As you learn verses by heart, it’s extremely tempting to rush through recitations. But when we rush, we defeat the whole purpose of learning verses in the first place.
Think about it. Why did you decide to learn the stories of Christmas?
It’s not a rhetorical question. Only you can say.
I do know that your goal includes knowing these verses by heart. But here’s the interesting part. You want to know these verses so you can think with them, right? This isn’t just a checkbox on a list of a thousand things to do before you die. You want to weave these words into your mind, so that your mind will move in new thoughts, thoughts you’d otherwise never have.
You may have other goals, too, like sharing the verses with your children or congregation. But whether you’re interested in study or prayer (or both), I’m almost certain that you’re hoping to think differently than you did before you started.
Here’s the surprise. You’re already thinking differently. Every time you renew these verses, you’re thinking about them.
These new thoughts are not some distant goal that can only come when you’ve done the gruntwork of learning the verses. No. You’ve already arrived — as long as you don’t rush.
Baking Cookies vs. Riding a Bike
This feels too abstract. Time to get concrete. Since it’s Christmas time, that means more cookies.
Think about making cookies. You do a whole bunch of weird rituals — breaking eggs, measuring pulverized grains, mixing in distilled herbs — and you spread this gooey concoction onto a metal plate and put it into an oven. It’s all quite bizarre. But at the end, if the magic works, you get to eat cookies.
Eating cookies is nothing like baking cookies. The two processes differ entirely. Most of us enjoy eating cookies. But enjoying the baking can be an acquired taste. Some of us endure baking, for the sake of the cookies at the end. And although it is a splendid ideal to find the pleasure in everything, some pleasures are easier to find than others.
Many goals in life share this same dynamic. If you want cookies, you have to bake them. If you want a house, you have to build it. If you want money, you have to work for it. If you’re lucky, you hunt for work you’ll enjoy. But the work is still different than the mysterious magic of money.
This dynamic of work-then-reward gets burned into our brain. But not everything is like this.
Think about riding a bike. When you first get onto a bike, you wobble and struggle and probably fall. But even so, you roll a few feet. You are practicing the same process that you hope to achieve.
One day, you’ll ride so well that these early attempts will feel like another lifetime. And yet, you’re already biking.
You can see this with kids. They don’t say, “I want to go practice riding my bike, so that one day I can actually ride my bike.” They want to ride their bikes.
You’re Already Thinking
If you’re like me, you were first drawn to memorization as an exotic, foreign skill. You thought it would be like baking cookies. You would do all these arcane tricks, and then — ta-da! — you would relish the completely unrelated result.
If so, here’s the good news. Verses are like riding a bike. You’re already thinking.
All the methods I’m showing you — Bible rhythms, daily renewal, imagining — are simply different ways to think about these verses.
They aren’t like baking, where you’re not even supposed to taste the batter. You’re already on the bike, already moving, already thinking.
You may have started out with a focus on memorizing, on the magic of getting the words perfect. That’s still a worthy goal.
But memorizing is the fruit of thinking. Not the other way around.