15 March 2014

What it's Like to Memorize a Book of the Bible

Sometimes when you start something, you don't really know where it will take you.

You're talking Bible with a friend one day, you unearth the same dream of memorizing the same book, and there you are, right at the beginning of a long path, committed.  You know then it's a long path, putting all twenty-two chapters of Revelation irrevocably in your mind, but you don't know how long.  But you know from that day forward you'll never turn back.

You hardly know how to walk the path, actually, but you just start with a step, and then keep taking another step and then just one more, until one morning almost six years later you're at the path's end.

Except standing there, at the end, you're looking at sixty-five more paths stretching out in front of you, all as enticing as the first one.

Because when you've worked long and hard to make Bible memory a habit, and it takes more than half a decade to make a book stick in that brain of yours?  

That habit is hard to break, and you can't imagine not trying for the next book (in fact, you've already begun the work on several) and then the next book, and maybe even the next one after that, and why not keep trying until you've either got the whole thing or the Lord comes?

After all, by the time you've walked that first path, you've learned that the more you work toward memorizing a book of the Bible, the more you realize you've only just begun to grasp its truth, its beauty.  You feel as if you're at the mere edge of a vast treasure house, and you don't dare stop exploring it, reveling in it, drinking deep of the waters of life you've found at the fountain inside.

A lot of things happen inside you when you put words straight from the Bible into your mind.
  • You start to notice how much unity there really is in the Bible, because everywhere else you read reminds you of something you've been trying to memorize.
  • You therefore run out of room for your hand-written cross references in your Bible's margin.
  • You learn to keep trying new things until the memory work really sticks (you memorize while walking with a little hand-held Bible until you move to a place where it rains more often and you can't take your little Bible outside as readily, so then you make a calendar to track review goals and new goals to work on inside under a good roof, but then you think you're cheating too much when you're reviewing so you put everything on ScriptureTyper which helps test you without giving you a chance to check for that word you can't remember, until finally you've "mastered" the whole thing according to a standardized mechanism and then you truly feel finished).
  • You pick up more depth in a sermon that has anything to do with your book of choice.  Even when that sermon is in Spanish: because you already know the verses in English, any new Spanish vocabulary words on the power point screen are easy to understand.
  • Your desire to go home to heaven grows more intense than ever, and you feel less at home on earth all the time.
  • At the same time, you feel more content with your earth-home, as imperfect as it is, because you know it's really just temporary, and the longest, most dreary day or week or month or year on planet earth will from heaven's vantage seem incredibly insignificant.
  • You hear phrases or even single words in normal conversation, and your brain immediately finishes a phrase from the verses you've been working on.
  • You know good and well that the day after the goal was "met", you'll be right back reviewing, reviewing, reviewing, one section at a time...because you don't want to lose everything those six long years gave you.
  • You find out how true it is that everything in this world can change (in fact, almost everything about my life HAS changed since I started this crazy memory goal), but the Word of our God stands forever.  It does not fail, it does not change, unless it merely becomes more beautiful with each passing day (which is perhaps only a change in my vision, for the better).
I suppose this post is a bit of a celebration of a long-worked-for goal being met, but more than that I hope it can be an encouragement to my several friends who are also working on memorizing a book of the Bible.  

To keep at it.  To make this habit of wrestling through until the memories are automatic and stick through life, letting these words change the heart and life.  To work one day at a time, knowing that you'll never have the whole book if you don't start with one verse, and then add one more and one more until you know its every verse by heart.


  1. Memorizing long passages of Scripture has taught me how to speak and how to pray. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45) It is from the abundance of the heart, from *that which it has in plenty*, that the mouth finds things to say and ways to say them. I’ve read the Bible over the years, of course; but it was not until I began to apply myself to its words, to amass them as a fortune in my memory, that I found them so intricately affecting the way I talk--to people and to God.

  2. Wow- what an accomplishment. I have always had a hard time memorizing things- but over the past few years - and all of the trials and difficulties I have learned more verses and where to find helpful verses.
    Thanks so much for sharing all the blessings you have received by memorizing the Bible!
    God bless you~ Lisa :O)

  3. Your dedication is encouragement. I don't know how long it will take me to finish my book of the Bible, but I am already loving every step of the way. My verses are turning into treasure, and I am hungry for more. I am coming to think that working on memorization is the best form of meditation.


Greetings, fellow climbers! Leave your marks on the steps--I'll be delighted to hear from you.