December 14, 2022
My first journal entry in 2004 was a single word: FLOW. Not just written on the page, but etched in bubble letters about 3/4 of an inch tall. The letters are heavily outlined, surrounded by a thin border, and colored in gray.
It took me about ten minutes to draw and color the word “flow.” But it took three weeks to narrow all that was bubbling up in me down to that single word.
I‘d been writing in a journal for years, but here was something I had never done before. Instead of blasting paragraphs on a page to capture my thoughts and insights, recording my steps and set-backs, I decided to meditate on just one word.
I wrote this word FLOW in response to something Jesus said. He said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” That struck a nerve.
There were times when I felt the living water flowing with ease from my heart. But there were other times, more times, when it felt forced.
Could my life really flow from my heart? The question sent me on a search anchored by the four letters of this one word. If what Jesus said was true, I’d need a way to pay attention to my heart on a daily basis.
The idea of flow drew me forward. It didn’t have the trappings of regret, or the pressure of sweeping promises to change like resolutions did. It awakened something in me. There was hope. It seemed that I could really be different. This hope was not rooted in a compulsive desire born out of trying not to be the way I was, but a desire to live a life of authenticity that flowed from my relationship with Christ.
I decided looking at and concentrating on the word FLOW would remind me to pay attention to my heart and to God’s flow through it. In the months to come I paid attention and I discovered I could tell the condition of my heart based on what was coming out of it into my life.
Slowly over time with this word FLOW, I learned to reverse that process. Instead of looking at my life and actions to realize the state of my heart, I proactively addressed the condition of my heart. That changed my life.
In looking through the lens of a single chosen word, I found a new approach to personal change and spiritual formation – one that is doable, memorable, effective and sticky. The results have been greater than I expected.