Mapping Your Private World
On December 17, 1968, I wrote the following words on page one of a spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook:
"With some hesitation I begin the lifelong task of keeping a personal journal. This effort starts in the final third of my twenty-ninth year. For a long time I carried on an argumentative dialog with myself as to the significance of such an undertaking. It seems presumptuous to think that my life's notes will have any value once I am gone.
"Yet perhaps the greatest contribution one might leave for his posterity would be a personal chronicle of real living—unbridled life, unglossed and real to the core."
With the benefit of age, I now see youthful pomposity in those words. Later in that entry I wrote:
"If just one person could look into the window of my soul and see me for what I really am before God … they would catch a glimpse of several frustrated forces—some good, some bad—fighting for the dominance of my heart. Were it not for the promise of God in Philippians 1:6, I should have doubts regarding the outcome. No one could chart my desperate desire to love Christ. Few would appreciate my hunger to see him break forth in power in my life. Perhaps it is the fate of the Christian never to be satisfied with the status quo."
Now, 36 years later, there are two Home Depot safes, fireproof, that protect the journals I have filled attempting to make sense of my journey through 65 years of life.
Keeping a log may be nearly as old as the history of writing itself. There is a drive within the human heart to memorialize, to preserve, to explain, to articulate dreams. Beyond that we may need simply to remember what life was once like and how we got to where we are.
When I started journaling it was because I needed a "friend," and I wasn't doing well with the human kind. It sounds a bit narcissistic to suggest a journal as a surrogate friend, like talking to oneself in a mirror. But a journal is more than a mirror, I think. It is a tool to reflect on experiences and assess their significance.
Journaling, I think, is the discipline-of-choice for people who are intuitive and reflective, who walk through life asking, "What does this (or that) mean?" I've met good people who aren't like this, and perhaps for them journaling would be a bore (but I still think they should do it). Wasn't the Psalmist journaling when he wrote:
"As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong… . Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure… . When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny" (Psalm 73).
Sounds like great journal writing to me. I could have written these words—but not nearly as well.
What triggered my venture into journaling? I had passed through several weeks of high stress, the kind that young pastors ...