Reconnect, heal, love
Last week I posted on journaling for Lent. In that post I discussed that journaling helps us get to know ourselves better, which is necessary for growth on the natural level, and for growth in the interior life. This post can be read here https://indivisiblecouples.com/lent-a-call-to-journal/
I thought it would be helpful to write a follow up post that addresses how to journal, and why self knowledge is important anyway.
First, how does one go about journaling anyway? I do not advocate a specific method of journaling but I do recommend it as part of one’s prayer life. By prayer life I mean the dedicated time that we should spend alone with God each day. As St. Teresa conceptualizes it, prayer is a conversation between friends. We cannot have a good conversation with a friend if we don’t take the time to dedicate to it. If you do not already have a practice of mental prayer(dedicated prayer time that is characterized by silence instead of vocal prayerssuch as the Rosary, the Our Father, etc.) then begin with just a few minutes per day. I highly recommend the book Into the Deep by Dan Burke for a clear, simple treatment of mental prayer using the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, that is “divine reading”, which is simply put, prayerful reading of Scripture, or other worthwhile spiritual writing.
In the practice of mental prayer we will also begin to “hear” certain thoughts, inspirations, and promptings. These can have their origins in God and His messengers, our own imaginations, or even the enemy and his messengers. It is imperative that we learn to distinguish which “voice” is which. Rarely are these audible voices, rather they are subtle ideas, thoughts, feelings, or inspirations. Father Timothy Gallagher’s fantastic book Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide to Everyday Living is probably the best place to start to learn more about this topic. However, an important way to begin to discern the “voices” is to being to learn to hear them in the first place during prayer. Writing down the words, verses, or phrases from Scripture that pop out during our reading is a great place to start. Then writing down the predominant thoughts, feelings, inspirations, and/or reflections will help us begin to really see and sort out what is going on during our prayer time. I do not generally recommend writing these things down during your prayer time but after your time of mental prayer, and before you get up to move onto other things. That’s it! Just slowing down, paying attention, and writing down what you find is how to keep a prayer journal.
Over time you will learn to distinguish if it is God, your imagination, or the enemy and you will also begin to get to know yourself better. This happens first because God begins to reveal us to ourselves, and second because we are being quiet and still enough to listen. Before long one will be in need of a spiritual director also, in order to further help decipher what one is hearing in prayer, and what God’s will is in one’s life, but that is a post for another day.
St. Teresa of Avila tells us that self knowledge is important because it allows us to see the grandeur of God and the lowliness of ourselves. It allows us to understand our complete reliance on Him. As Dan Burke often says, “We have an infinite capacity for self delusion”. In other words we see ourselves as we want to, as the world has told us we should, as our families of origin have conditioned us to see ourselves, and so on. Through faithful mental prayer, the practice of keeping a prayer journal, and spiritual direction we will learn ourselves as God is revealing us to ourselves, which is at least a taste of how God sees us.
Burke, D. (2016). Into the deep: finding peace through prayer.North Palm Beach: Beacon Publishing
Gallagher, T.M. (2005). Discernment of spirits: an Ignatian guide to everyday living.New York, NY: The Crossroads Publishing Company