Lenten Devotional: April 7

Psalm 22; Psalm 95; Psalm 141;
Psalm 143:1-12
; Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13;
Romans 11:13-24
; John 11:1-27; John 12:1-10

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

Last Lent, after prayerful contemplation, God lead me to Psalm 51: Memorize it. This was a daunting prospect indeed, considering my 50-something, closer to 60-something brain. So unlike previous missions of giving or penances of giving-up. He had something else in mind for me.

Learn by heart…. commit to memory… learn by rote. These all mean to memorize something. Reading those words carefully though each feels different from the other.

“Learn by rote” feels like how I learned multiplication problems in grade school; I can still see (and smell!) the mimeo sheet filled with 6X, 7X, 8X problems, and I still sometimes pull it up in my head for the 9X’s.

“Commit to memory” is very much how I accepted the challenge to my 8th grade English class to memorize “Jabberwocky”, complete. It’s still in there, every nonsense word. Not very useful to me now, but somehow occasionally comforting when I face a ‘short-term memory almost full” failure to recall.

Each day I kept my pocket-sized KJV Gideon at-hand, or clicked on a link on my smart phone. I repeated all verses as I learned them, adding the next but always starting back at the beginning “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness…”. Verses 1-17 (God and I compromised on where to end), 283 words, and they are all in there, with one significant stipulation: Most days I am not successful praying it front to back; verses get jumbled, or don’t surface as they should. But those same verses do come through to me: throughout my day (perhaps as I need them?), walking the dogs, during the Eucharist, when I can’t sleep, very often several in close succession. I have my favorites, of course. However, sometimes verses 1-17 flow smoothly and complete, and I feel joyful. I didn’t give them up after Lent, and I believe that’s exactly what He had in mind for me.

At freedictionary.com, “learn by heart” is defined as to learn something so well that it can be written or recited without thinking. Who would want to end up there, not thinking? However, to “know by heart” is to know something perfectly; to have memorized something perfectly. Yes, indeed.