To learn more about Life Path, please read the introductory post. Be sure to peruse The Nightstand in that post, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic and themes of this month’s selection.
After I got married, my parents drove up to our house with a trunk full of childhood memorabilia. Now that I had a garage of my own, I had to store these treasures. One box was filled with journals from middle school and high school. I didn’t get very far in reading them before I cringingly shut the box tightly and left it to gather dust in the garage. The angsty thoughts of my teenage self were just too much!
And yet, I couldn’t throw them away. There was something sacred about those journals and that time in my life.
Throughout Life Path: Personal and Spiritual Growth through Journal Writing, Luci Shaw iterates over and over again the importance of taking the time to reread our journals. Journaling isn’t for important events or deep thoughts. “The true journal is a commentary on all of life, and often it is the casual comment, the trivial event that is shown to be significant as you reread it later.” (p. 55)
The importance of rereading journals came to mind last autumn. My husband and I had a business decision to make and were going back and forth over the pros and cons. One day, he was flipping through an old journal and found that he had written we would make this particular business decision by the date he happened to be reading it. It didn’t help us get to an easy answer, but the reminder that we had actually been thinking and praying about this particular choice for years, gave us confidence in our final decision.
Shaw shares a story of a member at one of her writing workshops only writing on one side of the page. That way she is able to go back and write down reflections, insights, and revelations about her journey. (pg 69)
This interactive view of journaling takes our private processes and makes them less “morbidly introspective” and more of a spiritual practice.
“After spending time looking into our hearts, we take what we find there, either negative or positive, and express it to God, asking for his response, his correction. In that sense journal keeping is a form of prayer; we are ‘searching our hearts’ in God’s presence and asking him to ‘know our thoughts.’” (pg 70)
This practice of journaling-as-reflection rather than simple brain-dump is what shifts our writing from the immaturity of a high school book of complaints to a thoughtful reflection of our journey. I’m not saying my journals aren’t a dumping ground—nor does Shaw suggest we censor our processing—but by going back and reflecting, it feels more like a conversation between my life experiences and what God’s path is for me.
In fact, Shaw encourages us to write everything in one spot and resist the temptation to have themed journals. She argues that, “… it’s that I don’t want to split off the life of the spirit—my interactions with God—from the others areas of my daily experience.” (pg 86)
We are spiritual beings and by intertwining our processing, or minute daily noticings, and our written prayers, our journals take on the complex, integral nature in which God has created us.
We are not meant to compartmentalize ourselves and Shaw reminds us to journal in that same way-in a way that is personal, natural, and honors the person God created us to be.
So, I’m taking the time to go back and look. I’m rereading entries from a few months ago as well as a few days ago and am learning to honor the journey. I see patterns that can be broken and answers to questions that I may have missed otherwise.
Maybe I need to go out to the garage and dust off those old journals. As I flip through them with new eyes, I wonder how I’ll see God’s work through those teenage years-the ones that may have been embarrassing, yes, but also formed the woman I am today. I’m grateful I have markings of that journey.
When we honor that part of ourselves through our journals and when we take the time to look back in reflection, our life’s path becomes clearer and those pieces become more intertwined as we see how God is working.
Questions for Discussion:
- How do you journal? Do you have thematic journals or keep everything in one place?
- Do you go back and reread past journals? What insights have you found by doing so?
- How do you incorporate written prayer into the recording of daily thoughts and events?
- What encouraged or challenged you the most from this book?
Our July book is I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. Come back Wednesday July 6 for the introductory post. The discussion post will be up Wednesday July 27. In the meantime, be sure to follow along in the Red Couch Facebook group.