Galatians

There is a crazy woman on my block. Every morning, she walks two dogs. As they slowly make their way down the sidewalk, she speaks to no one. Every now and then, it’s possible to catch words like “circumcision” and “God’s curse” or the more hopeful “grace” and “promise”. Day after day, this routine persists. Same woman, same dogs, same words recited.

That crazy woman is me.

At the beginning of the year, author and teacher Beth Moore invited anyone interested to memorize the book of Galatians. That’s right- the entire book. My initial response was to say, “that’s nice” and continue to scroll through social media. But the idea wouldn’t leave my mind in that nagging way God often uses to prompt us to action. It was January and I needed a new year’s resolution, so why not?

I could think of a few reasons why not, including that it seemed an impossible task. I can barely memorize a single verse, let alone an entire book! And word-for-word? Are you kidding me? I’m a master paraphraser. I’m great with learning concepts and generally what scripture says, but I can never seem to say the words perfectly (the same goes for famous quotes or movie lines. It’s horribly embarrassing.). Then someone pointed out that this was not something that could be accomplished by will or talent alone, nor was there any reason to approach it by our own strength. This wasn’t something to do FOR God, but WITH God. And hey, if the Holy Spirit is going to help me do this, then maybe there’s some hope after all.

So, armed with my trusty smartphone app (a scripture memory tool called “Remember Me”, if you’re interested), I stepped into January with a goal: learn the first fifteen verses in Galatians by the end of the month. Strangely, I was terrified.

Yet, I learned it- every word, and even ahead of schedule. So I added the rest of chapter one. And a few weeks later, began chapter two. As the year crept forward, I practiced. Word by word, verse by verse, I spoke Galatians every morning while walking two little dogs through my neighborhood. Today was a landmark day as I successfully recited Paul’s words all the way through to the end of chapter four. Hallelujah!

Besides discovering a Spirit-assisted ability I never thought possible, there were more treasures to behold. It feels like the divinely-inspired words of scripture are etching a groove into my brain…. a peaceful, life-breathing groove in the midst of anxious thoughts and day-to-day distractions. One night, I jolted awake from a nightmare. I began to speak Galatians until I was calm enough to sleep. Instead of replaying the disturbing dream in my head, I was remembering truths of grace and freedom from legalism. The familiar words were comforting.

I began to think about the difference between law and promise, something that I previously gave little attention. There is security in knowing that our salvation does not depend on our performance. When Paul reviews his past, we are reminded that our pasts are not barriers to grace. My Bible has become a rainbow of highlights as the verses come alive. What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? What do I have in common with the people of Galatia who are returning to old habits? Do we see the power behind God’s promise? Do we understand what it means to be “children of Abraham” and heirs to the promise God spoke centuries ago? The more attention that I give to this letter from Paul, the more I realize that there are treasures of truth to be unearthed from the pages.

So every morning, I speak God’s word as I walk through my neighborhood. I pray that somehow I am a light to each of my neighbors, from the family in the corner house with the fountain in the yard to the homeless guy smoking weed in the parking lot across the street. God’s word is alive and active and will not return void (Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:11). Maybe my Galatians practice will be used as a blessing from God?

And, it should be noted, that as soon as the words “Paul, an apostle, sent not from men….” are spoken, two little dogs run to the door, ready for their leashes.

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