I always tell people I’m terrible at memorizing things. But that’s not the whole truth. I used to be great at memorizing all kinds of things growing up. But as I’ve gotten older, I struggle.
It could be there’s just no more room at the inn (aka, my brain). We get bombarded by more than 5,000 messages a day, which is wild to think about. So perhaps my brain is in shutdown mode. Or perhaps it’s too full of ‘80s and ‘90s song lyrics I believed were life-changing at the time, so I memorized each and every word in my bedroom … out loud … night after night. Bless my mother’s heart. She’s a saint.
During my formative years, I didn’t memorize a lot of scriptures. I did manage to memorize the names of the twelve apostles, but it was more about candy than spiritual aptitude. A family friend had watched a game show where the person used a rhyme for naming all the apostles and won big money, so every time I visited her I would get a piece of candy if I recited it from memory. Candy is my kryptonite. I got busy memorizing and, even to this day, it rolls right off the tongue and still make me crave sugar.
Jesus called them one by one,
Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Then came Philip, Thomas, too,
Matthew and Bartholomew.
James the one they called the less
Simon, also Thaddeus.
Twelve apostles Judas made,
Jesus was by him betrayed.
About a year ago, I was reading a story about Vera Neuenswander Schmitz, who is from Jefferson City, Missouri, and was an Olympic hopeful and three-time All-American pole vaulter. She’s amazing, you all. When she would compete, she would write a scripture verse in Sharpie on her body, so she could stay focused on the bigger picture.
She would later turn that vision into a company, Dwell Differently, to help others memorize scripture through a simple visual, mnemonic tool. Each month, they send a scripture card, key chain tag, and three temporary tattoos to work on memorizing a verse for the month.
It’s been incredible. For the last year, I’ve memorized scriptures more easily than I thought I could. It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve also been touched by how I’ve needed that exact verse in my life and how pondering it over and over has been so fruitful. In October, I worked on Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Of all the things to remember in this world, I think God’s love letters to us are at the top of the list. Yet, I’m often inclined to put work into so many other things — remembering grocery lists, reciting the newest pop song, or rehashing the record of the Kansas City Chiefs.
While facts and figures are great, what I really need to hear most in my life is the unconditional love of my Father on repeat, plus strong reminders of how I am to love others in this world. It’s what I want to roll off the tongue as easily as the lyrics of my favorite ‘80s jams.
It’s November, the month for thanksgiving and expressing gratitude in all things. My hope is that we can continue to memorize what really matters and let go of all the trivial things. There’s only so much room at the inn as we’ll learn as we head into Christmas. Pick the love words. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.