The Journals That Changed My Life

The Journals That Changed My Life

Every person in our lives influences us – whether it is an influence we recognize or not. Some people have a small influence, some people have a strong influence, and some people shake our lives forever.

For me, that was Jim Elliot.

I met him the year I turned sixteen. I spent a lot of time with him that year. He made me laugh, he challenged the way that I spent my time, and he lived his life in a way that made me want to live differently. He was strong in his faith, bold in his declaration of it, and passionately in love with Christ. He inspired me.

Wait, I forgot to tell you – he died over 40 years before I was born.

Shortly after Jim Elliot’s death at the hands of the men he was trying to reach with the gospel, his wife Elisabeth wrote Shadow of the Almighty. In this beautifully written biography, Elisabeth included excerpts of many of her husband’s letters and journals. Shadow of the Almighty had a profound impact on me.

What hit me most about the legacy Jim Elliot left in his writings was not so much the writing itself, but the heart, life, and dreams behind it. Don’t get me wrong – he had a rich vocabulary and a gift for powerful expression and humorous description – but that wasn’t all.

When you read his journals, you see a heart laid wide open before the Lord. He wasn’t afraid to proclaim the gospel and its implications. He didn’t shrink from confronting his peers about the condition of their souls.

Yet neither did he shrink from admitting his own faults and weaknesses. Some excerpts from the journals – “Oh, that I were not so empty-handed… I don’t love, I don’t feel, I don’t understand, I can only believe.” “Difficulty in getting anything at all from the Word. No fervency in prayer.” “Deep sense of uselessness this morning.”

Wait, what??? I’m not the only one who feels like this at times? Even the strongest and most passionate of Christians struggle?

Yes.

When I journal, I sometimes shrink from recording my struggles. I don’t always want to be honest with myself on paper. I start sweating when I think about the possibility of people cracking open my journal some day and getting a taste of 100% pure, raw, unfiltered Laurel. It’s scary.

But in reality, it’s not about me.

It’s about making myself available to God so He can display His power and goodness in me. If honesty in my journal entries may one day accomplish this by strengthening and encouraging others, I’ll swallow my pride and make myself available to God.

‘Cause that’s my purpose.

Have you made it yours?

Why I Journal

Why I Journal

I received my first journal at the tender age of eight… and I’ve been journaling more or less consistently ever since.

It’s become a habit I never want to break.

Let me tell you why.

First of all, spilling my thoughts onto a page helps me to think more clearly. Something about seeing the crazy mess inside my brain laid out in scrawling, tangible words helps me to see things a bit more clearly. It enables me to describe my circumstances, ponderings, and emotions in a way that makes me see the beauty in the pain, the humor in the frustration, and the purpose in the chaos.

Think of it as spring cleaning for the brain.

Second, it’s amazing to look back on over a decade of my journals and remember the hilarious stories, the frustrations and difficulties, and all the precious memories I might have forgotten. Especially as a writer, all of those bizarre family stories will come in handy someday as story inspiration!

Most of all, however, I love to be reminded through those journals of how God has worked in my life. What He has taught me. How He has grown me. How He has proved Himself powerful, wise, and faithful. And good. Always good. It’s my prayer that one day I’ll be able to pass my journals on to my children and grandchildren as a tribute to His goodness in loving and daily transforming someone as flawed and imperfect as me.

Do you keep a journal? What do you love about journaling?