By Jaime Sherman
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
My mama paused for me to repeat the words.
“The Lord is my shepherd,” my 5-year-old self said as I sat with legs dangling from the kitchen counter. I was eye-to-eye with my mama as she worked me verse-by-verse through Psalm 23.
“I shall not want.”
“I shall not want.”
As I memorized those lines and eventually others from the Bible during my childhood and adolescent years, I would often shed tears of frustration. I wasn’t a natural at memorization like my younger sister — or like the young man who would later become my husband, who as a child earned his Timothy award at Awana for memorizing verses numbering in the triple digits. I struggled to recall a string of words and then full sentences, but thankfully my mama didn’t give up on me. She and my daddy knew that hiding God’s Word in our hearts was important.
As a child, I struggled to see the point in wrestling to memorize verses, but I started to understand the eternal impact of hiding God’s Word in one’s heart as my parents read aloud The Hiding Place. In the book, Dutch Christian Corrie ten Boom tells how her family hid Jews in their home during the Nazi-occupation of their country. She and her sister, Betsie, spent time in prison and then in the concentration camp Ravensbrück, where Betsie died.
In the camp, the sisters held twice-daily Bible lessons, drawing from a tiny bound volume of the Gospels, which had been smuggled into the camp, and from the verses they had memorized during their younger years. The daily memory drills of their childhood prepared them for the tribulation they would face and allowed them to speak God’s truth to other prisoners. Many of the women surrounding them in the barracks, in morning roll call, and in the work fields came to know the love of Christ that sealed their eternal destiny because these two women had hidden God’s Word in their hearts.
As we begin our study of Jude next week, my 11-year-old son and I are accepting the challenge to memorize all 25 verses of this short letter, even though memorization is difficult for us. I know the investment holds eternal significance in my life and in the lives of those around me, and so here I go! Will you join me?
We have come up with a memorization schedule you can print out. We will post new verses two to five times a week on social media. Know that it takes time and focus to effectively hide God’s Word in your heart. Thus, schedule time in your daily routine to work through the Jude homework and memorization for the week.
Keep in mind your learning style as you memorize.
If you learn by seeing, you could post each new verse on a 3×5 card or a Post-it-note and leave it where you spend the majority of your time — above the kitchen sink, on the bathroom mirror, on the computer monitor, or in the car. Some people put their cards in Ziplock bags and post them in the shower!
If memorization comes easiest for you by hearing, we encourage you to speak aloud and to listen to each new verse on repeat either with our audio resources, which will be available later this week, or by reciting each verse aloud, maybe even into the voice recorder of your phone for easy playback when you’re on the go.
Other ideas include incorporating the verses into your prayers or putting them to music. If you can memorize lyrics from songs and movies, you can memorize Bible verses, too! If you’re familiar with another language, consider translating verses into that language. This is how Betsie and Corrie ten Boom studied verses during their childhood.
Writing out Bible verses remains a standby memorization tool for many people, so while this seems like a simple — and maybe tedious — way to remember the words of Jude, don’t neglect putting pencil to paper in the style of elementary school copywork. And do this over and over — 5, 10, 50, 100 times — if necessary until you get the words deep inside you.
Finally, for the feeling learner, put some rhythm and movement to your memorization adventure. Maybe create a game such as the one I use with my children: We cut large pieces of paper into smaller rectangles, and then write one word on each slip of paper until we have the entire verse copied out. Next, we put the cards in order, read the verse aloud, remove one or two words, read again (filling in the missing words from memory) and repeat (until we have no cards remaining and can confidently recite the entire verse). A similar exercise can be done with a chalkboard or whiteboard and erasing one or two words at a time.
Many great Bible memorization and study apps exist, and we’re not going to list them here. Some come with a price tag, and the truth is you don’t need an app to help you hide God’s Word in your heart. You do need the commitment of a little time and energy. As you consistently and repeatedly practice words from God’s rich treasury of wisdom, you will build a library of verses to recall and to apply now and in the future to the life He has called you.