Lent: What am I to do – II
Lent: what am I to do? Let us begin by acknowledging how we have been blessed with insightful experiences about God, about our breakthroughs in life, about our potentials, about our vulnerabilities and failures and so forth. Since, I was born, and I became a Christian and I am living my spiritual life with reason and faith, the big question is: where are the records of my life experiences with God, my experiences about myself and with others?
A particular spiritual resource and tool of the spiritual life that many do not treasure again, especially in our digital age is writing. On the other hand many of us do not write because of many reasons. For instance, it reveals our dark sides or if you like our limitations. Some people do not write for fear of grammatical blunders and some do not think they can write at all. Again, others like me do not write because when they revisit their previous write-ups, they find a lot of knowledge gaps, shallowness of ideas and some forms of naiveties. Psychologists have discovered that most people think about 60,000 thoughts a day. How many do we remember at the end of the day? Meanwhile we labour to gain energy in other to think, feel and act. So, on a daily basis, we waste a lot of lofty thoughts and brilliant ideas about God, our lives and the world, since we do not write or record them. I wonder what we would have been by now if the Sacred Scriptural writers were not inspired to write the Word of God. What is the Bible? If not the inspired word of God in writing (2Tim. 3:16). When we read the Bible, we read the letters of God to us but when we write our reflections about what we have heard from God, our experiences, encounter with people, we write letters to God.
My goal for this Sunday hints is to point out briefly some of the reasons why writing is essential for the spiritual life. Secondly, to promote the wisdom of the saints that say: “To be convinced of the worth of writing, daily – if only a few words – is to have made a giant stride on the road to sanctity” (Hardon, 2018). There are many reasons why we should rediscover the writing culture in the spiritual life. Before approaching the spiritual implications for writing, psychologically, “By physically writing out your goals on a piece of paper, you have set very special forces into play which will work to bring them into reality … (And) By writing out your goals, you have set up a red flag for your mind, telling it that these thoughts and ideas are far more important than the remaining 59,999 swirling around your mental factory” (Sharma, 2013). Writing for the spiritual life will assist us to discipline our minds, cultivate intellectual humility, record the graces received, cultivate and strengthen our memories, make a moral inventory of our virtues and vices, tame our tongues, improve our art of speaking, and give us the opportunity to share our souls experiences. In spiritual parlance, the art and act of reflective writing from the soul and spirit through the hands is called journal writing.
It is pertinent to note that before the public awareness of journal writing and therapy in 1960 by Dr. Ira Progoff, a psychologist in New York City, journal writing had been a strong spiritual resource of our Christian spiritual tradition. It is important we distinguish it from the conventional dairy writing. Journal writing is the act of writing down thoughts and feelings as they reflect the internal experiences, responses, reactions and perceptions with the aim of attaining deeper understandings of oneself or the issues in one’s life. In the case of diary writing, daily events and happenings are recorded from an exterior point of view. It is just for record purposes. But journal writing concerns our eternal life, our growth and development, our personal integration and a kind of instrument to monitor ourselves on our spiritual journey. More so, journals are not open to everybody as they contain the core secrets of our being. They are usually accessed or opened by our permission. Do not forget we always have our freedom and space to operate but as regulated by love. In addition, we do not type the content of our journals, they are handwritten and they should flow from our entire being. In a sense, what we put down in our journals should flow from our “blood” (body), “thoughts and feelings” (mind), “graces and intimate relationship with God” (soul/spirit). At the long run, the content of our journal writing is about us, it is about you, it is about me and nobody else. So, take it serious especially as we continue our Lenten journey.
Therefore, it is time to rediscovering the power in the pen/biro that we rarely use today, not because of our fault but the conformity to the signs of the New Age.
Today, get a Journal (a good exercise book can serve as an alternative), pen, Bible, a circumcised heart (Deut. 30:6) and begin your journal writing. For those who are already used to it and are on course, please accept my high praises for you and may God grant you the grace of perseverance, Amen.
Fr. John-Mary Atep.