I just had it!
“Oh yeah, I love that guy. His name is…uh…it’ll come to me…I just had it….” 8 hours later when you’re talking about something completely unrelated: “FRED! His name is Fred. I knew it was in there somewhere!”
Anyone else relate?
Now, this blog series is about Bible reading, so let’s make it applicable – ever read you Bible then 10 minutes later can’t remember what you read?
Why is it that we remember things not in the moment but when we’re not thinking about the thing we couldn’t remember? Well, we’re still figuring out how our mind works, and while we may may never truly figure it out, we have learned things about how we process information. There’s actually some really interesting reading on this, I’ll include some links at the end of the post.
For now though, I’d like to give you three things that can help with your Bible comprehension, memory, & how to help make your reading stick with you better. None of these very long, but they do require intention & effort, which I think is worth it.
Read Less More
While it may seem oxymoronic, this probably one of the best ways to immediately improve memory & comprehension. This also harkens back to the “Read to Think” point in the first blog post. Read less more means two things: read less several times, and read less several times consistently. Here’s what I mean.
Read Less Several Times: If you’re forming a Bible reading habit, and/or want to focus on retaining more, try reading a shorter passage, whether it be a few verses, paragraphs, stories, or chapters, whichever is “less” for you, and then read it over, and then maybe once more. But don’t read it all the same way.
The first time you read, read it as the big picture. Try to take everything in, and take it at face value.
The second time you read it, look for something you might not have caught or seen the first time. Look for details, look for interesting words, look for what God is going.
The third time you read it, look for a question thought from the text. Some examples might be What is God doing here? How does this affect my life? Why is this in the Bible? What else did that man/woman do?
What we’re doing here is repetitive engagement. Not only are we repeating what we read, which repeating anything helps our minds to remember something, but we’re engaging with the text in three different ways, from three different angles if you will. Think of it as shooting a basketball from three different places on the court. Your shooting ability can be great from one spot, but better if you can train yourself to shoot from several spots. Likewise, your brain can remember something better if you think about it from three different angles.
Read Less Consistently: By forming a habit & training your mind to ingest a certain amount of information, over time your mind will become better at processing that amount of information. Meaning, that if you train your mind to constantly be able to handle 20 or so verses, eventually that’ll be the “standard” for how much you can comprehend and remember. This is very much like toning your physical muscles. If you want a great foundation of strength and your muscles to be able to fully handle heavier weights, you don’t start with the heaviest one. You start small, and train your muscles to be able to handle that weight.
Your brain muscle is no different. Some people can read an entire book and remember nearly everything for days & weeks after. Some people can’t remember a single sentence they just read. To start the habit, you must start somewhere, wherever you are, to grow.
For many people in school, you cram for tests and then forget most everything you just crammed in your brain. I can relate. In fact, most of the scripture memorization I did in school I forget within days, if not hours, of passing the test. What I’ve noticed though is that the Scripture that I remember best are ones that I read & study early in the week, that I keep coming back to through the week, and that I let stay with me & reflect on through the week as I prepare my sermons. Why? Because I keep coming back to it.
When you read, how often do you go back & think about what you read that morning/evening/whenever you read? Many people would say not much. Here’s something very simple, but very hard to do consistently: find a way to reflect on it throughout your day.
You could carry around a notebook and write down a thought or question from your reading in the morning, and whenever you have a small break at work take it out and look at it. You could schedule a reminder on your phone, or set alarms through the day to simply look at your page or just intentionally remember what you read that morning. You could print out the verse or passage and it on your car console, put a sticky note on your computer…there are endless ways of reminding yourself of what you read that day. You just need to choose to do it.
By constantly reminding yourself of what you read, you’ll constantly be thinking and in essence imprinting it on your memory. Think of it like a trail in the woods. If the trail doesn’t get used, it overgrows and is hard to travel through. But a trail that’s used stays easy to hike and clear. Things you constantly think of work the same way.
This may be the oddest one on here, and you may feel silly about it, but it may work better than you think. Tests work in the sense that it measures our ability to recall information when needed. While I already said the cramming method doesn’t work, measuring how much we remember can help us remember things better.
For one, it forces us to recall the information, travelling that trail as it were. Two, if we know a test is coming, we tend to read & work to remember better. And three, by answering whatever questions there are correctly, we can give ourselves a boost of encouragement to keep on reading & remembering!
So what does this look like?
Well, you could do it yourself. When you read, write down 3-5 questions from the text on a word document, notepad, etc. Later that day, come back and take your test and see what you remember.
You can also buy study guides or devotional books that have already written questions about the text. The only con is that you’ll be on their reading plan, but if you can do it, do it!
You could even call someone else to do this with, and you could give each other each others’ tests. That way it’ll be worded a bit differently and you’ll have to think about it a different way. Done well, testing yourself on your comprehension & memory can be a great way to improve them as well!
I hope the last few posts have been helpful, encouraging, and above all give you some practical, helpful guides on how to form or improve your Bible reading habits. At very least I hope these have made you think about the habit you do have compared to the habit you want.
A daily, habitual discipline of Bible reading is one of the most rewarding spiritual disciplines there is because the Word of God was given to us to explore, comprehend, remember, and apply to our lives. The only way we know about Jesus, about what God has done in the world, is by the Bible, and for us to be able to read it is a great honor, privilege, & responsibility that deserves being done well.
Feel free to contact us with questions, feel free to comment, and happy reading. I’m praying for you. Grace to you.