I would like to commence by saying a quick, “Preach it, Mother!” Her advice on journaling was spot on . . . and I’d like to just throw out a casual thought that perhaps a pastor’s wife of 35 years who has counseled many a woman through all manner of tragedies may perchance have a perspective on things that is worth listening to. Her list of “things that might get people into trouble” has a lot of years of experience behind it. Quite honestly, sometimes I feel like a pastor and his wife are a bit like the doctors in the ER. They’ve seen the car crashes that come through the door every single Saturday night because people WILL persist in thinking that nothing will go wrong if they try to drive themselves home from the bar. The doctors who have to clean up the mess are a bit more cynical.
Anyway, that is neither here nor there. I frankly felt that I should share, for everyone’s edification, my career in journaling.
It all started when someone, I don’t remember who, gave me a birthday present. I imagine I was probably eight or nine, but I don’t know for sure. The gift was a tiny, green Garfield the Cat diary – probably two inches tall, with a little strap that snapped it shut. I never wrote anything in it – except perhaps my name. It sat in my room for months, untouched. It wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to write in it – I just never did.
Then, one day, some people came over to visit. I don’t remember exactly why, but midway through the afternoon I got cranky at life and began to stew quietly to myself about how I was being unduly harassed by everyone and everything. You know how it is when you’re cranky – everyone in the world is to blame but yourself. Suddenly, in the midst of my mood, I had a flash of inspiration. This here was exactly what that diary had been waiting for all this time. I went and shut myself in my room, opened up my little Garfield the Cat book, and scribbled out a terse little entry that went something like this:
“We have had the Schwartenheimers here all afternoon and I’m completely fed up.”
I did actually say I was fed up. I remember it distinctly, because I was rather impressed with myself for whipping out that little phrase. I’d been reading a lot of Narnia. Clearly I was channeling Eustace.
Anyhow, I snapped that little thought up in the diary and set it back up on my shelf. It actually made me feel better in a horrible smug sort of a way.
Then, about fifteen minutes later, God popped my smugness balloon. Mrs. Schwartzenheimer strolled casually into to my room. She spotted the green Garfield the Cat book sitting up on my shelf, and said, I kid you not, “Oh look! How cute!” She unsnapped it, and opened it up. Of course, it opened straight to the page that had her name engraven upon it. And, of course, she read it. My mom walked in at just that moment, and she said, as she handed her the book, “Nancy – look at this.” Mrs. Schwarzenheimer was very cracked up – I’m fairly certain my mom wasn’t exactly overcome with mirth. However, she was very kind about it, and didn’t rebuke me in front of the lady. I was petrified into a short little statue of mortification, and Mom clearly knew that. But later that evening we had a little chat about why I had been feeling grumpy, and about why it was a terrible idea to chronicle that fact instead of just confessing it.
The thing is, writing it down is NOT the same thing as confessing it. But it can give a sort of counterfeit feeling of relief. It’s not the relief of having your sins washed away, erased, and removed as far as the east is from the west. It’s the relief of having vented and gotten something off your chest – and that’s not the same thing, although it could be mistaken for it.
Long story short, that’s when I learned the lesson to never write anything down you would mind everyone reading. The lesson that sin should be confessed and let go of, not inscribed in a Garfield the Cat diary. The lesson that your sin will always find you out . . . but probably sooner than later if you’ve taken the time to jot it down for safekeeping!