The human brain is incredible.
I bet you didn't think that would be the first sentence of the first summer devotional. And maybe you're hating me a little bit right now because you'd rather be thinking about the beach than neuroscience. But bare with me.
Did you know that the human brain consists of 1 billion neurons? It can hold approximately 1 quadrillion pieces of information, which means it is virtually limitless. Memories begin forming in the womb as early as 4 months!
So if the brain is so incredible, why can't we remember what we had for breakfast yesterday? The reason is, our short term memory kind of sucks. Short term memory can only hold around 7 pieces of information for 20 seconds. And many scientists think that's generous and estimate it to be as low as 4 pieces of information!
We live in a time where more information than ever before is accessed through just the strike of a key. Alexa. Siri. Iris. We even have our own digital personal assistants to remember things for us so that we don't have to!
Dr. Maria Wember of the University of Birmingham puts it this way:
"One could speculate that this [sucky short term memory] extends to personal memories, as constantly looking at the world through the lens of our smartphone camera may result in us trusting our smartphones to store our memories for us. This way, we pay less attention to life itself and become worse at remembering events from our own lives."
Our brains incredible but sorely limited by the culture around us. As more things demand our attention, are we forgetting the most important things?
Today's passage is all about remembering. We'll be looking at a conversation that God is having with his people in one of the earliest books of the Bible- Deuteronomy. God's people have been wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years and they are finally about to enter into the land that God has prepared for them to settle in.
11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- Imagine you are one of the people getting ready to head into the promised land. You've been wandering around in the dessert for 40 years and now it's finally time to settle down. What thoughts and feelings are running through your mind? What feelings do you have toward God- bitterness? Joy? Relief? Anger? Trust?
- What does God want his people to remember? What would happen if they forgot?
- Read Exodus 16 & 17 to learn more about the water & manna that God references. What do you notice about God in these passages? What do you notice about his people? Why does God bring up water & manna here?
- Read Deutronomy 8:11-18 again and notice everytime God says "forget" & "remember." What does God want you to understand about remembering and forgetting?
- Why is it so crucial for us to practice remembering what God has done in our lives? What might happen to us if we don't do this?
So what is the solution to our short-term memory dilema? Unlike us, the Israelites didn't have smartphones or Netflix, so in a way, it was easier for them to remember. According to neurologists the answer to our problem lies in our long-term memory. In order to remember the most important things, we must move them from short-term memory to long-term memory. But how do we do that?
For us, as people who long to deepen our faith in God, we must practice a disciple of regularly remembering what God has done in our lives. It's as simple as that. We must be people who carve out the necessary space to slow down and reflect, in opposition to a culture that entices us to binge and move to the next thing as fast as possible. We must be people who pay attention.
If we do not pause and remember God and his work in our lives, we run the risk of becoming people whose, "heart[s] will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."
Here is an idea on how you can pause and remember God this week.
Carve out an hour and head to a coffee shop or a park. Pull out a journal and reflect on the last school year. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Over the last 9 months, where did God seem particulary close or near? Where did he seem distant?
2. What was I most grateful for? What was I least grateful for?
3. How did I respond to opportunities to share God's love? How did I miss or ignore opportunities to share God's love?
4. What are several key ways that I grew in my relationship with God? If I could choose a key word or phrase to describe my spiritual life over the last 9 months, what would it be?
Once you have answered these questions, scan over what you wrote and look for any themes or repeated words that pop up to you. What does God want you to remember about him?
Consider using the first 3 questions every week, reflecting on your summer a week at a time so that you can pay attention to what God is up to.