The first several posts from my out of print book, “When God Gives a Time Out” established that we often have the compulsion to do things. Sometimes this compulsion arises from our need to be esteemed or our need for achievement. God may give us a time out to remove the distracting activity and grow our relationship with Him. The last three posts have moved on to “time out prevention” as we intentionally stop and listen for God. Last month we talked about “prayer snatchers” and the Sabbath principle. Today’s post will cover the preventative power of journaling.
The following is a common occurrence in many households: A parent sits their child down to ensure that their corrective instructions are heard clearly. They walk away confident that the child has understood what was said. Ten minutes later the child is doing the same thing that was just talked about. The parent asks with frustration, “Why are you doing that again? Didn’t I just explain why that is bad?” The response is, “I’m sorry, I forgot.” What is amazing is that the child did actually forget. Yes, the heart to heart conversation occurred only ten minutes ago, but it doesn’t take the child long to get caught up in doing stuff again. The child becomes so focused on activity that the instructions are quickly forgotten. Before we chuckle at the flightiness of youth we should look in the mirror.
Every few months I look back through my journal and I usually find some word from God that I have since forgotten. I heard the message clearly and was impressed enough to write it down. As life started to kick into high gear, however, all the activity crowded the message from my active memory. The journal entry may have been prompted by a great time out, but I either need another time out or I need to re-hear the message. Instead of being stuck in time out, I prefer to re-hear the message. Journaling allows us to re-hear what God has said.
When I look through my journal and discover a forgotten encounter with God, I have two reactions. My first reaction is one of repentance for forgetting and not continuing in what God has said. My second reaction is thankfulness that I don’t need another time out to hear the same message. As I read my journal, I can re-hear and reapply God’s words. If I hadn’t written anything down, the message would have remained forgotten.
The process of writing something down, in itself, helps us remember. Along with the mental image or impression from God, we have the visual and tactile impression from writing it down. In addition, we read that same encounter again in a month or in a year and if we still remember it, the message is reinforced. Journaling can be thought of as time out prevention. God gives us a message and through the process of journaling, the message is received and applied. God doesn’t need to give us a time out because we have heard (or re-heard) what He has said to us.
The primary reason that I wrote When God Gives a Time Out was to re-hear the messages that God had impressed upon me in my time outs. As I collected thoughts, memories, journal entries, and notes from my Bible, I started to see a pattern to God’s hand in my life. The larger, deeper, and more eternal picture usually becomes clearer when we are able to look back over life and see what God has done. Journaling, or writing, is the camera that captures the pictures of time spent with the Father. As these pictures are put together, an epic of personal salvation history and sanctification appear. Are there scenes missing from your life’s epic story because you forgot them?
God often told the prophets to write down His words so that the people could re-hear His message after some time had passed. In Jeremiah 36: 2- 3, the Lord told Jeremiah the prophet,
“Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
God had spoken to the Israelites for some time and they didn’t listen. God instructed Jeremiah to write the message down so the Israelites could re-hear “all the calamity which I plan to bring on them” and repent. In fact, when the king burned the scroll that Jeremiah had produced, God told Jeremiah to write the scroll again so that the message would be preserved and re-heard.
Ultimately, Israel did not heed the message and they were sent into the 70-year time out known as the exile. The writings of Jeremiah would be a valuable teaching tool to the Israelites during and after the exile. Because the message was written down, the Israelites knew that God had indeed spoken as what was foretold came to pass. During the exile, Jeremiah’s writings encouraged the Jewish people since God had also delivered a message that one day Israel would be restored. The people read and re-heard the message and it gave them hope. When their time out was over, the Jewish people preserved Jeremiah’s writings so that generation after generation could re-hear the message that they had failed to hear.
The Bible is a collection of messages from God that we all need to hear and re-hear. God directed faithful men to preserve his words because He knew that every generation would need to re-hear some of the same teachings. In this sense, journaling does have biblical precedent. Of course, our journal writing is not on par with scripture, but it does serve to preserve the more particular, individual dealing between God and each one of us. God will not say or do something that contradicts His message in scripture. He does, however, deal with each of us particularly. When we start to doubt His individual dealings with us, when we forget God’s words to us in particular, we have a choice. We can re-hear His words in our journals or we can wait for a time out to hear the message we did not hear the first (or twentieth) time. Of course, if we haven’t journaled and have forgotten God’s word to us then we don’t have the opportunity to re-read (rehear) the message. We miss the blessing of being reminded that God is active and vocal in our lives here and now. Journaling preserves the epic history of God’s personal dealings with each of us. This history can be brought to bear on our current faith struggles. We all need to be reminded and rehear all that God has said and done in our lives. Journaling preserves these personal, intimate dealings and reminds us that God is alive and active in our lives.
Questions to Ponder
How could you fit journaling into your life?
Can you remember a time when you forgot something that God impressed upon you, and needed to relearn it at a later time?