Things that do not stick with me

When my friend Freddie Arnold told me that a certain solution was exactly what I needed to take care of the mildew in my concrete, I wrote it down.

And promptly forgot what I had written.

Over the next several weeks, when I would be out and about and could have run by Home Depot or Lowe’s and picked up that item, my mind would not recall it, try as I might.  So, eventually, I dug out my note and determined I would remember it the next time.  And forgot it again.

It would not stay in my mind.

Shock Wave, it’s called.

And even now, I had to work at finding those two words in the cluttered file system of my mind.

Some things just will not stick with me.  You can tell me and I walk away without remembering one word of it.  It’s like the brain has no cells in that tiny portion of gray matter and we have to find another mental refrigerator on which to apply the magnet containing that piece of information.

Medicines are like that.

I’m not medically minded, in contrast to my wife who should be granted an honorary doctor of pharmacy degree just because she knows.  She and I will be in the waiting room to see a new doctor and are asked to complete these long forms which ask for medical history and a listing of every drug you are taking or have taken since your third birthday. And she will know, even to the point of the dosage.  Me, I cannot tell you what a milligram is and would not have a clue the correct strength of the generic Lipitor I take every day of my life. She knows; I do not.

When I go to the grocery, I take a list.

I live by my calendar where everything I’m supposed to do is written down. We also have another calendar posted on the side of the fridge.

And no, I am not getting Alzheimer’s.  I’ve always been this way.

I can quote entire chapters of the Scripture, notably Romans 8 and Psalm 103.  I know some poems and the highway route to a thousand places.  So, the mind is working just fine in most areas.  But not in others.

I do not know how to cook a meal and even after following the directions on the can or box, the next time I have to read it again.  None of that lingers with me.

Apparently, all of us have this problem in some areas.

James, in his epistle, says, “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror.  He observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:23-24).

It’s the doing of the Word, James says, that fixes it in our hearts and minds.  Only one who “does the word” retains it.

This is reminiscent of our Lord’s statements:

–“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

–“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

–“Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and do not do the things which I tell you” (Luke 6:46).

To the Lord Jesus, the question is not so much “what do you believe” but “What are you doing?”

When four men brought their paralyzed buddy to our Lord for healing and then proceeded to tear open the roof to lower him into the room, Scripture says Jesus did not ask these men a single thing about their faith.  “He saw their faith,” says Mark 2:5.  It was on full display by what they did.

When I was a teenager, my beloved Uncle John would drive up to the country from his city home in order to check on his farm which we were looking after. It adjoined ours, and growing up I plowed his land the same way as ours and could not have told you where one ended and the other began.  On more than one occasion, Uncle John would try to explain a project he wanted me to take care of in his absence. One time it was digging sassafras roots and preparing them “just so” for marketing in supermarkets back in town.  At other times, it was a barn he was trying to build and needed me to work on in his absence.  There was a problem, however.

I did not learn by words.  Instruction did not work with me.  He would drive away in his truck and I would stand there retaining very little of what he had said.

I needed to be shown.  I needed to work alongside him to learn a skill.

Pastors should keep this in mind.

We preachers are great about issuing instructions and giving scriptural explanations. But most people do not learn that way. They must be given hands-on demonstrations to learn it.

The process of making disciples–our mandate from the Lord in Matthew 28:18-20–implies matching learners up with mentors.  The young accompany the elders.  Barnabas took Saul with him, and later Paul took Silas while Barnabas brought in John Mark.  The process goes forward.

Are you discipling anyone, Christian?  Did someone disciple you?  (Much of the ills of the modern church can be traced to a failure to receive discipling as well as a failure to disciple newcomers.)

Discipling one by one seems a slow process, much too snail-like for those of us who want to reach the world by nightfall.  However, as has been pointed out time and again, if one believer spent 6 months discipling a newbie, then the two of them selected two others for a similar period, and so forth, within one generation, they have reached billions.  One generation.  That’s fast enough for anyone.

It’s all in the doing.

The reason I remember Shock Wave now with very little difficulty is that I have been to the home supply place and bought it and worked on my concrete sidewalk.  Doing a thing tends to fix it forever in your mind.

“Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).



2 thoughts on “Things that do not stick with me

  1. Good word Joe. In my work I see the need for pastor to be mentored and discipled. Somehow we have forgotten how important that process is to the ministry. We are suffering from un-mentored and un-discipled church leadership!

  2. This description of how important it is to show someone the way and not just tell them, is so true. I really liked this text. I see why church is sometimes so boring to some people. They are hearing gibberish; it is all going in one ear and out the other causing the person to daydream their way out. If only the preacher would explain by using an example of reality alongside with what he is saying, it would wake some of us up. I knew a preacher that would open his sermons with a play on stage. The play would demonstrate what the preaching lesson would be based on. The play would be about an event similar to what happens in our daily lives but would display the importance of living the right way and what happens if a person walks the wrong path of life. It was very effective, that was the only time I was anxious to go to church. There should be more examples out there of what is being instructed and not just being told. It makes me think that that is why some people resume to just feeling the sermon’s vibes and just dance around and move, and they call it being under the holy ghost, but they probably cannot explain what the message was about, only that it was ‘good’. I am not knocking them but there is something to see here.

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