Since no one else has shared their memorizations experiences with me lately, I’ll take the opportunity to share an experience of my own.
This is the great-grandmother of some friends of ours in Romania. I’d like to take you back to the day I met her in 1995, in the courtyard in the back of an ancient house in a little Romanian village.
The grandfather of our friends, a weathered, quiet man in his seventies, is nailing together some wooden panels into the shape of a box–a beehive, he tells me. Near him on a bench sits his mother-in-law. She is 96 years old; she doesn’t say a word, she just watches and listens as we talk. Our friends come into the courtyard from the house, and one of them says, “Come over here–you should meet my great-grandmother.”
So I do. She is hard of hearing, but her great-granddaughters manage to make themselves heard, and they explain that I’m a missionary from America. She smiles. “Grandmother, can you quote him a psalm?” they ask, and she immediately complies. She knows the verses well; the girls are clearly proud of her, though as the psalm continues they feel the need to explain: “She gets a little confused now–she sometimes jumps from one psalm to the next.” She learned all these psalms as a little girl, they say. She used to be able to quote all of Psalm 119, but that ability has left her now. If the verses could not always be called up, though, the peace that comes from ninety years of knowing them was still very much evident.
The woman was born in 1899. She would die a year or two after I met her, just short of having lived in three centuries. I think now of her learning all those psalms at the very start of the 20th Century. As she memorized them, she could have had no idea of the challenges she and her country would face in her lifetime: two world wars; decades of extreme poverty and hardship; forty odd years of a repressive, atheistic dictatorship. In those years, though, when buying a Bible would range from difficult to dangerous to impossible, she carried much of it around inside her head. If she and her family had known what was ahead, I wonder, how could they best have prepared her for the trials she would face? I think they would have had a hard time coming up with a better plan than to saturate her heart with God’s eternal truths.
I imagine her lying in bed at night, unable to sleep because of a disquieting event, large or small, in her life. A woman in her village has been gossiping about her; or her child is very sick; or someone close to her has died. What are her thoughts?
“Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.”
“I remembered Your judgments of old, O Lord,
And have comforted myself.”
“Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”
I don’t get to decide whether I’ll be around into my nineties. But if I am, I hope very much that I can be that sort of 96-year-old. And I don’t know what kind of challenges will face the world and my children over the next century. But I do know that the best way to prepare for them must be to hide God’s word in their hearts. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.”