How using a journal to look back, helps me move forward.
In my rush to always move forward, to accomplish my next goal or project, I am discovering how essential looking back is in finding the next step forward. I do this by using journals, my mobile phone, and laptop. I use these tools to collect thoughts I don’t want to forget. (See my previous post “Capturing Sparks,” if you want to learn how to do it for yourself). I use journaling to write down anything I think God may be speaking to me, as my personal therapist, and also to become a better writer.
Why is this important? Because we are always learning and growing and looking back helps us see how we are growing. It can help us see the direction God may be leading us or what we we need to learn in this season of life. We are always changing, growing, gaining new ideas, dreams, and creativity.
This is a lot harder to do if you are not “listening to your life speak,” and then writing it down in some format. I first heard this thought when reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. At first, I didn’t understand what this meant. How do I listen to my life speak? But slowly I began to write down anything that I wanted to remember, words that resonated, or I felt God might be speaking to my heart. The more I did it, the more I recognized when my life or God was truly speaking to me. It wasn’t an audible voice, but an inner spiritual silent voice I had to take the time to slow down, listen to, and record.
Because I believe my heavenly Father wants to do life with me and transform me little by little into the image of Christ, I need to pay attention to all these things. Perhaps what I was learning the last few months was actually God’s way of preparing me for the season ahead. Did I hear what He was saying? Did I learn from it or apply it to my life? Or was I too busy, too distracted to even notice his whispers?
If you think about how we learn in school, it’s the same discipline: Listening, recording, reviewing and applying. For those of us who are out of school, it’s not a test at the end of this process, but the actual application to our life.
None of us get to skip basic math principles and go directly to Algebra. We slowly build on our knowledge, improving our understanding and skills, until we can tackle harder and harder problems.
Life is the same way. God is building our character, faith, strength and knowledge daily, monthly, and year by year. None of us gets to skip a class or a grade in God’s kingdom either. If we do, we keep repeating the same lesson. Ever feel that way? I have, and it’s frustrating when I keep repeating the same mistakes and lessons in life.
Maybe you don’t like to write, but you can talk into your phone and record an inspirational quote, bible verse, words from a movie or book that spoke to you. It doesn’t have to be difficult. The key is just recognizing when it is happening and getting it down in some format to reflect on later. If you’re not sure about it, record it anyway.
I move forward by taking a few hour at the end of each month to look back over my journal and phone notes. I type out on one page the key thoughts, I want to remember from the past month. Because I have started to underline or bolden the words that I want to remember from each days journaling, I can look quickly look back at each page and see what I wanted to remember. After I have typed out this page covering the month, I look back over my notes. Was there any focus or theme to the past month? Were there words I felt God was speaking to me, inspirational quotes, things I need to meditate on, steps I need to take? (Photo by STIL on Unsplash)
I have found that paying attention to what is happening daily in my life, what God is saying to my heart, what I am learning and struggling with helps me know the path ahead. God is teaching us daily if we have ears to hear and eyes to see it. Maybe what he is trying to teach you today will be needed for tomorrow. Perhaps the quote you wrote down today, will encourage your heart in six months when you really need it for yourself or to help a friend. I have discovered that the more intentional I am about writing down what I observe in my life, the closer I feel to God and the more I recognize his voice.
Chances are, even if you haven’t been journaling, you can still think back over the last month or year and remember what was happening. What were the highlights? What were you struggling with? What was God teaching you? How did you handle the situations you faced? Did you pass the test or do you need to retake it? Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
As I looked back on my journals, the theme I kept hearing last fall was to be brave, to take a risk, and don’t be afraid. I realized God was encouraging me to take steps toward a dream I’ve had for years. And because I have been paying attention to those small whispers, I recognized his leading. When I get discouraged or afraid, or wonder if I heard God correctly, I can quickly look back to my monthly review and find encouragement.
Can you look back and see how God has been teaching, leading, or trying to encourage you? Is there any common theme? Is anything from the past pointing towards a direction for the future? Are you listening to your life speak? Why not make a commitment to start recording these words for a month. Then reflect back on them at the end of that time. I bet you will hear your life and God speaking to you and be amazed.