One of my teachers once said that memory, especially memorization is like skydiving or a ‘leap of faith’. I skydived and I’ve certainly taken my share of ‘leaps of faith’. Yeah, memorization can be like them, especially when you think that the more often you do either one, the better you get at them.
Memorizing verses, lines for a script, or a room full of people’s names requires, first, the determination to do so. That’s on you, seriously. You wouldn’t be reading this right now if you didn’t think there was a whisper of a chance you could do this. I believe in you. You can do this.
There are many methods out there and I might borrow from a few of them as I share my own experiences at skydiving, leaps of faith, and memorizing. We’ll see.
In advance, I want to warn you, that I do remember things. Ask any of my peers in ministry. My personal method of memory is one inspired by Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and is nearly right in the middle of it. It is comprised of 176 verses broken up into the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. My method of memorizing though, has nothing to do with any of that. ;)
Psalm 119:1 and 2 are both my method and reason. Read this:
Happy are those who live pure lives, who follow the LORD’s teachings.
Happy are those who keep his rules, who try to obey him with their whole heart.
Reason: I want to live a pure life. Just like you and Paul, I understand it is a process, it’s a ‘being changed’ as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
“Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
I also want to follow the Lord’s teachings. For 50 years they have been the inspiration and motivation for my walk with God.
Now, to the method: Read Psalm 119:2 a few times. Then, and maybe not at this moment, but soon, read the rest of Psalm 119.
‘Keep the rules’ means you have to know the rules. Knowing begins with the mind.
‘…with their whole heart’ means employing your emotions.
This verse ‘clicked’ for me the morning of February 28th, 1988. It was my birthday. It was also my first day of work at Vintage Car Wash, which is still one of my favorite jobs ever! That day, I began ‘feeling’ my conversations with my customers.
My method of memorization was to collect what I wanted to know with my ‘whole heart.’ It began with prayer for the individual, then for an emptying of myself, and then, a determined focus on our conversation as if nothing and no one mattered in that moment except the individual in front of me. In that moment, I memorized them. I knew them and I appreciated them.
I theorized something in my employment there and had 200-500 people a day on whom to test my theory.
It worked, then, and it still works, today.
Listen to some of these verses from Psalm 119:
“When I learned that your laws are fair, I praised you with an honest heart.” – v. 7
“With all my heart I try to obey you.” – v. 8a
“I have taken your words to heart so I would not sin against you.” – v. 11
“I wear myself out with desire for your laws all the time.” – v. 20
Do you see it? law, obedience, words, and laws met with praise from the heart, all of my heart, to heart, and lastly in our example, desire.
Please, prayerfully consider Psalm 119. If there was still a right and left brained theory, this chapter would so incredibly weave them both together!
Oh! Though that, indeed, is the foundation and reason for my skydiving and leap of faith into memorization, there is one small, practical application I want to share with you. This is the method I used to memorize chapters and verses of the Bible as I grew my walk with God and I hope it helps you in your own studies.
I used 3×5 ‘flash’ cards a lot in my memorization and this one method really stood out to me as the method by which I seemed to be able to retain the verses I wanted to be ‘written in my heart’. It would involve ‘layering’ the verse to myself like this: