Posted by MK | Filed under Bible Study
In A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes remarked on his amazing ability to recall information that is useful to him:
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands on it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it – there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
Now I’m not that interested in solving interesting crimes, but I am pretty interested in retaining useful bits of information at a moment’s notice, especially when it comes to Scripture memory. That’s where I need some help, because the attic of my mind is getting crowded. Think about how many things are vying for space in our brain attic. I’ve got all sorts of stuff up there from movie quotes, to birthdays, to the standard atmospheric pressure (101.325, thank you Mrs. Gwinn and sophomore chemistry). And that’s the stuff that’s already there. It doesn’t even account for all the junk that could potentially go in my brain attic over the next year.
But Holmes can help us, of the crowded brain attics. He can help us with his statement above about keeping the attic in “perfect order.” According to Holmes, that organization is about making sure that tools for similar purposes are grouped together. In our vernacular, you might say that it’s like making sure that the Christmas lights go in the box with the other Christmas lights, and the outgrown baby clothes go in the box with the other footie pajamas. Such is the case with the brain attic. The key in both is the organization – of mentally grouping things together that fit in the same box in your mind.
And if it worked for solving crimes, it seems like the same principle would be helpful in memorizing the Bible.
Organization seems to be the key. So how do you make sure you are putting things in the right boxes? I think you do it through careful and methodical work. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say that you are working to memorize John 3:16: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” So you do what you have to do to memorize it. You write it on a notecard. You make it the home screen of your phone. You plan specific points in your day when you will read over it again and again until you can recite the words by heart. But then comes the “Holms-ian” moment of putting it in the brain attic.
So you pause, and you look at the words carefully. You see that this verse is about God’s love. And it’s about eternal life. So you pull down the steps to your brain attic and you go up and look around at the boxes that are there. You find one labeled “God’s love.” It’s full of other verses that you have also memorized about this subject. You open up the box and pull out some other verses and find:
1 John 4:10: “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
And then you find Romans 5:8: “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
And then you find Ephesians 5:1: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”
This is a pretty full box. But as you are putting John 3:16 in among the rest of them, you are also looking anew at what else is in there. Suddenly you’ve got a string of verses that live together in your brain attic in the same box. Now for me, this is all great, but I need another step. I need to mirror my brain attic with an actual box. So maybe you take that notecard you’ve written John 3:16 on and you pull out the other notecards from the past with those other verse on them and you have a time of thematic review.
It’s worth a try. Time to do a little spring cleaning and reorganizing of the mind. Time to make room for what’s important.