Have you ever heard of the doorway effect before? More than likely it’s happened to you numerous times before in your life. It may have even happened to you this morning as you prepared for worship! The doorway effect is the psychological principle that explains why we often forget things after we walk into a new room. Science seems to prove that when we change our physical environments, as we simply transition from one room to the next, our thought processes change as well. Transitioning affects our focus. Often when we’re moving from one location to the next, we forget what our original goal was, and end up pursuing other goals. One time as a kid, I remember my mom calling and asking if I could sit some food out to thaw for dinner. After hanging up I left my bedroom, went into the kitchen, promptly opened the freezer door…and grab some ice cream! My original purpose for going to the kitchen was mentally lost in the transition. My mom although, did not forget about the (still frozen) meat when she transitioned into the kitchen later…
Spiritually speaking, I believe Christians lose their spiritual zeal for the Lord and overall commitment to Him in times of transition as well. Often in youth ministry, I observe students who were once so passionate about their Christian walk in the Summer, nearly disappear at the start of school and fall activities. As adults transition through different “environments” of life, they too can get spiritually lost in the transition. In our attempts to keep moving onward and upward in this world, we ultimately fall back into our spiritual life. So how do we combat this unintentional spiritual decline in times of transition? I believe the Old Testament nation of Israel reveals just how to handle these situations because they went through a transition.
In Deuteronomy we see Israel preparing for the transition into the promised land for the very first time. Moses in Deuteronomy 4, leaving them with final exhortations since he won’t be joining them, encourages them to remember their experience at Mt. Sinai. Deut. 4:9, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” He continues in Deut. 8:18 to remind them of who is really in control and will provide them success, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” By way of reminder, Moses is calling on Israel to not forget the past experiences they had with God. If we want to cling to God during times of transition, we too must stop and remember past experiences we had with God. Times when we felt near to Him in prayer and study, times of worship or devotion that were especially uplifting, and even moments of sweet fellowship with our brothers and sisters. Simply taking time to reflect on past moments will keep us near to Him.
This practice of intentional remembrance will be something that not only the Israelites do often, but that God organizes from time to time. We see this in Joshua 3 when God commands Joshua to place 12 stones together so that, “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.” When we purposefully put things in our lives to remember what the Lord has done for us in the past, we are more likely to stay with him in the present.
Today, what are you transitioning to? Are you transitioning into a new norm or way of life, are you fulfilling a new role, or are you in a new environment altogether? 2020 has been a year of movement and change, and as we face these changes and move on from one thing to the next – let us never fall back in our spiritual life! Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and remember what He has done for us so that we will never forget our original priority – no matter how our environment changes!