I know I’m showing my age with this example: But how many of you remember the song by Tommy Tutone that contained Jenny’s phone number. That song hit #4 on the charts in 1982, and yet after all of these years if you start singing the song, people can tell you that Jenny’s number is 867-5309.
Why do we remember such trivial things?!
The way God designed the human brain is absolutely astounding! Electrical impulses from our five senses filter into the brain and are saved as short-term memories, with the emphasis on short. Short-term memories usually last 20-30 seconds. But we can reset the timer by repeating the information again and again.
If we repeat it enough or think about it more, our brain realizes that it has some significance to us, and begins to “solidify” the information in our intermediate memory banks. These intermediary memories last 5-8 hours.
But in order for the intermediary memories to be stored away in our long-term memory—where they can be stored indefinitely—there needs to be an added component from us. That component is emotion.
The more important the information is to us, the greater the likelihood it will be filed in the “do not delete” section of our brain.
People tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to memorize Scripture, but the keys to memorization are built into the Scripture itself.
First, you have to approach it with a passion. Oh, how I love your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). The “bookends” of this section show passionate emotion.
Second, you need to sing the Word. Twice the psalmist said he mediated on God’s Word all day long (vv. 97, 99). At the root of this word is to hum. Singing God’s Word attaches emotion to it, and the emotion tells your brain to move it to long-term storage.
Third, you need to realize just how important it is to have the Scripture stored away in your memory banks. In one section of the 119th Psalm we see benefits like: makes me wiser, gives me more insight, I have greater understanding, I can avoid evil paths (vv. 98-102).
C.S. Lewis commented, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” Jenny’s phone number won’t keep us out of trouble, or draw us closer to God, or even give us insight into helping a friend. But God’s Word will do all of those things … and so much more!
These steps will help you store and retrieve eternally useful truths, and not just fictional phone numbers! Try it and let me know how it works for you.