The man who took eight years to learn one Bible verse

A long time ago there was an illiterate monk named Pambo. He was young and new to the monk's life in the desert, so he went to an older monk for advice. The old man began reading a Psalm: "I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin...'" (Ps 38:1). Young Pambo stopped the master, saying, "My father, if I haven't learned the beginning of the text, I won't learn the rest." So he went away. For the next eight years he concentrated on obeying this one verse of Scripture. This meant being silent until he learned to speak only after considering whether what he would say would be life-giving or not.

When Pambo returned, the old man said, "Where have you been? I haven't seen you for eight years. Why didn't you come back to hear the rest of the Psalm?" Pambo replied, "Since I hadn't learned the first verse, I didn't return to you to get the second, since God had not given me the grace until now to learn it."

Young Pambo grew to become one of the great monks of the desert and someone sought out by all sorts of people for his wisdom and godliness. Near the end of his seventy years, Pambo reflected that since he became a monk, he had never spoken a word he regretted. He chalked this up not to his own determination but to God's grace.

In writing this story, I also thought of Brennan Manning, whose spiritual director once said to him, "Brennan, you don't need more insights into the faith. You've got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received."

It makes one pause and think about how seriously we take (a) the Bible's cautions about "sins of the tongue," (b) Scripture in general, and (c) our need to be patient as God works within us.


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