Over the years, the time I spend with God on my own has become more important to me. Primarily this has been through regular devotional times, although it can also apply to times on retreat.
I think these times are essential for all of us. I know that what I don’t need in my life right now is any more noise and busyness, especially of the self-induced kind. Conversely, it’s the moments of space and peace that I feel are now at a premium.
One of the useful things I have learnt to do in these times is to write down a comment or observation in the journal I keep for my quiet times. Journal is a bit of a grand phrase, in the past it’s been a cheap exercise book and a pencil, but that’s fine for the task. When I think about the times when I have written something in my journal, I realise that what has provoked me to do this is not some regular Godly discipline, but a kind of spiritual poke from the Almighty, accompanied by the words: “write it down!” And so I do. And I can then come back to those words, in the weeks, months, even years afterwards.
The interesting thing for me is that, at the moment when God seems to be calling me to write something in my journal I have to overcome two hurdles. First, there is my innate laziness, which tries to stop me from even picking up the pen! Then there is the vague sense that what I am going to write is not really worth writing. Both of these are pretty lame excuses, and usually I am able to overcome them; then when I come back to my journal I usually find that what I have written was worth writing. It’s nearly always an insight or a direction from God that is valuable for the moment and for times afterwards.
I’ve also had to make sure that if I do note something down, I do it for the right reason. I’ve had to resist the temptation to do something that we writers are normally encouraged to do, and that is to observe and squirrel away every event and experience for possible use in the future. Perhaps my life is the raw material for a future writing, but when God asks me to write something down, I have had to learn that the primary beneficiary is me, not my writing. I’m not on duty as a writer in these moments, I just have to pay attention for my own benefit.
What’s good for me might well be good for you. So, if you are not already doing it, I’d encourage you to start keeping a journal, and to use it in your regular devotional time. And if you do keep a journal, when you feel one of those divine prompts, go with it and write down whatever is in your mind. Reviewing those comments will prove to be a valuable blessing to you in the weeks and years to come.