Hearing vs. Remembering: A Matter of Time and Attention

14 Mar

Taking the time to listen to what both God and your earthly boss have to say is a fantastic step in the right direction. Unfortunately, all of those hours are worthless if you can’t later recall what was said and put it into practice. Few things are quite as embarrassing as performing a task poorly or incorrectly because you weren’t actually paying attention to the directions being given.

If you’ve ever frozen on a test, you know exactly how this feels. It’s crunch time and, despite the many hours you’ve dedicated to reviewing flash cards, taking lecture notes, and faithfully attending your study group, you simply aren’t prepared. You’ve heard the answers before, but hearing them wasn’t enough. You need to remember them. And you don’t. Your body was present, but your mind was somewhere else and your grades will soon reflect this reality.

The truth is that spending hours reading a textbook, the Employee Handbook, or God’s Word often gives us a keen sense of accomplishment. We can quantify the number of hours spent and the pages read. Such success may even lead us to surmise that we’re reasonably diligent students, employees, or disciples of Christ. (After all, who actually reads any of these books in their entirety?) But this diligence isn’t enough to guarantee a good grade. Time, alone, doesn’t ensure that we’ll remember what we read when we’re put to the test.

The writers of the Bible recognized this and advised both the House of Israel and the Christian believers to devote themselves to those things which would help them remember God’s instructions. In Deuteronomy 6:7-8, the Israelites are commanded to, “teach them [God’s instructions] diligently to your sons and talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (NASB) And in 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul advises his young student to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV) (See Psalm 119; Proverbs 22:17, 23:12; Ecclesiastes 7:25; and 2 Peter 1:5-8 for a few more examples.)

The truth is, if you’re going to be an “A” student, you need to study and this involves more than just the consumption of information. Diligent study requires not just time, but attention. And in a good study program a large part of both are devoted to memorization. Next week, we’ll take a look at this vital skill, but for now, feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

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