably slow and fruitless.
Reading this was such a blessing to me personally, as over the last few years, battling my own health issues, I’ve experienced the very same struggle. Not only have I found it more difficult, more onerous to accurately memorise portions of scripture, passages I’d long held dear and have had stored away for years, even decades, seem to have been almost burned away. The talent of easy memorisation I’d enjoyed from an early age was replaced overnight with an uphill struggle. Whether you’ve always struggled with memorisation, you’ve been hit by a similar affliction to Glenna and I, or you’re in the enviable position of finding these things easy, this book is for you.
Memorising the scriptures is about more than just rote recital.
When I was younger, one of my greatest adversaries was the word, “failure.”
A important figure in my life had repeatedly held this word over my head, until it had been imbued with such power as to forge it into a weapon. That weapon would come out of nowhere, and with increasing regularity, it seemed. Countless songs and books seemed to expound upon it, often at length, and I found myself in tears every time. Experiences like this, I gather, are common, therefore we know that memory is more than just a tool for passing exams, but for some reason, when it comes to the task of learning scripture, we think more about the task, and less about the outcome—which can be far, far more powerful than a weaponised word.
Whilst our worst memories have the potential to be used by the enemy to convince us of our depravity, the scriptures speak a better word, and one which has the power to cast out that enemy, and to rescue us from the depravity he accuses us of.
In a state of immense hunger and weakness, Jesus was met by that same enemy, who brought not just accusation, but temptation. In each case, the Lord used the sword of scripture, cutting through his lies.
We are not Jesus, but if we’ve been redeemed, we have the Spirit within us, and for those of us the 21st Century west, we have ready access to those same scriptures. In her book, Glenna goes through not just the why and the how of scripture memorisation, but also answers a greater question, “to what end?”
Glenna covers a huge swathe of topics in a relativity short book, everything from loving God to hating sin, remaining steadfast and renewing our minds, and finally, to encourage and exhort both ourselves and others. The final chapter, “For All of Life” looks forward to the last days of our life, and asks what we might want our life to look like, looking back?
“We want to stand firm on the truth of the gospel through many light and momentary trials. And we want to see that future glory that awaits us because we are so convinced that God’s Word is true and lasting and bursting with promises that will prove true when we close our eyes to this life and open them to our realest life to come.”
Past, present, and future; for God, against the enemy, and for the benefit of others. This is why we memorise scripture. Take a look at the following again:
Renewing our minds
Encouraging and exhorting both ourselves and others
Look at each one individually and ask yourself, “if by memorising scripture, I would grow in just this one, would it be worth it?”
Would you benefit from Loving God more? Or hating sin? Would it be worth memorising scripture just so you might encourage others more? Surely each one is a resounding “yes!”
In that case, why not try? My experience tells me that thought you might focus on the one, you’ll get the others added to you by extension.
The first time I got seriously ill, I memorised James 1:2-3, which says:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
In the rough nights, and through painful prayers, these verses sustained me. As a result, I began sharing the verse with others—that which had caused me to love God more, grow in steadfastness of faith, and renew my mind through suffering, would now be used to exhort and encourage them. I had it printed on my business cards and I would hear from people, “I don’t read my Bible enough, but when I opened it, your card fell out, and I so I began reading James. Thank you!”
Then, after a time of relative ease, I became ill once again. I was largely bed bound, entirely housebound—aside from weekly and then fortnightly visits to the hospital to have my blood tested—and, lying in bed, the enemy came.
It felt like someone was sitting my bedside, saying, “Do you still count it all joy Adsum? How are you enjoying this latest trial? Do you not hate being tested?”
I remember smiling, because the enemy had seen my sword and thought he was strong enough to wield it. Empowered by the Spirit, feeble as my body might have been, I picked up that weapon once more, and struck him with it. It was as though I’d said:
“I do count it all joy, even in this trial, for I know that the testing of my faith had produced steadfastness; and has encouraged many. My afflictions are but opportunities for further love of God, hatred of sin, the renewing of my scattered mind, and to witness to others that the Lord is mighty to save.”
I probably was not quite that eloquent.
I will say more about this experience later this week. Watch this space.
So, if a single verse—with the Spirit’s help—could do all that, why not shoot for two, or three? Or a lifetime’s worth of memorised verses?
You can pick up Glenna’s book by clicking the link here:
Grace and Peace,
Adsum Try Ravenhill
I will be anglicising this from here on out, but the book itself is written in American English.