What does your heart have to say to God? What does God have to say to your heart? There is one way to find out: start writing.
Not everyone is a “writer” in the sense of being gifted and called to communicate to others with the written word. But everyone is hosting an inner conversation, an ongoing dialog between God and their soul that is alternately passionate, despondent, exuberant, and confused. Every shade on the emotional palette is in play in an expansive interaction, and…this internal dialog colors every single external engagement—every conversation, every activity, every motivation, every relationship. We just don’t know it. Most of us have not yet tuned in (or not tuned in very far or for very long) to The Conversation.
How do you tune in? By writing. Or more specifically, by journaling.
Journaling is one of the simplest and most profound gifts we have as humans. Absolutely anyone can do it. There are essentially no rules to it, yet I will offer some guidelines. All it requires is a desire to step off the gerbil wheel of frantic activity long enough to engage the expansive and expressive world of the heart. Writing has the power to transform a hodgepodge of mundane activities into a wealth of meaning. It also has the power to draw you into great intimacy with a God who delights in you. Ready to try? Or try again?
Like I said, there are no rules. These are just some ideas from my experience as a journaler.
Use pen and paper. There’s nothing wrong with going digital, and I do that sometimes, but the tactile experience of putting pen or pencil to actual paper affects us differently. I think it’s a more human experience, but it’s hard to describe. Just try it.
Buy a journal. Instead of just grabbing a random notebook, attach some meaning to this exercise by investing in something esthetically pleasing and conveniently sized.
Decide whether to do morning or evening. As the natural, biological end points on a day, these are the typical times to engage. Personally I prefer morning…incorporating it into my larger time with God and soul, but find a time that works well for you. If you have young children, maybe it’s naptime.
Choose a place. Find (or create) a space that feels somewhat sacred to you, a place you feel drawn to that is buffered as much as possible from the noise and distractions of the household. With our kids grown and gone, it was easy to take an entire bedroom and convert it into a room for prayer, writing, and other spiritual practices.
Do you have to journal every day? No, of course not…but shoot for it. What you’re really looking for is a rhythm that begins to enrich your way of being in your life. And that benefits most greatly from repetition and predictability.
What do you write? There are so many possibilities, so these ideas are just to prime your pump!
Write your insights.
Write your questions.
Write your prayers.
Write the circumstances in your day that felt significant.
Write down quotes, excerpts, something someone said that caught your attention.
Write your emotions. If you have a hard time naming those, ask me for my Emotion List.
Write your ideas, hopes, dreams.
Write your hard stuff—the things that feel difficult to talk about.
Write your moments of serendipity, transcendence, and joy.
Write about the places in your soul where you are being invited to leave behind the false self and its compulsions and enter into freedom, into your true self.
Write about decisions you’re trying to make.
Write what you think God might be wanting to say to you. What do you most need to hear?
That’s it. Now just get started!