By Rote: God’s Word on Repeat

Bringing (Daily) Life to Scripture Memorization

It happens to you, too: A song sticks in your head for hours, days. You wake to its melody, wash your hair to its rhythm, and chew on its words even when a perfectly good book sits in front of you. The song breathes and pulses in the background of your body, as tyrannical and natural as your autonomic nervous system until a new song or worry replaces it.

I won’t mention any songs by name. I don’t want to ruin your day.


We choose to memorize the Bible with hopes of being likewise infused; indeed, I decided to embark upon the book of Ephesians a couple of months ago in order to turn myself inside out with its theological song.

It’s been hard.

I thought I’d get through a chapter a month, but it’s looking more like two months per chapter. Sure, if I showed up to a local Awana meeting, I’d blow them all away with my multiverse monologue. But since I’m a 40-something, 5’11” woman who can’t find a Cubbie vest in her size, there’s no use even trying. I’ve got no one to impress.

But I’ve found that even as I slog through the verses each morning, sometimes regressing several sentences–Wait, what did Christ do again? Oh, yeah. All the things.–I fall into some irresistible rhythms.

Here’s one: “God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this:”

The full verse reads, “God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth should find its perfection and fulfilment in him” (Eph. 1:9-11 PHILLIPS).

Wait, what did Christ do again? Oh, yeah. All the things.

Those are sweeping words. “Human history” conjures up images of kings and wars, epic movies swarming with thousands of extras in period costume. But human history includes today. And yesterday and tomorrow. And since I’m a human, that means every moment of this life of mine, however “average” and suburban, will find its perfection and fulfillment in Christ.

Last weekend, my pastor asked me what was new. I told him how I’d spontaneously decided to become an administrator of an enormous Facebook fan group for a television show.

“It sounds silly,” I told him, “but I feel strongly that I need to do this. It’s a group of thousands and thousands of people, and I have hardly any free time on my hands. But I love them and understand them. It’s as if I’m just meant to be there now.”

“You’re their shepherd,” my pastor responded. “Other people go to seminary and raise money for missionary work. All you had to do was watch a TV show.”

We laughed about it, but he and I both knew that God had given me a glimpse into His plan. Keeping my ear open to His secrets has become a daily adventure of sorts, and the more that sentence from Ephesians runs through my head, the more I perceive my place in history.

“Other people go to seminary and raise money for missionary work. All you had to do was watch a TV show.”

God has allowed me to know the secret of His plan, and it is this:

It is this. That phrase, the one with no image or action verb or spark of any kind, is the one punctuating my thoughts. Perhaps it’s the colon: a flashing sign of sorts that points, with a breathless moment of suspense, to the secret. Christ. It is this. He is this. Everything in heaven and on earth.

The funny thing is, the more I realize I actually am an important part of human history, the more I want to make more history happen. Awareness itself has the power of suggestion, like how praying for friends and family makes us more inclined to act on their behalf.

When the impatient driver cuts me off, his middle finger protruding through the sunroof, and I breathe and pray for him in response.

It is this.

When everything in my body wants to escape upstairs to the bathtub, but I listen to my son explain his evening’s Minecraft escapades one more time.

It is this.

When instead of buying yet another colorful infinity scarf, I buy groceries for a refugee family.

It is this.

When I make the Word a habit, playing it on repeat, its rhythms begin to take over my mind. Even one phrase, one word, can change the trajectory of my day, which, as part of God’s own mysterious plan, nudges the trajectory of the kingdom’s slow, mighty movement toward perfection.

Memorizing the word in my own flawed way: It is this. It is this. It is this.


Illustration by Jeff Gregory


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What happens to my notes

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

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