Monday, March 31, 2014

A gentle engraving

Memorizing always came as such a dread to me.  Most specifically, it required my standing, terrified and small, in front of my seventh grade English class every Friday morning and reciting an assigned poem.  I don't remember any of the poems, but I vividly recall the sleepless Thursday nights, knowing what was ahead in the coming day.  I knew the words by rote,  the rhythms, the rhymes that held them together but it is tough to recite anything when invisible hands grip one around the throat.  Every week, I would squeek out the stanzas from my brain without any inflection in my words, my voice wobbling like a broken wheel on a grocery cart.  And always, the teacher would remark, "Please speak louder."  I didn't dare.

But I have found memorizing Scripture not as the rote memorization of a class assignment, but like a gentle engraving.   Over and over, the words, the phrases, the profound meaning work their way through, until God's Words make a secure mark in my thoughts.  I often read verses, remember and recite to myself on a long run, or as in the case of this winter, the long enduring of a treadmill.  Again the rhythms of God's words and the repetition of phrases wash over me.  This is no mental exercise, but the beginnings, the breaking through of something deeper, not just the remembering of words on a page, but the very Words of God, that which changes, forms and reforms, and continues to bear fruit. 

In his new book Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions, Timothy Keller relates an incident in which he was instructed to write down at least 30 things that he observed about a certain verse of Scripture.  Five, ten, twenty, twenty-five minutes passed by.  The students in that class discovered their most profound insights into the verse did not occur until the last few minutes of the exercise.  They read the verse, they thought about the verse, they sat quietly with the verse, and the words began to penetrate their hearts.

This morning, a verse caught my eye.  "Do you not know that you are God's temple and God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3.16).   I began memorizing it.  It is short and fairly self-explanatory.  But then, I thought about Tim Keller's experience.

And I mused, "How does this verse affect me today?"

It impacts how I see myself,
how I see God,
how I view what I am doing,
how I realize what God is doing in me,
how I embrace the unfolding of my situation,
how I trust my circumstances under His control,
how  I am sensitive to everyone around me,
how God is changing me.

Do I not know?
I am God's temple in this place.
God's Spirit dwells in me.

These are not just words that I can recite.
They are words that I can live.

Sit with a verse awhile, walk with a verse a couple miles,
                             and listen.

I once heard the late Reverend E. V. Hill preach,
             "Learn to read the Bible slowly."
To that I would add,
             "Learn to memorize Scripture slowly."
What do these words mean?
What is God saying to me?

His Word will engrave grace
                   into your very being.
God's Word is not fettered by time.
His truth only grows stronger.
And by it, He will change your life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
     and a light to my path.

                      Psalm 119. 109

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