I’ve learned over time, I need to pause, (regularly), reflect, and draw conclusions about the direction I’m going in life. My nature drives me to a kind of “helter-skelter” response to life and ministry. I could easily exist just reacting to life in order to do what I do. I could go through life and seldom give it thought or planning. Yes, the recognition of my tendencies has not come easily. In truth, understanding myself has come over time and through painful experiences.
When my son was killed in September, 1992, my life was hit by a tsunami! It was a tidal wave of overwhelming emotions. Dealing with my pain and the beginnings of a lifetime of grief work, I began to journal…every day. (My wife is a lifetime “journaler.” Dianne had encouraged me for years to do this kind of reflection. I tried several times but found it “unnatural” and never worked at it consistently.)
But, I began to journal, pouring out my heart to God, reaching deep inside myself to grab hold of every emotion and every thought, in order to make sense out of life. I pondered, prayed, I wept, I wrestled with truth, I sought understanding of sin and violence…and much, much more. I found from my earliest days of journaling, liberation in the process of reflection and evaluation of my life. I found an open door to freedom for myself and freedom from myself. This was great personal reward.
Now 20 years later, and nearly 40 books completed, I still journal. (I use journals made in to books, but you can use anything you wish.) Few are the days I do not begin in the morning by reading my bible and journaling…with a cup of coffee on the table beside me. I have a special place at my house where I sit and special pens I use, …(all fountain pens. I really like and collect them. I imagine myself a little like CS Lewis with a fountain pen in my hand. My imagination is the closest I will ever be.)
I now include sermon ideas, responses to scripture, and ponderings of various kinds. Sometimes I write poems, I draw pictures, charts and diagrams. Anything I want to process is included. I started to color code things according to subject so that I can find them easily. I still comb through years of journals to remind myself of things I’ve experienced, or ideas I’ve considered. All these ideas and more are possible.
Journaling is an excellent way to monitor your own life. It’s keeping an accurate record of God at work. When you can’t see the immediate picture you can look back over your own recorded observations and trace his hand in ways you would not remember without it. Jeremiah says to us in Lamentations 3:21-23, “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (By the way, without biblical writers who journaled we would not have some portions of scripture. Think of David and the Psalms, for instance.) This grand narrative, (of my life), becomes a way to minister to my progeny and future generations. I want to influence future generations from my grave, a written record of my life is the only way to do so.
Embedded here in my testimony, are the reasons I believe journaling is imperative for a person to mature in Christ, grow as persons, become all God’s wants them to be. My choice of where, when and how I do this is not the only way. Some people use their computer to record all they want to say. The point is, take seriously this “journaling discipline”. I challenge/ encourage you to join me. First, decide how you will do it, then…do it! I guarantee, you will not be disappointed nor find it a waste of time.
Let me know how it goes for you.