I've been trying to keep a prayer journal recently. Not only does the practice of writing in longhand provide a reprieve from the hours I typically spend facing a keyboard and monitor, I find it helps to keep my thoughts focused.
I've always admired folks who have journaled throughout their lifetimes, and as I contemplate (finally) writing a book, I now wish I were one of them.
However, I had an unfortunate "Harriet the Spy" kind of experience as a girl. I began writing my thoughts in a red leatherette-bound book, embossed with "My Diary" in gold flake. I poured out all my thoughts and dreams as eloquently as a 10-year old girl could manage, relying on the gold lock and tiny key to keep my secrets safe.
I professed my undying love for David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), and my inherent dislike for Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran), who was clearly a bad match for Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio).
Along the way, I must have also expressed some adolescent displeasure with my mom. And she knew something I did not -- A bobby-pin worked just as effectively as the little gold key. After being chastised for what I had written, I never applied my private thoughts to paper again.
I would be in college before I wrote creatively again, I'd be 30 before I wrote anything professionally.
I share that depressing chestnut to say: Tracy keeping a prayer journal is a Really Big Deal.
Six weeks later, I'm realizing it also is serving as a process of self-discovery, and a reflection on my relationship with God. Most of my letters to God are filled with thoughts of praise, hope and thankfulness for His provision.
Last month I asked His intervention in a situation which was troubling me. Exasperated, all I knew was that only God could repair and heal the relationship. This week I flipped back to the beginning of my diary-keeping, and was amazed to realize that my prayer had been answered.
My request had been answered so subtly, I had forgotten the prayer entirely, forgotten the sense of despair I felt when I first wrote it down. Here it was, proof that God is actively working in my life -- He hears my prayers, and -- what do you know? -- He answers them too!
I wrote in the margin, "Prayer answered!" and scribbled the date below.
Then my hand moved again and I outed my own disbelief, right there in the margins.
Life's disappointments have led me to a state where I tend to "hope for the best, prepare for the worst," and my hand took the subconscious cue: After writing "!" (my praise) I added "?" (my doubt).
Immediately a bit of a verse from Matthew 9 came to mind, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (v. 24)
I had not grown in my faith as much as I thought. Perhaps I believed, for just a moment, in a Band-Aid kind of God, who could provide a temporary -- but not lasting -- fix. I've been 'faith-ing" but it hasn't been of the single-minded, zealous and unwavering variety. I'm not giving in completely, I trust, but not fully, not really.
I know I am not alone in this. Jesus rebuked his disciples for their 'little faith' repeatedly. That one always amazes me -- they were there, they saw Him, lived with Him for three years, and yet they often got the whole faith thing wrong.
Sometimes faith is fickle, limited by our fear. It can also grow. I know that I am inadequate in my own strength -- but I am fully adequate in Christ.
Lord, thank you for revealing myself to me. I trust.
No more question marks.