sword drills with children

Have you ever done a sword drill? And I'm not talking about something you'd see at a Marine boot camp.

When I was in elementary and middle school, my Sunday School class regularly participated in the practice of "sword drills". Aptly named as the Bible is the "sword of truth", these drills involved a room full of children holding their Bibles above their heads and holding the breath in a moment of mounting anxiety. Eventually, a youth leader would call out a Bible verse at random and all the troops kids would scramble as fast as their little hands could to find the verse and yell out that they had it first, a sort of biblical bingo if you will. Naturally, the first child to find the verse would receive a small prize.

I. Hated. Sword drills.

First off, I always came near last. Secondly, I thought it was the most illogical thing ever. I mean, in what situation is someone going to yell at you and force you to scramble through your Bible like your childhood depends on it, while your friends competition looks down their noses at your for not being a nimble enough Christian? Oh, the humiliation.

However, this Christmas, I had a revelation (no pun intended) about why we make kids memorize scripture. So I was lying in bed, awaiting Christmas morn, when at 5 am I was shocked into consciousness by one of the worst nightmares I've had in a long time. You know those moments...you're trying to mentally reconcile the fact that it was just a dream but you can still feel adrenaline coursing through you. So there I laid in the yuletide dark on the verge of tears, when that verse came to me: for you have not been given a spirit of fear, but of...but of.... Now, cue me not remembering the rest.

This was genuinely the very first time in my life that, without being prompted, a situationally appropriate Bible verse just popped into my head. And naturally, I couldn't recall the most important part.

So I quietly crept out of bed and downstairs, my heart and mind still racing with fear, and I googled it. Thats right, no Bible on hand, I just looked it up online. 2 Timothy 1:7-- 
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
And it hit me all at once...peace over my nightmare and the understand of that's why we teach kids to memorize scripture. That's why we're supposed to memorize scripture. Not so we can be the queen of sword drills or so we can recite long passages from rote memory (another practice I never quite understood), but because in those quiet moments where we need to remember what God has said...it's written on our hearts. Maybe reading a little more Deuteronomy 11:18 would have been beneficial so I'd have understood this 15 years sooner.

Granted, I still think sword drills are pretty useless. It's not about speed, it's about understanding. But finding peace in 2 Timothy and finally starting to understand (and not understand) some of the stuff I was brought up on...well, it was a little Christmas miracle all on it's own.

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