As I was doing a little cleaning in my office on this muggy Labor Day, I found some old journals. As can be seen by the frequency of this blog, one of my strengths is not keeping a regular, running dialogue about my thoughts and experiences. Blogging is like journaling except that you understand (and hope) people may read it. Most of my journaling efforts were written under the premise that no one would read them but God and me. People write in their journals as if the journal was a real person—a friend they can imagine so that thoughts, dreams, and desires can be articulated clearly. Most of my journal entries are written to one person as well, but that person happens to be God, so they are often my feeble attempts at very concerted prayer.
I only have two journals that can be described in this way (my thoughts, dreams, concerns, etc.). The 3-5 other journals I have are all sermon notes from Sunday morning church services, Taylor University chapel services, leadership conferences, and retreats and camps. Looking through them this morning reminded me of how little our minds can actually remember. This is all the more reason to write things down! But God promises to help us recall the things we’ve learned in those settings when we need them.
One of the journals I flipped through was the one I used most recently. Predictably, only its first 15 pages had anything written on them. The last date to have an entry: May 12, 2010. And that’s because I was on a mission trip to Honduras with His Eyes in Tegucigalpa (which is easily both the worst and most exhilarating place to land an aircraft). They’re really doing some great things, and if you’re interested in coffee that produces a profit for the native farming community, buy it on their site.
The first entry was from January 9, 2007. Yes, you read that correctly. There were 3.5 years between the first and last entry and yet only 15 pages contained words. More than one entry begins with something like, “It’s been well over a year since my last entry.” But I think this made taking 15 minutes to read through each page all the more enjoyable. I found that I was looking back over numerous months to consider all the changes that had taken place since the last entry.
I understand that journaling is supposed to be a fairly regular thing, and I guess that is why there are even websites now that will send you an alert to journal every day like 280daily (sum up your day in 280 characters or less). But maybe you’re like me. Journaling is something you want to do, but you don’t seem to find the time or discipline to actually do it. Well I want to propose that even if you do it just once a year, it will be worth it.
I was able to reengage with my thoughts before I went to seminary, before I worked in three churches, before I met, dated, and married Candace, before I moved to Charlotte, and before I worked for CharlotteONE. I read through my personal struggles with being single, dating, living alone, disliking school, wrestling with my calling, job situation, and wanting community.
Reading through all these struggles, I was able to find a theme weaved in the midst of them. It was a cry for God to lead me…that I would find my identity in being a son of God no matter what circumstance or confusion I faced about my present and future situation. The amazing thing is that God heard those cries and He answered them. It was like reading a modern day psalm, but it was my psalm. This is the beauty of journaling.
Let me share an example with you. It’s personal and it’s about being single. When I started this journal, I was beginning to wonder if God was preparing me for a life of singleness, and I had only recently accepted the idea that this could be a good thing. I hope it will be an encouragement to you no matter where you are on your journey through life. And I hope you will find comfort in knowing that God is there with you, and if you’re following His lead, He is always preparing you for something.
January 23, 2007
“With all these thoughts and the lives they affect, all I am asking is that You would prepare me for my wife and her for me. OK, so maybe I’d like to know more about what You are doing in this area of my life, but I am content to devote myself more fully to You and to others because of You while I wait on Your timing. You have changed my perspective on singleness, but my heart is not there yet. Please continue to help me match my thoughts and actions with this new mindset.”
May 23, 2009
“In just nine months, I feel as though I’ve always known her. She impresses me daily with her character and she has become the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known or seen. You made it possible for me to love her because I have known Your love. The changes that have occurred in both us of because of You are undeniable. I have no doubt about her being my wife. I know without question, that I want to pursue You and Your kingdom with her, and that is why I asked her to marry me.”
I would never have imagined that in just over two years, I would have dated and proposed to the woman God was preparing for me. But, without those two years, I would never have been ready.
Journaling is one of the best ways we can remember all that God does in and through our lives. I encourage you to try it…even if it is only once a year.