Ever tried journaling? I’ve never found it to be something I could stick with for more than a few days. But since the beginning of the year, that’s all changed, which I’ll explain at the end.
Journaling can be a vital part of the journey of spiritual formation. On the pages of a journal, in the privacy of any given moment, I can take careful, thoughtful steps into the truth of my own experience with God and God’s revelation to me through his Word and Spirit. Through the words I’m recording in my journal, I can process my feelings, fears, struggles, experiences and ideas. I place it all there on the paper before both my eyes and God’s. It’s a soul-dump.
Then, asking God’s help, I can ponder it, looking for themes, subtle issues of sin, compulsions, hopes and unresolved heart issues. As I do that God helps me to connect the dots of what’s happening deep within me. I slowly begin to know myself at a deeper level, inching closer to the real me that God knows so well.
There’s no right or wrong way to journal. It’s personal. It doesn’t matter if I write well or not- whether I use complete sentences or just random ideas. It’s a personal diary of my life with God. I just look for the rhythm of expression that fits me. Here’s what I focus on in my journaling:
What am I experiencing as I connect to God?
- Scripture from that day, readings, songs, or devotional thoughts
What’s happening in my soul?
- Unpleasant or joyful emotions, fears, struggles [honest answers]
What do I sense God is saying to me?
- How do I see the dots being connected between my inner and outer life?
- What is God saying to me through those connections?
What’s happening around me?
- Family life, work life, fun stuff, highlights of my day
What photo captures my experience that day?
- I attach a picture from the day that meaningfully connects to my experience, i.e. a picture of my grandson on a day I spent time with him, or a picture of a passage in my Bible that particularly stood out to me that day. I’ve started taking lots more pictures.
This spiritual rhythm of journaling has brought a whole new level of engagement with my thoughts, experiences, the Scriptures and the movements of God in my life. It helps me to slow down and pay attention to what’s really important. It helps me to listen to God better and to live out my faith with greater transparency and honesty. It helps me to see that God is active in every area of my life, making what seems unimportant, sacred.
So how’d things change? First and foremost, God was inviting me to something deeper than I had known before. But secondly, I admit, I hate writing by hand. Really dislike it. So I disliked journaling. But late last year, I discovered an app called Day One. It’s pretty easy to use and you can organize your daily posts with tags, categories and even add a picture for each day–which has been fun. Now, I actually look forward to grabbing my iPad, opening my journal, and getting below the surface. Give journaling a try!