Take Time to Remember

November 06, 2017

What can we do to keep our spiritual memories sharp?

By Karen Barrett

L

osing something important can create major problems! Last summer, my youngest daughter and I had plans to fly home from California with her two toddlers after a family vacation while her husband and the rest of the family drove home. Unfortunately, the night before our early morning flight, she realized she had left her purse behind at a restaurant where we had eaten that evening. It contained all of her identification.

Knowing she would not be able to board the plane without proper ID, our first attempt at rectifying this situation was to call the restaurant. Although it had been closed for more than an hour, a cleaning person on the premises checked the area where we had been seated. No purse was found. Our next step was to call the airline to ask if we could cancel the ticket and get a refund. The answer was no. Would travel insurance cover the cost? The answer was no. Could the ticket be transferred to my son-in-law, whose identification was safe in his wallet? The answer was no.

The eventual solution to our dilemma was complicated. We called our oldest daughter in Portland, waking her from sleep, and asked her to drive to her sister’s house. She would need to use a code to open her garage door, use another code to turn off the home security alarm, go to the study and search through some file drawers, locate her sister’s passport, take a photo of it on her cellphone, and send that to her sister. She graciously complied.

An hour or so later, with the photo duly received, our family finally got a couple of hours sleep. Then we headed to the airport, where the lack of “normal” identification at the security checkpoint meant that my daughter and I and the two toddlers were asked to step to one side and wait for an officer to come and talk to us. We waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Finally the security person who had directed us to the side noticed us standing there. She apologized for the delay, went away, and presently returned with a different officer who asked a series of questions and then left to confirm the answers. Once more we waited. Finally, a third security person came to lead us to another area where they patted my daughter down and ultimately cleared the four of us to board the plane. Misplacing one small purse had created a fair amount of hassle! (The rest of the story is that when we landed at the Portland airport and turned on our cellphones, my daughter received a photo from her husband who was still in California—a picture of her purse, all contents intact, which had been found at the restaurant that morning!)

Bible scholars note that the word “remember” in its various Hebrew and Greek forms occurs over 250 times in Scripture. Clearly, retaining the experiences, blessings, and the spiritual understanding God has given us is a vital part of a stable walk with Him.

While the loss of a physical item can cause significant problems, a spiritual loss can have eternal impact. We want to take good care of the lessons God has taught us so we do not let them slip away. They are of tremendous value! Bible scholars note that the word “remember” in its various Hebrew and Greek forms occurs over 250 times in Scripture. Clearly, retaining the experiences, blessings, and the spiritual understanding God has given us is a vital part of a stable walk with Him, of making Heaven our home, of inspiring others to follow God, and many other spiritual benefits.  

We humans have short memories. In Deuteronomy 6:12, Moses warned Israel just before they entered the Promised Land, “Beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt.” Psalm 103 begins with the Psalmist stirring himself up to bless the Lord and reminding himself to “forget not all his benefits.” In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews cautions us, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1).

Most of us have many tangible items to remind us of special moments in our lives: diplomas, awards, photographs, scrapbooks, souvenirs, and the like. But how do we retain spiritual lessons? In our busy and fast-paced culture, what steps can we take to keep what God has done for us fresh in our minds? As I pondered these questions, four one-word strategies came to mind.

Recall

Memories and insights become dim when we fail to recall them—pathways to the information stored in our brains deteriorate with disuse. For example, while we can remember our current employer’s name, what was the name of our third grade teacher? That bit of information may have slipped away. To best preserve and retrieve information, we need to access it frequently.

We may find it helpful to make a written note of significant blessings, spiritual milestones, and insights as they occur. For instance, did God answer prayer about a concerning health issue? Did He provide guidance concerning an important decision through the words in a sermon? Did study of a particular Scripture yield nuggets of spiritual treasure? We can make it a practice to record such occurrences so we do not forget! Putting it into words causes us to think deeply about it, and thereby solidifies it.

Experts tell us that short-term memory rarely lasts longer than a few hours, but that a quick review within an hour or two can move an item from short-term memory into long-term memory.

Experts tell us that short-term memory rarely lasts longer than a few hours, but that a quick review within an hour or two can move an item from short-term memory into long-term memory. To make that work to our advantage in retaining the blessings and insights God has given us, we could make it a practice to ask ourselves at the close of each day, “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to me or my family today?” As we take time to review, we may see evidence of what God has done that we did not recognize in the busy moments of the day. And doing so will make it much more likely that we will recollect the blessing or insight later!

The ultimate key to remembering is having the Holy Ghost abiding in us. Jesus promised, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). The Holy Ghost helps us recognize what God has done for us and taught us, and He will help us to recall “all things.”

Reflect

Sometimes after reading a verse in Scripture that suddenly seems new, or highlighting an inspiring passage in an old Christian classic, the verse or insight that caught my attention so vividly at the moment fades away in the distractions of life. We read in 1 Samuel 12:24 that we should “consider how great things he hath done.” When we “consider” or meditate on spiritual truths, we anchor them more firmly in our hearts. In Psalm 77, Asaph used three verbs that highlight his determination to steady his soul by looking to God and reflecting on what God had revealed to him. He stated, “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings” (Psalm 77:11-12). The discipline of carving out time to “remember,” “meditate,” and “talk of” God’s Word takes purpose and intention, but it will pay great dividends.

