Wednesday, May 23, 2012
why you shouldn’t memorize Bible verses
I can almost hear you sigh. Who wants to be told they should memorize more of the Bible? If you’re anything like me, you tried to learn some Bible verses once, and you’ve forgotten them all, except a few stray words. And now I’m telling you that you should learn whole passages?
Yes, I am; but it’s not really a case of “should”. The Bible never tells me that I have to memorize this much this way. Memorizing Bible passages (and even whole books) isn’t really work to me. It’s joy. And that’s from someone with a terrible memory, even at my sparkling best. I did the bulk of my Bible memorization while I was a brain-dead sleep-deprived baby-toting mum. I’ve been doing this for years now: years of revelling in the best words in the world. I’m not asking you to take up a difficult duty, but inviting you to a feast (Psalm 119:103).
Why passages, not just verses? Because they are easier to learn. They stick in your head in a way that individual Bible verses are never likely to – at least if your brain is anything like mine. That’s because they come with meaning attached. They come with context, and meaning opening like a flower, and movement and mystery and structure and poetry and – did I mention meaning? They’re not just stray bits of information floating around an overloaded mind.
Why passages, not just verses? Because they are more useful to remember. Instead of a single nail, they give you a shelf to rest your thoughts on. Instead of a dot point, they give you an argument to wend your way through. Instead of a hut, they give you a mansion where you can lay your anxieties down to rest. They give you expressions for your praise and poetry for your laments and words for your encouragement. They give you food for reflection and prayer when you can’t sleep or when you’re going for a walk or when you’re waiting for the bus.
Why passages, not just verses? Because they are a lot more fun to recall, so you’ll recall them a lot. Because they’re full of meaning and sweetness, you’ll call them to mind again and again; and this will drive them so deeply into your heart that you will never forget them. You’ll do most of your memorizing when you’re not memorizing, just recalling your favourite passages, in the same way that you remember a special place, your greatest experience, or the face of a lover or a friend.
Have I convinced you? Have I even begun to convince you? I hope so. Because this is the first in a series. Next time, I’ll talk about the what of Bible memorization (which passages would be good to learn first?); then the how of Bible memorization (how on earth do I get those passages into my sluggish brain?); and, finally, the why of Bible memorization (what’s the point of all this anyway?). If going from what to how to why sounds a little backwards, yes, it is. But you’ve heard it often enough around the other way around. So I thought I’d shake things up a bit.
Why passages, not just verses? Because God has invited us to a feast. Let’s not stop at the hors d’oeuvres.
What’s your experience (if any) of Scripture memorization? How well do you remember what you learned? And how do you feel when you hear the words “Bible memorization”:
a) jumping for joy (I can’t wait!)
b) yawning widely (I’ve heard this before)
c) bewildered (No-one does that any more!)
d) guilty and anxious (I know I should, but it all sounds too hard.)?
This post first appeared at The Briefing.
image is by chefranden at flickr