A Tree Planted by Water – Kimberlee Conway Ireton
Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and a forthcoming memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.
Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
who meditates on God’s law day and night.
Such a one is like a tree planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
Almost three years ago now, in the throes of postpartum depression, I desperately grasped at anything that would help me channel my out-of-control thoughts away from the fear that choked me. In the midst of this darkness, my friend Susan offered me a lifeline.
She mentioned over dinner one night that she was memorizing Ephesians.
“The whole book?” I asked, incredulous.
She nodded and pulled a little black Moleskine out of her bag. Inside, the words of Ephesians were pasted, six to eight verses at a time, onto the left-hand pages. The right pages were blank. “For my notes,” Susan said. “Or for keeping track of how many times I’ve recited it.”
I paged through the little book, and something in me stirred. “May I—may I join you?” I looked at her. “I want to do this, too.”
The following Monday, Susan brought me my own little black Moleskine, its pages already pasted with every verse in Ephesians, and I began to memorize the words.
When the fear stirred, I forced myself to recite Ephesians. When I realized my thoughts were swirling chaotically, I forced them into the channel of Ephesians. These words became my prayer in a time when I had no words of my own to say, no words of my own to pray.
Week after week, I added new verses to the ones I already knew. It took me ten months, but I memorized every last word in that book. Even now, two years later, I still have them etched in my memory.
Since then, I have memorized half a dozen Psalms, part of 1 John, and large chunks of John 10 and John 17. Currently, I am beginning to memorize Colossians 3. I do this memory work slowly, a verse every week or so. But a verse a week adds up over time to a whole lot of verses.
I say all this not to boast. (Well, okay, maybe a little, which tells you just how far I’ve still to walk before I am renewed in my mind.) I say it to encourage you to memorize Scripture, too, to show you that you can.
To put on the mind of Christ, it is important, Dallas Willard writes, “to draw certain key portions of Scripture into our minds and make them a part of the permanent fixtures of our thought.” He continues, “This is the primary discipline for the thought life. We need to know them like the back of our hand…and then constantly turn them over in our minds as we go through the events and circumstances of our life.”
I came to the place of needing Scripture as the nourishment for my mind out of desperation. My mind was a dark and scary place, and I needed something other than my own frightening thoughts to fill it.
On the other side of that darkness, I continue to memorize Scripture and turn it over in my mind day after day because I want my mind to be filled with the light of Christ. I want it to be full of the thoughts and images that occupied His mind when He walked on this earth. I want to abide in Him and have His words abide in me.
And so, I continue, slowly, one verse at a time, to feed myself on the words of Scripture, to root them in my mind, so that I no longer conform myself to the patterns of the world or my own destructive thought processes, but can be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
If you feel nudged or pulled to plant the words of Scripture deep in your own mind, why not choose a favorite Psalm or Gospel or epistle passage to memorize? I have a sheet of memorization helps that you can use if you want, but the easiest way to memorize is simply to read 4-6 verses over and over again, day after day. Stick them on your computer monitor, your bathroom mirror, your kitchen sink—wherever you spend a few minutes several times a day—and read them a time or two every day. By the end of a month, you’ll have them memorized. Then, as you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a line somewhere, say those verses, so that they affix themselves to the walls of your mind, a spot of beauty and light and peace in the midst of the anxious swirl of your thoughts.