Guest Post: Learning from Memorization

This guest post is the final post of a three-part series on memorization. You can find the first two posts here and here. It was written by Rachael Hardy, a friend of mine who I became close with during our time at UMass Amherst. She currently lives in Western Massachusetts and is a member of the Pioneer Valley Church of Christ. In this post, Rachael discusses her experience trying the method of memorization I discussed in my previous post. I’ll let her take it from here! -Tim

Hello everyone! I am excited to collab with Tim on this sort of mini-series of blog posts on memorization. I have intentionally employed Tim’s method of memorization daily for three weeks - one stretch of two weeks and then a stretch of a week - and can confidently report to you that it is effective and helpful! Scripture memorization, and Tim’s approach to scripture memorization, have been empowering for me in a few key ways.

One of the more significant obstacles for me in approaching memorization is the desire for productivity and performance. I became aware of this obstacle during this last week of Scripture memorization. I wanted to be able to see immediate concrete results from the work of memorization. I wanted to be able to quote whole Scriptures tomorrow, and I wanted it to be immediately transformative of the interactions I had with people. This misplaced emphasis on results hampered the process of memorization. I would try to memorize too much each day; I would rush the process, and I would feel frustrated when things didn’t go smoothly. I had to shift my perspective away from memorization as a way to achieve results and instead towards memorization as a way to enrich my connection to God. I tackled smaller amounts of Scripture and leaned into the process of memorization – embracing the slowness of the process and letting God reveal himself to me through the commitment to the work.

And Tim’s method facilitates this enrichment of time with God really nicely. At the heart of Tim’s method, and I believe at the heart of its effectiveness, is meditation on Scripture: an unpacking of the meaning contained in each word and the interaction between the words in the Scripture. This, for me, became the power of memorization. It provided me a space to deepen my engagement with Scripture and, consequently, with God. And those concrete results would come. But it was empowering, the way in which approaching Tim’s method called me to realign the goal of my memorization along healthier, relational lines.

This method pairs meditation and memorization, and this pairing operates, unintentionally, as a method of accountability. I want to be always checking my motivation as I approach memorization – I want to be always checking my motivation as I approach many aspects of discipleship – but having a goal of memorization helps motivate me to dig into Scripture in a way that is focused. Meditation on Scripture without any structure has, in other moments, tended to generate aimless, tangential, unfocused, and lengthy indulgence into any particular strand of thought that may come up as I approach a few passages of Scripture. Memorization helps to direct these thoughts and limit them in helpful ways, and it helps to keep me doing the work of meditation.

I want memorization to become a regular part of my times with God, and Tim’s method of memorization has provided me with a manageable and effective way to approach this. I hope memorization can expand your own connection with God as you apply this, or any, method to your own times with Him.

A few important notes on logistics:

  • Tim’s process has some core components that define it, but ultimately the process will look different for each person who engages with it. I want to mention some ways some that the process differed from Tim’s.
  • In contrast to Tim’s ordering of the steps of the process, I would read the Scripture first, meditate on it, and then create the cheat sheet writing out the first letter of every word. I didn’t shift this intentionally; I didn’t realize until Tim wrote his earlier post that I was doing things in a different order.
  • I meditate through freewriting: writing thoughts in free form as they come into my brain, with no concern for grammar or complete sentences.
  • If I had to quantify my progress, I would say that I was able to learn 1 John 1:1-10 to probably about 90% accuracy, working approximately 15-25 minutes per day. I am still working on getting the exact phrasing recited with full accuracy.
  • This is the first time that I have approached memorization in any serious capacity. I continue to work on using this method; there are things that I am constantly realizing that I want to improve or do differently.