How to Encounter God through Journaling
- Friday, August 01, 2008
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Helen Cepero's new book, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through Attentive Writing, (InterVarsity Press, 2008).
Writing has the power to help you see the beauty of God at work in your life experiences. When you express your thoughts and feelings in a journal, you’ll be surprised by how much you discover about God in the process – and God will use your journal as a tool to transform you.
Here’s how you can encounter God through journaling:
Begin with prayer. Invite God to use your journaling experiences to draw you closer to Him and help you grow as a person. Ask Him to use your journaling to help you discover more about both Him and yourself.
Get ready. Decide when and where you’ll journal regularly. Choose any time or place that works best for you – from early morning journaling in a quiet room of your home, to late night journaling in a busy coffeehouse. Then buy a journal that appeals to you for writing your journal entries by hand, or set up a special file on your computer to type in your journal entries.
Give yourself freedom. Allow yourself to write or draw whatever comes to your mind. Don’t criticize or censor your journal entries. Don’t worry about trying to stick to grammar or spelling rules, trying to be logical, comparing yourself to others, or avoiding the expression of troubling thoughts or feelings. Simply write, to get what’s on your mind out on paper or on the computer screen. Write what’s true and real, keeping in mind that God loves you unconditionally.
Check your motivation. It’s not enough to journal simply out of a sense that journaling is something that you ought to do, because guilt isn’t an effective motivator. Make sure that you’re journaling because you truly want to encounter God in the process. Your excitement about expecting to meet God when you journal will keep you motivated enough to make journaling a regular practice in your life.
Face your fears. Don’t let a desire to avoid your fears keep you from journaling honestly about whatever you’re thinking and feeling. Ask God to give you the courage to write about each of your fears openly, and expect that, as you do, God will meet you in the middle of them and help you grow. Instead of keeping your fears locked within you, let them pour out onto your journal’s pages.
Write a letter to God. Use your journal to write to God, aiming to be truthful rather than nice. Tell Him where you are right now in your journey with Him, and wish you wish you were. Describe how you see God and how you see yourself at this point in your life’s story.
Witness to the truth. List situations in your life where God is calling you to witness to biblical truth. Ask: “Where am I being asked to speak out and name a wrong being done to me or someone I know?”, “Where am I being called to bring light to a situation that has been dimmed by the darkness of misunderstanding or sin?”, “Where might I need to change everyday habits that make the environment within me and around me worse?”, and “Where does the truth need to be named and lived?”.
Pay attention. Spend a few minutes studying the place where you’re journaling. Write for a while about what you do see; then write for a while about what you don’t see. Finally, read your journal entries and write a response to what you did and didn’t notice. Choose an object you’ve had for at least six months, describe it in your journal, and tell its story. Then reflect on its story in the context of your own life. Choose a relationship you have with someone – your spouse or one of your kids, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers or neighbors. Think about the story you share with that person; not just who each of you are, but who you are together and what happens between you. Describe the story of your relationship. Remember a particular room that you spent time in as a child. Describe it in as much detail as you can, and include people if there are any in the room when you think of it. Then note whatever feelings came up as you wrote about the room.
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