I don’t memorize Bible verses. I have said it, it is true. It is out in the open. Now, you have a choice. You can either judge me, think I am a horrible Christian and quit reading. Or, you can continue reading and see if you agree with my reasoning. I bet you will agree with me.
A struggling young believer
I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was 19. I was blessed to hang around with a bunch of young adults who were also recently saved. I don’t remember who started it but the group began to memorize Scriptures. We would put them on 3×5 index cards and memorize them. We would recite them to each other. People were learning many verses each week and retaining them. But not me. I tried and tried. I couldn’t do it. My well-meaning friends would offer suggestions on how to improve. No matter what I did, I would remember a verse for a day or two and then it was gone. I felt I was failing as a Christian because I couldn’t memorize verses. This went on for a while and I finally gave up. I felt like a failure at an important part of being a Christian.
The Next Step
As I grew in my faith, I realized that people talked less about memorizing Scripture. But it was implied that you were supposed to do it. Everyone seemed to know that “to hid the Word in your heart” meant you were memorizing verses on a regular basis. I loved God with all my heart but I could not memorize. It was not how my brain worked. At the time, I wasn’t having a regular quiet time either. I was under lots of condemnation and feeling like a failure.
While I wouldn’t understand the concept of Grace for many years, God began to teach me about it. At the time, I was working as a home based teacher for special needs children birth to 3 years of age. I understood that each child was an individual. They learned things at their own and their skill levels were different. Somehow, God opened my eyes to understand that it was okay that I couldn’t memorize Scripture. He explained to me that he didn’t design my brain to work that way. I was trying to do something that I did not have the skills to do. He wasn’t mad or upset. I wasn’t a failure in his eyes. I was his daughter and he loved me.
He gently explained to me how he made my brain to work. He reminded me of the things that I needed to memorize in school. I always struggled with those. If I had to memorize a poem and then quote it, it would come out creatively. I have never had a problem with public speaking even as a child so I would rewrite the poem as I spoke. But, if things had to be recited word for word, I was in trouble.
He explained that I learn best by concepts. I look at the whole picture and see how they relate. He said that I would learn about his word by learning concepts, not by memorization. I started digging into the Word by themes and concepts. I remember the first few things I learned about were God as a rock, God as a shield and the meaning of the names of God. I ate this stuff up; it was working. I was remembering what I was learning!
But, I was not learning the word for word quotes. I still couldn’t tell you where things were found by chapter and verse. I could tell you what book they were found in but that was all. I was learning but still felt like a lesser Christian. It would be many years before I made peace with the fact that I can’t memorize Scriptures.
I have found peace and contentment in being the person that God has created me to be. I no longer strive to be someone that I am not; at least in this area. I have been following Jesus for 37 years and can’t give you an exact quote. I know that chapter and verse markers for a few important ones. But even those, I can’t quote word for word. If I need something to be specific, Google is my best friend. I have spent years learning about concepts and themes of the Bible and how they interrelate. It works for me and I don’t need to be concerned that my brain doesn’t memorize well.
Things for you to ponder
· If memorization works well for you, use it. It is God’s gift to you.
· If it doesn’t, you need to figure out if this is your gift or not. Sometimes it is and we are not applying it as we should. Or, you may be trying to force a skill that you don’t have. This is what I was doing.
· It is important to learn and understand the Bible. But we are individuals and God relates to us as individuals. You need to figure out what works for you.
· Your relationship with God changes with the seasons of your life. You will change but he never does. I am not the same person that I was when I was 19 nor am I the same person that I was yesterday.
Do you memorize, do you learn concepts or do something entirely different? I would love to hear your comments.