I Hated Memorizing Shakespeare
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears . . .” is the first line of a speech spoken by Marc Antony in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It is, perhaps, the most famous line in all of Shakespeare’s works.
My seventh grade English teacher required all of her students to memorize it. I hated memorizing Shakespeare. For one, I couldn’t understand it. Secondly, I would have much rather spent the weekend playing outside with my friends. Moreover, what in the world did Shakespeare have to do with my day to day life? Finally, I knew that it would only be a few days before I forgot everything I memorized anyway. Why bother?
Why I Didn’t Try to Memorize Scripture
Later, when I heard people talking about the importance of memorizing Scripture, I’d often think about how much I hated that seventh grade assignment. And, for many of the same reasons I didn’t enjoy memorizing Shakespeare, I didn’t try to memorize Scripture. I can remember thinking to myself:
I don’t understand this.
I would rather be doing something else.
What practical impact is this going to make in my daily life?
I’m not going to remember all of this anyway.
And, I’m not very good at memorizing things anymore.
I’m guessing you have told yourself many of the same things. Thus, whenever someone talks about memorizing Scripture, you begin to experience the same feelings you do when people talk about going to the gym. You know you are supposed to go. You know it would be good for you. You’ve tried many times before. Yet, you still haven’t returned to the shape you were in while in high school. Like going to the gym, memorizing Scripture is a subject you’d rather just avoid.
I Bet You Can’t . . .
The problem is, ignoring the subject is a terrible solution. If we fail to take care of our physical bodies, we will pay the consequence. Our health will deteriorate and our quality of life will decrease. Consequently, we will miss out on the things we really want to do in the future. Few of us just love going to the gym, but we all want to be able to chase our kids and make memories with them into our golden years.
I remember when a friend of mine said, “I bet you can’t run from here to the stop sign on Raguet.” I thought he was being ridiculous. The stop sign on Raguet just wasn’t that far. However, he was right. I was pathetically out of shape, and he was using guilt to get me out the door!
The point of this post is not to guilt you into doing anything. (Guilt is a terrible motivation, anyway). Instead, I want to share with you what changed my perspective on memorizing Scripture and how it impacted my life.
The Memory Verses Started to Change Me
On the day my friend challenged me to run, he gave me a goal: to run to the stop sign on Raguet. The genius behind his challenge was that it was attainable. He didn’t challenge me to run a marathon. I only had to make it to that stop sign. Whether or not he realized it, his modest goal helped me begin years of running just for fun.
In the same way, I remember the day I was introduced to the Navigator’s Topical Memory System. The Topical Memory System is a packet of memory verses broken into simple subjects. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 is entitled “Christ the Center” to help recall what the verse is about.
Instead of just being told that I should memorize Scripture, I was given a place to start along with an attainable goal. The small packet of verses was like the stop sign. With only a little bit of effort each day, I could memorize each verse. Pretty soon, just like in my running when the miles began to add up, so did the memory verses. One verse turned into two which turned into three, and I kept on going.
Treasuring those verses in my heart made a profound impact on me. Unlike when I begrudgingly memorized Shakespeare, the memory verses started to change me. They changed the way I prioritized my day (Matthew 6:33), dealt with anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7), prayed (Colossians 4:2), dealt with temptation (Psalm 119:9, 11), treated people (John 13:34-35), read my Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and viewed the trials in my life (James 1:2-4).
Memorizing God’s Word just to check a box is like going to the gym with no real purpose in mind. However, when you memorize God’s Word with purpose – to know the heart of God and follow Him – it changes your life.
Will You Accept the Six Week Challenge?
For this reason, I want to challenge you to set a goal. It’s a modest goal that you can reach with just a little bit of effort each day.
I want to challenge you to memorize Psalm 1. Together, for the first six weeks in 2017, we are going to memorize one verse a week from Psalm 1. As a church, we will meditate on the blessings of walking with God:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Imagine knowing this psalm from memory the next time you are tempted to think God’s way is not the best way or God’s Word isn’t trustworthy. Think about the conversation this psalm will help you have as you counsel your children.
The reason we memorize Scripture is not to fulfill an assignment, but again, to know the heart of God and follow Him. The more we know and follow Him, the more our life will truly change for His glory and our good.
8 Practical Tips to Help You
These 8 practical tips will help you memorize Scripture faster and remember it longer:
- Write: Nothing will help you memorize something faster than writing it down.
- Reflect: Think about the meaning of the verse, how it applies to your life and what it teaches you about God. If you don’t reflect on its meaning and how it applies to your daily life, then chances are you won’t remember the verse for long.
- Recite: As you write out the verse, recite it out loud.
- Record: It may feel strange at first, but try recording yourself as you recite the verse. Then, listen to it often. Hearing the verse will help you remember it.
- Remind: Put the verse on notecards and place them where you will see them often (e.g., in your car, on your bathroom window, on the wallpaper of your smart phone).
- Refer: Refer to the verse in your prayers and in your counsel to others.
- Repeat: Frequency is a must! Repeat the verse over and over.
- Reward: Everyone is motivated by a reward. Come up with something that motivates you. Better yet, challenge your friends and family and celebrate with a meal or a movie.