Most of us can remember the routine of writing spelling words ten, twenty times each week during elementary school. Although this exercise was monotonous and worthy of many a sigh, I understood the reason behind it, that the physical act of writing each letter on blue lines would write it upon my memory as well.
Since becoming a teacher, I've encouraged my own students to use the physical act of writing to draw out those elusive thoughts whenever they're stuck on an assignment, to just spill out whatever comes to mind in formless free writing. Doing such gives form to thought by slowing down the mind to the pace of graphite scratching across pressed wood pulp.
Until the past few months, though, I had never used writing as a tool to understand Scripture or hide it away in my heart. I have read in a dozen versions, cross-referenced Strong's, Vines, and whatever commentaries I could online. But I had never just sat down and hand wrote God's Word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.
In my most recent study of the book of James, one of Beth Moore's recommendations was to write out the entire book. Knowing how much extra time I don't have, I had almost decided to ignore those blank pages at the back of my student workbook. Then one night when I wasn't quite sleepy enough to turn out the light, I decided I would just write out the first chapter at one sitting. Just one.
As I wrote, I tried to understand what it must have been like to be a scribe, knowing that every word I wrote had to be perfectly copied from the original or else I would have had to scratch or cut out the word or start over and burn the scroll.
Hunched over my writing in serious exercise for only fifteen minutes, I could feel the muscles slightly burn at the back of my neck. No, this wasn't a life of privilege or pleasure. It was rigorous monotony, day after day of just writing.
I wrote the first chapter, then the second and third until all five lay before me. On the last chapter, I made my first mistake, simply scratched it out with a grimace and the realization of just how miraculous it is that the errors in the thousands of Scripture's manuscripts aren't significant or terribly plentiful.
I also realized that just like with my students, this exercise slowed down my mind to where I was forced to dwell on the same phrase repeatedly until I had written the entire sentence. The repetition opened my mind to greater understanding at times, made me feel the author's emotion more than my ordinary study revealed.
In our type and click culture, hand writing is no longer revered for its value in making our brains process information differently, more analytically. It's nothing magical, though. It simply comes down to the numbers, to how much information we're asking our brains to process at once.
According to Wikipedia, most typists average between 50 and 80 words per minute (wpm), while some average 120. Because my job requires much typing, when copying text, I type 105.4 wpm.
Compare this to hand writing. The average person copies text at 22 words per minute.
Twenty-two words for my brain to dwell on each minute versus 105.
It makes me wonder how much of God's voice I don't hear because my brain is exceeding the speed limit, not because I'm trying to rush but rather because it's just more convenient (and faster) to type up my thoughts.
I think I'm going to try and find more of those 25 mile per hour zones and see what I've been missing, maybe even choose another book of the Bible to hand write next.
Joining in community with a few fellow bloggers this week.