Memorizing a Book Opens a New World of Detail

Learning a text by heart is like walking through a neighborhood where you’ve always driven. You see a new world.

Have you ever walked down a street that you’ve always driven? It barely feels like the same place. The usual blur transforms into a detailed world of buildings, trees, faces, flowers.

Memorizing a book feels the same way. The usual blur becomes an intricate world. For the first time, you notice the individual phrases, moments, even words.

Discover the Details of God’s Christmas Invasion

In my new book, Christmas By Heart, I show how you can easily memorize the Christmas stories from Matthew and Luke, throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

Now if there’s any part of the Bible that most of us feel vaguely familiar with, it’s the Christmas stories. We’ve heard them before. Linus even recites a healthy chunk of Luke in the venerable Charlie Brown Christmas.

And yet, our yearly visits to these stories may have been more like a rushed commute. We may still have plenty to discover.

For instance, take this verse:

And behold an angel of the Lord
    stood by them,
and the brightness of God
    shone round about them;
and they feared
    with a great fear.

Sure, the angel appears to the shepherds. Yawn.

But if you memorize this verse, you’ll have to slow down and repeat, “and the brightness of God shone round about them.”

The brightness of God.

Maybe I’ve seen too many alien movies. But the brightness of God sounds much more intense than the usual artistic depiction of an angelic teenager in a white robe with a slight glow. You’ll get closer pulling a scene from Lord of the Rings or even Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not much closer, but they’re far more true than the Friendly Ghost tableau.

The details change everything. As I say these details, I slowly chip away at my thick mental crust of old boredom and mistakes. I notice things I would never have seen on a normal, quick read.

Learning to memorize is ultimately about learning to see and hear clearly. Memorizing slows us down enough to see what’s really there. And with a good text, the real thing turns out to be so much better than we vaguely assumed. Try it. You’ll see.