I first started journaling in 2010. My sister gave me this basic one-page-a-day planner as a Christmas gift. I kept it because she bought that gift out of her little school allowance. I thought it was really sweet. I was also in one of the busiest terms I had in college. I was doing my thesis and internship that time, and preparing for a UAAP season as well. So I thought I needed to discipline myself with a daily to-do list.
I enjoyed doing it. It helped me organize my thoughts and prioritize the things that I needed to do each day. Being the Enneagram Type Three that I was, I found satisfaction from ticking boxes. I ended up always bringing that planner with me wherever I go.
I am not sure how my journaling habit started but I remember writing random notes beside my to-do lists. I would write the things that made me smile that day, situations I did not like and just about any rant I could think of but could not say to anyone. I also began stapling or pasting movie tickets, restaurant receipts even flower petals, candy wrappers, newspaper clippings and table napkins on my planner with a scribble of what happened on that day.
That planner bulged – filled with memories, records of reflections and experiences. And so did my subsequent planners.
In 2014 however my planner pages turned into sermon notes, worship lyrics, prayer items and quiet time reflections. It changed because
my life changed I found life when I personally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in October of 2013.
I also started journaling my Bible — putting on the dates when I read a certain passage, highlighting the verses that struck me and writing why it did. I first saved up and bought a Bible for myself in 2014. It was a purple Bible that had a subtle floral front cover design. When I finished reading it in 2015, I handed it to Chelo, one of the girls I am discipling, as a gift. Until today, even though that Bible looks tarnished, she would tell me how amusing the personal notes and insights in it are.
But why journal your personal time with God? Or keep records of your personal encounters with Him?
I have accumulated a set of planners journaled from 2010 to 2018. I have also kept all my quiet time notebooks, including my very first one in 2015. But I am not keeping them as “collectibles”. I am not keeping them just to accumulate dust overtime. Instead, I am keeping them for reference and revival.
For example, I had this pink spiral notebook in 2016 ↑. Whenever I see it, I remember a season of struggle against temptations and yet a season of sustenance from Christ. When I browse through it, I get reminded of how God never gave up on me despite my unfaithfulness and inconsistencies in the faith, and what I was going through that time.
When I look at this travel-patterned notebook ↑ from last year, I remember a season of being so on fire for the gospel. It was my first time to buy a pocket-sized notebook but it contained my deepest insights from the book of Acts. It is also the journal where I claimed (and continue to claim) a promise of God for the ministry He entrusted to me. When I browse through it, I get reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit and how much I should depend on it in all things.
Another example is this yellow floral planner in 2014 ↑. Whenever I see this, I remember a season of striving. It was the year when I still did not know where this whole life in Christ was heading. I didn’t know how to have a quiet time yet during that time but whenever I browse through it today, I can’t help but connect the dots and be amazed of how God used the biggest and the smallest of things to lead me to where I am today. I wasn’t doing ministry yet at that time. I was new in the faith and was still consumed by my job and work relationships. There were a lot of lessons learnt that year that prepared me for ministry which unexpectedly started in 2015.
I can go on and on about my planners/journals and quiet time notebooks. But it all boils down to: There’s beauty in intentional journaling. Since we speak to God in prayer and God speaks to us through His word, journaling those personal and close moments with God savors seasons and revives the soul. It is not the journaling that’s important but what is being journaled — the word of God — what He told me, who He is, what He assured me of, what His will is, what I should or should not do next, what’s going on between us, etc.
One time, Durs, also one of the ladies I am discipling, asked me, “Do we really have to write it down?” I did not have any biblical basis in mind. So I told her, “Good question. I will get back to you on that. I need to search the Scripture about it first.”
That hour, we came across Habakkuk 2. We did not have to search for an answer anymore; God gave us a direct and clear answer in verse 2. Both of us were in awe. It says:
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”
The Lord commands us to write down the things He reveals to us. He wants us to write it clearly so that anyone who reads it, may it be the writer himself or another reader, may also encounter it.
It is not the eloquence in journaling nor the artsy-ness that makes the word of God meaningful. It is our authenticity and teachability before God. There are days when I do not want to write anything down but I would pray and tell God about how I truly feel and why. Sure, most days, my personal time with God is full of joy and hope in Christ! But some days I drag myself to spend time with Him; some days my mind wanders away from the Word.. but even if, He would still pursue me and I would always end up in my prayer closet comforted and encouraged by Him.
There are also days when my quiet time notebook is full of sorrows, honest struggles and ugly sins but it’s okay. God is faithful; He does not change. We can come to Him in repentance and a baggage of weaknesses. We can always come to Him just as we are for He is good!
Journaling our quiet times with God is also not a must do or have to do. It is an opportunity to treasure in writing the things about and within my personal relationship with God. Yes, studies prove that we remember more when we write it down but it does not stop there; it’s not just that. I get to thank God more and think of Him more when I treasure in writing and even memorize His very words. Reading His word and writing/journaling it compels me to not just reflect on it but also to live it — to apply it inwardly and outwardly in my life.
Journaling may come as exciting to some but it may also come as laborious to others. There is no right or wrong way to journal one’s personal time or encounter with God. Journaling does not make someone a better Christian nor will anyone be a bad Christian if he or she does not journal. It is not a requirement for Christian growth. After all, Jesus did not live and die for sinners to just turn us into Scripture-journaling people. Jesus did not leave us a model for journaling.
However, journaling can serve as a great tool to grow in God’s word. For as long as it is for God’s glory and for as long as it is an overflow of one’s personal love relationship with God, then the beauty of intentional journaling is revealed.