“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me, and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; Lead me in the everlasting way.” – Psalm 139:23-24
Hypocrisy is not an accusation that’s easily accepted. But I stand guilty as accused. If that weren’t enough, my accuser correctly pointed to pride as the root of my hypocrisy. Ouch.
This discussion – if you can call it that – took place as I prepared for a recent small group lesson on the spiritual discipline of journaling. My accuser had me alone, had my complete attention, and had me dead to rights.
Unfortunately, my accuser was me. I had nowhere to run.
My rather significant discovery and resulting self-discussion took place while preparing for a recent small group lesson on the spiritual discipline of journaling. I was preparing to teach journaling all the while making mental excuses as to why I didn’t practice it.
I looked at time as an excuse. I looked at lack of personal interest as an excuse. I looked at a lack of biblical command as an excuse.
My excuses failed to carry any weight. I have been given as many hours each day as anyone. I have just as much time as Jim Elliott, as George Whitefield, as David Brainard, as George Muller, and as Jonathan Edwards. Their journals fueled their personal growth and have inspired generations of Christians to a life of godliness. Time is no excuse. How I use my time is a choice.
Using my lack of personal interest as an excuse also failed. The idea and purpose behind spiritual journaling is to record and reflect on how and where God has worked in your life. A spiritual journal is a tool, not a diary. There’s no question that I could benefit from a tool that helps me understand God better, capture my reflections on scripture, help me process my thoughts and feelings, and remember all that He has done for me. My personal interest certainly should include such things as these. Another excuse gone.
Well, I told myself, God didn’t command spiritual journaling in the Bible. That’s true, but He certainly demonstrated its value in the Bible. Many of the psalms, perhaps the whole book of Lamentations, and countless other passages throughout the Bible are demonstrative of thoughts journaled as reflections on present circumstances, contemplations on scripture, and observations of God’s character and work.
Confronted with the reality of my excuses being hypocritical, I realized I was just scratching the surface of my insincerity. My hypocrisy was far deeper still.
My excuses were, in fact, a cover for the truth: I simply didn’t want my thoughts written out. I again began to rationalize that I didn’t want others – even my own family – to perhaps see my thoughts after my death.
There was some logic there, but then, the whole truth finally hit me: I wasn’t concerned about others, it was me … I didn’t want to see my own thoughts written out. I didn’t want to confess – to admit – to myself, or to anyone else including God, my true thoughts.
Rather than facing the truth of my weak and sinful nature, it was easier to gloss over them and ignore their reality. Writing out the truth made it impossible to ignore.
How hypocritical. How totally prideful. My excuses were wrapped up in, indeed, rooted in pride. I thank God for showing this ugly truth to me.
The discipline of spiritual journaling may remain a struggle for me, but it is now my prayer that I be willing to confront my pride by putting thoughts and observations out for personal review and reflection. I pray that I spend time earnestly examining how God has proved Himself throughout my life. I pray that I be courageous enough to journal knowing that my family, my children, even my grandchildren may see the inner me. I pray that they may they take comfort in, and learn from, my spiritual journey just as I love to learn from those that gone before me.
I pray that, like the Psalmist, I can proactively petition God to “Search me … and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; Lead me in the everlasting way.”