As I walked earlier today, I thought. My mind wandered a bit, then came back to me, moving in and out as my legs pumped away for a couple miles. There wasn’t much to my thoughts, some ramblings about “both, and” theology, how Eden could have been a golf course, and how I’d like to live my next couple years. Honestly, I let it go at times, just allowing myself to be on a walk.
I thought to myself, “I’d like to write about a few of these things, I will write tonight.” Tonight, as I sit down to actually write some of these thoughts out, my memory fails me. I cannot remember what I thought, and as words are typed onto the screen they have neither the elegance nor permanence my earlier thoughts had. Those thoughts are gone.
Perhaps in some other time they might have been shared, there could be ways of making sure to keep our thoughts organized and useful. Recording and typing notes into our phones make remembering such thoughts easier.
Today, though, that would not happen.
Daily, we go through routines and think constantly, never stopping to organize and realize what we are even thinking. Sometimes, we never consider what we are forgetting. It’s a sad business, to get so busy, so wound up, to move so much that we forget to remember. Memory takes time, patience, and effort. It’s easier to forget.
Perhaps, that is why the Lord told Israel to remember. Remember that the Lord took them out of Egypt. Remember the covenant He has made with Israel. Remember the Sabbath. Remember.
It takes effort to remember. It takes effort to stop yourself and remind yourself of what you already know. Let alone remember what you thought randomly while walking. We are forgetful creatures, honestly. We forget simple things, let alone truly important things. I forget to take out the trash, of course I forget that God has already taken care of my problems.
And yet, God tells us to remember. Remember what He has done. Remember His promises. Remember His covenant. Remember.
What we really need is training in how to remember what is truly important. There’s plenty of advice out there, but I think there’s only a few things we need to help us remember.
Write yourself a note
The easiest way to remember is to know you will forget, and act preemptively! By simply writing a note to yourself, you can remember whatever you need to remember. Adversely, you may look at a note and think, “what did I mean by this?” It has happened to me before, but usually the note is enough to eventually jog my memory.
When it comes to the important things, like God’s promises, you can write scripture out and keep it in your wallet or purse, reminding yourself of the promise of your salvation. Perhaps while in a quiet time, God spoke to you through a particular verse or passage, but you are prone to forget passages, write it down and carry it with you.
Get the right friends
Some people remember certain things better than others. You may know all the lyrics to your favorite songs and your friend can remember baseball stats, and you are both amazed at one another. It is the same with our spiritual lives. My friend may always remember that God is Father, and I may always remember that He is just, and we both need to be reminded by the other.
It is a good idea to have people in your friends circle who’s spiritual walk is strong in areas where yours is not. A couple of my good friends are very emotionally stable, and could almost be described as having no emotions. It has been so good for me to have people in my life who are able to meet me in depression and emotional turmoil and not let my emotions dictate their lives. They love me and are there for me, but they remind me of truth when my inner life doesn’t know how to orient itself. Likewise, I am able to speak into their lives when they have an emotion they aren’t used to or aware of.
It’s hard to remember to check ourselves in these ways, to remind ourselves that we are oriented by God’s truth, but also that we all have emotions. By doing life together we are able to remind each other of the fullness of the spiritual life.
This sounds like a stock answer for Millennials anymore, but learning to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around us will help us remember things we are prone to forget. I had coffee with a friend 2 hours ago and don’t remember the color shirt he was wearing, I was far too distracted with what was going on around me. By simply paying more attention and slowing down my thoughts I would remember more of these things.
Being mindful, to a Christian, could be seen as Eastern or new-age spirituality and contrary to our beliefs, but taking 5 minutes to be aware of our surroundings makes no claim to truth. It is simply a training to help us become more aware in the moment. In fact, I look at being mindful as practicing the awareness of God in the moment.
When we are more aware of what is happening around us in a moment we are more able to remember things. My mind drifted today while walking, and while I remember ideas, I do not remember specific phrases, phrases I wanted to remember.
Read it again
If nothing else, you can always just go twice over what you read, thought, or said. A good place to start may well be this article. Reading or speaking slowly and purposefully helps imprint what we are reading, saying, or thinking onto our memory. Too often we read quickly, get the main idea, and move forward. This is the same idea as drifting thoughts and being more mindful.
Reading mindfully, and especially reading twice, is incredibly helpful for remembering. The ancient art of Lectio Divina involves reading a passage of scripture slowly, purposefully and prayerfully 3 or 4 times, reflecting on the passage slightly differently each time and being open to how God wants to use the passage to speak to you directly. It is an incredibly powerful way to read scripture, and cannot be rushed. Often, I find that doing Lectio during my quiet time will result in my remembering more of what I read than had I simply read and meditated on the passage.
There may well be some tricks to memory, and there are articles out there that will encourage them, but our Christian walk isn’t about remembering by tricks, or remembering quickly, but remembering continuously and consciously. Eugene Peterson called the Christian walk “a long obedience in the same direction.” In order to be obedient and to keep moving in the same direction, we have to remember what we are to be obedient to and where we are going. We have to take time to rest on and relax into God’s word, and to let it seep into our souls.
His promises are there for us to remember.
The man who delights in the law of the Lord is like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season. Psalm 1.