Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline (Part 1)

cafe.jpgIn her book Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindberg writes, "I begin these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular pattern of living, my individual balance of life, work, and human relationships.  And since I think best with a pencil in my hand, I started to write…"  She describes the spiritual discipline of journaling.  Many Christians have found journaling to be extremely important to spiritual growth and development.  The practice has become one of the most significant disciplines in my ongoing spiritual development.  

What is journaling?

Journaling is not the mere recording of facts about the day’s events.  It is more than keeping a log or diary.  Rather, journaling involves reflection and contemplation.  In some quarters, journaling has become popular because of the human potential movement which spawned such efforts as Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journaling Workshops.  Progoff was a New York psychotherapist who had studied under Freud’s former colleague, C.G. Jung.  He concluded that old methods of individual psychotherapy were not adequate and began working with groups.  He asked each participant to keep a journal and discovered that the participants were far more honest in their journals than in what they articulated in therapy.  Consequently he began to experiment using the journal as a way to probe the inner life.

Journaling as a spiritual discipline involves the contemplation of life in light of the spiritual center.  For Christians, that spiritual center is probably best expressed in that ancient and profound creedal statement, "Jesus is Lord."

Perhaps someone has just returned from the hospital, having visited her father after a heart attack.  Later, that same person might reflect through journaling upon her own mortality, fear of death, and hope of a life beyond death.  For another, the day at work might have once again been stressful.  That person might reflect in a journal upon the place of Jesus Christ in a tension filled work environment in which the values being expressed are so unlike those of the Teacher.  To live with Christ as the spiritual center suggests not only that life is fragmented but that all of life is ruled by the teaching and values of the one at the center.

Morton Kelsey has observed that if one had been invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace, it would seem very natural to write out a record of the visit.  Perhaps few of us will ever have such an experience.  We have, however, been invited into the presence of the holy, majestic God who seeks relationship with us.  Perhaps, there is a place for reflecting on such encounters through writing about them whether in a journal, spiral notebook, or on a blog. 

I am not trying to suggest that if you are not journaling that something is lacking.  I do want to suggest that this practice might be very helpful as a spiritual discipline in your relationship with God.

More later.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline (Part 1)

  1. I love what Lindberg writes in saying that she thinks best with a pencil in hand. And I think it’s very true that many of us are more honest within our journals. That’s not to say that we’re always honest about how we feel, because i think if we were honest, a lot of the time we would find that we don’t really know how we feel. But in the end when it comes down to my daily journey with God, I find that I am much more honest with my struggles and downfalls in my journal. It may sound strange, but I find it is a lot easier to communicate my frustrations in my relationship with God, and through that often find it much easier to work through them.

  2. When I first started writing I worried about everyone’s thoughts if they read my journal: my kids, husband, family and I wrote very stiffly and when I re-read the pages later I thought, "that’s not how I really felt at that time" so I had to learn to be honest and sincere to see what a blessing it has become.  Some events and problems are still hard to put into words but it helps me pray more clearly for what I need help with when I write them down. 

  3. Journaling has served a very useful purpose in my life.  Like many people, sometimes I don’t even know what I’m thinking until I start writing.  I mean, I’ll have vague unpleasant feelings and not know where they’re coming from or why.  I’ll start writing about the feelings and eventually the thought processes will show up in the writing and I’ll realize that’s where the feelings originated.  It helps me to see it there in black and white.  Once I’m able to correct that faulty thinking my feelings improve immeasurably.  By doing this over the years, I have begun to be able recognize some of the negative thought patterns and stop them before I start that downward spiral that used to be more common for me.  That’s just one way that journaling has been helpful.

  4. I really enjoyed this post.  I have kept a journal for 26 years, but it hasn’t — until recently — actually started to approach the realm of "journaling."  Being such a detail person, my journal up to this point has been more of a record of the day’s activities; I’ve begun to express more deeper thoughts lately — and I find that I do an even better job of writing as a result.  There have been points during these two-plus decades where I’ve written lengthy entries on very deep subjects, but nothing consistent.
    Looking forward to further comments on this from you.

  5. Gail,You comment is interesting.  I have had a similar experience as I thought about conversations I’ve had and then thought, "That’s not how I really feel about that."Thanks. 

  6. Rusty,Good comment.  There have been a number of times when I really wasn’t aware of what I was feeling or thinking about until I began to write in my journal. 

  7. Connie,I identify with what you said.  I too have identified negative thought patterns or certain negative themes through journaling. Thanks.