Words Upon Your Heart
As part of my fundamentalist Baptist upbringing, I was compelled to memorize verses, short passages and (as I grew older) even full chapters of the Bible.
By the time I was in middle school, I could quote vast amounts of Scripture, suitable for pretty much any situation. I had awards from Bible Quiz team, accolades for my biblical knowledge... all the things a fundamentalist, Baptist kid could want.
But by the time I was fifteen, I simply stopped. I realized that all I was doing was just memorizing words. The Bible meant nothing to me. Around the same time, I relinquished my faith, gave up on the church, and spent the next three years going through motions until I was old enough to leave home.
I found my way back to the church and to the Bible eventually. I discovered a newfound love of Scripture that has deepened over the years as my understanding of it has grown and been re-formed.
But I've struggled at times to be reconciled with my past life as a verse quoting, holier-than-thou Christian, who had committed verses to memory for no apparent reason.
Then a couple of years ago, I read this parable:
A disciple asks the rebbe: "Why does the Torah tell us to 'place these words upon your hearts?' Why does it not tell us to place these words in our hearts?" The rebbe answers: "It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in." - Hasidic TaleWhen I first read this short parable, I was struck by the poignancy and simplicity of the truth it conveyed. I also realized that all those years ago I was placing the holy words on top of my heart, and the day finally came when my heart began to break and the words fell in.
This is why I keep reading and studying the Bible. I don't always have moments of epiphany or inspiration when I read Scripture, but I have come to understand that when I do, I increase the probability that I will.
Maybe not today... Maybe not tomorrow... but one day, when my heart breaks anew the words will fall in and change me.
I recently read a poem by Mary Oliver that contained a line I imagined was being spoken by Scripture itself to us:
I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.
May you find your way to the Bible today, and may you discover that the words you are placing on your heart will find their way within it at the right time and just when you need them. And may this transform you, and give you peace.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.