Scripture memorization. Maybe it’s just me, but this is a part of the Christian journey that we often do not want to take part in. Not that we’d ever admit it, of course.
For so long, scripture memorization has seemed to me like one of those unpleasant necessities, a chore for Christians. We know we should do it, but it’s just so hard and takes so much time and dedication. So, I never did much of it. Sure, I served my time in Awana growing up, and definitely memorized some scripture there, but it didn’t really stick. Nor do I think the importance of memorizing Scripture was really addressed. Or maybe I just didn’t get it then.
My perspective changed his last summer when I worked with a guy who had more Scripture memorized than I have ever seen in a person who was not a Biblical Studies professor. In conversation where I would reference principles from the Bible, or passages annotated with “I don’t know where this comes from, but…,” he would be able to quote passages verbatim, and give the reference for them. Not only was I impressed with his memorization of Scripture, I was also slightly embarrassed with my own lack in that area. So, I decided I needed to start memorizing Scripture.
But for what reasons? I struggled for a while with my motivation, because honestly, I tend to think I’m right, and have a strong drive to prove this to others. So, for me, having Scripture passages at hand could just be a way to make my points, for, as I discovered talking with my friend this summer, it’s rather difficult to reply to verbatim scripture passages and references with ideas, themes, and “I know it says somewhere…”
If I were to start seriously memorizing Scripture, I didn’t want it to be for this reason, as it seems to miss the point. I don’t think God said, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts,” (Deut. 6:6) so that we can use Scripture against people: to prove them wrong and us right. It seems self-serving, and that is something I know disciples of Christ are not meant to be.
So what did I do? I started memorizing anyway. Are right motivations important for things like this? Yes, I believe they are. Yet, I know memorizing Scripture is far too important to not do just because I might have the wrong motivation. I believe that Scripture is the Word of God and, therefore has the power to transform hearts and minds. So, if my motivation for memorizing is wrong, by just doing it I will be ingesting into my heart and mind that which has the power to transform my motivation into something God-honoring.
So, I began memorizing the Sermon on the Mount, and was surprised that it was easier than I thought. I was expecting grueling hours of recitation, with the constant need to review what I’ve already memorized, but within about 30 minutes I had the beatitudes down. Of course this kind of retention happens after I’m done with school. After just a few short days, spending 45 minutes to an hour each day, I finished with chapters 5 and 6. It was amazing! Not only has it been much easier than I thought it would, I have enjoyed it more than I had imagined, and actually look forward to spending time in the Word this way; as I memorize the Word, I know it’s entering more than just my mind, but my heart and soul as well.
So, whether it’s because of the transformation it’s having on my heart, or because of my thought that if I’m ever thrown into a Chinese prison with no access to a Bible it won’t matter because it’s all in my head, I’m immensely glad I am “hiding God’s Word in my heart.”