Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Preventing Spiritual Amnesia

You know the feeling--you've just returned from a Christian retreat or conference, and you're bursting with new knowledge you're excited to apply to your life. Or you've finished reading a book that seems to have shifted your thinking in a significant way. Maybe it's as simple as a particularly affecting time of worshipping God or a great conversation with a friend about spiritual matters. There's a sense of fullness, of motivation, of life changing for the better.

But you're quickly drawn back into the mundane matters of life, whatever those are for you. Responsibilities. Sitting at a desk getting work done, making phone calls, doing laundry, sitting in traffic, feeding hungry kids, doing the dishes. Over the course of a month, a week, or even the same day, the fresh lessons begin to seep out of you, and you return to old habits.

I've experienced this countless times, and recently was reading and discussing a Christian book with a group and had it happen again. With each chapter I amassed food for thought and new insights for, with God's help, making positive changes in my life. The day of the discussion or of reading that week's chapter, I maintained an awareness of the information and changed my behavior accordingly. But on the other days, I experienced varying degrees of forgetfulness. A couple weeks ago we discussed the last chapter, and I felt a low-grade panic: What if I forgot everything from the book and lost it forever? Was this material doomed to hiss out of me like air from a balloon?

It got me thinking: What could I do to prevent this spiritual amnesia? Here's what I've come up with so far, but I'd like to hear from others as well:

  • Find God in the ordinary moments of life. Train yourself over time to think about, talk to, and just be with God regardless of what you're doing. Sometimes I stand at the sink washing the dishes and think "I can be with God right here, right now!" Keep your eyes out for blessings, even ones that are more hidden (laundry is a blessing because it means I have clothes to wear, and if I'm also doing others' laundry it means I have people in my life and home).

  • Make it a priority to hang out with others who are like-minded. I've found that I am much more likely to keep my mind set on spiritual things if I'm around others who are also seeking God and imitating Christ.

  • Teach what you learned to someone else. Obviously make sure you have a willing "student" first! This could be in a formal or informal setting.
    Remind yourself of what you learned. Write a few summary points in a journal, or post a notecard somewhere with a one-sentence reminder.

  • Memorize scripture related to what you learned. Bible Gateway is a great tool for quickly looking up Bible verses on various topics if you need help finding ideas.

  • Don't move on to the next topic of study until you have a better handle on this one. Sometimes I am very quick to put down one book and immediately open the next, or finish reading or studying a book of the Bible and jump into the next one. It might be even better to continue delving into the topic that has excited you for a while longer and let it settle in rather than speeding forward to the next victim of spiritual amnesia.

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