A blog by Josh Humbert
There are some things in life that just demand time in order to achieve their full potential. The patience and passage of time is required for their excellence to be realized. There are no time-savers or short-cuts. No speed-pass exists for these things.
To be sure, there is much that can be accomplished at warp speed now. Our technologies and connectedness have allowed certain things to be completed much quicker.
But there are things, even in our fast-paced and high-speed world, that demand time.
You want an authentic, mouth-watering smoked Texas brisket? My friend, there is no “quick and easy” answer. That brisket has to go “low and slow” in a smoker for hours, and hours, and hours. THEN and only then will you enjoy it’s full potential.
You want to complement that brisket with a baked potato? Get out the foil and crank up your oven. It’s going to take some time.
A microwaved baked potato? Are you kidding me?? You would be depriving that potato of reaching it’s highest level of excellence. Listen, stop right there with your “just microwave the potato” shenanigans. I HAVE tried that method — the potatoes comes out unevenly cooked and blocky. It’s like stuffing your mouth full of scalding hot lego’s and cool chunks of dirt. No thank you. You can kindly show yourself down the escalator (or…stairs) and leave.
Baked Potato Discipleship
Certain things take time. And growth in Christ IS one of those things.
When you give your life to Jesus and decide to follow Him and His Word, He does not wave some magic wand and make you a super-hero-disciple. He doesn’t magically grant you the wisdom to know all truth and doctrine. You don’t all of a sudden conquer every sin pattern in your life. It doesn’t work that way.
Instead, once you give your life to Jesus and decide to follow Him and His Word, the whole rest of your life will be (hopefully) a slow and steady march toward Him. Yes, there will be stumbles here and there. A couple valleys to walk through. Some dry seasons. But through it all, the Christian has set their heart upon becoming more and more like Christ and living out the Word…and over time, this does transpire.
The Holy Spirit works within us over time: He softens our hard places, He corrects our wandering ways, He opens our eyes to truths, He constantly reminds of the Gospel, He empowers us to grow in being more like Jesus.
Like a potato carefully wrapped and slowly baked, the end result of a lifelong pursuit of our Lord WILL be delicious.
Capturing The Word
Earlier this year, I wrote about two men who radically recovered God’s Word and the amazing revival that ensued in their lives and communities. You can read about that here. What was apparent from their experiences was this simple truth: when people get serious about the Word, things change.
That blog highlighted the “heart” behind personal revival; what it looks like, what it sounds like, what takes place. What I hope to do here is give you one small tool that may help you to fall more in love with Christ and grow to be more like Him. If that blog was the “heart,” consider this writing to be one of the “how’s.” I’m splitting it in two parts so I can lay out everything you should take into consideration about journaling.
There are MANY other tools and disciplines that can help you grow in Christ. Please do not consider this the final answer or only option. There is a chance this may not even be helpful for you. This is just one of many streams by which our God can flood His grace into our lives.
Diary vs Journal
The tool I want to push you toward is to keep a spiritual journal. Let’s define our terms here…
I’m not talking about a diary. A diary can be a good thing but may be more about you and your experiences, feelings, and observations, etc. It may not anything to do with the Word or God.
A journal will be different. It would include your experiences and such but will include things like Scripture, truths you are learning, prayer requests and answers, discipleship growth, challenges to overcome, etc.
Think of it this way…A spiritual journal is your record of what Jesus has done and is doing in your life.
Requirements And Recommendations
The first question you may have is: “Do I have too?” In other words, is keeping a journal a requirement?
The answer is No. It’s not a requirement or some legalistic box you have to check.
In fact, we don’t even see that Jesus kept one. The only time in Scripture we see Him writing is when He stoops down to write something in the sand.
But does journaling show up in Scripture? YES.
Think of the Psalms. Many are basically a personal journal entry. (this also answers the question—“Is keeping a journal a weak/soft thing?” No, we have many entries from David and he killed bears, lions, and giants. One of the “manliest” men thought it wise to keep a journal).
Think of Lamentations. It’s like Jeremiah’s personal journal as he watches Jerusalem fall.
So on the surface, Scripture does not make this a requirement, but we are able to see this discipline show up in portions of the Word.
Why Do It?
The author, Jessamyn West, writes this about keeping a journal “people who keep journals live life twice.” I think she’s right and I think her statement can be taken two ways.
