Memory is an extraordinary thing. We take it entirely for granted except when we really think about it, when we realise just how remarkable it is. St Augustine devoted the tenth book of his Confessions to trying to understand it. Just this week three British researchers won the “Nobel Prize of neuroscience” for discovering the secrets of how memories are actually laid down in the brain.
Neuroscience apart, I know exactly how memories were laid down in mine, at least some of them. I grew up going to Sunday school and learning memory verses were a key part of the curriculum. I have a vague recollection of something called ‘sword drill’ involving ‘drawing’ our Bibles (the sword of the Spirit, of course) and repeating a verse. But it’s surprising how many phrases and sentences from Scripture have stuck – usually in the King James Version, which is what we used. The references, on the other hand – always repeated before and after the verse in question – have largely gone.
There’s a lot of debate about the uses of memory at the moment. Really, who needs it now that we have Google? Why do we need to remember things when we can look them up? Think of all that processing power your brain is wasting by storing facts when it could be doing something better.
I can see that up to a point. But we still need to know enough to be able to ask the right questions. Computers can do a lot of the heavy lifting, but they can’t do our thinking for us. And they can’t know exactly what we need to hear from God, when we need to hear it.
That’s why I’m a firm believer in learning Scripture – and in starting young. I find verses and parts of verses coming back to me all the time, sometimes when I most need them. And I’m glad those Sunday school teachers, whose names I barely remember, took the time to plant those words in my mind – not least because it was so much easier then, with the brain so nimble and plastic (now, on the other hand…).
So which verses should we teach? Here, with the benefit of hindsight, are some suggestions.
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)
2. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6)
3. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
4. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
5. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)
6. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)
7. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12)
8. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15)
9. We do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16)
10. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods
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