Have you ever felt self-conscious about your notes in a journaling Bible?
I started making notes on the first chapter of Matthew this past Saturday, underlining names and lines that stood out and jotting down thoughts as I considered the text. I quickly began to fill up the page with ink as one idea led to another one and as closer readings yielded new findings. I realized, however, that nothing I was writing was really new. Each idea reflected lessons and insights from past studies, each note more memory than discovery. I initially felt a bit discouraged by this. After years of study, part of me expects more freshness and originality in my thinking. But I think such expectations reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose of writing.
The truth is that much of what I write, both in my personal reflections and on this blog, is not new. I re-articulate truths to remind myself (and others who read my writing) of oft-forgotten aspects of reality. I write to reflect on principles to keep them from becoming commonplace to my eyes and ears, expressing ideas with pen and paper that I might think through them afresh. I write to cement the truths of God’s word in my mind and in my heart that these truths, by God’s grace, may begin to work themselves out in practice. Writing, in a way, waters the seeds I pray will grow to produce fruit in my life.
Psalm 103 captures the idea here. In this psalm, David calls his soul to worship, reminding himself of God’s justice, provision, and salvation. He highlights the character of God while also considering the place of humanity before such a God. With every verse, David articulates truth, ultimately leading him to call others alongside him in worship of God.
Similarly, we who write work with ancient truths. Our job is not so much to speak what has never been spoken as it is to continue speaking of what has always been and what always will be. While we who know God are always growing in our knowledge of him, leading at times to fresh descriptions or to more precise definitions, we nonetheless still work from the foundation of God’s revelation.
As you consider writing about the Lord, whether in a journal or in a blog post or in a paper or in a letter or in a tweet, be encouraged. You need not wait until you’ve discovered some hitherto unknown insight about theology to write about God and his work. You need not be novel to be meaningful. If you seek to know the Lord better or to make him known through writing, then write what you know. Remind yourself of the ancient truths. Reflect upon the revealed word with faith and with fear. And trust that God can use your humble words to deepen your understanding and to serve your neighbors well.
Thanks to John Massey for reading over this post prior to its posting and offering his thoughts on it.