I’ve taken a few hikes this summer. Most of the time, I take my kids with me, but this weekend, my kids stayed at home with my husband and I went all by myself. Hiking alone, I had no one to talk to or more accurately, I had no one to listen to because my kids weren’t there to chatter constantly. I enjoyed the rare opportunity to entertain my own thoughts. I walked and I prayed. I thought and my thoughts weren’t ever interrupted.
As I went farther and farther along the trails, I found that I wanted to occupy my mind with something beautiful while I had the chance to do so. I thought it would be nice to meditate on the some beautiful words, the words of a Psalm, or even recite the words to a hymn. Almost automatically, I reached for my Bible, but I quickly realized I couldn’t walk and read at the same time. That could be dangerous. And I definitely didn’t want to put on headphones because I had come to the woods for quiet and I was enjoying the gentle sounds coming from the streams and the birds in the trees.
So I decided to meditate on a Psalm, any Psalm, or hymn, any hymn, I knew by heart. So I thought about it. I tried to recall one. Do you know what I quickly realized? I couldn’t quote a single Psalm to myself from memory off the cuff- not even one. At home, as I read the Psalms with a Bible open on my lap, the words just flow through my mind. I had come to believe that I really knew many of them by heart. But, apparently, I don’t.
I tried to recall a hymn, any hymn. I had much the same problem. I was able to recall most of the lyrics to only one hymn: How Great Thou Art. “When through the woods and forest glades I wander. And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees…” But I was not able to be totally sure of the order the verses or whether or not I was leaving something out because I had never deliberately memorized that hymn either. It was very frustrating, disappointing, but also enlightening.
One of the things classical education focuses on, especially during the elementary years, is giving students a value storehouse of information in their minds that they can carry with them all the time and retrieve whenever necessary. So kids memorize the time line, geography locations, math facts, etc. It seems like a lot of memory work at a time when kids don’t understand any of it, mundane and useless in this age of information where we can just Google anything. But, let’s be honest, a truly educated person definitely should not have to Google the location of Columbia in the middle of a conversation with someone or have to use a calculator to estimate the total of their groceries in the store.
So I realize now how much I still depend on the text open in front of me for the Scriptures or my computer, iphone, etc. for the lyrics to hymns. I want to really know important things by heart. My hike showed me how little I actually know, really know, of the Scriptures and the great hymns.
It isn’t very likely that my Bible will be taken from me here in America or that I won’t have access to my technology whenever I want to Google the lyrics to a hymn. But the Bible says, “I have hidden thy word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Perhaps that’s because the Psalmist knew what is deep, deep, deep in our minds will affect how we think, feel, and act. I thought I knew the word of God really well. But, as I hiked and looked down at the packed brown earth on the path in front of my feet, I realized I have actually probably just been scattering the seeds of the word of God on the surface of my memory. I’ve been scattering for many years. Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves, take tools and dig deep, and make deliberate efforts to put great words and verses into my mind.
How many of God’s words have been lost to me because I haven’t worked hard to retain them because it was too tedious to do so? How much would my life change if I could carry carry longer portions of beautiful, life-giving Scripture with me to the kitchen sink, the doctor’s waiting room, the treadmill, the park, etc. How would it change the way I minister to my children? What if I could lovingly recite Psalms to them at night before I put them to bed? How beautiful could that be? The possibilities are endless.
I am not sure how I will begin doing it, but I want to memorize more or perhaps I will just memorize less more deeply. Even if I had only had one single, complete Psalm to meditate on for those quiet hours while I hiked, it would have made such a great difference in my spirit and who knows what God could have done in my life with that time thinking deeply about His word.
I hope the Lord will help me in this endeavor to hide his word deeper in my heart. I think I will pick one Psalm to learn and then go on another hike in a week or two just to see what it is like to be able to really meditate on the word of God out of the storehouse of my heart.