July 8, 2013
Journaling is the most powerful tool I’ve found for paying attention to my heart, and to God’s work in my life.
I am convinced that our struggle to see God at work in our lives is not a result of his lack of work, but rather of our lack of attention to it – our failure to take the time to articulate it when it happens.
– AshCraft & Olsen in My One Word
Articulate on Paper
A written record of our lives serves many purposes. It can help us to define our experiences with God. It can serve as a pointed reminder of how far He has brought us already. It can help us see our disobedience, and our obedience. It is where and how we connect the dots to see our lives being transformed into His image.
I have learned so much about myself through keeping a journal. I’ve learned that my mind is prone to wander and easily distracted. I’ve discovered that my emotions can hijack the truth. I’ve seen how quickly my pride comes to the surface, and how slowly my submission does.
Keeping a journal helps me see my life, guts and all. And see it in light of God’s truth. I’ve found it the single most valuable discipline to help me see clearly. And that is why I journal.
It’s Worth It (but Not Easy)
A lot of us struggle to keep a journal. I think we assume it’s easy for some people – writers and pastors perhaps – but not for others. This isn’t the case – it takes effort for everyone.
Pastor Cary Nieuwhot recently lamented publicly about his struggle to journal.
Author, blogger and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers Michael Hyatt recently confessed on his blog that he too has struggled to journal. Hyatt wrote:
Though I typically write several thousand words a week, I have never been a consistent journaler. I’ve tried. I have friends who swear by it. It’s just never worked for me. Until recently.
While on vacation Hyatt committed to journaling each morning, and discovered it had many benefits – those inspired him to keep at it.
Journaling wasn’t easy for me at first either. I didn’t know what to write about. I tended to daydream. And I felt pressure to write something important and profound.
That was probably my biggest deterrent: feeling like I was writing for an audience rather than for myself or God. When you start feeling you’re writing something other people will see, you’ve probably stopped being authentic before God.
How I Began
I decided I’d just write a couple sentences about whatever Bible verse I’d read that morning. This solved my what-to-write-about issue and didn’t overwhelm me with a big assignment. Over time that got easier and I expanded my protocol.
Next I got a small-sized journal and decided I’d limit myself to filling only one page a day with my thoughts on the verse and whatever else came to mind. It took me maybe 10 minutes a day to fill the page.
Now I don’t limit myself as much in either time, space or content. Sometimes I vary my methods to keep it fresh – a paper journal, an online journal, a one word journal. Now I average about 30 minutes a day while journaling. I write about what I’m learning, what I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing, what I’m thinking or what I’m praying.
In other words, I write my guts out. And that helps me to see both myself and God’s truth clearly.
Decide to Just Do It
Journaling was a discipline at first. I made myself do it. Journaling today is still a discipline that requires ongoing effort and intention on my part. But it’s not as hard as it was at the start. And it’s become an invaluable practice that I won’t give up.
Don’t keep a journal because it’s easy. It’s not always easy, or convenient. Writing is isn’t always fun, or full of amazing insights.
Keep one because it’s the best way to see God at work in your life – and because that is something you never want to loose sight of.
I hope to urge you, encourage you, inspire and challenge you to get your own words down on paper this year by keeping a journal. This will help you understand what is truly going on with you, with God, and with your one word.
Are you a journaler?
*See chapter ten in My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word for more on how-to and why-to keep a journal.