I think that I’ve always really enjoyed writing. I’ve had a blog for the past couple years, and before that, I had a Xanga (basically, a blog) when that was all the craze during my high school years. I’ve always just found writing to be a way I can express myself, my thoughts, and just what I’m feeling. It’s part of how I communicate.
I have some friends that love love LOVE to journal, and they swear by it. Sometimes they talk about it like it could grow back an arm or something… they believe in it that much. But here’s the thing; while I love to write, I hate the actual action of picking up a pen or pencil and writing. I’m left-handed, so growing up I’d frequently smear ink because my hand would go over what I just wrote. Beyond that, I hate writing because I normally write a lot, and I just don’t like my hand getting all cramped up and hurting from writing too much. That’s an awful lot of hardship, I know.
But beyond that, I never really got the whole journaling thing. I always feel weird when I write. Who am I writing to? Myself? I can’t write something like “Dear journal” or “dear diary;” notebooks don’t have a life. Why would I write to them? Am I writing to God? Why don’t I just talk to Him? It’d be a lot easier and it wouldn’t hurt my hand as much. Plus, it feels more personal. I tried once or twice to journal, and it just never stuck, mostly because I felt super awkward about it.
But recently, I listened to a message that Greg delivered here at Suncrest a few months ago, and in it, he talked about some journals that he kept growing up as he followed Jesus, and so I thought I’d give journaling another try. But this time, I did it with a little bit of a twist. I’d always thought of journaling as being something where I’d either write out stuff about my day (BORING to me at least) or write my prayers to God (which as I mentioned, seems weird to me… why don’t I just pray out loud?). But journaling doesn’t have to be that. In fact, for me, I think that is absolutely what it couldn’t be. That’s just not my style.
What I am doing is everyday, I’m journaling out a few answers to some base-level questions I want to ask myself each day. Instead of looking at this as a journal in the typical sense, I think of my journal as a “spiritual growth tracker.” My hope is that 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 5 years, however long from now, I’ll be able to look back at these tomes of my life and see ways in which God has worked for me and in me over the course of my life.
I ask myself four really basic questions each day when I journal:
- What did I read today? I made a commitment earlier this year to be more diligent about reading my Bible each day, and I’m proud to say that I’ve actually done a pretty good job of honoring that commitment. In order to keep honoring that commitment, I’ve made the choice to base a lot of what I talk about in my own journal about what I’m reading and learning in God’s Word. After all, it is the base of what I believe and the ultimate source of truth.
- What struck me? This is just to ask me, “What got my attention in the passage I just read?” I have this bad tendency of reading the Bible and then not actually thinking about what I read. I feel good because I read, but I don’t actually gain anything because I’m not thinking critically or even applying something. Hopefully asking this question will help me to avoid that.
- What is God teaching me… today? This question sort of serves two purposes for me. Number one, it gives me a chance to make an application of something that I might have just read. But I think more importantly, it makes me think about my day and really evaluate what it is I think God’s teaching me or where I feel God is leading me. Are there some changes of attitude, lifestyle, etc. that God wants me to undertake? Where do I sense the Holy Spirit working or doing something in my life?
- What am I praying about? Pretty self-explanatory. I will offer this up, though. I think it’s okay to be a little selfish when you pray. Jesus prayed for Himself in John 17, so I feel I’m allowed to as well. I try to balance it out though; for every Wes request, I’m going to balance it out with a request on behalf of someone else, so that way I’m spending half my time praying about my stuff, and the other half praying about the needs of other people. For me, that’s been a good balance so far. Maybe it will be for you, too. The benefit of this question is that it also gives me a way to look back in tough times and remember the things I was praying for and to see how God provided (or in some cases, didn’t provide something I thought I needed that really would have been bad for me). That’s cool.
So, that’s how I’m journaling. I think so far, for me, it’s been a worthwhile discipline. You certainly don’t have to follow my basic questions there; they’re just suggestions. In fact, I imagine that after a little while, they’ll get stale, and I’ll need to mix ‘em up a little bit, and maybe drop one or two questions and add two new ones or something. Regardless, thought I’d share that with you. I think I’m seeing journaling cultivate my relationship with Jesus in some cool ways, and I hope that you’ll give it a shot and discover the same for yourself!