I've been trying to read a little from a particular bestseller each night as I go to bed. I won't tell you the name of the book because I'd hate to reflect badly on it. The book, I'm sure, is great, but because I've been extremely tired as I hit the hay each night, I've been drifting off to sleep before I can even get through a few pages.
The next evening, when I open the acclaimed book to the bookmarked pages, I struggle to remember the context of what I'm reading. I skim back over the previous pages trying to get my footing before I move forward with the narrative. Often, I end up going back several pages and starting from scratch, only to drift off again before I even catch up with where I supposedly left off the night before.
Ugh! This is a top-selling, blogger community blessed, and prettily packaged book! I should be able to remember what I read from one day to the next. Shouldn't I?
Turns out it's common to forget information we've gleaned, especially if we read, listened to, or even took notes on it when we were tired, distracted, or rushed. And, as in my case with the bestseller I've been trying to read each night, the quality of the material doesn't necessarily correlate to our remembrance of it. In fact, studies show we forget 95% of what we hear after just 72 hours.
So let me ask you a question. Do you remember the sermon you heard this past Sunday? Do you remember the Bible study lesson you completed just yesterday? Is the passage you read in the Bible just this morning still sticking with you like a good bowl of oatmeal? Or have you filed all that away and forgotten how you labeled it?
Just as I've struggled lately with remembering my reading from the night before, I've struggled with making Bible lessons stick over the years. I want God's Word to do a transforming work in my life, but how can it if I can't even recall it?
As I've gotten older and my memory has become even less reliable (it really does happen, chickadees!), it's become even more necessary for me to employ a few "message capturing techniques" if I want to hold onto a message long enough for it to make a lasting imprint in my life.
Here are a few techniques that have worked for me as I've tried to not only "remember the sermon," but even do something with it:
- Get ready to hear. It helps to prayerfully prepare my mind and heart to receive truth. Whether I'm about to listen to a sermon, sitting down to study my Bible, or joining other ladies for a Bible study class, it's a good idea to spend at least a few minutes asking God to help me focus. I also ask Him to teach me, verbally yield to receiving what He may say to me, and give Him "permission" to step on my toes.
- Take notes. I know that sounds basic, but it works. Studies show our retention rate increases dramatically when we write something down, even if we never review what we've recorded again. Truth is, I rarely review my notes, but the act of taking them helps cement the information nonetheless.
- Pull out one thing. Even if I've gleaned more than a dozen good points from the lesson or sermon, I settle on the one thing I need most desperately to address in my life. I give myself one challenge to take on, one point to ponder further, or one sin to confess and repent from. If God wants me to deal with more than one thing, I have no doubt He'll bring it to mind later on.
- Assign a task. Once I've nailed down my "one thing," I assign myself at least one task to do with that thing. I may need to reconcile a relationship, pray about something further, read additional Scripture, memorize a verse, do an act of kindness, or offer forgiveness.
- Talk about it. I've found it helps me and presumably others if I discuss what I've learned while it's still fresh on my mind. I may talk about the sermon with my family (maybe just a minute or two), my Bible study lesson with my best gal pal, and a message I heard on the radio with my husband.