In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a royal elf named Galadriel gives Frodo Baggins a splendid gift—light from the “beloved star” Earendil, captured within a small crystal that Frodo may use to light the way should he find himself in the dark. Without giving too much away, let’s just say Galadriel’s foresight turned out to be useful for a very sticky situation. The brilliance of the star of Earendil is fiction, but it gives us a glimpse of the true brilliance found in the Son of Man, the true radiance of the glory of Christ himself (Heb. 1:3). No light is purer for our path or brighter to our eyes than his unapproachable and marvelous light (1 Tim. 6:6; 1 Pet. 2:9).
This very light—stunningly—has been offered to us for our own journeys. “The true light . . . gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). But what is this light exactly? As David reflected on the gift of light for his Christian journey, he sings, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105, emphasis mine).
It is incongruous that many believers can rehearse those very words from David by memory and yet live as if such a gift is unnecessary. The light has lost its luster in our eyes. We start to complain when troubles come our way. We ask God to give us a sign for which way to turn, but we haven’t turned the lamp on. If his Word is our lamp and a light for the road, why do we always neglect to pack it for the trip?
We all know that obstacles on the path of life are inevitable realities. Perhaps you feel the weight of your own trials and troubles right now. You feel that all the lights have gone out. Where can you turn for guidance? Each of us needs God’s Word if we have any hope of walking the road without stumbling or getting off-course.
Scripture memorization, or the practice of hiding God’s Word in our hearts, is the premier way we are guided by the lamp and light. It is not simply God’s Word with us, but in us. To read God’s Word is good; to reflect on it is better; to pray it is better still. But to know and feel his Word is altogether best. When the Word takes root in our hearts and minds, the light becomes brighter along our paths and no darkness will be too great.
In his book Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, journalist Joshua Foer tells the story of his journey from covering the United States Memory Championship to him competing in—and winning—the event a year later. He trained his mind to suddenly be able to memorize the order of two shuffled decks of cards or recall hundreds of random faces paired with random names, all within a few short minutes.
But in a book full of insight on memorization, it is Foer’s off-hand remark about halfway through that struck me: “In a tight spot, where could one look for guidance about how to act, if not the depths of memory?”
Foer’s book was not meant to be an exercise in spiritual disciplines, but the implications for Scripture memorization are obvious. Just as we all memorize the layout of our bedrooms and bathrooms enough to be able to navigate them safely in the dark morning hours, so we have also been invited to know God’s Word in the midst of dark times. In our trials, it is not the visible light that counts so much as the “hidden light” within us. God’s Word helps us navigate life when the path ahead is dimly lit.