By Jill Lord
There are two types of people in this world: Those who journal and those who do not. I’m not trying to convert those of you who do not journal to become those who do journal, but I wanted to highlight the power that journaling has. Yes, I said power. Let me explain.
I have a high school reunion approaching so naturally I pulled out my old journals to secretly reminisce and fact check. I planned on just reviewing a couple of years, but got so enthralled, I couldn’t put them down, seriously for weeks! I thought that was crazy, as I’ve read them before so I figured I wouldn’t discover anything new AND I know how the story ends, the growing up story anyway. Even so, I couldn’t put them down. I was hungry to read every detail I documented. Why?
It seemed to be a sort of psycho-therapy in a way. I was able to dig deep into my past, discover what helped form me and what experiences strengthened me along the way. I read words I prayed to God in desperation, God’s responses on the ensuing pages, what people said, how I responded, the discussions we had and how I felt about them. I read my words of praise to the Lord, of goals met, of events and people that brought me joy.
I read of my mood swings though I thought I had been fairly steady. I recalled my dreams through the years, which ones were met, which ones were still left to pursue and which ones changed. I learned of my desires at the time, my failures, diet dilemmas, when I gained weight and how I lost it. I discovered what factor initiated my joy of running which was different than what I had claimed (I thought it started with the break-up with a boyfriend when in reality it was his marriage a few months later). While I ran to clear my mind and burn off frustration, I read that this catapulted my running life and ignited a pure joy in running. (I must thank him some day.) I read about my first race, who I ran with, my happiness that my father came to watch me and that he seemed truly interested in this, my racing goals and what I did to prepare.
I read about every boy I encountered, the guys I liked, the guys who liked me, the dates along the way, the tender words whispered, the jerks, the stamina of my morals, the pleasures, the struggles, the encouragement I received along the way as well as the encouragement I offered to others.
I relived the hilarious moments with my now deceased sister, our sisterly bond, our talks and college visits to each other, the times I swore I’d never be able to live without her as well as the times she drove me absolutely crazy. I read about my struggles for independence vs. not feeling ready for it, my feelings through my parent’s divorce that I never vocalized to anyone, my tender moments with each of them as well as words I wished weren’t spoken.
I shook my head at some of the choices I made as I perused the results of those choices and what I should have done differently perhaps. I realized the influence of a first love, the comparisons it caused along the way, and the repercussions through the years. I pondered the struggles at first-days-on-jobs, the great people I worked with who meant so much to me at the time and how bad I really was in softball.
The mind tends to forget details and journaling can help solidify moments in time. An article in the Huffington Post noted that journaling causes you to engage in cognitive recall. Writing can help solidify the event to be recalled (1). Even so, I had forgotten many events that I had written about. For me, the power came from seeing these memories linked together. As random as they appeared at the time, they were actually connected and all part of God’s plan.
I read about my longings, fears, jealousies, lonely times, ecstatic times, times of hurt and betrayal and how the Lord carried me through them all. My journal was a love story. Not just the path to my husband which I clearly saw was paved by the Lord, but the love story of God’s continual pursuit of me. At times when the Lord seemed to provide dates for all my friends to fraternity formals and I sat dateless, alone, stewing in my room like God had forgotten me, we spent hours of time together in which He blessed me in ways I could not see at the time. He wanted to be my first love.
I discovered that my lonely times drew me into heart-to-heart talks with Jesus and in the following pages I read how He lifted me up. I’ve come to realize His protection over me through the years, the dreams He planted within my soul, His providence, faithfulness, sustenance, mercy and grace in my life. I can see now that when I felt confused and at my lowest points, the Lord was singing over me, delighting in me, enjoying our talks, our times together and drawing me near. I would have missed all that had I not documented the experiences and emotions in my journals. That, my journaling and non-journaling friends, is powerful.