by Heather Caliri
I was a junior in college when my Bible study leader, Tina, recommended that I memorize Scripture.
She pulled out a card from her pocket to show me. “I write my memory verse on this and carry it in my pocket,” she said.
In her neat printing, it read,
Blessed is the one
…whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
I felt the familiar weight of anxiety settle on my shoulders. I knew I should memorize. I was also supposed to be praying more, too, and studying my Bible for longer—
The idea of doing another thing made me feel like weeping.
I blinked, willing away my dismay, and smiled at Tina. “That looks neat.”
We were walking along the pebbled pathway from my dorm to the main campus road. The first part of the pathway was open to the hot Texas sun, but then the live oak canopy started, the light growing dimmer and dimmer as we walked. Their bark was gnarled, rippling with the slow power of hundreds of years.
She smiled back at me. “Just start small,” she said. “It gets easier!”
Her smile was as bright as the hot, exposed sidewalk.
I had no excuse, really. I was actually good at memorizing things. No excuse. I told myself, grateful for the shadow of the trees. No excuse.
It never occurred to me to say: No, thank you.
I wouldn’t have dared.
Not because Tina was scary—no, she was kind, and patient, and trustworthy. I loved the time I spent with her.
But we both knew the right answers to the questions she asked me, and I wanted to have the right answers.
I wouldn’t have dared to tell her that that I hated the spiritual disciplines I did every day.
I felt ashamed enough of my resistance as it was.
It never occurred to me that perhaps the methods—not me—were the problem. I didn’t know there might be fine print on the bottom of her index card, saying, Your results may vary.
Fifteen years later, I got a CD of scripture memory songs for my kids that a friend had recommended. We homeschool without curriculum, grades, or much academic structure. But when it came to God, faith, and Christianity, I felt guilty that I didn’t teach them something more.
The CD was better than index cards, at least. I hoped it would be fun.
My kids listened to the songs once, then—with shocking shamelessness—shrugged with indifference.
They dared, as I had not, to say no.
I persisted a few times, but in the end, I didn’t want to force them to do something I’d hoped they’d enjoy. I’d been homeschooling long enough to know that they usually found their own ways of learning what they needed.
What surprised me, though, was how much I liked the music.
To my surprise, I started playing it. Regularly.
One day, I felt anxious about an upcoming conversation with our landlord. Anxiety is like a headache with me—materializing sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
To my surprise, I decided to put on the Bible CD as a way of feeling better.
For I am convinced, a little boy sang, that…neither the present or the future…shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
I stood in my living room listening. I was finally able to breathe. I felt amazed that the song was helping me.
In the past, the Bible had made me more anxious, not less. When I tried, like Tina, to be disciplined about reading, studying, or memorizing it, I was right back in college, uneasy and ashamed.
But this felt different. I sang even though there was dusting and laundry and dinner to take care of. Then I pressed a button to play it again.
I had spent so long feeling guilty about Scripture that I had a hard time recognizing the feeling coursing through me.
It was hunger.
As the notes left my throat, I could see, in a way I couldn’t before the music started, that I had choices, and one of them was to be calm. I could choose peace. I did not have to worry about a situation that was nowhere near life and death.
I didn’t just have choices about my anxiety. I had choices about faith, too. I could choose to relate to God in ways that brought me joy instead of misery. I could pay attention to my hunger, instead of my shame.
My bare feet sinking into the carpet, I raised my voice. Was this what delight meant? Might I actually feel it, despite myself? Had this been possible, all along? Had I been forcing myself to choke down something I was ravenously hungry for?
I tipped my chin back as the song started again, filled my lungs with sweet, powerful air, ready to keep singing.
Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith two years ago and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Find out about her upcoming ebook, Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us, here.
Boombox image is from here.