By Ellen Di Giosia
Like many Baptist children of my era, I was devoted to Bible Drill. While living in Mississippi, I studied each week and reveled in the opportunity to show my stuff. “Attention!” (Standing straight, Bible by my left side.) “Present swords!” (Bring Bible front and center, flat in my left hand, right hand on top of the Bible.) “Find — the Good Samaritan. Begin.” (Fingers scrambling, flipping to the New Testament – Matthew? No, Luke – page found, finger pointing to chapter 10, verse 25, stepping forward. Was I first? Yes!)
The competitive nature of Bible Drill (called “Sword Drill” in an earlier era) fit perfectly with my goody-two-shoes, perfectionist persona. (And yes, I did win the church drill, pass through the district drill, and compete at the state level.) Psalm 119:11 was one of the first verses we memorized: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This, of course, was the real reason for Bible Drill. The competitions were just motivation to memorize the words of scripture, so that we could remember them as we grew and matured, as we faced new challenges and made hard decisions. Hiding God’s word in our hearts meant that in times of trouble, we could recall wisdom and act accordingly.
This was a beautiful beginning, but only that. For it would be many more years before I could say that “I delight in the way of [God’s] decrees as much as in all riches.” To be honest, on many days I still don’t feel delighted by the call of God on my life. Humbled, committed, passionate – but delighted? It can be hard to feel that way when I’m in the trenches. But maybe this psalm is not a command, but a promise. Because I have hidden God’s word in my heart, the delight will be an outgrowth of that early discipline. Like any practice, early hard work leads to freedom to enjoy later. I will claim Psalm 119:9-16 for my life this Lent. Maybe you can, too.