Ever since I started this blog I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a post about Scripture memory, which has been an extremely important part of my life. I’m either afraid of sounding prideful or trying to write advice that others have already given. I’ve posted some quotes and links to what other people have said on the subject to try to be helpful.
For those who regularly memorize Scripture these posts aren’t for you unless you’re interested in reading and letting me know what you think.
What I’ve decided to do is just write about my experience with Scripture memory and let it be and write about some things I would have done differently and hopefully some things that will be helpful for others who have trouble with it.
In college, a person from the Navigators helped me to become saved. I read the book of John and the Holy Spirit entered, opened my eyes, and I came to believe. So I have the world’s most boring testimony. It was through no effort or decision of my own and it was only through believing what Scripture says.
The Navigators are big on Scripture memory and as I became involved with them I went through the Topical Memory System. I eventually used the ‘watch beep’ method where every time my watch beeped on the hour, I would review a few words of whatever my current verse is and acknowledge God while I was at it. (Some of my friends who knew about this would say, “Hi God.”) By reviewing a few words at a time, I was getting to where I was memorizing one verse a day. After memorizing a verse, it would get put in a stack that I reviewed every day. As the amount grew, after a couple of weeks, it would get put in with two stacks that were reviewed every other day and so on.
This to me is obviously a gift from God because I just can’t memorize stuff this way. I had a very hard time in school, eventually dropping out even though I had a music scholarship.
After I was done with the Topical Memory System I memorized every verse and passage that God used to speak to me, that I liked, that I relied on–everything. I can’t tell you how valuable this is to have all that Scripture in my head, ready for the Holy Spirit to use (John 14:26), to know where many things are in the Bible, to have Scripture for almost every subject etc. There are so many valuable uses for this I can’t begin to remember them all.
Then for a while I stopped memorizing and more importantly reviewing. I had everything word perfect and could review everything in my head in order without having to look at anything. If I became blind I would have had this all in my head. After starting again I had to look at them. That was the worst decision I ever made in my life. (The second was switching from hockey to basketball as a kid.)
After a few years I put all the verses and passages in the order that they are in the Bible, in a sense re-memorizing the order and doubled my time reviewing, now using the computer. Now I’m back to being able to go through them in order and have them almost perfect but I make a couple of mistakes each reviewing session. I review Scripture with a cup of coffee and this is a special time each day. I started taking a medication that reduces memory and this is part of the reason why it’s more difficult. This is very frustrating but God knows and it’s humbling which God seems to need to do a lot of with me.
A few years ago I started reviewing longer passages instead of one or two verses at a time. I went along at a pretty good clip, although not as much as in college, and after a year I had to slow way down because I had a hard time keeping them up when reviewing. Which brings me to where I am now a little more than a couple of decades after I started.
A regret I have is only memorizing one or two verses and not really looking at them in context and getting a very good understanding of the verse I was memorizing. In the last few years I’ve rectified this by reading a commentary on nearly every book of the New Testament (plan on finishing next year) and having a much better understanding of each of them in context. I really need to go through the ones in the Old Testament that I haven’t done this with, which isn’t a whole lot at this point.
I now advocate only memorizing passages that are a whole idea. Sometimes a single verse is a whole idea but they usually need context. There are some who advocate only memorizing whole books of the Bible starting with smaller ones. I think this is great. I think an advantage of memorizing smaller passages is you get to know where things are and get a feel for what’s in a paragraph or chapter in various places in the Bible. It’s also good to have something for various topics which is how the Topical Memory System mentioned earlier works.
As time went on I would get so used to the watch beep that I wouldn’t hear it. I think God protected me from that for the first few years. After the computer age, I put an hourly chime on my desktop computer, which I can hear all through the house, and I change the chime whenever I get used to it, and only use those my understanding wife can tolerate.
So that’s my story.
If you’d like some unsolicited advice, more links and more of the story, see Part 2.