Hello Dear Readers,
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. For Catholic Christians, and some Protestant Christians too, this is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Often you hear Catholics talking about giving up chocolate, desserts, alcohol, or some other similar pleasure. Some argue that it is pointless to give these things up and for some it may be. If one is not giving up their chocolate or wine with an attitude of sacrifice, and offering up that sacrifice for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, then it may be an effort that does not connect in any meaningful way to the soul’s growth. If fasting from a pleasurable food or drink does serve to bring one to the desert with Jesus for prayer (genuine communion with the Father) then by all means give it up! Voluntary sacrifice of some pleasurable things is actually what we are all called to do as disciples of Christ each and every day, year round. It is through mortifying our flesh, that is, regularly saying “no” to some of our desires, passions, and pleasures that we conform ourselves to Christ by emptying ourselves, dying to ourselves, to make room for Him.
But, I digress a little bit from my original intention for this post. I was talking with a wise friend the other day and we were discussing journaling. I keep a prayer journal from time to time but have become lax about it as of late. My friend commented that she has not been journaling lately either. Then she said something that hit me between the eyes and it was about the enemy putting up barriers to journaling because he does not want us to get to know ourselves. When we don’t allow God to illuminate our “selves” to ourselves, we remain in the dark, separated from His healing light. When we allow God to shine his healing light on us we grow closer to Him and we allow Him to show us who He made us to be.
In the world of psychology, journaling has long been thought to be a way to sort out the thoughts and feelings that are sometimes experienced as a jumble from the inside. It is a way to get thoughts and feelings out and put some order to them. If we reflect on both the process of sorting out, and the content that we are putting on paper, we should be able to learn a little something about ourselves, particularly related to how we evaluate our thoughts and feelings. Our evaluation will color or even drastically influence our behaviors.
When we keep a prayer journal it is a way to remember the content of our prayer. It helps us to remember those nearly silent inspirations that God so gently puts on our hearts and in our minds. But, not only remember, but also to help us sort them out to more carefully determine if those inspirations are indeed from God, or if they are from our own imaginations or from the enemy. This discernment not only allows us to see God working in our prayer, and in our lives, but it allows us to get to know ourselves and who God sees us as, and discard the enemy’s lies about who we are. Each of these pieces of knowledge is absolutely necessary for us on our journeys to God in this life and the next.
I write all of this to say that there is power in writing things down, and much of the benefit of it is related to getting to know ourselves better, and more objectively. So, consider if a prayer journal, or maybe another kind of journal, is what you are called to this Lent.
Blessings to you this Lent,