Journalling is one of those habits which most supports my faith development. I do so love to reread the records of God’s faithfulness to me. It’s like having your own book of psalms of remembrance! As I go back over my entries, I relive the pain, I remember the desperate prayers and I enter again into the joys of those moments.
In fact, the best thing is seeing that which I most agonised over at the time bearing fruit in my life now. I have become so convinced about this dynamic that when I just don’t know how to pray anymore, I will write a list of insurmountable obstacles in my journal. No more than that. It really looks no different than my weekly shopping list actually.
Yet somehow, six to twelve months on, often most of that list is no longer a problem anymore because God has done his stuff. Having hit the point of not being able to pray sensibly about an issue any longer, my part has been no more than write it on the list in my journal. But God has brought a transformation of my circumstances. It’s amazing how he works.
And so my journal becomes a tool in my faith development. Through it, I remind myself of the utter reliability of God and of his fitness to deal with anything in my life.
I’ve just reread a quotation from Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child which I recorded in my journal four months ago. Here it is:
Paradoxically, we attain self-awareness, not by self-analysis, but by the leap of commitment…The meaning of our lives emerges in the surrender of ourselves to an adventure of becoming who we are not yet.
Manning’s words have sparked off all of the above thinking because when I copied them down back in May, the whole water-walking thing was big on my internal horizon as I contemplated the ‘leap of commitment’ involved in embarking on what I hope will one day be a doctorate, God-willing. Entries in my journal from that time four months ago are full of references to it.
I did get to that very same, very desperate stage of writing my prayer shopping list to God about it because I just couldn’t pray sensibly about it anymore.
And now God has done his stuff and here I am, striking out in the ‘adventure of becoming who…(I am) not yet’.
What is more, even as I start this next water-walking escapade – making my ‘leap of commitment’ out of the boat! – I’ve begun to notice how, more and more, the meaning of my life seems to be emerging in that surrender of becoming. Somehow in the last year themes of my life are beginning to join up with each other, starting to make sense as parts of a unified whole of ministry.
And I smile…because a few journals further back (mid-2009, if I remember rightly!), there’s an entry which records my sense that God was telling me this very thing even then: that at the end of my postgrad degree, I would start to see things coming together in new ways in my life, with an outflow of ministry which would come from the centre of who I am, rather than issuing just from ‘skills and sets of skills being used in concert’ (as had always been my experience of vocation/work/ministry prior to this last year).
So, that’s me. But I’m conscious that I write currently from a place of joy and the beginnings of a sense of convergence between what I do and who I am. You might not be there right now. I’ve certainly not always been there myself, and I fully expect to have many times over the coming months and years when that joy and settledness is not my experience, when I don’t have a clue what God is doing in my life, what story he is writing through my experiences.
What, then, for those of us in this place? I don’t know. And I also suspect that our Father might lead us in different paths through these dry, arid places so that what helps me to hold on and trust the Inscrutable One may not help you.
But my first response may well be to journal the overflow of my heart and then, when it is dry and there is nothing left to say…well, then, I guess that God will get another one of those prayer shopping lists from me!