You Are What You Memorize

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!


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wisdom calls in the streets…
    That phrase always made sense to me; that if people would seek God, then read and listen to things related to God (sermons, hymns etc) it would become easier to discern wisdom from foolishness, the wisdom and information and data that is everywhere now.

    To get information and being able to tell if it is wisdom or junk data, I believe you have to consider and decide and KNOW what is true first. Like the old story about handling only real money, then a fake is easier to detect, but studying fakes will never make it easier to detect the real money.

    I’m doing a lot of studying right now about how whatever we dwell on mentally and speak about is drawn into our lives. If someone talks about how they are afraid of a car accident, or doing bad on test, or having a miserable vacation, then that seems all too often to be exactly what happens. I’m learning that I have a talent of mumbling dreads and condemnation (thinking of the negative and thinking it is always going to be like that, it will be awful…my mind is quick to think like that) now I am working at thinking and speaking a positive faith and outcome, and am actively trying to frame scriptures like the one in your post in a positive way such as this:

    I listen to the Word, and I am being lead to truth. I pay attention to what I read, and hold the image in my heart and mind, because when I do so, I am freed, and God works freely to bless me because of it.

    I took a graduate level course in Storytelling while I was getting my MLS. We studied corporate and professional stories, the stories told by CEOs and doctors and firemen etc.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the study was figuring out how a story could be told to an organization to either to caution them or to inspire them. After studying that, I realized that the Bible has many such stories, like in the verse above about a man looking in a mirror. That passage contains both cautionary phases and inspirational phrases.

    I realized that all too often I had focused on the cautionary or negative aspects, and found it difficult to focus on the inspirational or positive aspect because, well, what if I didn’t become free, what if God didn’t bless me as notably and as boldly as the negative aspects were enacted?
    Better/easier to just say yeah, I am like the person who looks in the mirror and forgets…
    Just trying to give God an “out”…ouch, that hurts to confess even via keyboard!

    Honestly Amy…your posts just make me think and then I want to discuss. Hope you don’t mind me overworking the tiny comment box!

    AL: Jill, you are welcome to think and discuss here anytime! I love your contributions to my blog!

    I like that you’re focusing on the positive aspects of the stories. I too get focused on the negative. Isn’t it amazing though, how God’s word is so complex and multi leveled that it holds both the cautionary elements and inspirational ones at the same time? Depending on our own hearts and where the spirit is guiding us, we can read it in different ways.

    I struggle at times knowing whether particular scriptures are “prescriptive” instead of “descriptive” meaning, are they promises for everyone in general, or just for the people described at the time. I need to really dig deep and pray at times to see if God is making those promises to me as well.

    I think one caution to this is to be careful we don’t get too new-agey. Saying that we draw negative things into our lives sounds too much like we’re in control. Yes, I know our attitude can really impact our lives. But, I think about books like the Secret, and the message they have that is so popular about changing your fate with positive thinking, and I don’t think that’s the message God is giving us. He’s the one that’s in control. We don’t need to line up the world with our thoughts but need to line up our thoughts with his thoughts. If there’s a scriptural mentality that we need to have, positive or negative, depending on the circumstances, then I think that’s our focus.

    But, I can be such an Eyeore, that i know that my thought life could be so much more positive in general.

    Thanks for sharing .

  2. I came across this site through the iTunes store…I figured you might want to check it out as you continue on with your memorization…

    AL: Great link Joe! Thanks! I did my own version of this for James, with my little voice recorder, I recorded myself reading James. I listen to it once a week or so, just to hear the whole thing and step away from reading the words. I like the idea of having a daily audio verse to memorize.

  3. Amy,

    I love to see people desiring to learn God’s Word.

    If you’re looking for techniques to help you memorize the Bible, I’ve written a book to help people remember Scripture and just about anything else they want to remember. This isn’t a sales pitch- the ebook is FREE to download, and the techniques are REALLY EFFECTIVE! It’s free because it’s written as a very non-confrontational way to present the gospel to people that might not be interested, and I can’t see charging to help people understand where salvation comes from. I’m praying that churches will implement this curriculum to make their messages last long after Sunday morning is gone.

    Please check it out. It’s free- no strings attached. You don’t even have to create a user name or anything- just click, click, done. The link is:

    Thanks for your desire to memorize God’s Word and for your help in spreading the gospel!
    Eric Moore

    AL: Thanks for sharing this, and for making it free. I’ll check it out, for sure. I just downloaded it!

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