I’ve written before about the importance of knowing yourself, and how journaling can be a big part of that process. But what if you’ve never journaled before? What if you don’t think of yourself as a “writer”? The whole process can be intimidating if you’re new to journaling, so here are some prompts to help you get started.
Remember: there’s no right or wrong when it comes to journaling. It’s just a place to note down your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and everyday life happenings. You may naturally want to focus more on one than the other: that’s fine! Journaling is the kind of practice you grow into over time, so start with writing what’s easiest for you to write. There will be seasons of plenty, where you’ll be filling page after page, and seasons where it’ll be difficult to scratch out more than a few lines. Stick with it, and you’ll be able to look back and see the fruit.
us, at one time or another, have found ourselves caught in the loop of
wondering: is God speaking to me? Am I hearing correctly? Or am I hearing only
what I want to hear? How do I know if I’m actually open to what God has to say?
how our openness to God isn’t necessarily tied to any particular emotional
feeling, but rather has to be understood in the context of our lives as a
whole. How we live indicates how much weight our deeper desires should carry
in the process of our discernment which unfolds in conversation with God.
The question “am I truly open to hearing God?” can only be answered in light of the more fundamental question: do I live like I’m open to God? Because how we live determines if we make space for God regularly. We’re usually open to hearing God if we’re leading a listening kind of life.
How do we know if we’re leading a listening kind of life?
Socrates is famous for saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” But how many of us take time to really examine our lives? We might pause for a moment before making new year’s resolutions, but in the day-to-day, most of us end up hurrying from one place to another without making a lot of room forsilence.
You may think: even if I did have time for silence, I wouldn’t want to spend it constantly thinking about myself. Self-reflection may seem like an unhealthy egoistic obsession, a kind of navel-gazing that makes us worse people, not better.
The thing is, that’s not true self-reflection: that’s rumination.
As a child, I was given a series of videos that followed the life of a boy as he struggles to grow up and embrace a Christian life. In one of the episodes, he sets up an elaborate plan to sneak out to a movie his parents have forbidden him to see. Despite escaping to see the film, he finds himself unhappy at having watched it. His father’s explanation of why they forbade him in the first place has always stayed with me: “It’s garbage in, garbage out: you’ll never get it out of your mind.”
On a physical level, we know that to be true. We know that eating McDonald’s every day for a week means excess weight, bad skin, and lethargy; and eating it every day for a year means risk of serious heart disease.
But what about on a spiritual level? Are we conscious about what we consume in our hearts and minds and souls? Do we consider ourselves immune from the effects of what we imbibe?
An American friend of mine once found herself engaged in a conversation about family pastimes in Italian. “My mother gardens,” said one girl; “my sister paints,” offered another. “My father makes fruit preserves!” my friend joined in, enthusiastically. “Peach, strawberry, all different kinds,” she continued, slightly oblivious to the growing silence around the table. “The whole family helps, every summer!”
Finally, one of the older women at the table quietly asked her to clarify. “Fruit preserves!” My friend said again, in Italian. Noticing the shocked look on everyone’s faces, she stepped into the kitchen to get a jar of jam. Holding it up, she repeated triumphantly, “fruit preserves! See?”
The Italians then very kindly explained that “preservativi” in Italian does not mean “preserves.” It means “condoms.”
Talk about a learning experience.
Speaking the language through trial and error led my friend to discover “false friends”: words that sound similar in two languages but in fact mean very different things.
“False friends” are dangerous when learning languages, but they show up when we are learning to discern, too. They masquerade as something helpful, so we use them eagerly. Unknown to us, though, they are leading us away from our true purpose.