I’ve always been rather slow when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Ask me on January 1 about my “new year, new you” plan and you’ll get a blank stare, but a few weeks later something may just have developed. This year I’m feeling a need to have my heart filled with God’s word.
I’ve been thrilled to see how many of you are getting on board with the one year Bible plan, but it’s not enough for us to skim the surface, reading for consumption rather than letting ourselves be consumed. We need to commit Scripture to memory so it ends up running through our veins, coloring our perspective, correcting and forming us.
In a world where all information seems to be a few swipes away, the idea of learning anything by heart is rather foreign. Why bother memorizing Scripture when I can just Google it?
Well, for one thing, because Googling “Bible verses when you’re sad” might not help much. For another, because you may not even realize that you need a Bible verse, but if they’re already swirling about in your subconscious, they might surface just when you need them. You’ll find that in the middle of some minor disaster you remember 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Or you’ve bitten your cheek for the twelfth time today — always in the same spot, of course — and all you can think is Romans 12:1: “I urge you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
With Scripture on your mind, you might connect to a reading you hear at Mass or you pay attention to another because you recognize a passage you’ve memorized. It colors the way you see the world.
More than anything, we need to memorize Scripture because it’s the living word of God, his profound self-revelation to man. When his word is ever on our lips, we come to know him with startling intimacy.
For years I memorized Scripture for the purpose of proving people wrong. I’m still all about apologetics and supporting Church teaching with Scripture, but I’ve figured out that it’s not enough. The Bible isn’t a weapon except against our own sin.
So I started to use God’s word for something other than winning. I remember drilling myself on Philippians 4:4-7 in line for confession in college and Matthew 6:25-34 after a particularly frustrating road trip. But it was only occasional until I found myself in a several-month stretch of misery. I felt sick with anxiety whenever I allowed my mind to wander, so I cemented it to a task instead: memorizing Scripture. I flipped through my much-highlighted Bible and found passage after passage promising that God is faithful, that suffering has meaning, that love will triumph. I came out at the end with dozens of verses memorized — and then the cloud lifted and I stopped. I kept those verses running through my mind so they stayed fresh, but it’s been years since I memorized Scripture with any kind of intentionality.
This year, that changes. I know it’s a little late for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m making one anyway. Every week this year, I’m going to memorize two passages from the Bible, and I want you to come along with me.
I’m pulling one verse from the Old Testament and one from the New for each week. Pick one, do both, or find your own, but let’s make 2016 a Year in the Word. Along with the two passages, I’ll include a reflection on what the Lord’s been telling me through these passages. We’ll get used to reading beyond the letter of the word, letting God speak deeply personal truths through ancient texts, and at the end of the year we’ll see how much more peaceful we feel when the soundtrack of our lives is Scripture instead of SiriusXM.
These verses are by turns challenging and consoling, Old Testament poetry and New Testament exhortation. I won’t be working with many old favorites (John 3:16; Philippians 4:13; Luke 1:37) because I’ve already got those memorized. But I promise that if you come along with me, even if only to meditate, not memorize, the word of God will come alive for you this year. Not because of who I am but because of who he is and what his word does.
“After all, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, which just popped into my head because I have it memorized. See what I mean?)
Come back tomorrow for the first installment!
Meg Hunter-Kilmer writes for her blog “Held by His Pierced Hands” and travels around the country speaking to youth and adults, leading retreats and parish missions.