I was thirteen and walking hilly loops of our neighborhood with my mom, who insisted on carrying with her index cards full of scripture for us to memorize. We walked, my long legs at a stroll, her short ones going like a windmill, and spoke the words on repeat, interrupting ourselves to point out trees in bloom, to make fun of each other’s bad jokes, and to wave at neighbors who thought the short white lady and her tall blonde daughter were laughably strange.
I was eighteen and home from college, running five miles with my dad every other morning to try to get rid of that freshman fifteen. I made him monologue as we ran so that I was distracted from the sweltering tropical heat that made me want to quit. He would share with me what he’d learned during his quiet time earlier that morning, verses he’d memorized, and hopes he had. His words kept me going as the sweat trickled down my back and my legs screamed for mercy.
I was twenty-nine and training for a half marathon. The sun wasn’t up yet and neither were my children as I logged the long miles, first using the time to think about what I’d learned that morning during my time in the Bible and then to pray. The longer the run, the better the chance that by the time I was nearing the end, my short-circuited brain would only be capable of playing on repeat the verses I’d tucked away all those years ago, half a world away.
The truth was that I had no idea how much the verses my parents shared with me while we exercised would follow me. I couldn’t have anticipated the long years of sleepless, baby-filled nights where I would run on the fumes of the spiritual food they had fed me as a new believer. Bleary middle-of-the-night nursings turned into sleep-deprived daytime parenting survival, and there was little to no time to sit and have a quiet time of my own. But the verses I had memorized and the truths I had imbibed while my legs stretched and my lungs expanded stayed with me longer than I expected. On the days when “personal devotions” meant sitting on the toilet and reading three and a half verses from a randomly picked Psalm while my children tried to carry on conversations with me through the door, I still had God’s word tucked away in the deep recesses of my heart, ready to be remembered when I least expected it but most needed it.
As a thirteen-year-old, I didn’t realize the value of the discipline my parents were instilling in me: to exercise my body but also to exercise my memory. As an eighteen-year-old, I knew enough to recognize the benefit of what they were modeling for me. But as a twenty-nine-year-old, it was a rich treasure that had been invested well. It was a seed that had grown into a spreading tree. My parents let the word of Christ dwell in them and in me richly (Col 3:16). When I walked (or ran!), God’s words led me. When I laid down (however rare that was), God’s words watched over me. When I awoke (to hungry babies and wet diapers), God’s words talked with me (Proverbs 6:21-22, ESV). And as I stumbled into adulthood and then parenthood, they were a railing to cling to that kept me from falling.
I am thirty-four now and take my own kids for walks and runs, having them repeat with me whatever scripture we are memorizing together. I hope that one day when they least expect it but most need it, those words will come back to them: to encourage, to convict, to feed their hearts and souls and minds. They won’t always have a Bible at their fingertips—maybe their hands will be full of something else—but I hope they will always be able to find the Bible they’re hiding in their hearts.
Marian Frizzell entertains herself by bopping from one side of the US to the other with her military husband and their myriad military children. When she’s not unpacking the five hundred boxes of books she insists on owning, she homeschools aforementioned children (making sure to teach them about the country where she grew up), writes books she hopes will one day get published (and keeps up a blog), goes running to maintain her sanity (what’s left of it), and strives to encourage those around her (making them laugh is a bonus). She loves Jesus and wants to reflect his light. You can read her writing at www.marianfrizzell.com and follow her on Instagram as @marianfrizzell or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marianfrizzellwriter.