The same technology that makes spiritual food so readily available can distract us. It takes effort to make sure we capitalize on the benefits of technology, while not being sidetracked by less important pursuits.

The technology of our day has made God’s Word easily accessible. Most of us have the Bible on our phones and tablets, where we can click into it in seconds—along with a wealth of sermons, commentaries, devotionals, and other Christian reading materials. However, the same technology that makes spiritual food so readily available can distract us. It takes effort to make sure we capitalize on the benefits of technology, while not being sidetracked by less important pursuits that could deflect our focus.

Focused concentration can also help with memory retention. One of the great privileges we have as Christians is that of worship. Most of us are accustomed to attending church regularly, and appreciate that Gospel meetings offer us an opportunity to pause in our busy schedules and focus on God. When we attend a worship service, we want to “check our baggage at the door,” setting aside anything unrelated and concentrating on worship alone. We may or may not be fantastic multi-taskers when it comes to ordering our daily lives, but mindful and deliberate reflection on God during worship is certain to help us retain the spiritual lessons imparted to us there.

Rehearse

Scripture teaches us that the people of God are to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). When we “shew forth…praises” by verbalizing what God has done for us, we establish those things in our memories through use of two different senses: the physical sensation of voicing the thought, and the auditory sensation of hearing it.

During the 2017 Portland camp meeting, a young mother who lives some distance from her family had the opportunity to spend time with several cousins. As they updated each other about what was going on in their lives, she spontaneously acknowledged, “I’m homesick.” She told me later that the moment she said those words aloud she realized just how true they were, and a wave of emotion quickly surfaced. Voicing her feelings made them more “real” to her—and memorable enough that she recounted this incident to me later.

One way we can rehearse what God has done or taught us is to testify. Revelation 12:11 lets us know that we overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Perhaps one reason testifying helps us overcome is that we “anchor” the blessings God has given us by sharing them with others. Testifying can happen in a church service, but it can also occur in one-on-one verbal exchanges about what God is doing in our lives. What sweet fellowship results when our conversations go deeper than surface topics and delve into what God is teaching us, how a particular sermon impacted us, or ways we have seen God’s hand moving!

Repeating and rehearsing what God has done not only establishes it in our own hearts, but also it is an effective method of passing on what God has done for us to the next generation.

Memory coaches tell us that storytelling is an effective memory-retention technique. And repeating and rehearsing what God has done not only establishes it in our own hearts, but also it is an effective method of passing on what God has done for us to the next generation. In Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses admonished Israel to take heed to themselves and keep their souls diligently, “lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart.” They were also to “teach them [to] thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” God reminds us to remember, both for our own benefit and for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. Both we and they will be blessed as we rehearse what the Lord has done! 

Reaffirm

One beautiful way God has given us to reaffirm what He has done for us is to observe the Lord’s Supper with fellow believers. Communion is an act of remembrance. The emblems used in the observance—the bread and the juice, or “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29)—are symbolic representations of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. When we partake of these emblems, we are remembering and reaffirming the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the Cross for our sins. The Apostle Paul elaborated on this in his letter to the Corinthians: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Establishing personal or family traditions or memorials also can be helpful ways to reaffirm what God has done for us. From the very beginning of Israel’s history, God established monuments and symbols that would help His people remember. Instituting memorials is still a good practice. For example, if we know the date that God saved us, we can celebrate it as our spiritual birthday, viewing each anniversary as an opportunity to express our gratitude for what He has done in our lives since that day.

Some families have compiled heritage books documenting not only ancestral data, but preserving the stories of how those ancestors came to know the Lord. Another option is to keep symbols or pieces of memorabilia that remind us of spiritual truths. I have an old, well-worn Bible on a bookshelf in my office that was given to my aunt, Ruth Ashwell, by her cousin, George Hughes, in 1942. On the flyleaf are inscribed the words, “The Rock on which I will stand will also be your foundation in the days to come.” Each time I look at that Bible, I remember the calling and faithfulness of those two people of God, and the many lives they impacted spiritually through the years.

One of my cousins has a painting of an eagle in flight hanging above the fireplace in her home. It is a picturesque portrayal of the assurance that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Some people wear an angel pin as a reminder that they are not alone and that God has given His angels charge over them (see Psalm 91:11).

 

Perhaps the most important step that we can take to preserve spiritual blessings and insights from God is to maintain our relationship with Him. And He reciprocates! As we do our part by nourishing our souls through Scripture and communing with God in prayer, He renews our spiritual strength. The Apostle Paul explained this to the believers at Corinth, noting that “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

When our relationship with God thrives, we have sweet and repeated experiences of His love, and we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him. The resultant spiritual vigor will no doubt include an ever increasing ability to recall, reflect, rehearse, and reaffirm the lessons and blessings God has bestowed on us in the past!

About the author

Karen Barrett is Senior Editor at the Apostolic Faith Church World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.