My 9-year-old made a New Year’s Resolution: he would write in a journal every day. We sat together on his bed a couple of nights ago, and he showed me what he had written so far; little stories about his day, a note about a math test, frustration over a playground argument. I’m not sure where this sudden urge to write came from, but he seemed pleased with himself and eager to share.
My dear son did acknowledge some guilt because he had not started until January 8th and had already missed one day! (Oh, the horror!) But I assured him this was a good project and to not get discouraged if he misses a self-imposed deadline once in a while. (Good advice I need take myself more often!)
Upon seeing my son’s journal, memories of my own childhood journals came flooding back. I have stacks of old floral, hardback diaries hiding in a box somewhere in the basement. I wrote almost every day; the highs and lows of relationships, school success and failures, and drama with classmates. When my children were younger, I continued this play-by-play style of writing, documenting their young lives. I have pages and pages written about the days when both of my kids were born.
It is fun to read these stories of my younger self. I gain perspective on how my life – and my writing – has evolved over the years. My desire to write has continued, but the style has changed. With this weekly blog, writing for seminary courses and other devotional style writing, I have now accumulated a growing “library” of thoughtful and reflective writing about life and faith.
Usually, writing is helpful to put some order around chaotic thoughts, relaying ideas in a way I am simply unable to do verbally. I have written 183 posts on this site alone, spread across nearly 4 years. Some writings are better than others. Some are surprisingly very well received, yet some of my favorites received no feedback. I sincerely hope others experience some gain from my writing. But the amazing thing is how frequently I benefit from my own writing! What words did God place in my heart years ago which might prove to be the exact words I need to hear today?!
My job is cyclical – I’ve explained this before. So I know that in mid-January, I will experience stress, guilt and anxiety. Nothing new here. I also continue to be cautious as I watch my son experience similar emotions. (Like guilt for not writing in his new journal every day in 2018!) So, today I decided to go back to read what I wrote on January 15, 2017 (Me versus my Anxiety) and January 17, 2016 (God is bigger than our fear). In each post the last two years, I wrote about how my son and I both cope with anxiety and fear. My own words offered guidance I needed to hear today!
Last year I wrote: “Oh, how quickly I had forgotten my own guidance to trust God!”
I then wrote: “Sometimes at night when we are cuddled close and talking about life, he will express fear and worry. I wrap this shawl around both of us and we pray together; we pray that God would bring us peace and comfort, and be present with us at all times. Together, we practice trust.”
As I read these words this morning – MY words – I was reminded of something else which took place on that night my son showed me his journal. As I prepared to switch off the light and leave the room, he pulled this same prayer shawl from his bedpost. It had been months since I had seen it on his bed. I think it was actually tucked away in his closet for a while. Yet here it was! He wrapped the shawl around his shoulders and held it wide open, inviting me in for a big hug. As I moved towards him, my son wrapped the shawl around my shoulders. Then, close together, he prayed. It was love and peace and trust and joy – all experienced through the warm embrace of a 9-year-old!
As I reflect on my own ongoing stress and anxiety, and I recall that peaceful moment with my son, I am reminded of a very simple yet important truth of our Christian faith – one we must turn back to no matter what we face:
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
We know this truth, but sometimes need a reminder – sometimes from our own words, and sometimes from the love of another.