Catherine C. Gregg, Christian Formation and Direction Ministries
The Purpose of Journaling
God is interested in a relationship with us, and journaling is one way of paying attention to that relationship and of processing some of the thoughts and feelings that are a part of that relationship. There is no magic—journaling doesn’t necessarily make us more spiritual or even more insightful. But, it can enhance our communication with God, which will eventually lead to communion with God.
Communication is about both sending and receiving. When we do all the talking (whether to God or to anyone else), the conversation gets old pretty fast. Most of us are more confident about our ability to talk to God than our ability to listen to God. Journaling gives us an opportunity to “practice our listening” by making a space to hear God speak.
For some, writing helps to process what’s going on inside. It slows us down enough to notice what’s going on within and around us, and it gives us freedom to express what’s not safe to share with others. Since no one should ever read our journal, we can share our deep desires, fears, anger, as well as our loftiest hopes and dreams.
Ways to Journal: Chronicling, Journaling, Art
C.S. Lewis says, “I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves; for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development.” People like this don’t know what they really think or feel until they begin to write about it. Journaling will open to them a stream of communication to and from God that will shape their inner world and their outer lives.
But for others, the deep insights are more likely to happen outside the writing experience itself. When this is the case, one’s journal becomes a place to chronicle thoughts, impressions, feelings, and experiences with God. The journal becomes a place to make note of the ways that God has touched us—perhaps through a sermon, a scripture passage, a conversation with another person, or through nature—so that we can return to those notations from time to time to be encouraged or redirected when we sense that we are losing our direction in life.
Other ways to journal include drawing, sketching, painting, calligraphy and a host of other art forms, which express our inner being in ways that words simply can’t communicate. Images that capture the essence of our intention or the reality of life into which we may sometimes gaze are worth recording in our journal.
Christians throughout the centuries have chosen to journal their responses to a scripture passage as a means of growing closer to God. Because God is about meeting us wherever and however we are open to the encounter, we may be helped by choosing a small portion of scripture, or perhaps a collect or a creed from the Book of Common Prayer, and spending some time ruminating on the passage. As we stay with the passage we may have questions or thoughts about the scripture that we may want to journal. Sometimes insight comes to us by the Holy Spirit and we can understand God, ourselves, and/or the world in which we live in a new way. Journaling these insights gives us opportunity to process them more deeply and retain them longer in our memory and in our practice of faith.