Writing as Listening
If we are to walk in God’s way, we need to learn to listen to Him. But how? One of the traditional ways to do this is to write down all the incidence in life that may be His voice. That is, to journal. This idea is based on an understanding of how God speaks to us; not generally in the clear straight forward voice portrayed in the Old Testament, but in whispers, clues, signposts. By recording possible ‘messages’ (whether during prayer, in a sermon, or as part of daily life) we can:
- build up a record and search it for God’s truth for us.
- show God (and ourselves) that our desire to find God’s word for us is sincere;
- listen to ourselves and understand our reaction
- learn to discern God’s voice.
How you journal is very much up to you. Avoid any-one who tells you that there is a ‘right’ way to do it. You may want to use words, you may prefer drawing your impressions. Loose leaf, a beautiful book or on the lap-top. Use different colours for different themes or voices. Address what you write to God like a letter (or try writing it as a letter from God to you). It might be on a daily basis, or less regularly (but it is probably more useful to write a little bit daily rather than to save up for a marathon ‘when I have time’).
A specific part of journalling is to record your prayer times; how you approached God, how you felt (do not be judgemental but be honest!), was it easy, hard, boring? Did it feel complete or is there something else to say? Did you learn something? To begin with you may want to make the journal for a specific time: Lent, Advent, on retreat.
God cares about the details of your life and by keeping track of what happens to you, you may be able to notice God’s leading. So do not censor your writing too much. A passing thought or a chance meeting might be a gift from God. Recording the place where you had an impression may lead you in time to identify where you are most receptive (morning walk, coffee break, old kitchen chair…..).
Journalling can become addictive and it can become an instinct to reach for your book. However received wisdom is to separate the times when you listen to God and the times when you write down what you believe you heard. Allow the thoughts to pass through your mind. Trust God that if He wants you to recall something you will. So for example you might listen intently in a morning quiet time, do the washing up and then journal over coffee.
Finally, find time to go back through your journal occasionally. Does a pattern stand out?