But looking back now, I see that none of it was useless. Or meaningless. I once read that memorizing Bible verses increases our understanding of the vocabulary through which the Holy Spirit speaks. A combination of two big events in my life linked together to show this to be true, changing forever how I view Scripture memory.
Eight years ago, I can remember as vividly as yesterday when I was lying in a crisp hospital gown on the hard steel table in a chilly, sterile room. Waiting. Waiting with nerves on edge. Had they forgotten about me? Another medical test to figure out why my liver enzymes were sky-rocket high. This one was going to hurt – and I was fighting anxiety at the thought of being alert and watching as a long needle was to be inserted below my ribs for a liver biopsy.
As endless minutes turned into an hour, I needed to get a grip on my mind and take my thoughts captive. So I set my mind on the book of Genesis and worked my way through each book of the Bible thinking of every verse I had ever memorized just to pass the time. I moved through the Old Testament fairly quickly, but that day the Spirit soothed my heart as I mulled over all the words that I knew during that long wait.
The outcome of that day began the dawning of the realization that my future would consist of much waiting for doctors, procedures, and eventually perhaps a liver transplant - and that motivated me to commit God’s Word even more to my heart. When there was nothing else to distract me, God had spoken to me through His Word that I had memorized. From that day forward, I resolved to make Scripture memory a major part of my life for the unexpected days ahead.
The other event that changed my view of Scripture memory occurred around the same season of life. During my Systematic Theology class in seminary, we were required to memorize full passages of Scripture - around 15 verses long , writing them word for word during quizzes for grades periodically throughout the course. When the course ended, I was no longer satisfied to memorize a single verse here and there. I found joy in knowing verses within their passages, in their full context and meaning. And I learned that I really COULD memorize a whole chain of verses in entire passages – I WAS capable!
The theology course and the uncomfortable waiting experience in the hospital sparked my motivation to memorize like crazy. Greater familiarity with the Bible was paired with the ability to perceive the way it all links together, expecially when I sometimes confused on passage with another. I was hungry for more.
Not that I’ve been so diligent at Scripture memory in the eight years since those events. I go through spurts – seasons that I am passionate and discipline to commit His Words to memory and seasons that I become lax and lazy, not wanting to work my brain so hard.
I want to be better disciplined. I want to memorize the Word so that I can understand God and all of life even more, so that it comes to life in my life - not just in the waiting moments but all the time. And it won't happen by accident.