Now that my children are getting older, it has come to my attention that I have lost access to some of my own knowledge. I learned algebra in school, for example, but now that my son has taken it, I find that the lessons I had all those years ago seem to have slipped through a crack into some inaccessibly cloudy region of my skull. I know I knew it, but I can’t deny that I don’t know it now. And the same is true for much more than my maths.
When I was younger, I thought about knowledge as if it was a bank: that what I stored in my mind would be safe and accessible, and that once I had it, I would have it forever. Now I know that my bank is not a very good one. Not the kind I’d trust my money with, anyway. As the years have passed, I have found that my knowledge does not only grow—it also shrinks. If I want to remember something, I need reminders. Regularly. Better yet, I need to apply what I know to my life. In my experience, the knowledge I don’t use is the knowledge that eventually, I don’t know (like algebra). Even foundational truths I hold dearly—like God’s gracious love for me, or the value of my family, or what a blessing it is to be alive—can slip far too easily to the edges of my mind when I only focus on the urgent business and problems right in front of me, and forget to approach them using the truths I already know.
Knowledge is not a bank. It’s more like a garden. Truths and skills that are planted in our minds can bear good fruit in our lives. But just as a neglected garden will run wild with useless weeds, so our minds can easily become a wilderness of distractions, anxieties, and trivialities that choke out the good and productive knowledge we’ve accumulated before it gets the chance to take root and grow into real applications in our real lives. That’s one reason I have to spend time in the Bible every morning—I need to remember who God is, who I am, and what I’m here for. That’s one reason the Bible is so full of the same truths and promises stated over and over again in different ways. Knowledge cannot simply be known once and stored away safely. It must be remembered and applied, or it will be forgotten. There are some things that I can’t afford to forget, so I’m not depositing my knowledge in a bank. I’m working to remember what I already know, and grow.