For more than twenty years, I have kept a journal…on and off. Yeah, probably more off than on, but I have journaled and think you should, too. As a matter of fact, I have just recently purchased a new journal (my favorite is a Moleskine sketchbook, but use whatever works for you) and have enjoyed getting started on it more than at any other time in my life that I have engaged in the practice. I’ll tell you why in a minute. First I want to give you some reasons why you should do it:
- Rarely do we stop long enough to think. If you doubt that, think of how many time people (including yourself!) have done things without thinking. That’s just in the small stuff. If we’re not careful, we can do our whole lives without thinking! Journaling gives you the opportunity and the means through which to stop and reflect on what is going on around you. Jot a thought. Write down an idea or a truth discovered. Any and all of these things prompt THINKING and that is a good thing.
- Along with failing to take the time to think, in general, we too often fail to think about ourselves…I mean in a reflective sort of way that doesn’t involve the bathroom mirror. Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” There is a lot of truth to that. Through the practice of journaling, I can examine my thoughts and actions and, over time, I can look back through my journals and find patterns of thought, attitudes and practices that I’m unhappy with (and even more than that, things in my life that don’t line up with the Scripture I claim to live according to!) Once I’ve identified those things and prayed through them, I can journal as I work through the change. It’s an incredibly cool process.
- Journaling helps me live on purpose. I am more aware of my surroundings. I think about what I’m doing and why, especially since I will want something to write about later. When I’m actively journaling, I notice little things more. I listen more intently to conversations I’m apart of and I examine what I’m doing more carefully. In some ways, journaling is personal accountability. If I’m doing something or thinking something I wouldn’t want to see down on paper, I’m more likely to refrain.
- I journal in order to see what God is doing in my life. Whenever I counsel someone, journaling is usually a part of the process. If someone asks for wisdom about direction for their lives, along with any hints I may provide, I encourage them to begin a journal, working out their thoughts on paper, writing out fears or hopes or dreams. If it’s marriage counseling, I will often encourage both spouse’s to journal in order to help identify the underlying issues. After a season of journaling, it often takes very little detective work to see areas of conviction, short-comings and attitudes. In my own life, I do this in order to see the results of God’s work in me as I change over time, often as a result of identifying those areas of conviction and molding.
- Journaling is great for meditating. It’s a great time to grab a cup of coffee (though any time is a great time to grab a cup of coffee) sit for a while and be still. For the follower of Christ, it’s a great time to open the Word, read expectantly, being still and knowing He is God (Psalm 46:10) and then writing down what you hear. Jot down your prayers, your confessions (if you’re so bold), your heartache and needs. Sometimes, the journaling process helps you clarify what really is a need. There are times I look back at my requests and ask, “Would I answer that?” The answer is often a humbling “NO.”
There are probably many other reasons to journal including the simple act of chronicling a life (hopefully, well lived!). If you have some that I’ve left out, tell me. I’d love to hear them. The most important thing is to do it. It’s an incredible discipline and practice that, with a little bit of consistency, you can turn it into a lifestyle.
OK, I promised to tell you why I’m having so much fun with my most recent journal. I love to travel. Always have. While traveling, I love to journal. Travel journals are the most fun because you collect stuff along the way, tell about what you saw and reflect on what it meant to you. There are pictures and ticket stubs and sketches and all sorts of little memories. So I thought, you know, there is no greater journey than life itself. Why not, then, take the same approach in my everyday journal that I do when I hit the road? Now, that may not seem so radical of an approach, but it made the difference to me.
Now, every day is an adventure!
I look at it the same way I do when I’m traveling so that I have the same kind of fun which is the key. Make it fun! My journaling in the past has often been tedious and boring. It doesn’t have to be. It shouldn’t be. Make it what you want it to be, but give it a shot. I think you’ll find yourself growing in ways you never thought imaginable.
If you decide to dive in, let me know. I’d love to hear of your progress.