“I was on hold,” Janet Pope commented while contemplating her life. Despite having two small children, a loving marriage, and a steady job with Campus Crusade her life still seemed stagnant. “My heart was longing, seeking, sad, and thinking, I’ve got two little kids and living in a place I don’t want to be, and I don’t know how I’m gonna get up every morning. I have to find some joy.”
The dreariness of dissatisfaction that afflicts countless individuals had strangled Pope. But one surprising afternoon at a conference, she stumbled upon the moment that flipped the light switch on in her life. A woman, unknown to Pope, stood on stage and delivered a zealous recitation of Colossians. When Pope heard the woman’s passion she cried out in her heart, “Oh, God help me. I need to know your Word.” In that moment, she knew she would either turn her inner thoughts toward God, or she would spend her days on the same disconnected path.
She chose God. As a thirty-five-year-old mother of two small children, Janet Pope began pursuing God through scripture memorization. And never stopped. Today, she has memorized 14 books of the Bible and 130 chapters overall. Without special memory skills or photographic recall, Pope has the essential tool: desire. And that desire, cultivated from discipline and fueled by hope, flourishes more with each passage learned.
Chatting with me in her bedroom as light streams in from open windows, Pope pauses to reflect on the path her life has taken. She has visited 27 states and spoken in more than 120 events to enrich lives much like her own changed. But a speaking ministry never entered her dreams when she began memorizing twenty-one years ago. Pope placed Scripture in her heart for personal growth, not for others. She memorized passages to find joy, to find her way out of depression, and to find meaning. “I began to take ownership of God’s word. It became my lifeline.” Despite her ministry of encouragement to others, Scripture continues as her liberation from desperation. “If I became mute and could never speak again,” Janet humbly shares, “I would still memorize Scripture.” She simply loves the Word.
She also loves the challenge of long passages. Although she has retained large chunks of the Bible, she says her goal will never revolve around volume. She relishes transformation. The revolution that learning Scripture has created in her heart prevails as her favorite topic for encouraging others. Her face instinctively lights up when she tells about an entire year spent memorizing the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17). She pulls her feet up into her chair and bubbles with delight as she tells me about the disciples walking through the vineyard. She sounds as if she had trotted alongside them. And in a way, she did.
Her personal search for joy has opened doors to encourage mothers lost in a similar rut. Pope believes mothers of young children have the perfect opportunity. “It is extremely doable,” she says. “The thing about moms with little kids is that you have lots and lots of things that you are doing when your hands are busy but your mind is free.” You can either fret about the future, or focus on the Word. Pope spent many years reciting Scripture out loud as she did chores around the house, a legacy her children have not forgotten. They still like to remind her of verses they learned as children when she drove them to school reciting Scripture on the way.
Anyone can train their hearts to remember scripture, not only mothers. God endowed the human brain an ability to learn by rote memory. Children learn the alphabet, numbers, and favorite songs by repetition. So Pope’s strategy patterns after the function of the brain. Her method stands firm on action. Simply start today. Redeem the time. Get into it. And forget the numbers if math eludes you. After all, “It’s hard to connect something tangible with something intangible like a number, so don’t memorize the numbers,” Pope explains. Learn the word and let the Lord take care of the reference.
Janet Pope guards her time dearly, avoiding frivolous activities. Except football. She loves football. But her main devotion remains going deep into the word of God. A simple woman with a simple plan: know the Word. No crowds greet her at Starbucks, no paparazzi stalk her door, and her wallpaper does not drip gold leaf. But the richness of her life bursts out from the treasures she has hidden in her heart. This most prized possession she offers to any who will listen. “Get passionate about God’s word,” she’ll encourage. But how does she encourage herself? With a hearty, “Life’s short, get going girl!” And this petite woman goes, and goes, and goes.
Janet has placed all her memorizing tips and techniques in her book, His Word in my Heart. To find out more about Janet Pope’s ministry, check out her website www.janetpope.org.