Do our kids really remember what we teach them? Is the effort it takes to get them to memorize scripture really worth it? Are the things we’re saying to them really making a difference?
My wife Darla and I served at a children’s residential treatment center for over 3 1/2 years. We had up to 7 teenage boys who would live with us at a time for up to two years. We would spend much time counseling, encouraging, and equipping the boys as well as their parents through different struggles with the hope of helping families become stronger and better. Most of the boys who lived with us did not know Jesus yet, but they were not opposed to learning about His love and the purposes He had for them. One of the tools we used to equip them with was Scripture, knowing that His Word never returns void and will remain forever. There was one particular group of young men that we challenged to memorize Scripture on a bi-weekly basis. At the end of the two weeks, we would have them recite the passage we had been working on, and whoever could recite it would get ice cream from the nearby ice cream shop. If you know anything about children, you know that they can memorize anything for ice cream! I remember one evening, in particular, hearing them in the hallways trying to memorize a verse of scripture right before dinner so they could get some ice cream! At one point, I remember feeling a little discouraged, thinking they were only “memorizing” it long enough to say it once for ice cream, and then it was gone forever. But God was doing something that I couldn’t see. At the height of my discouragement, I pulled out the ring that held the 3x5 cards with all the verses we had memorized up to that point (about 10), and I challenged the boys to recite all of them. To my amazement, the boys were able to work together to quote all ten of the verses we had worked on for the last several months. I was so encouraged!
Let me change gears here in this post…
Darla and I had a little house on a river up in north Georgia that we used as a “getaway” when we had time off from the children’s home. It was a perfect little place for us to relax and recharge. We loved it! Unfortunately, a strong, freak rain storm came through, and the house was flooded and destroyed. I had to kayak into the front door of our little house to get into it the day it flooded. We were heartbroken. It was a total loss. The house was destroyed, but so were we. We planned to create many great memories with our kids and grandkids in this place. It was a refuge for us. It was a place we thought we might move to after our time of serving at the children’s home had ended. It was a place that Darla and I had labored hard for and grown to love so much. I remember driving back from the little house in tears with lots of questions to God about why this had happened. And God, who is always faithful, brought back the scriptures we memorized with the boys. They brought some comfort, and they brought peace. God used them to remind me that He had not forgotten us…but it was still so hard. Here are a few of them:
*Isaiah 26:3: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”
*Isaiah 26:4: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
*Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
*Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
*Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
*Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
The following two days after we learned about the flood, we spent at the property trying to salvage anything we could. We pulled everything out of the house down to the subfloor, trying to get the house dried out so we could save it. That meant we would leave before the boys woke up and would get home after they had gone to bed. We didn’t see them at all until the second evening after the flood. We sat down in the living room that evening exhausted, wounded, emotional, and sad. A few of the boys came and sat in the room with me, and after some silence, one of the boys looked at me and asked, “How bad is it, Mr. Kevin?” I teared up and said, “It’s bad. It’s destroyed.” They were so tender at that moment, and one of the boys asked, “What are you going to do?” Again, through tears, I said, “I don’t know.”
At that moment, God’s Spirit prompted me, and I said through the tears, “But I do know…” and I began to quote the very Scriptures that we had memorized together, but in first person.
“But I do know that I can trust the Lord forever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. I do know He said He would keep me in perfect peace as I keep my mind on him. I know that I make my plans, but the Lord establishes my steps, and I can be strong and courageous because the Lord is with me wherever I go.” I continued to quote a few other verses, referring to them as I went. “Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust the Lord with all of your heart and don’t lean on your understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. Psalm 46:1 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” And as I quoted the last couple of verses, the boys were mouthing the words with me. One of the boys sat back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. There was this moment of silence. God was with us. That young man looked at me and said, “That’s why we memorize this stuff.”
That is why we memorize this stuff.
Life is hard. God is faithful. He has given us the incredible gift of His Word. It is worth spending time learning it and “hiding it in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11). He brings it to mind as we or others need it. It is worth putting in the work to memorize, and I want to encourage you to do that. And…reward yourself with some ice cream every once in a while!