Those three words still echo in my mind.
I was sitting in training, having just started working in a youth psychiatric facility. The segment of the training was about the necessity of documentation, or charting for short.
You see, we were the eyes and ears of the psychiatrists. These young people were here to receive treatment to resolve some very serious issues. Without documentation of their daily lives, charting by those of us assigned to supervise and participate in their daily lives, the doctors were left in the dark.
Another phrase that echoes in my mind, “If you don’t chart it, it didn’t happen.” Talking about what happened was great. A verbal testimony of the latest events on the unit was necessary, BUT the written documentation is what justified the treatment and the child remaining on the unit or not.
The written chart became a tool for me, too. The young people that were my responsibility on a particular shift were more than names and numbers. They had a story. We were encouraged to read their history, learn their background and read the charting of the events during their residency as a means of becoming aware of the trends in their behavior, etc.
We have a short memory. Our attention span is short. Our contemporary culture and media have trained us to think in segments that last 30 seconds to five minutes. Many of us cannot give a reliable verbal report of what happened yesterday, much less what took place over months and years of our spiritual life. Much is lost to us over time. That is one of the main reasons a written record, a journal, is important.
Israel was led astray, abandoned God and sought to worship idols. Over the years, they often forgot the deliverance afforded them by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They abandoned the festivals that memorialized God’s ongoing deliverance. They abandoned the temple and the Law. In the Old Testament, we see this repeated more often than a contemporary worship leader repeats a chorus in worship.
What rescued them? What called them back? Read 2 Kings 22 and 23. During the reign of Josiah, the long-forgotten book of the Law was rediscovered in the temple. When it was read in his presence, he tore his robes in grief and repentance before God. Then the book was read in the presence of all the people and the covenant was restored. What called them back? What caused them to remember and be restored. It was the written word.
In times of suffering, we need written reminders of God’s provision and faithfulness. We find these in the Bible, to be sure. We can also find them in our journal, our personal story, and hear God’s reminder.
In times of testing and persecution, we need written reminders of God’s comfort and encouragement. We find these in the Bible. to be sure. We can also find them in our journal, our personal story, and hear God’s reminder.
Last night, a member of my small group shared a powerful testimony of the value of a journal. She had received a set of journals after the death of a relative. The record of a faith journey, over many years, has become a rich treasure of comfort and inspiration. It inspired her to begin keeping her own journal, which God has used in her life and the lives of others.
Like this member of my small group, I have a treasure that was passed down from a deceased relative. It is a satchel full of “important” papers from my Great-grandfather, John Wesley St. John. He was a pastor, long ago. Within this satchel is a collection of his sermons, all of them type-written. In the margins and among the lines, there are hand-scrawled notes and comments. I periodically pull these out and read them, not because they are particularly awe-inspiring in their depth and exegetical prowess. No, I read them because they are part of a very personal story of a faithful God who continues to call His servants to proclaim the Living Word. I find inspiration in the way he wrestled with a particular text and attempted to faithfully preach it to the people to whom God had called him. I’m grateful that these have been preserved and have come into my hands. One day, I hope they will be passed down to another.
The written word. It’s an amazing gift that has been given to us.
This life we have been given. It, too, is a gracious gift. It is precious and meant to be shared, now and in the future.
Write your story. God will use it. Write it down!