From childhood when I had an actual diary with a lock and key, to the blank books I journaled in during my teens, to my current journal in Scrivener, journaling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes daily, sometimes with months going between my entries, but always present.
Yesterday, as I was out and about running errands, I was listening to some of Christine Caine’s podcasts. Last month she interviewed Rebekah Lyons, who shared how she did morning pages every day. Morning pages are a key part of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. First thing every morning you write out long hand a brain dump of anything that is on your mind. The idea is to clear out your consciousness to enable your creative side to have more freedom. While I don’t do morning pages per se, the way I journal is similar. I dump. 🙂
While I was on Julia Cameron’s website today, I found this on her blog:.
“I sometimes think Morning Pages should be called “Mourning Pages.” “Julia, my pages are so negative,” some people say. With morning pages, we end our denial. If something is bothering us, we put it on the page. Often, many things are bothering us, and our pages seem filled with negatives. It’s important to note that negativity is often the bridge to positives. We write what bothers us, and then we “right” what bothers us. Pages move us to positive actions.”
One way I’ve found the Lord brings things to my attention is what writer Margaret Feinberg calls “Sacred Echoes.” The same theme, idea, or impression repeats itself in what can seem to be random ways; via conversations, my reading, what I listen to, etc. Until I realize that maybe, just maybe, God is trying to show me something. This quote, specifically the part about ending our denial, was definitely a sacred echo.
A work of fiction I read recently, Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown, was also a sacred echo. It’s about four women at different places in their lives who attend a spiritual formation group. One of the aspects of the story is that many times it’s those things that anger or irritate us that God is using to get our attention. The fact that something is causing a strong reaction means there is value in us trying to understand why. Yet, we are taught that “good Christians” shouldn’t be having these feelings, so we learn to deny them. Or we pretend they aren’t there or that we are past them.
Yesterday I tweeted this quote from Christine Caine: “Jesus came to set us free, not to make us safe.” My post on how we define “redemptive” also touched on this idea. We often equate goodness with safety, but that’s a human perspective, not God’s. God is good, but He is not safe. Regardless of what avenue it comes through, all truth is God’s truth. Even when it doesn’t bring about what we consider “good” feelings.
Denial and hiding are powerful tools in the enemy’s arsenal. What was one of the first things Adam and Eve did in the garden after the fall? They hid. They hid their nakedness behind fig leaves. And they hid from God.
When we hide the truth, because the truth isn’t pleasant, it keeps us bound. The good new is however, that Jesus, the Rescuer, came to set the captives free.
The enemy doesn’t want us to remember the freedom we have in Christ. He wants us to continue to pretend, to put on our masks. Our masks may hide who we are from others, but God always sees us as we truly are, yet loves us still.
Romans 5:8 tells us “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The reason Jesus, the Word, became flesh, was because we could not attain the perfection a Holy God requires. But God’s holiness is matched by His perfect love. Jesus is His way for us to be reconciled to God. We can’t earn it. We can never attain it on our own. It is ours through Christ’s work alone.
When I am honest in my journaling it allows the light of the Gospel to bring healing and truth into my thoughts and feelings. Even while I am writing, I will find myself reminded of His faithfulness, His goodness, His love. The reality that, as my pastor often says, while my sin reaches far, His grace reaches farther. And while the experience of complete liberation from sin is still in the future, it has already been accomplished through Christ. So even when nothing has actually changed yet in my life as I write, a wonderful thing happens. The enemy loses his power to keep me in bondage and I am freed.