Reflecting vs. Dwelling

A friend asked me recently, “How often do you think about your diagnosis/cancer journey?”

It’s been 3 years, today, since I was diagnosed.  How often do I think about it?  Often.

There two main reasons for that.  The first reason is quite practical. There are scars on my body from two surgeries that weren’t there before.

Practicality doesn’t necessarily mean mundane.  Reflecting on my scars can be an exercise in worship, because it’s a reminder that God brought me through some difficult times.  Elevation Worship wrote a song a few years ago that deeply affected me the first time I heard it.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Thank You for the scars I bear
They declare that You are my healer
How could I have seen your strength
If You never showed me my weakness?

I was able to see God’s strength in that season of my life because I was brought to weakness.  Seeing my scars allows me to remember that.

Beyond practicality, I reflect on that season of my life so that it’s not wasted.  I want that season to be one of many things God uses to shape and mold me into who He created me to be.  That won’t happen unless I reflect on it.

Reflecting and Remembering.

I think they’re essential ingredients to the Christian life.  All throughout the Old Testament we see the practice of remembering.  The Psalmist will remember the good deeds of the Lord and it will give him strength.  The Israelites will fail to remember God’s provision and it causes them gripe, complain and eventually turn away to false gods.

This is one of the reasons I journal.  It’s a built-in way for me to reflect and remember.  I recount the ways God has been faithful to me in the past, and that practice gives me strength to trust Him in the future.

Reflecting is different than dwelling.  Dwelling on something in the past isn’t always a good thing.  Reflecting on it sets the expectation that things will change because of it.

So today, 3 years after my diagnosis day, I reflect…expecting that my life, way of thinking and behavior is different because of what happened that day.

You can read more about my journey here, here…and here.

Top 3 reasons I Journal (and why you should too)

I was never into journaling.  Maybe it’s because I was never good at it.  Or perhaps, more likely, I had not developed the discipline it takes to sit down each day and write.  However, since developing the habit, I’ll likely never turn back.

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Here are my top 3 reasons why. And I don’t think these benefits only apply to me.  I truly believe everyone should begin journaling in some way or another.

  1. Allows me to process my thoughts.  I don’t really have a template for journaling…but if I did, it would look a lot like what Michael Hyatt blogged about.  When I open my journal and commit some minutes to it, I gain clarity.  It could be a situation at work, home, or in my own mind – but writing down my thoughts allows me to process them in a way unlike anything else.
  2. Allows me to look back & learn from the past. There are specific journals for this – the 5 year journal is one of them.  I don’t use those – I just have a practice of “every-once-in-a-while” I go back and read previous entries.  Reading something I wrote 365 days ago puts most of life into perspective.  I can read what I was praying about…and then see how God answered that prayer.  I can read the things I was worried about…and then see how it worked out in the end.
  3. It disciplines my time with Jesus. This was actually the reason I started journaling, and it has proven over and over to be effective.  Putting pen to paper while spending time with Jesus has helped me in two ways.  First, it allows me to write down my prayers, which helps me stay focused.  Second, it allows me to write down thoughts about Scripture, which helps me engage with the text more.

So, those are my reasons I’ll likely never stop journaling.

Do you journal?  What “top reason” would you add to the list?