Thou Shalt Journal


Update: I’m now in Journal #8. Facebook, sometime in the spring of 2009.

“If there were an eleventh commandment, I think it should be: Thou shalt journal.”

Statements more important than the above were made that week at camp yet the above is the only one I remember. The camp speaker was one of my favorites. And out of three times he was the keynote speaker, the above quote is what I remember the most.

I saved up my allowance and bought the “Hello Kitty” diary with lock when I was 9. Yet, for all that I desired the book, I used it very little. My two entries of scathing reports on my friends did little to help me understand why diaries and journals were so important to teenagers on TV at the time. I was mad when my brother and sister found my not-so-well hidden key. Siblings, sigh.

So my middle school years were not captured in writing, which if you know any details about that time in my life, it is probably a good thing. I received a journal from my Sunday School teacher for 8th grade recognition. I really didn’t like the cover artwork, yet on May 8, 1996, [yes, I looked it up] I cracked it open to the empty pages and began filling it, slowly, with my thoughts. It takes me a while to sort through my emotions to give people coherent ideas as to what I’m thinking; to my more concretely minded immediate family, this works out to me rarely getting a word in edgewise. So, some of my need just to say what even went on in a day, let alone be excited or frustrated, finally had an outlet. A little over two years later, I wrote on the last page.

Just in time for the finishing of journal number one, another youth sponsor presented me with blank journal number two, which had a much better cover on it – the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. Sadly, this took seven years (!) to fill. During that time, however, I was given alternate forms of journaling which took precedence: Bible study books, smaller notebooks for camps or retreats and a “spiritual life” journal. It contains the longest time gap of entries that I see in all of my personal journals – 6 months. After the “Footprints” journal, I then moved on to volumes three, four, and five in a much faster pace. I’m now in number six.

Some of my inconsequential observations and discoveries in my journaling process involve paper and pen quality. On occasion, I would temporarily and intentionally avoid the real issues on my heart by writing about my office supply preference. As for the actual journal, I prefer lined pages and spiral instead of glue binding. My entries have been written using plain Bic pens, gel ink of all types, fine tip Sharpies, scrapbooking pens, and even colored-metallic ink. I have found that something of archival quality with a thin tip is preferred. The paper color determines if ink other than black is desirable.

Every so often I look back through my journals and take time to be thankful that I am not who I was. Turning the pages of my volumes, I am able to see God’s provision and guidance in life. It usually was not grand revelations that, but rather the constant, progressive, slow work of change of my heart towards His (sanctification, for you theological types).

In reading old entries, I realize the similarities in my emotional and spiritual struggles from then until now. The difference is that I’m more aware of where the battles are being fought versus being totally distracted by the symptoms. I also see a transformation in my writing style. Journaling started as a way for me to tell events, vent frustrations, and remember others’ wrongs so I could remain angry with so-called “justification.” Over time, I began to leave out the scandalous details and focused more on what I wanted to change in my heart. Hence my response to a situation documented in journal #1 was much different than a similar situation chronicled in #5.

Do you prefer journaling in online, word processing, or pen and ink? Is it through poetry, prose, or drawings? Leave something so posterity can know you, even the ugly details. Let joy be felt, wisdom shared, stupidity shunned, and memories treasured. Learn the power of words and how to not waste them. Know how you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Thou shalt journal.”

I’m trying.

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