I’ve been noticing something a little unsettling about memorizing scripture. It seems that whatever verse I happen to be stuck on at the moment, that’s the topic that will be a spiritual pitfall for me at the time. Let me give you some examples, so you don’t think I’m a total nutcase.
Early in the year, I hit verse five: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be giving to him.” This was the first verse that I really struggled with. I couldn’t quite get it down, so I was on it for awhile. As a result, I spent a lot of time dwelling on its meaning and realizing that I truly didn’t believe this. I was frustrated about several circumstances in my life, and instead of looking to God for the wisdom and the answers, I struggled to find my own answers. Basically, at the foundational level, I didn’t believe that God could provide me with the wisdom I sought.
Through the process of trying to memorize the verse, I was forced to confront God’s truth on the matter, again and again, and drill it into my head and into my heart. I’d like to say that now, I always turn to God’s wisdom instead of running after my own foolish ideas, but that isn’t always the case. However, it was a good wakeup call.
Here’s the section I’m working on right now, and let me tell you, it’s convicting:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does (22-25).
Guess who, in the process of memorizing this very piece of scripture, would read it and not apply it to herself? Talk about double meaning. Here are several verses about the very problem of reading scripture (or listening to it) and not applying it to oneself, and that’s exactly what I was failing to do. I get a headache just thinking about the whole chicken and the egg aspect of it all.
I have several theories about why this happens when I memorize scripture. First, and I think foremost, scripture convicts and draws attention to my sin. It’s living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, so it shouldn’t surprise me that any piece of scripture shows me my foolishness and sets me straight.
Next, there’s God, who uses scripture as one of his many tools to speak to his children, to train them, to teach them, to transform them. There are no coincidences with God. He’s lovingly guiding me to particular verses, and he certainly placed this book on my heart for a reason. Obviously, it had a lot of messages I needed to learn.
Finally, and this is the kind of twilight zone reason, but God is control of our circumstances. If he wants us to learn a lesson at a particular time, it’s not beyond his power to coordinate things in our lives to match the scripture we’re reading. My pastor jokes about this sometimes. He says that if there’s a sermon he’s preaching, he’s guaranteed to have the week prior to the preaching about it filled with examples. So, when it’s on topics like suffering and persecution, he’s not so excited to face those particular weeks. He can expect a double dose of those, to help him prepare.
Let me tell you, this scripture memorization stuff is not for the faint of heart!