Write What You Have Seen

"We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed and creation need not play to an empty house" – Annie Dillard

When I was a teenager, I wrote in a diary kept locked and hidden under the mattress of my bed.  Today I write in smooth covered moleskins or hard covered unlined Clairefontaine journals with no locks and have at times left a journal lying around in visible places.  In the digital age, blogging may be your form of journaling, especially if you are ready to go public.  Or you may wish to explore a variety of digital apps to familiarize yourself in all the options available to help in the process of keeping a 'journal'.  Keep in mind that a diary is simply a recording of data and daily events and is unlike the idea of reflective journaling, which could be defined as a potpourri of moods, reactions to people and events, sensory perception, Bible study notes, or prayers. 

For me, after a hectic day or week loaded with events and problems, I gain a sense of calm by sitting down in the presence of God to sift through stuff and regain perspective.  It's like, as Ronald Klug says in How to Keep a Spiritual Journal, walking around a messy room with toys and clothes and books piled around, and slowly picking things up and putting them in their right places again.  My journal keeps me sane. 

Christians can minimize the search for self-investigation and self-understanding.  Journaling, instead of leading to preoccupation with ourselves is meant to be much more than introspection.  I have learned with time that the sole value of an inside look is measured by its helpfulness in moving us toward greater love for God and others.  Journal writing is a personal testimony to God's deeds and character.  The Bible exhorts us to "remember the wonders He has done, His miracles and the judgments he pronounced." (Psalm 105:5)  

Don't get the impression that the only kind of journal worth keeping is the kind of entry that deals with spirituality or deep personal crisis.  Even though David left us with Psalms, and his conversations with God, he also gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, the upper parts and inner rooms, and the place of atonement.  "All this," David said, "I have in writing, from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plans." (1 Chr 28:19) 

People write journals in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons.  Thought starters, ideas you may want to explore, lists of things to be done or prayed about, interesting places you have visited.  A journal is meant to be a commentary on all of life.  The main thing is to write.  Don't wait to be inspired.  Allow yourself the freedom to get the words out without worrying about who is going to read your material.  The wonder of personal journaling is discovery--to let your true self come forth (good and evil) and then permit God to match His truths with your own experience. 

"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later," were the words given to the apostle John by the Lord, the result being the book of Revelation.  While not everything we "see" today is a prophetic vision, if we can learn to document, reflect and respond to what we believe God is revealing, perhaps we may participate in leaving rich legacies of written works. 

My main objective in writing about the power of journal writing is to encourage you to take the time to contemplate.  The word "templairi": from which contemplation is derived, means "space"; it is also the root of the word temple, which we could describe as "a space prepared for the presence of God."  Contemplation could be paraphrased as spending time in inner space. 

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" asks W. H. Auden.  How can we as Christians feed others if we ourselves are not digging deeper, below the surface of the facts of our faith, and discovering new, fresh insights and truths to offer to this generation and perhaps the next.  As one of my favorite authors Annie Dillard writes: 

We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed and creation need not play to an empty house.



DEBORAH PHILLIPS is an Elder at Redemption Church.  She is the author of Argonauta (fiction) and If Reality were to Break Through (memoir) on adoption, identity, and the family of God.