There’s a delightful Lerner and Loewe song from the movie Gigi(1958) that captures a common problem: misremembering. The song is “I Remember It Well”—an exchange between two friends reflecting on their first date. Honore (played by Maurice Chevalier) and Mamita (played by Hermione Gingold) play out a charming duet:
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well. We dined with friends.
Mamita: We ate alone.
Honore: A tenor sang.
Mamita: A baritone.
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well. That dazzling April moon.
Mamita: There was none; and the month was June.
Honore: That’s right. That’s right.
Mamita: It warms my heart to know that you remember still the way you do.
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well. How often I have thought of that Friday . . .
Mamita: Monday . . .
Honore: Night when we had our last rendezvous. That carriage ride.
Mamita: You walked me home.
Honore: You lost a glove.
Mamita: I lost a comb.
Honore: That brilliant sky.
Mamita: We had some rain.
Honore: Those Russian songs.
Mamita: From sunny Spain.
Honore: You wore a gown of gold
Mamita: I was all in blue.
Honore: Am I getting old?
Mamita: Oh, no, not you! How strong you were. How young and gay. A prince of love in every way.
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well.
The humor and kindness in the exchange is sweet as this aging couple reflects on when they first met. What is far less humorous is the way we can end up misremembering what we think we’ve read in Scripture.
All too often it happens. In conversation, in Bible study, someone will say something like, “Well, you know in the Bible is does say . . .” and then mis-state a passage of Scripture or refer to a text that apparently has been pulled from its proper context. The person may feel he or she is recalling Scripture well, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, we misremember.
Unlike Honore and Mamita, there is a simple solution to our tendency to misremember: Open the book, find the text, and read it! This is not to say that we should not try to remember what we’ve read or that we will always misconstrue what we’re recalling. But if we develop the habit of checking our memory by simply finding the text and rereading it, we will not only be more likely to recall the passage accurately (in the future, as we become more and more familiar with the passage itself), but we will avoid the problem of “what we think a text says.”
On more than one occasion, Jesus asked those who were questioning Him, “Have you never read?” (e.g., Mark 2:25). He was not suggesting that they had neverread the particular text He was pointing them to—but He was implying that they just might not be remembering well what they had read. The problem of misremembering is not new!
Friend 1: It’s as Peter said.
Friend 2: It was Paul who wrote.
Friend 1: About Hosea’s prophecy.
Friend 2: From Isaiah . . . a quote.
Friend 1: Ah, yes, I remember it well. Writing about sin.
Friend 2: It’s all about fear.
Friend 1: He called us to flee.
Friend 2: He called us to draw near.
Friend 1: Ah, yes, I remember it well. The focus on Christ’s death.
Friend 2: There is no mention; it was about the Spirit.
Friend 1: That’s right. That’s right.
Friend 2: It warms my heart to know that you remember Scripture the way you do.
Friend 1: Ah, yes, I remember it well.