“This is a LibriVox recording. All LibriVox recordings are in the public domain. For more information or to volunteer, visit librivox.org.”
My wife and I have a practice of reading a book aloud to one another. While living overseas, it gave us a simple way to entertain ourselves, to have a shared experience together. We’ve read Sense & Sensibility, Around the World in 80 Days, The Count of Monte Cristo (all 875 pages), and others.
We’ve been traveling for the last several months, and so we decided that, with ample opportunities to be in the car, we should try listening to an audio book. Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been on my “to read” list for some time, and my wife especially enjoys stories that explore race relations, and so we selected this novel as our summer aloud reading. We found a free recording through the Audiobooks app (for Apple i-devices) and, over the last two months, made our way through the entire book.
Each time we began the recording for the next chapter we were greeted with the words quoted above. After 30+ chapters, we found ourselves laughing at one another as we repeated this line along with the recording, usually while trying to imitate the narrator’s own intonations. Soon, we started repeating this line to one another even when we weren’t listening to the book, almost randomly, whenever we could think of the need to use the phrase “This is….”
I have never even been to the librivox.org website, and yet I can repeat this disclaimer with word-perfect accuracy. Why? How?
These words have become a part of our lives, a part of our shared experience, a part of our routine. It takes no effort to recall or recite them. We have heard them no less than 44 times, we may never hear them again, and yet I cannot help but be assured that they will stick with us for a long time to come.
These unimportant, inconsequential words have impacted us ever so deeply.
I have heard first-hand testimony of Bible college students in Asia, tucked away in compounds, who, at the end of a year of intensive training, have memorized the entire New Testament. I grew up going to church. I even attended seminary. I’m pretty sure I can count the number of Bible verses that I’ve memorized word-perfectly on my two hands…probably less. And I’m pretty sure I can’t get away with counting the librivox.org disclaimer as one of them. No extra credit awarded for that accomplishment.
I often label myself as having a poor memory. I’m a slow reader with poor retention. My recall of events and experiences is woefully inadequate (I feel significant anxiety whenever someone asks, “Share a time when you…” or “What’s the most…thing you ever experienced?”). My recall of raw facts is only slightly better, and then it really depends on the subject nature.
So how has librivox.org come to impact me so deeply, to implant itself so firmly in my memory? It became a part of my routine over the last two months. Forty-four repetitions, 20 hours of listening, and experiencing it with my wife.
I guess this gives you a pretty good idea of what my investment in the New Testament has looked like over the last 60 days.
A month before starting Uncle Tom’s Cabin, my wife and I also started a read-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan. We’ve kept up with it faithfully. We’re into Numbers and Acts, and have also read through parts of the Psalms and Proverbs. We always read the Old Testament historical portions aloud together. It’s been a good experience. Neat to re-encounter many portions of Scripture. Sometimes I make notes. Sometimes we discuss a portion together. But I don’t have any of it memorized. In fact, I can’t even tell you which verses most stuck out to me in yesterday’s reading (though I think it was something in Acts 19 or 20).
Daily Bible reading is a good discipline. Reading classic literature is also an important, and (for me) life-giving experience. But I’m being a fool if I am ignoring the power of remembrance that comes through routine. Librivox.org might stay with me, but so what? It’s not hard to see why there are so many instructions for the Israelites to recall what God has done for them. God doesn’t let them forget that He is “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and I brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God’s identity became a part of their routine, and they remembered it…sometimes.
We’re now finished with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. What’s to become part of our routine next? More importantly, what are we investing in to add to our remembrance? Mere advertisements and disclaimers? Or words of life?