When I was little I got my first diary. It was white with different colored hearts all over it and there was a lock on it, like a real metal lock which functioned more like a buckle because there wasn’t a key for it, just a buckle type latch.
I can’t remember how old I was, definitely in elementary school, but I started writing in my little diary and have kept a diary/journal ever since. I am not sure when we stop calling it a diary and start calling it a journal. Keeping a diary kind of sounds wimpy but journaling sounds scholarly, right?
I didn’t always keep nice “hard cover” journals. I switched over to your basic, run of the mill, spiral notebook in the teen years and stuck with that until 1998 when my dear friend Shannon gave me my first “official” hard cover journal as I headed off to work as a summer staffer for World Changers, a mission trip for youth groups.
I have kept a nice hard cover or leather bound journal ever since. Which means I have 15 years of journals in a large bin that I have since lugged around with me, from Jackson, to Memphis, to Atlanta, back to Memphis, to DC, to Tysons Corner, to Leesburg, where I now have amassed nearly 50 journals.
We are preparing to move in a few weeks, and my dear husband encouraged me to downsize my journals. They are heavy to move, take up alot of space (something we never have enough of) and honestly, I am not sure I want some of the ghosts of years past haunting me from a bin under my bed.
So I began reading through them, one by one. This was fun at times, but in large part EXHAUSTING. I don’t know about you, but for me, journaling means processing life events, and more often than not, my journals are full of my fears, worries, struggles, and painful things. Sure I wrote about the fun times too, but the hard times beat out the fun times two to one and reading through them now I am not so sure I want to keep a record of these trials or that I want anyone reading about them — especially my kids. So I proceeded to use a Sharpie to redact sections as if they were classified CIA documents, because to me, they are quite literally for MY “Eyes-Only.”
I will admit, there is something epically romantic about the discovery of old journals and reading the innermost thoughts of a younger version of yourself. There are definitely some journals that I would love for my kids to read some day. Discoveries about God, life, love, friendship, courage and conquering those worries and fears to achieve hopes and dreams. On the other hand, I used my journals to process my thoughts and feelings with abandon. No holds barred. Some of these journals are raw, unfiltered, knee-jerk reactions to both people and experiences I have had along the way. If I may slip into “christian-ese” for a moment, many of these pages contain the response of my sinful nature, the “flesh” speaking apart from the Spirit of God I have as a born again believer in Jesus.
I honestly believe God used my journals as the primary tool to speak to me, teach, train and instruct me. You see, these were really prayer journals. Each entry starts with “Dear God” and I then proceed to pour our my heart to the Lord. Confessing sin, asking for guidance, being completely honest about things. This has helped me in so many profound ways; to learn, overcome, and become the person I am now, and the person I am becoming as the Bible so often reminds us, sanctification is a life-long process. Now can you see why I don’t want anyone reading some of these pages?
So why am I writing about this on my blog? Well, I wanted to pose a question to you, my friends, and ask you:
1. Do you journal?
2. Why do you journal?
3. Do you feel a need to censor what you write as your write? (To me, this makes journaling a complete waste of time, but wonder if any of you do it and find benefit?)
Here, I will go first:
1. Do you journal?
My answer: Kind of. I struggle to find time to journal. About 5 years ago I started doing a bit of journaling in google docs. Some I would save, some became entries for this blog, and others died at the hand of command-a-delete. Typing is faster and literally less painful (no hand cramps). My fingers do better keeping up with my thoughts while typing them rather than writing them. But when I actually do the work of writing out my thoughts and prayers, I find it to be more therapeutic than typing. There must be some science behind that but I don’t know what it is. Most recently, I have stopped journaling because I have been in this process of reading, redacting, ripping out pages and in some case completely tossing journals into the “burn box.” So I am having a hard time adding journals to the pile when I am struggling to know if I should even be keeping one.
2. Why do you journal?
I journal because I find it therapeutic. It helps me process my feelings and emotions in a safe way, and helps me to have healthier responses to my experiences. I journal because it helps me concentrate my prayers and ensures I have covered everything I want to cover, rather than rambling on and on and on (which I tend to do when talking). There is a small part of me over the years that journaled to leave a legacy. By God’s grace, I have done some pretty cool things, and I would like to preserve those memories. Its also encouraging to go back and see how God has answered the multitude of prayers I have prayed, and I can say most assuredly that he answered each and every one. I think there is a certain level of significance to having these “Ebenezer Stones” to remember God is faithful, that God always keeps his promises. I just wish I had left out some of the explicit detail!
3. Do you feel a need to censor what you write as you write?
Now, I do. But it feels completely useless to me to censor what I am writing. I am the kind of person who benefits greatly from “getting it all out” and not keeping things bottled up inside. Censoring what I write feels like bottling things. One of the main reasons I journal is to not bury things but to process them out and move on. To me, censoring what I write inhibits that process.
I am so torn over all of this. I really believe journaling helps me alot, and I don’t want to give it up. But I also dont want to worry about what I write and who may read it, and I dont want to lug around several decades (and pounds) of good and bad memories for the rest of my life. At times I look a these journals as treasures worth remembering and at others I see them as the kind of “baggage” you wish you didn’t bring with you into new experiences and relationships.
So talk to me people? Do you write? What do you write? Why do you write? Do you keep your journals? Do you censor as you go? Do you go back and redact certain sections (as I have in recent days, with a Sharipe!) Or do you just toss them in a box and plan a bonfire (as I have also done, bonfire coming very soon.)
The reality as I currently see it is that there is both great value and great danger in keeping journals. And right now I cannot discern if the risk is greater than the reward. I want to remember how God has brought me through life’s trials, but I dont want my kids to read all the gory details.
To be continued…
“Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12
“Let the remembrance of our sorrows also inspire us with a profounder thankfulness while we erect the stone of Ebenezer… as it had been the spot of their defeat, their sin, their sorrow, so now before the victory, it was the place of their repentance… It was there that they saw God’s hand and were led to say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”…but “hitherto” is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more hons and bears to be fought, more tearings of the hon for God’s Davids, more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet. And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no! We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: “hitherto the Lord hath helped us,” for there is more to come. An awakening in his likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as to-day, he will help us to the close. “I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee; I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end.” Courage, brethren, then; and as we pile the stones, saying, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,” let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.” Charles Spurgeon