I’ve put pen to paper several times a week for the past 20+ years. At last count I filled over 60 journals with thousands of entries. This sounds like a boastful statement, until you know why I journal.
Allow me to preface why I journal (and why journaling would be great for you, too) with a Nerd Alert: I’ve read numerous studies by neurobiologists and psychiatrists that prove how the act of writing our stories activates both halves of our brain, improving mental health. My favorite authors on these neurobiological, psychological, and Spiritual discoveries are Andrew Newberg and Curt Thompson, if you are looking for books that us regular people can understand.
Basically this is what these super-smarties are saying: The right side of your brain is primarily responsible for remembering sensory experiences. This right half of the brain recalls not just facts but also moods, emotions, reactions, and thoughts associated with factual encounters. As you write and communicate those facts, the left half of your brain puts letters and words and sentences and thoughts in a logical sequence. A beautiful dance takes place in your head, left and right stepping in rhythm.
In Romans 12, Paul says we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” As neurons on both halves of your brain are firing, you are literally “renewing your mind” – you are either creating new neural pathways (if you are telling the story for the first time), or you are strengthening neural pathways (if you are retelling stories).
Journaling is a fantastic way to “renew your mind” by recalling the story of God as it plays out in your daily life. Recognizing God’s activity in even the most common events and conversations (a right brain function), and writing that story in a logical and meaningful sequence (a left brain function), strengthens your mind. Specifically, it carves out a wider pathway to recognize and experience God’s Presence in future events and conversations.
This past week I’ve been reading the prophet Habakkuk. (It’s my favorite book of the Bible, said no one, ever.) Habakkuk was complaining to God about how slow he had been to answer some heavy, looming questions. Guess what God tells Habakkuk to do? Journal! I mean, God didn’t specifically tell him to go to Barnes & Noble and pick out an inspirational notebook. God simply said, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets.” (Habakkuk 2:2)
God invited this prophet into a transformational experience. “Write it down. Make it plain.” Engage the right half of your brain by recalling what you experience. And make it plain by engaging your left-brain to write it in logical fashion. Through the simple act of journaling, God changes the way you and I perceive Him and the world.
I opened this blog post mentioning how frequently I journal. With 3 or 4 shelves of journals in my office, you might think I am a Spiritual person. But those journals attest that I am not. Think of it this way:
Just as surgery is a pathway to health, not a sign of it, journaling is a transforming pathway of transformation. I must frequently click my pen, shaping letters and composing sentences that reshape me as the writer.
As I journal, something happens inside me. Something supernatural. Something deep and worshipful. Yes, there is a scientifically proven, therapeutic component to processing thoughts and feelings through writing. But the primary reason I journal is because I need God’s transforming grace.
I believe you need to journal. Or try journaling again, for the umpteenth time.
And I want to help you.
If you are willing to give journaling a try, reply to this blog post, or email me directly. Let me know how I can coach and encourage you.
Our goal, if you let me join you on this journey, is not to fill shelves with journals; far better than that, I hope you and I become more like God created us to be.
Give journaling a shot. And let me help.
PS – My daughter made this journal. Using cardboard and felt, she fashioned the cover, then attached pages to the spine with her trusty hot glue gun. I love it.