I’ve kept a journal since Harriet the Spy came out on VHS. I tried writing down everything that happened like she does in the movie, but couldn’t quite get the whole spy thing down. I still wrote “PRIVATE” across all my composition books for a few years, though. As a young girl, I found myself writing down thoughts about the things that were going on in my life – divorce, drama between friends, a crush I had – and falling in love with words.
No matter the subject, there was something about writing the words down and sometimes even reading them out loud that helped things make sense. If it never made sense, it at least helped me begin to let those things go. I could vent to the pages, writing down everything I was thinking with complete abandon. It’s freeing, to be able to say everything you want to say. Journaling has helped me find hard words to speak to people in my life. It’s helped me make decisions. Most of all, it’s brought me closer to God.
I always had a hard time focusing during prayer. I still do. My mind wanders. I start thinking about everything I’m doing later in the day, and whether or not I should cuff my pants next time with these shoes or leave them how they are (because I’m honestly not shutting my eyes that long and they’re going to wander down to my feet, when I start thinking about my shoes). I don’t mean to make light of prayer, I just have a hard time getting quiet. There’s so much benefit to the discipline of getting quiet, and have found that I can get there through journaling. I can connect with God in the pages. So I started to write down all of my prayers towards the end of high school.
This is what journaling has become for me – a way to explore through my thoughts and emotions with God.
I still write about the things going on in my life, but I write them to God.
Here are some things I’ve learned and benefits I’ve gained through journaling:
1 | Gain Perspective
By putting the words onto the page and being able to read them back, it can create a new lens for which to see your circumstances through. It also puts space between you and the circumstance, so you can see more of what’s going on.
2 | Practice Gratitude
I usually start my prayer in my journal with a list of gratitude. Sometimes it’s really focused and sometimes it’s all over the place, naming things like the way the light came through the window in the morning. Either way, it helps set the tone for my day or re-set it if it’s later in the day. It helps me approach God with a sense of joy, instead of focusing so much on my needs.
3 | Find Life
I used to have a hard time approaching God in prayer because I didn’t know what to say. Journaling has released that tension for me. I just start writing, and if it’s messy and wrong, I just keep going. There aren’t any rules. I truly believe God wants to hear and know it all. Every part of us. And for me, all of it comes when I write. My speech is more thought out or methodical than my writing. I’ve found freedom and life from my journaling prayer practices. I’ve opened my heart up to God’s grace and the crazy, unending love He never stops giving.
Journaling has nothing to do with being good at writing. It’s all about your experience. Do what works for you, and do what brings you freedom.
– image credit: Tiffany Von