Journaling and Spiritual Growth
By Elisabeth K. Corcoran
I’ve been keeping journals since high school. And I still have every one of them. They are stuffed into my hope chest and I pull one out every once in awhile. Sometimes I laugh at myself (I was so young and naïve) and sometimes I tear up. It amazes me to see the girl that I was and how she turned into the woman that I am. I never would have guessed from what I read back then where I’d end up now. And yet…it’s all the same person woven through each page.
- Get yourself a pretty notebook and find a pen or pencil that you love the feel of. Or open up a Word document on your computer. Whichever way you feel most comfortable will work just fine.
- To make it special and if you have a bit of extra time, set the tone by lighting a candle, playing some soft music, and making yourself a cup of coffee or tea.
What to write about:
- Letters to God. Tell Him anything and everything.
- Letters to your kids. I have a journal to both of my kids that I’m going to give them when they’re older. Confession: the entries are way more sporadic these days than they used to be.
- Funny things your kids say that you don’t want to forget.
- Write out a Scripture verse and then ask God how to apply it to your life.
- Brainstorm creative ideas or a service project, or a solution to a mind-boggling problem.
- Figure out your part in a relational conflict.
- Write letters to people you’re upset with – to blow off steam – and then don’t send them.
- Prayer requests and answers to prayer. Journaling is a beautiful way of tracking the hand of God in your life.
- Quotes you love.
- Notes from books you’re reading.
- Notes from church sermons.
- Goals and steps to complete them, and how they turned out after you accomplished them.
- Decision making, using a list of pros and cons.
- Family history.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Your journal should be uncensored. Be honest. Speak your mind. Don’t edit yourself. This is for you and God and no one else needs to see it. He knows it all anyway, so your journal is where you can let loose.
- Sometimes it’s difficult for me to concentrate, so instead of getting up to do that random thing I think of (oh, I think Sara said she needed more socks…let me go check…), I just jot it down on the top corner of that day’s journal page and get to the to-do list when I’m finished.
- At the end of each year, I like to read through the entire year’s worth of journals. (One year, when I was journaling pretty faithfully every day, it took me nine hours to read them all. I was so over myself by the time I was done reading.) The interesting thing about doing this though is that one time I recognized a theme of exhaustion in my life that I hadn’t seen in the day-to-day, and it led to the important decision to quit my job to free up my life for more writing and speaking; a decision I’m not sure I would’ve come to had I not had those journals to look back on.
Journaling is supposed to be a no-pressure thing. Really. The end goal is not to have a certain number of notebooks filled up at the end of each year. All disciplines are not ends in themselves. Typically, someone runs to stay in shape, not usually because the act of running is such a blast. And yet, the actual act of writing out your thoughts is rewarding; it is, I’ll go so far to say, magical. I can get to the end of a page, or even a paragraph or really telling sentence, and realize that I had no idea that was how I was truly feeling about something until just that moment when I let it come out on paper.
It’s like eavesdropping on yourself, or as Parker Palmer said, “Listening to your life speak.” Trust me when I say, you do not have to enjoy writing to get something out of journaling. Start small, see if it fits who you are, and then watch to see your heart and mind notice as you open up space to record life’s hard times, sweetest moments, and everything in between.