Memories lie

pinI’m reading this book called The Invisible Gorilla. That’s a story for another day, but that’s where this came from…

We don’t have a very good grasp on our memory. Most of us know that we forget things, but other than that, we trust our memories. Sciences has proved, time and time again that we’re not quite as reliable as we like to believe.

Here’s a fun little experiment:

Take this list of 15 words. Give yourself about a minute to look over it, read it, and memorize it. There will be a test…

Bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze, blanket, doze, slumber, snore, nap, peace, yawn, drowsy

Got it?

I tried this experiment at Burns. I put the word list on the screen at the beginning of our services, read the list, and explained that there would be a test later.

At the beginning of the sermon, I asked everyone to write down the words from the list. I gave them about one minute to do so.

Once time was up, I asked for a show of hands for who remembered each word. I started with “bed.” About 90% of people raised their hands. (We do best with firsts and lasts, by the way).

I asked how many got the word “rest”. About 75% raised their hands.

I asked how many remembered “awake.” About 50% raised their hands.

I asked how many remembered “sleep.” Again, about half raised their hands.

The only problem? “Sleep” wasn’t on the list, but half our people remembered it vividly.

Our memories aren’t as good as we think they are. We forget things that happened. We remember things not quite as they actually happened. Sometimes we look back on the good ol’ days and only remember the good. (“If only the church could recapture what we had in the 1950’s!”) Sometimes we look at the past and see it all as old and out of date. (“We’re the first ones to discover grace!”)

Neither is entirely accurate!

Let’s be careful about trusting our memories a little too much. No wonder scripture is so filled with activities to remind us of where we are, where we have come from, and where we are going. The past is a beautiful place. The future is an exciting place. But the only place you and I live is the present!

Reading, but not Reading

In the preface to Eat This Book, author Eugene Peterson tells of the day his wife picked up their seven-year-old grandson Hans for a trip to the museum. The two of  them stopped at the park to eat lunch. As they were about to leave, Hans who had not yet learned to read, took a New Testament from his book bag and held it in front of him and carefully scanned the page.

The incident amused Peterson. But he also saw in it a parable of the way we often approach the Bible: ‘Hans, on that park bench, his eyes moving back and forth across the pages of his Bible, ‘reading’ but not reading, reverent and devout but uncomprehending, honoring in a most precious way this book but without any awareness that it has anything to do with either the lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich he has just  eaten or the museum he is about to visit, oblivious to his grandmother next to him: Hans ‘reading’  the Bible. A parable.”

“The Power of Comparison.” Moody Handbook of Preaching.