Yesterday was Groundhog Day here in America. When the groundhog named Phil popped out of his den in Punxatawny, PA, he saw his shadow, which means we are “destined” for another 6 more weeks of winter. We are now halfway through our Alaskan winter, but instead of talking about how it feels like it may never end, it would be more interesting to talk about the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. This movie follows Bill’s character, Phil Connors, as he has to relive February 2nd over and over and over again. During that time, he progressed from living for himself, no one, and then others. He learned to play piano, speak French, sculpt ice, and learn every person’s life story in the town.
When someone asked the director how many years he thought Phil was stuck in this time-loop, he said over 10 years. The website whatculture.com sat down to figure out how many days it would take to learn all of these skills and they came to 12,395 days. That’s 34 years! 34 years of repeating the same day over. 34 years of no hot shower. 34 years of dealing with annoying people. 34 years of realizing he could do nothing to change his circumstance. Wow!! It is no wonder he went crazy for a few “days” there. The only way he was able to break this cycle, was to learn from his experiences. He finally realized that the only satisfaction in life was when he stopped focusing on himself and started focusing on others. He ended up becoming a well-loved person in town who genuinely cared about others and helped them and even saved lives.
I think that sometimes at DBC you might think that our church is stuck in the Groundhog Day loop. For 146 days we’ve been saying the same thing over and over again. “God loves us, we didn’t want Him, He let us go our way, but His main mission is to redeem us and bring us back into perfect relationship with Him. The Upper Story, the Lower Story, yada yada.” You might ask yourself why we seem to be “repeating” ourselves all the time. Did you know that the Israelite culture was an oral culture? That means that the only way they would remember things was through repeating a story out loud over and over again. So their parents and grandparents and great greats and so on would tell them the story of their people and their God. God wanted them to remember it and never forget.
Buck County Community College (http://faculty.bucks.edu/specpop/memory.htm) wrote about a famous study given on remembering textbook material.
After 1 day 54% was remembered.
After 7 days 35% was remembered.
After 14 days 21% was remembered.
After 21 days 18% was remembered.
After 28 days 19% was remembered.
After 63 days 17% was remembered.
Since we have been talking about The Story since September 11 of last year, we’ve been discussing the “same” topic for 146 days. Extrapolating the ratio out, maybe only 12% of what we have learned is being remembered. That doesn’t sound too good, does it?
Old-time pastor Norman Vincent Peale said that “Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes and an automatic reflex.” Lawyer Robert Collier said that “Constant repetition carries conviction.” God wanted the Israelites to repeat and repeat so that they would not forget His goodness, love, and requirements. He wanted them to reflexively believe that God keeps His promises and is worthy to be praised. But the Israelites didn’t commit it to long-term, change-my-life memory. History repeats itself and if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
This week’s chapter in The Story is about the Kingdom of Judah being taken into captivity. Jeremiah, one of the prophets God sent during that time tells of why this is (Jeremiah 11): they did not listen to the Lord their God, heed His commands, remember His mighty deeds on their behalf or worship Him. No matter how much God’s power and truth was repeated, the Israelites did not remember, they just kept functioning in short-term memory mode for generation after generation.
When we learn in short-term memory we hardly apply anything to our lives and therefore, do not change or remember. Through repetition, we move the lessons we learn in the here-and-now into the now-and-forever part of our memory. God then uses these lessons to point out His truths, to draw us back, and to guide us in our service to Him.
We as leaders that God has entrusted with the flock at DBC want to encourage you as we begin this second half of The Story project to read the weekly chapters, to come to our Sunday worship, to encourage your teens and older kids to read, to read to your younger kids and to learn about God’s great love. We truly believe that God will use the repetition of His Story to help us never forget what He has done in history and for us and to allow it to radically transform our lives.