Memorization should never be the end goal; it's important to think on what you've memorized so that the Holy Spirit can use it to make you more like Christ.
I joined the Cub Scouts when I was about 8-years-old. I quit a couple months later.
Guess why? (Long pause. Jeopardy music…) Give up?
You’re not going to believe this, but the hold-up-2-fingers-and-make-a-promise truth is that I told my parents I want to quit Cub Scouts. There is too much stuff to memorize and I don’t want to quote it in front of people.
I can almost hear God audibly chuckling and saying, You just wait son. Have I got a plan for you?!
Fast forward 35 years to this morning. My 8-year-old son (a proud Cub Scout) brought up that story at the breakfast table. Here’s what he said:
I think it’s funny that you quit Cub Scouts because you didn’t want to memorize stuff and now your job is to memorize stuff. Actually…memorize and internalize.
I couldn’t hide the smile.
We’ve talked a lot about the difference between memorizing and internalizing. Now I know that he really gets it.
And I couldn’t be more thrilled!
I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t correct him for saying “memorize.” (Though I almost did.) He caught himself.
Caleb realizes that memorizing is about knowing the words and internalizing is about knowing the Word. Understanding it. Soaking in it. Embracing it. Living it. This won’t happen if “getting the words in the right order” is our goal.
Quitting Cub Scouts taught me two valuable lessons that apply to the Bible.
1. Memorization shouldn’t be the starting point.
I wonder how many kids have the same experience I did. At the very first “den meeting” we’re told to memorize this or that. In fact, we’ll be tested at the next meeting.
Do we do the same thing with our kids at home, in our Sunday School classes, and in youth ministry?!
Memorize this. Prove you’ve memorized it. Then you’re “in.” Yikes.
2. Memorization shouldn’t be the end goal.
As it relates to the Cub Scouts, this lesson has actually best been learned now that we’re back in Cub Scouts. Yes, there are things to memorize. But there is so much more. There is hiking, visiting the fire station, doing good deeds, turning a harmless stick into a weapon. (Yes…he’s an 8-year-old boy.) Memorization is a part of being a Cub Scout. Being a Cub Scout is much, much more. And way more fun!
Shouldn’t that be even more true when it comes to the Bible?
Why do we move on to memorize another section of Scripture the moment we know one part? Once it is “in there,” isn’t that an ideal time to hang out with it a while longer? To talk about it some more. To “meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do what is written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)
If memorization is the end goal, we will always be trying to memorize more, rather than letting the Holy Spirit take what we’ve memorized and use it to help us become more like Jesus.
I am sure my Scout leader didn’t just want me to memorize the Cub Scout Promise. He wanted me to live it.
And I don’t want Caleb to just memorize a Bible verse so he can say he did. I want him to live it. To soak in it. To “get it.” To be changed by it. To love it.
Hmmm…sounds a lot like internalization.
Questions: Have you ever experienced the difference between “memorization” and “internalization?” What was the passage…and how did it affect you?