When you keep a journal, you live twice. You can think and gain clarity on the things that happen to you; you don’t go through life just passively getting bounced from one adversity to the next. You think through life and the Scriptures you study. And others can trace the real work of Christ in your life. They can see how you journeyed through what you faced.
Consider the words of Augustine as well. Why did he keep a spiritual journal? He writes:
“Why then, do I set before You an ordered account of so many things? It’s certainly not through me that You know them. But I’m stirring up love for You in myself and in those who read this so that we may all say, “Great is the Lord and highly worthy to be praised.’ I tell my story for love of Your love.”
Beautiful and true! God already KNOWS what will happen to us in this life and all the things we will face. We don’t journal to let Him in on it. But Augustine is exactly right in that journaling our way through life can be a great means of “stirring up love for You in myself.”
Think on David’s Psalms where he is preaching TO himself. He is journaling through adversity and dry seasons. It may not be easy but he journals to stir up love for God in himself.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits!
That’s David grabbing the parchment and ink so that he can stir up a love for God, even when it’s tough. He is telling his story for love of God’s love.
Journaling allows us to remember Scripture, grow in knowing Jesus, stir up love for Him, and leave a record of what He has done in our lifetime.
The Winter of Your Forgetfulness
“Yeah, but why else should I journal?”
Because hard times will hit. Storms will crash upon your shore. Life will happen. Jesus makes this clear at the end of Luke 6. Hurricanes will bring the waves of adversity to you.
Because you will go through parched deserts. Seasons of wondering, “God, are you even there? Do you even hear my prayers?” You will face times when you are dying of spiritual thirst and looking for the Living Water.
Because you will face the winter of forgetfulness. One author, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, says this about keeping a journal:
“There is, of course, always the personal satisfaction of writing down one’s own experiences so they may be saved, caught and pinned under glass, hoarded against the winter of forgetfulness. Time has been cheated a little, at least, in one’s own life.”
I have no idea if Anne is a Christian or not, but what she says is true about a spiritual journal.
We will face life and all it’s challenges. It’s most often at those moments we may face a winter of forgetfulness and wonder if God IS really who He says He is. It can be so easy to let the remembrances of His goodness and grace slip from our mind, right?
David knew this to be true…that’s exactly why he journaled, remember? He writes his prayers down so he won’t “forget His benefits.” He was intent and fierce about preparing for the winter. He wrote down prayer after prayer to store up treasures of God’s love. These treasures of God’s character and Word would serve as the fire to David’s heart during his winters of forgetfulness.
Time cannot be slowed down, we know this. But it can be cheated. In the times when God feels most distant, we can remind ourselves of the truth. Instead of believing the lies of the enemy, who wants us to suffer from spiritual amnesia, we have a faithful record of His dealing with us.
When you journal, you give yourself a means of fighting off the frigid winter. The journals will not change the circumstances you face, but they help you recall what Jesus has done. The snow may keep falling, but a journal reminds you that the beauty and warmth of Spring approaches.
I know this to be true in my own life. I have kept a spiritual journal since the 6th grade. I can see how God has matured me. I can see where I ONCE was and where He has brought me. I can see seasons of sin and struggle. I can see and celebrate victories.
I can see prayer requests and answers. I can see prayers I’m still waiting for answer. I can see new truths learned and cherished. I can see when my heart has been set on fire with love for my Savior. I can see when my heart was cold and the days between in entries grew to months. I can see the journey of a young punk into what I am today.
And what I am today is what I hope to always be: a man who wants to humbly grow in love and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My journals are the record of what Jesus has done in my life and what He is doing even now. I cherish them and I know they have been a tool God has used to grow me.
They remind me of His goodness. They deepen my understanding of His Word. They defeat the winters of forgetfulness.
They are a good thing in my life.
My journals ain’t no microwaved potato! They are a discipline I have given much time to over the years and I can see how they’ve achieved good things in me.
Maybe you want to throw a baked potato in the oven now because..who knows, right? Maybe it’s time to journal because…who knows, right?
Part Two of this series will get into specifics and give you some Zip-Code Steps if you want to begin journaling.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve journaled, I’d like to hear your own insights. If you have questions about it, let me know in comments or messages.