What We Used to Memorize

This week I was on the phone with a parishioner and asked if she would share her daughter's phone number with me. She said, "Sure, hold on." Background noise increased, signaling that I was on speaker phone, and she was scrolling through the contacts on her phone. 

She laughed and said, "I can't believe I don't know her number. I used to have all important numbers memorized, and now... well, I have to look them up on my phone."

Her story is a familiar one. Those of us who remember life without internet and smart phones knew the numbers we called most often by heart. We could dial them without thinking. If anyone had told us we would one day depend on our phones to serve as our memory for phone numbers, we'd think the person had watched too many sci-fi movies. Of course, we also rely on our phones for calendars, ordering food, and much more.

During this 50-day season of Easter, I've taken a step back from social media. I realized in doing so that I don't know anyone's birthday. I've come to depend on Facebook's little red notification dots to remind me who has a birthday. Yesterday morning, in looking at my calendar for the weekend, the thought came to me, "Someone I know has a birthday soon. But I don't know when... and I'm not sure who." The "who" came to me first, but I had to text someone to find out the when. 

Our phones can memorize far more than we can, but their capacity shouldn't keep us from committing to memory those things which are important. Time after time, when I'm sitting with a family as they plan a funeral, when I ask about Scripture passages, they say, "the 23rd psalm." Some of us would say the reason for its popularity is the comfort and peace it brings "in the valley of the shadow of death." But I would argue that it's because most Christians have memorized it at some point in their lives, and thus we easily recall it in life's hardest times.

Whether we choose to memorize phone numbers, birthdays, or verses of Scripture, what we discover is that memorizing something is hard. It takes time, commitment, and repetition that can grow cumbersome. What we have to keep in mind is that in choosing to memorize certain things, we are declaring what is important to us. We are living our priorities. We are letting people, and God, know how much we value them.

Psalm 105 is one of many songs that recounts the great things God has done for His people. In a time where few could read or write their history, our ancestors of the Church learned by committing those songs and stories to memory, then retelling them to the next generation.

Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
— Psalm 105:5-6

This week, take the time to commit a passage (more than one verse!) of Scripture to memory. Make an effort to remember. Invest time in what we used to memorize. Write down phone numbers from your phone, then write them again until you could dial them, without looking, on someone else's phone. Let us not overly depend on human made memory but also learn to rely on the God-given memory placed in our minds. In doing so, we can't help but remember with the psalmist the "wonderful works he has done."

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

P.S. If you have trouble memorizing phone numbers, borrow this fun, familiar tune.