My life is littered with journals. Seriously…it’s kind of ridiculous.
A Love is Born
It started when I was about 10 and was given, as so many young girls are, my first diary. It was hard bound and featured Hello Kitty on the cover, in the classic red and white motif. I loved Hello Kitty, so I loved this diary. I wrote down everything: who I loved, who I hated, what horrible things my parents were making me do (the dishes…I mean, really!), the teachers I believed were secretly witches and those I adored. My diary held all my secrets, fears and hopes.
As well as the journals and diaries I’ve kept over the years I am also lucky enough to be the caregiver of the journals of both my grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were prolific writers and lovers of words.
But what is it that compels us to capture our lives in this way? What prompts us to put pen to paper and write down our hopes and dreams, fears, failures and deepest longings of the heart? We inscribe these knowing that one day they may well be reviewed by the very people we have written about. So why do we do it? And why should we?
A History Captured
Personally, I find it fascinating to read historical diaries. Looking at what the pioneer women wrote as they crossed the plains, as they buried their loved ones alongside the trail, as their cattle was stolen and their prized possessions were discarded to save weight as they climbed mountains and crossed rivers gives us a glimpse into the hardships they endured. My own great, great grandmother crossed the plains in 1851 as a young girl and wrote about one particular time that was especially harrowing, where-in a young man in their wagon train ‘jokingly’ sold one of the girls to an Indian chief they had crossed paths with. Needless to say, this joke ended horribly, with men on both sides dying and the pioneers having to abandon half of their possessions because they’d lost so much cattle in the showdown. She goes into great detail and as I read her account of it all, I am transported to that time and place and can almost taste the dust in my own mouth and feel the fear they experienced as arrows began to fly, guns were drawn and wagons were set on fire.
This account would be lost in our family history had Kate decided it wasn’t worth writing down for posterity sake. Fortunately for us, she took the time to write about this and other events, giving us a connection to her experience as a young woman over 150 years ago.
A Spiritual Legacy
Likewise, if we look to scripture we see something of a diary there too, when we read the Gospels or Paul’s letters to the many churches throughout the east. Consider what we would be missing had his disciples not written accounts of the events preceding Jesus’ arrest. We wouldn’t know of the emotional anguish that he suffered as he cried out for God, pleading for another way for man to be brought to salvation, a way that didn’t involve his torture and death and separation from his Father. We wouldn’t know of Jesus’ proclamation to Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. We wouldn’t see the look of pain on Jesus’ face as that third denial was made and Peter cried out, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about! (Luke 22:60)”
We each have a different journey. The twelve disciples who were with Jesus day in and day out for three years all had a slightly different perspective of the events they were a part of. They each had a different relationship with Jesus because they each came to him with different experiences and desires and fears.
So we, too come to Christ. Each of us are different. We’ve got different upbringings and life experiences that shape how we perceive the world and our place in it. As we take note of the ways and times that God has met us individually in our needs, whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual, we begin to see how uniquely God approaches us. We realize that we are not cookies cut from the same form by a cookie-cutter God, but that we are uniquely and wonderfully made, being molded by God’s very hand.
Writing down our journey allows those who will come behind us to see the transformative power of God. Listen, nine years ago, my life was mess. It looked nothing like it looks now. The one thing that changed is my willingness to submit to God. Be sure, I am still a mess, but that mess looks a lot different than it used to. It’s a benefit to me to be able to look back at where I was, to remember what my pit of destruction looked like, and how God lifted me from that pit and set my feet on solid ground. It’s a lot like the memorials that the Israelites would erect whenever God did some thing that they wanted to be reminded of. Journals are a marker of sorts; this is where you were and this is where you are.
We can see God’s faithfulness in our lives only as we look back. We see the countless times he has proven himself trustworthy and compassionate. Without writing these markers down, we have a tendency to forget just what he’s brought us through.
Additionally, in the same way I treasure looking back over the written accounts of my ancestors in order to gain perspective on the lives they lived and the legacy they left behind, I hope that my children’s offspring will be able to look at my journals and see a life that was transformed by a loving and gracious God who knows me intimately and personally. I want them to see that while I struggled regularly with sin and worry, ultimately I have lived a life at the feet of Jesus.
Who Tells Your Story?
We each have a story that is uniquely our own. When we’re gone, that story will shared with those we leave behind. If we take the time now to journal, to write about the thoughts that consume us, the faith that frees us and the God we love, we leave behind a marker for the next generations to see and be reminded of our faithful God. It’s up to each of us to erect that memorial and we do it one word at a time.