I have practiced the spiritual discipline of journaling since my high school years. In my personal walk with Christ, journaling has proven to be one of my most reliable avenues into prayer, meditation upon biblical truth, and reflection upon the happenings of my life.
What is journaling? For me, it is the discipline of writing (or typing) about one’s activities, experiences, thoughts, feelings, and prayers for the purpose of deepening one’s discernment of how it is that God is redemptively and creatively at work in the seemingly ordinary circumstances of one’s daily living.
I have found many different blessings in the practice of journaling:
*Journaling helps me to become obedient to the biblical instruction to “examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5);
*It enables me to clarify my own thoughts and to distinguish between my true feelings and my split-second emotional reactions;
*It brings my hidden sins and ulterior motives to light;
*It helps to purge my potentially destructive emotional energy;
*It strengthens my discernment concerning the purposes of God and the way in which those purposes are fulfilled over time;
*It broadens my perspective on the grander narrative of which my life is a part;
*It enables me to discern the answering and outcomes of my prayers over time;
*It illuminates the evidence of sanctification in my own life;
*It helps me to listen to Scripture more attentively and to encounter it more meaningfully.
Franz Kafka, though not a Christian, articulated very well the urgency that he attached to discipline of journaling: “I won’t give up the diary again,” Kafka wrote. “I must hold on here. It is the only place I can.”
Likewise, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of my favorite writers, once captured in a single sentence the spiritual potential that he discerned in the practice of journaling: “This is not a pen. It is a prayer. One must have compassion for that.”
The other day, I flipped through the pages of a journal that I kept back in early high school (some 35 years ago). Reading the words written by that insecure, self-absorbed, yet earnestly prayerful fifteen-year-old boy brought to my heart a profound gratitude for the relentlessness of God’s grace and the profundity of God’s patience. The pages of that old journal also afforded to me a refreshing glimpse of a season of my life that remains a crucial part of who I am, though I am now far removed from that season chronologically.
That, I suppose, is why I journal in the first place. I journal because journaling helps me to understand how my past and present are inseparably linked in the timelessness of God’s redemptive providence. I journal because journaling deepens my attentiveness to the nuances of this human pilgrimage, no matter whether those nuances are to be found in a 2017 church meeting or a 1982 trigonometry class.
I journal, in other words, because journaling, under the transformational governance of the Holy Spirit, becomes a means of grace that hones my discernment concerning the passing of time, the connectedness of happenings, and the often-surprising intersection between the eternal and the everyday.