Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weekly "Take Home"

Psalm 119:97-104
It's so easy to walk out of church on Sunday morning/afternoon and not remember a single word that was spoken or even one of the Bible passages that were read. We want to meditate on God's Word throughout the day yet find it challenging to remember it for even a few minutes after reading it. It seems most difficult to do on the day set apart to honor the Lord.
I struggled with this as much as anyone until my husband-to-be started asked me every Sunday what I thought about the homily. He would of course be ready to discuss the Bible readings and everything the priest had said about them (he was prepared) but I would answer something like, "it was really good but I don't remember a single word of it". After a few weeks I started making a special effort during the service to remember just one thing so I wouldn't look silly trying to discuss it afterwards. A few weeks later it no longer took a special effort: I had formed a habit of listening with an ear to remember. Since that meant putting my thoughts about the readings and the sermon into long term memory, I soon discovered that it stayed with me throughout the whole day and often throughout the whole week.
Now my husband and I have two young daughters and we ask them every Sunday after church what one thing they learned during Mass. Our 3yr old comes up with a good response maybe 50% of the time. Even for a candy reward and even with prompts from me she isn't always ready to participate in the discussion. But our 5yr old has caught on to the activity and can usually come up with something. If she forgot to listen or is feeling lazy she says that she learned "God loves us." She's used that line too many times so she doesn't get her reward until she elaborates a little more (with or without prompts) but she usually is able to repeat something such as who some of the main characters of the Bible readings were. She picks out "Moses" and tells a little about what he said to the Israelites and we think that's pretty good recitation for a preschooler. Other Sundays she pays attention and remembers so well that after going to church with Grandma on Sunday morning she can still tell us something she learned when we ask her Sunday evening or Monday morning.
What makes this possible I think is having someone to repeat a key thought to shortly after church every week. A spouse, friend, journal, or even aloud to yourself would work fine. Remind yourself before and during church that you will be expected to repeat a key thought, so you'd better listen well enough to have something to say. Write it on a scrap of paper if need be. You don't have to repeat everything: just focus on the one thing to "take home" and allow yourself to "forget" everything else. Holding onto that key thought for even half an hour before reciting back what you learned is enough for your brain to store it in long-term memory. Once it's in long-term you'll find it easier to retrieve throughout the day, making it something you can truly take home and make a part of your life and your relationship with Christ. And once you have the habit of remembering one key thought every week it won't take as much conscious effort to keep the habit in future weeks.
Linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Modest Monday

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that is so important. It sounds like your family is doing a great job.

    I actually take sermon notes and now I have people asking me for mine to help them think about the sermon later in the week!