I didn't grow up with the Bible. I had a children's Bible, which I received as a gift. I remember looking at the pictures, but never reading it.
My grandmother's family Bible was a missal. I loved it, because it was the closest thing I knew to a holy book. I still have it. The ribbons are in tatters, but I can still read my birth record and my sisters' on the inside front cover. I wrote in my own children's.
When I was a young teen, I asked for a Bible for Christmas. I am a book-lover, and it seemed like a book I ought to have. On our annual Christmas shopping trip, my grandmother obliged me with a tiny, red-bound copy of the King James Version.
When I opened my Christmas present, I moved the red ribbon to where the tiny type read "Genesis." Begin at the beginning. An unoriginal novice, I got about half-way through Exodus before quitting in boredom and despair. How were you supposed to read this thing anyway?
Needless to say, I did not grow up memorizing chapter and verse. But I used to lector at mass. For many years running I read on Palm Sunday. Isaiah 50:4-7 and Philippians 2:6-11 were the first scriptures I learned by heart.
And "by heart" is precisely what it was. Not memorized. The words became part of my heart, became flesh.
Today I can quote many verses. "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). "Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me" (Revelation 3:20). "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
But none can compare to Isaiah 50:4-7 and Philippians 2:6-11. As I hear them and recite the words along with the lectors, I think about the time when they were all I had, what I have since received, what is yet to come.
"Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; And I have not rebelled, have not turned back." ~Isaiah 50-4b-5