While talking to a young man the other day about the Lord and His work, we each spoke about reading the Bible. I was interested to hear the very well educated fellow say, “It doesn’t really do me any good to read the Bible or go to church. I just can’t seem to remember very much of it any time later.” He’s in good company. Well, perhaps not good company, but joined by big numbers.
A study conducted by the United States Air Force said that psychologists tell us that after 72 hours have passed, only about 10 percent of what we hear is remembered. The same survey said that we tend to remember about 30 percent of what we read. And we can retain about 50 percent of what we both hear and read. And here’s the surprising figure — average human beings can retain about 90 percent of what we hear, read, and do.
Many wives, and I’m sure some husbands, too, will attest to this survey as being truth. I know I have told my husband an exact date, place or cost, and three days later, he will say, “You didn’t mention that to me.” I jokingly say he has very selective hearing (and remembering). If it is about going fishing or going to look at a new boat, he can likely remember every detail clearly. But if it is about a new project for the house, he will not hear that information clearly.
When I was a very young, new Christian with little Bible training, I had the joy of being around my paternal grandmother who read her Bible every morning in her big chair next to her birdcage. I can see her now in my mind’s eye, sitting there with her cup of coffee, her big Bible, a pen, and a note pad. Every once in a while, she would stop and jot something down. After she finished her Bible reading each morning, she then turned to Our Daily Bread, a great little devotional book that has been around for ages. She loved reading the stories she found there, and we could always find several months of this little publication on her end table.
One day my curiosity got the better of me and I sat down on the stool in front of her chair and asked her what she wrote down either on the flyleaf of her Bible or the pad. “Well,” she said ever so seriously, “there are some things I read that I want to know more about, so I jot the thought down so I can look it up in other places later. If a Bible verse means something really special to me, I might jot a quick note down, or even the date, to help me remember it better.”
My grandmother laughed and said something like, “At my age, I need all of the help I can get,” but truthfully, she was a wonderful Bible scholar and could quote many Scriptures from memory and always seemed to have a verse at the ready for the need of the hour. I later learned that taking notes during Bible study is an oft-suggested idea. One pastor wrote, “You can see from the U.S. Air Force statistics how taking notes will greatly increase your retention level. You will be able to grow spiritually more quickly if you retain the insights you receive from pastors and teachers as you hear them speak and from your own private Bible study.”
I later learned to jot down questions that I wanted answers to when I heard a speaker in the pulpit. And when a verse jumped out at me as I read, I underlined that verse or made a symbol beside it that I would later recognize. The notes I took through the years are like old friends to me now, and I get great joy out of going back and reading them over and over. As I have grown in the Lord, I have added new notes and references, and it helps me when I am called on to teach or to write.
“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
“A Bible that is falling apart from constant use usually belongs to a life that isn’t.”
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.