Onion, a photo by richard_north on Flickr.

I remember years ago, a couple of the leaders in our church (Burton, our pastor, and Bob, one of the elders) talking about “peeling the onion.” As I remember it, they were helping us not be discouraged when it seemed like we were repeating the same lessons over and over. That we weren’t going through a kind of Groundhog Day, never learning, always repeating our mistakes. Instead we were going through necessary cycles of peeling away the surface and going deeper with each experience. Learning, healing, getting to the source of whatever issues were dogging us.

One layer at a time.

For years I clung to this word picture, sometimes encouraged, but often baffled.

I used to feel like I was being tossed around by negative experiences. Always off balance. Never “getting it” until, sometimes, years later. No matter how hard I tried or what questions I asked.

I wasn’t able to benefit from difficult or toxic experiences. At least not soon enough. They would only add to the confusion and wounding I felt.

Until recently.

A few years ago, as I found myself in a challenging time of transition, I re-instituted an old discipline.


Scripture memory.

You see, for the first eight or ten years of my Christian life I regularly memorized scripture.

But at some point life became more complicated and my focus went in other directions.

Now, faced with the most challenging transition I’d ever begun, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t sufficient. What I was doing wasn’t working.

And so, clinging to the Lord’s hand, I began systematically re-assessing, reinventing (I called this time Reinventing Charles 3.0), re-tooling, re-acquiring.


I began digging out the old scripture memory outlines. Getting new ones. Memorizing and reviewing with a vengeance. Making up for lost years.

One of the benefits I’m getting out of memorizing and reviewing scripture consistently, daily, systematically is that God, rather than people or circumstances, is in charge of peeling the next layer of onion.

I realize this in retrospect—I didn’t know it at the time—as I look back at the last several years I’ve pursued this approach with renewed energy and focus.

It’s God’s word, more than experiences or struggles, that is soaking in and peeling away the layers.

Then, as conflict or confusion or challenge—whatever the issue—occurs, God speaks to me through one or more of the verses I’ve been memorizing and reviewing. Often that day. Sometimes as I’m going through the experience itself.

Sometimes, amazingly, ahead of time.

I would be reviewing a scripture. And as I was reviewing, I was thinking. And as I was thinking, I would realize something in the verse I hadn’t realized before. And what I realized applied directly to my situation.

A few weeks later I would be reviewing that same scripture. And as I reviewed, I would think. And as I thought, it would occur to me that there was even more in that verse that applied to my experience. And that other verses also spoke to the issue at hand. And I would see the relationship between one experience and another. One issue and another. Things were starting to connect.

And I would realize that something had changed. In my thinking. In my life. In my automatic responses. In how I treated people and how I dealt with the way people treated me.

The layers were almost being floated off, rather than scraped.

I’m changing. Daily. Layer by layer.

I’m getting it.

How are things working where you are?

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” —Joshua 1:8


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