I am a writer by nature. Words have always been my friends. From my earliest years, I penned stories and poems. I started keeping a journal the week I turned fifteen, primarily because I wanted to remember what it felt like to be a teenager. Even at that young age, I realized that I didn’t have a good memory and otherwise I would forget. Over twenty years later, I’m still journaling. Through good times and bad, those pages serve as a testament to my life and times here on Earth. Sometimes, I flip back through some of the old books and it brings me right back to a moment in time. I can still feel the emotions, the uncertainty, the prayers and dreams that lived with me at that stage of life.
In recent years, I have added blogging to my journaling life. Blog posts are by nature public. There are many things in my written journal which I would never put on my blog and vice versa. I use my blog as a record of my spiritual searching in the hopes of helping others. I also write about the books I read. When I started blogging back in 2006 I wasn’t sure if I would find enough to write about on the regular basis that commitment to a blog seemed to require. Yet, this column will be posted as the 1500th post on my blog! God helped me find something to say.
Regardless of your stage in life, journaling can offer a window into your soul. Whether it is short-term to work through a given problem, or long-term to record a life, putting things in writing can offer a clarity that simply thinking over a problem in one’s head doesn’t always provide. I understand that not everyone enjoys writing the way I do, yet this need not be a deterrent. There are no grammar or spelling rules in keeping a journal. One can use phrases or single words to record one’s emotions. Drawing, using photographs, cutting out words and pictures from magazines and pasting them into a book, recording a tape or CD of thoughts are all equally effective.
How can journaling help your soul? I have found that it has enabled me to see God working in my life. We have the tendency to view life only from the present moment. Our perspective is limited. We forget the pain and joy that came before. We forget the challenges we have overcome and the great gifts God gave us. We forget the things that literally brought us to our knees in prayer and the high points that had us rejoicing. A journal freezes those moments for posterity. We can look back at problems that truly seemed insurmountable and see how God worked it out for us. Remembering how God has been there for us in the past can help us have faith that God will continue to be there in the future.
Each of us gets a one-way trip through life. Journaling provides a way to preserve some memory of it, for ourselves, and possibly, for future generations. I have seen the word “history” written as HIStory to show that it is the story of God acting in the world. Our individual stories are part of God’s story. In recording them, we help to reveal and recall God’s action in our lives.