Scripture Memory Is Hard (and Totally Worth It)
Scripture memory has never been easy for me. It takes so much time, always seems so difficult and, if I’m being completely honest, is often boring. While reading a book on spiritual disciplines recently, I sensed the Holy Spirit convicting me in this discipline.
I immediately began scouring Amazon for any resource I could find about memorization. After a thorough search (a solid 5 minutes), I found it: Moonwalking with Einstein. This had to be it. A book that claims to be the guide to “remembering everything.” In the book, the author followed around two world memory champions (yes, that’s a real thing) for a year to learn their tricks of the trade. The book was filled with incredible feats of memory and tons of helpful memory tricks that can be used for remembering everything from lists to the order of a deck of cards. One guy even memorized over 80,000 consecutive digits of the numeric constant Pi.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived when I got to the chapter discussing memorizing literature. I eagerly and attentively began reading with anticipation of finding the wisdom I sought. Disappointment soon followed. The chapter basically summarized that memorizing literature is the only universally hated event at the world memory championship and that there really isn’t a shortcut or trick to it. It takes time and hard work.
This was a tragic discovery. I don’t have time to spend hours a day memorizing scripture. I am way too busy. I have too much stuff going on. Besides, I have my Bible app that I can search anytime I need to find verses, right?
At this point God confronted me about my belief (or lack thereof) in his Word. I did not see God’s Word as important enough or desirable enough to spend time committing it to memory. Other things in my life were just more important. It’s not a lie that I am busy. I truly am (just like everyone else on the planet). The lie was that I am too busy and that it’s not worth the time it takes to memorize God’s Word. But what do these lies reveal about what I believe about God’s Word and the God that spoke them?
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen 1:3). Wait just a second. So God spoke and things just were? When God speaks, reality is created? Wow! How can I have this powerful, divine, creating Word of God in my possession and it not be precious to me? How can I not desire to consume it every day? Or to quote the psalmist, how can I not hide it in my heart?
So I started memorizing. I found some helpful and practical tools along the way (buy this book for 99 cents) but no shortcuts. It was going to be a commitment and there were things I was going to need to change. I needed to do an inventory of how I spent my time and decide what I could or should cut out. I discovered that my busyness had nothing to do with having lots of things going on that I just couldn’t cut out of my life. It was entirely about having things that I wouldn’t cut because of the pleasure they provided. Entertainment had become for me a more desirable thing than the word of the living and creating God of the universe. That’s a dangerous place to be.
I thought giving up those “pleasures” was going to be difficult, and at first, it was. But the longer I spent hiding God’s Word in my heart the less desirable they appeared. My first instinct is no longer to turn on the TV when I have nothing else to do. Instead, I go to the Word. And it’s not always easy but it’s always worth it. There was one particular moment recently where I felt distant from God, but by his grace I still worked through memorizing scripture. It was in that moment the distance faded and I felt his presence more clearly than I ever had before. I was experiencing communion with God through his word and it was the most pleasurable thing I had ever experienced.
Instead of entertainment, God was starting to become my source of pleasure and joy. This didn’t happen immediately. It took time. It was cultivated. Ernest Odunze said in a recent sermon that this kind of pleasure is “cultivated over time as we sit at the feet of Jesus.” And cultivate it we must. I can’t imagine a better way for this joy to be cultivated than by consuming the Word of God.