Monday, October 13, 2014

scripture memorization as a type of copywork

Recently, in one of her blog posts, Melissa Wiley talked about the idea of daily doodling being "just another kind of copywork"

And aside from making me pull out my sketchbook again (no, really), it made me think about why people - artists, speakers, etc. - have classically trained by copying the greats. It's not an unusual idea, historically, to learn your craft by aping your betters. Now we might call it plagiarism - and it would be if you didn't give the person you were copying from credit - but it's not such a bad idea to learn what you want to learn by scrupulously copying folks who are really, really good at it. Yes, eventually you strike out on your own, and find your own new ideas and your own new ways, but you learn the method by copying the greats.

Think about it; it makes sense:

If you copy good writing, your brain and your hands get to experience what it feels like to write great words.

If you copy good painting, your brain and your hands get to experience what it's like to paint great work

And . . . if you memorize scripture, your brain and your heart get to experience what it is like to think like the great men of God who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Think about that. It's amazing! But anyone who has taken the time to sit and memorize scripture can tell you that it's true: if you memorize God's word, you will think in the patterns dictated by the Holy Spirit.

Read the Psalms through monthly, like monks do, and you will find yourself thinking along those lines whenever you hit a time of anxiety or stress or joy. "Blessed be the Lord!" you will hear yourself think, "who has not given us as a prey to their teeth!"

It will astonish you when it begins to happen. "Where did that come from?" you will wonder. But there it will be: the words of God, echoing in your own sinful head.

It's absolutely amazing. It's such a gift.

It's why we memorize scripture.

Because these rhythms of grace don't come naturally. But the lovely, stupid, pattern-loving structures of our very human brains thrive on memorization. They love repetition.

Like Chesterton says, it's that very childlike joy of "Do it again! Oh, do it again!" that lives down deep in our human brains.

And if your brain yells "do it again! say it again!" to the rhythms of scripture? Then you're that much further ahead when the Holy Spirit has something for you to hear.

The patterns of His own speech, His words, will already be there in your head.

It's just good training. It's just following the basic principles of good training.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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