FIRST: Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline
For many years, I had some boxes stored in my parent’s attic. Having lived out of the country for many years, I had kind of forgotten about them. On a visit home when I was in my 40’s, I finally got around to going through them, and I found a trail of ‘journals’ that started at the age of 9 and spanned through several decades. I remember sitting on the floor of my parent’s home for hours getting caught up in reading these words that I had written through so many different seasons of my life. Daily events, feelings, lessons learned that came back to me as if they had happened yesterday. As I sat with those piles of written word, I started seeing a pattern of how writing had helped me to learn about myself and the faithfulness of God in my life.
My earliest writing was in a small red diary with gold lettering on the cover and a lock and key latch to keep my thoughts ‘safe’. Every entry began with ‘Dear Diary’ and ended with things like ‘Good night’, ‘Talk to you tomorrow’. Without realizing it, this simple writing as a child was building a pattern, a discipline of stopping to reflect which would become much more precious to me as I grew older.
Without realizing it, this simple writing as a child was building a pattern, a discipline of stopping to reflect which would become much more precious to me as I grew older.
When I went to college, my entries were more philosophical. I was learning about life and the world and it was stirring all kinds of questions – very few of which I had answers to. In one period, there were scripture verses at the top of the page, with my reflections on what these meant to my daily faith walk and how I was striving to live a life of obedience.
One notebook was full of stories about people I had met. Another had small pictures that I drew that had some special meaning at that time.
One year, I shared a selection of my writing with my family as a Christmas gift. Many years later, these stories are remembered and were like a bridge that helped us to connect despite many miles between us.
There are many books written about how to journal and many different methods of journaling, but a few things that I have found helpful. Have a notebook and pen with you all the time – you never know when you will feel the need to write something down. Write from your heart. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t feel like you need to write something every day. Go back and read what you have written. Journaling not only helps us remember the past, but points us to the future.
The act of writing our words becomes the unfolding story of our life and how God is at work in us and the world around us.
‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John 1:14
The word. Powerful!