“No, I can’t do that.”
Let’s be honest: that’s what most of us think every time the subject of memorizing Scripture comes up. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s simply the task itself that intimidates us. I mean, it is God’s Word, after all—who wants to be the person quoting it to mess it up? Or perhaps it’s that we simply think we’re incapable of doing it. Memorization is for… well, we’re not sure who, but not us. Or, worst case, maybe it’s a lack of desire. We just don’t want to do it.
It’s tempting to take the semi-berating approach when it comes to offering any sort of corrective to our thinking on this point. You know what I mean, right? The “if you can quote lines from The Simpsons or The Princess Bride, you can memorize Scripture” one. And it’s true, but it’s kind of jerky.
Instead, I want to share a little something cool that happened last night.
Now, yesterday I mentioned how I’d once memorized the book of Philippians. Even though I had it all down, I didn’t use it, so I more or less lost it. Except, I found out later that day, that I hadn’t quite lost it. Emily and I started exploring this book with some friends, and I put up my hand to read a portion of the first chapter. I started reading but found that I wasn’t relying solely on the printed words in front of me. At a couple of points around verses 21-22 and 27-28, it seemed to flow pretty naturally from me again.
It’s been the better part of five years since that’s happened. But it’s still (sort of) there.
And that’s good new for me because it’s making me want to try again. To try to start recapturing what I’d lost (and not lose it again, Lord willing).
So, what does this story have to do with why I think you can memorize Scripture, too? Well, here’s the thing: memorizing Scripture is hard, yes. But you can do it. God has given you a wonderful gift in the mind you possess. Your mind, regardless of how intellectual you think you are (or aren’t), is more complex and mysterious than anything we humans can devise using it. And, if you are a Christian, he has given you an even greater gift in giving you his Spirit to dwell within you. You have the author behind the authors of Scripture living in you! And he will help you to know God’s Word and store it up in your heart and mind.
Maybe starting with something as ambitious as a full book is a bad idea for you. So don’t get too ambitious and burn yourself out. But you can try a single verse.
Maybe Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Or perhaps John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: that He sent His One and Only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (HCSB[1. Which offers my preferred take on this verse]).
Or one as simple as, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
You could even start with, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Regardless of where you start, or how long it takes, you can memorize Scripture. Start with one of the four verses I’ve shared above. Or pick another one that is especially meaningful to you. Or go with something totally random. But do it. Try one verse. Read it. Write it. Think about it. Speak it. Repeat it. No matter what doubts you have going through your mind right now, believe me: you can memorize Scripture. No, really—you can.