About twenty-five years ago, I started journaling. I have no idea why I began. I have no idea what was behind my writing that first sentence in a notebook.
I do remember reading Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World in 1984, shortly after it was published. As I recall, he spoke of the value of journaling. It seems like I heard or read about others who wrote in a journal. Anyway, I have been doing this for about twenty-three years. Most of the time, the discipline has seemed valuable to me. At other times, writing in a journal has been a struggle. Regardless, I continued to write.
A few moments ago, I was writing in my journal and decided to put these thoughts in a post. Why? Over this period of twenty-four years, I do realize that this discipline has been particularly helpful to me. I write about my week, my day, and whatever I am thinking or feeling at the time. If I am reading something that is particularly meaningful, I might write about it. As I am reading through Scripture (this morning I read Acts 8 and 9), I might write about the passage and what I am seeing or hearing.
My journal is a place where I will often dump a lot of anxiety, anger, and frustration. It is a place where I talk about my temptations and sins.
As I think about this, it occurs to me that my journal is a place where I express the "rawness" of my life. I make no effort to clean it up or justify or explain away. Rather, it is my attempt to use it as a mirror of my life, in which I express whatever seems to be happening.
A few observations:
1. My journal is for me. I make no effort to "do it right." I attempt to use this in ways that are helpful to me rather than do this discipline the way someone else might.
2. My journal (the discipline of "journaling") has been very helpful to me in my walk with God. At times, seeing what I had just written on paper has helped me see the reality of my life. I find it easy to minimize and justify whatever might be in my heart. Seeing these words, in which I have expressed what I am thinking or feeling, has helped me deal with the reality of my life instead of an illusion. In short, it has helped me deal with the truth of my life. If I am going to encounter God, I want to go before him in truth and not with pretense.
3. My journal reminds me to live with authenticity and genuineness. Early on in my ministry, I began to learn that this work can be very dangerous. After all, there are those who would like to believe their minister is nearly perfect, without flaw (other than the obligatory, "Well of course, we are all sinners."). I found early on that many people would like for their minister to just do the work without really expressing anything heartfelt or disturbing. Not good. I am thankful at this point in my life to be free from some of that internal bondage that existed early on as I desperately wanted to satisfy the expectations of others. My journal was helpful in the process of getting out of this trap.
4. On a practical note. I have journaled in all kinds of notebooks. Spiral, clothbound, etc. I have kept all of these notebooks. (They are stored away in some old suitcases.) Occasionally, I will read through a few of them.
I don’t know if any of this has been helpful or even interesting. If you journal now or have done so in the past, I would enjoy hearing your reflections.