I grew up in the heart of the Catskill Park in upstate New York. I swam in the Esopus Creek and hiked up Wittenberg Mountain. Whenever I walked the two miles along Route 28 from my house to Kirk’s Market in Phoenicia, I always ran into a neighbor I knew. The natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains and the friendly community made it a wonderful place to be a kid. I can’t possibly tell you what a childhood in that park means to me.
I also grew up with schizophrenia in my family. I can’t possibly tell you all that means either, but I certainly experienced a lot of fear. Schizophrenia is a biologically-based brain disease that affects the way a person thinks and behaves, leaving a profound impact on the person with the disease and everyone who loves them. In my experience, schizophrenia obscured truth, rendering even rudimentary levels of healthy trust impossible. It also left me swimming in a wake of fundamental lack because it wreaks havoc on the mental stability required to focus and consistently perform tasks. I faced fear at every turn because some of my most basic needs went unmet. The mental health issues in my family made it so, so important to find a safe place for my mind.
Even as a child, I took Psalm 46:1-3 to heart. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.”
I looked outside and knew that no matter what chaotic thing happened, the powerful God who made the mountain in my backyard saw, and He would help me. I believed that deep down inside me. It wasn’t just something I wished for; it was actually true. He kept His promise to be my very present help in trouble.
Long after my daily contact with schizophrenia ended, the effects lingered. Fear stalked me. I needed a mental haven from all the scary things in the world. The safest place I knew was the Bible because that’s where I read about how tenaciously God loved me, how radically I could depend on His care, and how to handle difficult situations I faced.
I memorized First Peter. The whole book. It took months of working on it every day, but I put God’s words in my mind. Whenever I felt frightened, I reached for what God said to me in First Peter. I can no longer quote the whole book on a dime, but those comforting words are stored somewhere in my brain, and the Holy Spirit reminds me of them on an as-needed basis.
You may not deal daily with schizophrenia, but there is no lack of difficulty in anyone’s life. Do you crave a safe place for your mind? Take refuge in scripture. You don’t have to be a fancy-pants Bible scholar to memorize a few of God’s words.
Here are my top three practical tips for parking your mind in the safe place of God’s word:
Choose something accessible. A passage with a simple structure like the Lord’s Prayer begs to be remembered. Perhaps something already familiar, like the 23rd Psalm would be a good place to start.
Think in terms of sentences, not verses. Verses sometimes leave you hanging mid thought. A sentence is easier to learn because you get the whole idea. Five verses might feel daunting, but you can easily remember a sentence or two!
Something is better than nothing. If you memorize even one phrase, that’s something you didn’t have yesterday. God will honor your efforts.
This summer I’m memorizing John 14. Join me?
A Safe Place to Put Your Mind
1. What is one hobby or skill that you’d like to take up?
I’m excited because I’m learning how to weave on a big, old floor loom that my sister happened to have sitting around for a decade in her barn! Last fall she gifted me two looms, and I’ve had a blast figuring it all out. God makes things out of nothing. I certainly can’t do that, but I can take some of the beautiful things that God made and use them to make beautiful things of my own. I love to feel the soft fibers in my hands. I love the rhythm of weaving and the complexity of design choices. I would be glad to show you my progress so far because it’s all so fun and it makes me happy. Ask me anytime!
2. Do you love playing any sports or just watching it?
I’m totally not a sports lover -- playing or watching. I’m not a competitive person, and I find team sports confusing; however, I love hiking. I’ve elicited more than a few odd looks when I tell people that hiking is my favorite sport. If playing video games falls into the category of e-sports, then surely hiking is something akin to a sport. I’m hoping to celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary by hiking Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Park this summer.
3. What is your favorite room in the house and why?
My favorite room in the house is our dining room because it has our great big table. I sit there next to Rich every morning to watch the sun come up, read my Bible and sip tea. It is also the place my family gathers at the end of a busy day to share the day’s events and a meal. I linger in the dining room with the people who love me most in the world and that makes it a special place to me.