Tracing History

Somewhere around the 7th grade, I started keeping a journal. In middle school, the bulk of my entries were about boys (who I liked), friends (who had problems), and my parents (who were driving me crazy). Despite these humble shallow beginnings, translating my life into the written word has come to be a deeply valued discipline in my life.

I process things best in the company of thoughtful people who love me well. Yet as I have grown, I’ve learned more about confidentiality and discretion, leaving many situations and thoughts unprocessed in community. Writing these things down is infinitely helpful, as it forces me to consider the issue, weigh the sides and move forward with confidence that I have made an informed choice. Not only does this save my dear friends from having to hear my every decision, but it increases the chances that when I do open my mouth, I will have something compelling to say.

It takes me 6-9 months to work my way through a journal, and the multi-colored shelf of the more recent editions has become one of my most prized possessions. Each time I finish a journal, I go back, and read the pages of my life that have unfolded. Every January, I read through each entry from the previous year. I am frequently amazed at all the events that I had already forgotten. Keeping a record of my thoughts and the conversations or activities that fed into those thoughts allows me to easily trace my history backward; to remind myself of what has happened that the details that I had forgotten that continue to daily shape me.

One of the things that I love the most about the Bible is its narrative. Through the pages of scripture, we get to see the work of God unfold in the lives of individuals, families, generations and nations. If you take any story from the Bible out of the rich historical context that it is placed in, you often see hardship, isolation and confusion – which is a lot of what I feel most days. But place the story back into the narrative in which it was meant to live, and we see that the isolation taught a people how to become a nation and rely on God; we see that the confusion forced the characters to ask different questions; the hardship to prepare the heart for what was coming next. In context, we see a God who has the details of our lives in mind, but the details as they fold into the great story He has already been telling. We see this because the details of the past were written down to make clear the cohesive story of redemption that is marching forward.

Reading back over the details of my own life, I am able to step back and see what the Lord has worked in my own heart and in my own life. In the moment, I am rarely sure if I am taking the right next step; I doubt and fear and second-guess; I forget my own past and forge ahead as if all alone. The pages of my journals place me – they root me in time and space and allow me to see that the experiences, thoughts and desires are slowly merging to tell a cohesive story.

It is just a small part of the oldest story in the world.

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