Maybe you were once asked to memorize scripture for a communion or catechism class. Remember the trite verses that your classmates professed: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “love the Lord with all your heart”. Then there was that one kid who stood in front of the church with the snarky expression, cleared his throat dramatically and pronounced, “Jesus wept”.
I have never been one for memorizing scripture; but I remember all of my good Baptist friends could spout off any number of pretty verses.
When I was in college, I worked at a summer camp in Montana- Flathead Luthern Bible Camp. It was here I was introduced to Marva Dawn. Meeting Marva Dawn and never experienced the depth of Bible study beyond simple cute stories was like being asked to swim the ocean when you have only stepped into a baby pool. I missed most of her depth, because I had barely started to tread water. I do remember feeling profoundly moved when she spoke of swimming laps. Dawn said that she recited a psalm for each lap she swam. This woman did not speak of little short verses, but entire lengths of poetry. My little twenty-year old brain was blown.
Fastforward fifteen years. Since my introduction to incredible followers of God such as Marva Dawn, Eugene Peterson, and incredible mentors, pastors and spiritual leaders, I think it would be safe to say I have grown not only in my faith but my Biblical prowess as well. However, this memorizing scripture was still daunting and seemingly impossible. I was still stretching myself spiritually;each school year, I gave myself personal challenges and studies. So, in July 2016, I was thinking about what I was going to do when I was finished with my current challenge (reading the Bible from cover to cover starting with Revelations and reading the books “backwards”. I’m an English teacher, so seeing the fruition of foreshadowing delighted me to no end). I was sitting in church when the memory of Marva Dawn—in her yellow Flathead Lutheran Bible shirt and squinting through her fingers because the light hurt her eyes— telling us counselors a story that had a side comment of her reciting the psalms while swimming laps, I knew I had met my next challenge.
Please allow me to reiterate. I had not the experience or practice of verse memorization before. My first delving in to memorization was the psalms. My words are not stated to brag, but simply state that it can be done.
From August to May of this school year, I memorized psalms. I took a break from February to April, and picked it up again in May. Psalms 1-13 were under my belt.
Allow me to pause here and state a few notes. First, 13 psalms took about 7 months. That’s on average around 1 psalm per about 2 months. Psalm 1 and 8 are comparatively short, psalm 5,7, and 9 are long and I found the order confusing. So some took only a few days to commit to memory, and some took well over a time that I had set as a goal. Second, I liked this as a challenge, because there really no “finish.” I am a type A, list maker, checklist sort of gal. To find something that I could not simply say, “Done. What next?” Third, please note that I only managed to thoroughly study and memorize 12 of the 150 psalms. Memorizing large portions of scriptures, at least for me, is not something that can be rushed. Though difficult, the benefits of this challenge were worth reaping.