One year ago, October 24, 2015 I checked off an item on my spiritual bucket list — I finished memorizing the Book of Proverbs. In my journal I noted: “Memorization completed. Reserved elation. Grateful for the experience, the insights and for HIS grace that provided the drive and discipline. Now to review! Hopefully re-memorizing takes much less effort and yields even more delight.”
It took three years to complete the first six chapters and only two years for the final twenty five chapters!
Perhaps my journal notation after completing chapter 6 explains the spike in efficiency: “This is slightly addicting.”
Memorizing a whole book of the Bible is like running a marathon – hope at the beginning, hitting a wall part way through, fatigue and pain from the pounding and then elation crossing the finish line. Rev. Brian Glubish is a marathon memorizer, a husband, dad and papa, lover of hotdogs, retired Bible College professor, friend and encourager of those seeking to know and follow Jesus. Jocelyn and I encountered Brian many times on his “memorizing walks” over the past three summers at Sylvan Lake. He inspires us and I hope you too.
Many years ago a seminary professor quoted Proverbs 22:17-18 in class.
The Holy Spirit gripped my heart, especially with the words, “for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and HAVE ALL OF THEM READY ON YOUR LIPS.”
At the moment the seed of desire was planted.
I have always been a Scripture memorization fan. In fits and spurts over the years I’ve taken on numerous chapters. One of my fondest achievements in nineteen years of teaching in Bible College was getting approval to add a class on Bible Memory and Meditation to my course load.
Scripture memorization a powerful spiritual formation exercise.
Since the Bible is God’s Word, the more intimately I know the Bible, the more intimately I can hear God’s voice to me.
1. Hard work and discipline. If there is another way, I don’t know about it. A photographic memory is not one of my gifts.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours memorizing over the last several years. I chose to spend the currency of time God gave me, in His Word. That meant carving some activities out of my time budget.
Think about it – if you dedicated one hour per week you would have 52 hours in a year! I’m convinced that we make time for what we really want. And I really wanted to download Proverbs on the tablet of my heart.
2. Walking. Along with memorization I discovered the delight of walking. I have never enjoyed jogging, but almost daily I walked to “jog” my memory. I made memory cards and laminated them (for durability).
On my 5-mile walks I would memorize and review, memorize and review. When it was safe to do so I would often recite out loud for the birds, fields, trees and the snowdrifts.
Times, too many to count, I would pause on my walks to record insights as the various proverbs became ever more relevant to my life path.
Often, after the walk was done, I’d rehearse on paper that day’s memory work by writing the first letter of each word in a verse. One can quickly jot down ten or twenty verses by that method, AND, the physical act of writing reinforces the mental effort.
A FEW SURPRISES!
1. My sensitivity to God’s heart has been heightened. I find I’m troubled more than ever by the dominant narrative of our society, especially regarding our buy-in to entertainment, ease, comfort, the media, consumerism, etc. I’m even becoming more concerned about environmental issues—yikes!
Eugene Peterson said, “We cannot afford to be ignorant about evil.” Nor can we afford to be ignorant about what is good.
Proverbs helped me guard my heart, be less naïve about evil, and more alert to all the good we can enjoy and promote. Perhaps that is true biblical prosperity – the abundant life!
2. I’ve discovered the echoes of Proverbs throughout Scripture. In the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, the teaching of Jesus, especially His parables and the letters of Paul, Peter, James and John. Even in Acts and Revelation! But why would that surprise me? If Proverbs contains God’s wisdom, wouldn’t His wisdom reverberate through the rest of Scripture?
3. I never expected Proverbs to point its many fingers at me! God’s Word has given me strength to admit that I am a recovering fool. It is easy to veer off the Proverbs path.
Since last October, I’ve still spoken my share of reckless words. I’ve still indulged in poor stewardship issues, still coddled my desire to be cozy. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15). But, it is not only in the heart of a child that folly finds a home.
John Maxwell said that we are all “one step away from being stupid.” While I’ve taken that step too many times, Scripture is enabling me to recover more quickly, to consider consequences more carefully and to avoid exiting the Proverbs path.
I’ve also improved my hearing—that is, my hearing of the Holy Spirit’s leading in so many ways.
4. “Proverbs 6:22 is happening as the hours spent memorizing are reaping frequent almost unforced recitations.” So reads another excerpt from my journal. “When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you” (6:22).
Often, I will review a chapter of Proverbs just before I go to sleep.
And, it isn’t uncommon to wake up with Scripture on my mind.
Memorizing the Book of Proverbs was tough!
And it was delightful!
It was frustrating to realize if I didn’t review I would get rusty in portions I had down pat. But even if, over time, I forget much of my word-perfect recall, God fed my soul so richly I will never regret a single hour of effort.
(Thanks to Kristy-Anne Swart / Up and Away Studios for use of her photos.)
MORE on MEMORIZING
There has been a lot of “me” in this writing. I’m hoping to hear other voices sharing how God tapped them on the shoulder to memorize a little here and there. Please leave a comment below.
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