“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20 NIV
I remember in high school our English teacher made us memorize passages from Shakespeare and then recite them as part of occasional oral exams, sometimes even in front of the entire class. Julius Caesar, Hamlet, MacBeth…all the classics. While it seemed random and unnecessarily rigorous at the time, looking back I am thankful that he taught me this skill. Not because I can pull out a soliloquy at a party to impress a crowd (I’ve long since forgotten most of what I committed to memory), but because I appreciate the skill that it helped develop in me to memorize things. I have found that the most useful byproduct of the exercise.
The Bible was never really a part of my life as I was growing up. That’s not to say that biblical living wasn’t a part of it, just that reading the Bible, studying the Word, memorizing passages…none of that was much a part of it. Believe it or not, for our confirmation class we spent more time memorizing parts of the Book of Common Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer, Nicene Creed, Apostles’ Creed, etc.) than we did the Bible. But I have reached a point in my life where I really wish all that memorization skill had been spent on the Gospel rather than the Bard. I wish that quoting scripture was a part of my spiritual arsenal.
The benefit of being able to memorize parts of the scripture is not to impress people at parties but because I could use the repetition in moments of hardship, fear, or uncertainty to bring comfort. Sort of like a mantra. That is to say, it would be nice to memorize something that I can actually use.
And use them in a way that can bring me into a closer relationship with God. The first step came about ten years ago when, better late than never, I started reading more scripture. I started simple, with a few devotionals in my Bible app, and worked my way up to reading the entire Bible in one year. It was a great experience, and it has taught me a valuable lesson. When we read scripture, the words that we are reading are, generally speaking, not new to us. Mostly, they are stories that are old as time, with themes that have stayed relevant for generations. But in reading them, and even committing them to memory, they can be made new to us in the way that God chooses to use them in our lives. God makes fresh his word in the scriptures so that we can relearn their power to effect change in our lives and the lives of those around us.
My hope is that by memorizing certain passages that mean a great deal to me, they will become readily available in the front of my mind and can be accessed in times of struggle or distance from God, and thereby deepen my relationship with Him, giving me the beginnings of a toolbox that I can go to as a first resort. So, a new journey of memorization begins for me today. Join me if you’d like, but at the very least check back with me in a year to see how I am doing!