This is Part 2 of a series about my effort to memorize the entire book of Romans. Read the rest of the series here.
Yesterday I wrote about how my friend Dave and I are working on memorizing the entire book of Romans. My purpose in chronicling this journey isn’t to toot my own horn (“Look at how smart and spiritual I am! How many epistles have you memorized lately?). Rather, I think I’m an ideal poster boy for the “Memorize Large Chunks of Scripture” movement (is there a movement? There should be). Because I’m the last person you’d think would be able to do this successfully. I’m a mental klutz, an “absent-minded professor” type who can’t remember my children’s names or what I had for breakfast, let alone Paul’s 7,000+ word theological treatise to the Romans. And yet here I am, living proof that you too can memorize whole books of the Bible. Because if I can do it, anyone can do it. To paraphrase something from another of Paul’s letters, “I am the chief of all forgetters, but I received mercy, so that in me, Jesus might display his perfect patience and use my example to prove that any knuckle-dragging numbskull is capable of Bible memorization.” Or something like that.
So how am I doing it? That’s what everyone wants to know (including my wife, who would like to know why I can remember the entirety of Paul’s argument about Jew and Gentile unrighteousness but can’t remember to unload the dishwasher). I’m going to take a couple posts to walk through some of my practical strategies for Bible memorization. Hopefully these can get you started on your own memorization quest. At some future date, my friend Dave, who is doing this Romans thing with me, will write a guest post going a little more in-depth on the science of memory and some of the practical applications of that science that he’s come up with.
Here’s my first practical strategy:
REDEEM YOUR SPARE TIME
What brought about my breakthrough with extended Bible memory (and by “extended Bible memory,” I mean, more than just a verse or two, anywhere from a chapter to a whole book.) was the realization that it doesn’t have to take any extra time. I’m busy– I’m a teacher and a pastor and a husband and father. I’m not a monk or a professional Bible reader. I don’t have the luxury of sitting in my study for hours at a time working on memorization.
So I spend zero extra time on Bible memory. I really mean that. I haven’t built anything into my schedule. It doesn’t eat into any of my other responsibilities. All I do is this: I fill all the little “extra” moments in the day with memorization. Taking a shower, driving to work, going to the bathroom, waiting for a meeting, eating lunch. I “waste” lots of time on those things anyway, and they’re not going away. Before, they were spent mindlessly scrolling on my phone or listening to music or daydreaming or whatever. Now I’ve simply taken them back and repurposed them. You’d be surprised how all those little moments– a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there– really start to add up, and what you can use them for if you’re willing to be diligent.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an example of super-human discipline. I still watch TV. I still check Facebook. I’ve just decided to be a little bit more awake, a little bit more alive, a little bit more zealous about using my time for things that pay eternal dividends. So all I’ve done is taken back part of my day that was going to be wasted, and I’ve recycled it. And I’ve found that the minimal amount of mental effort to stay engaged in those “down times” has been totally worth it, and is surprisingly effective.
I know that sounds like a late night infomercial (“Lose thirty pounds with no exercise! Memorize the book of Romans with no extra time!”) I don’t mean to oversell it. It is work, of course. There are times when I’d rather unplug my brain and stare at social media. All I’m trying to say is, if you think you’re too busy to memorize the Bible, you’re wrong. Add up all of those “extra” moments in the day, and you’ve probably got close to an hour to work with. It’s not a matter of time in your day, it’s a matter of priorities. Is God’s Word worth a little bit less Facebook time while you’re sitting on the toilet (don’t judge; you know we all do it), or a slightly-more-mentally-engaged lunch break? I think so. “Sweeter than honey, more precious than gold” is how the Psalmist describes God’s Word. So take your lunch break, and taste and see with me that the Bible is, in fact, better.
In my next post, I get into some more specifics: how I use my smartphone to help me memorize (including a Bible memory app that I love), how I break up the text into manageable chunks, and why I always review before I go to sleep.