I don’t know if anyone reads this that doesn’t know me personally; but if that’s you, I hope you like what you read! I’m a happily married mother of two and I’m back in school studying music education. One thing I’ve learned to do in my life is to treat everything as an act of worship. I invite God into everything that I do and aim to glorify him in the way that I spend my money and time. Though my budget is tight (giving even 10% is very sacrificial) and my schedule is tight (between work, school and kids, I don’t get to read the Bible daily), I invite God to join me in everything. It makes sense, then, that He shows up everywhere. I just have to remember to look for Him.
God showed up for me last week in my online educational psychology class. In this particular class, we learn a lot about how the brain works, how to teach, and how to learn. The common proverbs say, “You learn something new every day,” and “Practice makes perfect,” so it would make since that we are really good learners, right? Well, for a lot of people, that’s just not true. Try to answer these questions:
Recite John 3:16.
What is the first verse to Amazing Grace?
What is the first verse and chorus to I Surrender All?
If you’ve ever attended church, I’m betting these weren’t too hard. Let’s try some more.
What does the word begotten mean?
Do you believe you are or have ever been a miserable or a despicable person?
Do you use all your money in ways that honor God?
These are a bit tougher, especially since they’re a little bit more personal, but I hope you were able to come up with an answer to them. You may see a connection already, but if you don’t that’s okay. I’ll get there.
Questions 1-3 are great examples of what is known in psychology as rote learning. This is superficial memorization that holds no real meaning for a person. It’s the same idea as learning a song in a foreign language in choir. Unless you already know the language, you don’t know what the words mean, but that doesn’t stop you from learning the sounds that the letters make. Just knowing the words isn’t the same as knowing the meaning.
Questions 4-6 lead to what educational psychologists call meaningful learning*. To help remember what is involved in meaningful learning, there’s an acronym: M.O.V.E., which can be remembered by thinking that the goal of meaningful learning is to move information to long term memory. Meaningful learning requires Organization, Visual imagery, and Elaboration. Organization can be very effective when given a list that you must remember. The purpose is to group related items, but you often get to decide which ones are related to each other. Visual imagery is when you turn an abstract idea (for instance, the definition of a word) into a mental (or physical) picture. This is probably my weakest technique, but it may work well for many people.
The meaningful learning technique that I use most often is elaboration. You may have heard the word, but it basically just means connecting new information to stuff you already know. It means digging deeper so that the concepts of a subject are learned rather than just skimming the surface. In each of my three examples, we are looking at the previously memorized material as if it is new. The goal is to move it from a rote memorization to a long term conceptual knowledge. I will break down the questions two by two.
1. Questions 1 & 4
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (AMP)
Some translations of John 3:16 say “one and only,” others say “only begotten.” However, when reading the Bible, in whatever translation is your preference, it’s important to remember that it is still only a translation. Even if you learn Greek, it takes a long time to understand all the contextual meanings of the literature. (I’m a big fan of the Amplified Bible because it seems to encourage digging into the original text). Keep in mind that I’m not an expert as I give a short language lesson. The original Greek word that translates here as begotten is the word Monogenes. It is a term used only in reference to an only child. It literally means “one (mono-) of a kind (-genes).” Humans are introduced as beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), but Christ is referred to as a one of a kind only child of God. In other words, he is not human. He’s not just created in the likeness of God. He share’s God’s genes. Another thing I want to take note of is the fact that each other time the word monogenes is used in the Bible, it’s in the context of a parent pleading to Jesus on behalf of their only child. This, to me, makes it even more evident how big a deal it is that God would send his monogenes to die for us! This is elaboration: connecting new ideas to previous knowledge. (This is the main site I used as a reference: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/monogenes.html, but I looked it up on several other sites as well.
2. Questions 2 & 5
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me? I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”
The definition of wretch is “a miserable person : one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune.” If you don’t like that one, how about “a base, despicable, or vile person”? Many people love Amazing Grace. It’s a very traditional hymn and people know all the words, but do they really know what it means? From my experience, many people sing the words without stopping to think about the meaning. If they thought about the meaning every time, I think we’d have a lot of tear filled services. “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Have you ever been left behind at a store or in a crowd and felt the terror and relief that follows? I “was blind, but now I see.” What an amazing healing! Have you known anyone who had a total remission from cancer or any other similar miracle? It’s not something you ever forget. It changes your life. This is elaboration: connecting a string of words to a real situation.
3. Questions 3 & 6
“All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
I would like to paraphrase the first verse of I Surrender All: Everything I own, I freely give to God. Because I love and trust Him, I don’t need my house or my clothes or my savings account. All I need is to be with God. Do you believe this or is this another song that you glaze over because it’s on the list of songs to sing today? Do you check off the song today in order to forget about it when you buy that (insert guilty pleasure here) later this week? Don’t get me wrong: I’m far from perfect and in no place to judge any of you, I just want you to stop and think. This is elaboration: reworking a new idea into terms you can more easily relate to.
I hope that my post will help you think about the words you sing in church and the Bible verses that you have memorized. Sure you’ve got them memorized, but do you really know them? Next time you come across something you don’t understand, try making connections with what you already know. You’ll learn it better and be able to transfer what you’ve learned to your daily life better, too. That’s one reason I write this blog, though I wouldn’t have pinpointed it before last week. This blog helps me to elaborate on what God is teaching me. Maybe God will use it for someone else too, but I really do it more for my own understanding of God.
I’ll stop there for this post because I know it’s quite long already. However, in the near future, I will write another post that relates to this one from another idea I’ve learned from my psychology class.
*All information about psychology was learned from my classroom textbook: Ormrod, J. E., & Jones, B. (2018). Essentials of Educational Psychology: Big Ideas to Guide Effective Teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.