In Acts chapter 20, Luke records for us some words of farewell that Paul gave to the elders of the church in Ephesus. In a whole list of things, he urged them to remember, he remarks in verse 28, “Keep watch over yourselves and the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”
Usually when that verse is preached, the emphasis is on the second phrase regarding their leadership role. But notice that it starts with the injunction to “keep watch over yourselves…”
He is urging them to be on their guard and attend to the needs of their own spiritual walk. It is a personal warning or caution given right before he adds the lofty pastoral advice. It is a reminder to “cultivate the world within.” And it’s a good caution for us this week too.
As we plow into this new year, it’s important that we stay focused on “the main thing.” And it takes some personal zeal to keep watch over yourself.
One of the spiritual disciplines that can help us in that pursuit is journaling. Such an effort is challenging. It requires “a conscious, unswerving commitment to honesty with one’s self, the first requirement for growth in self-understanding.” (Elizabeth O’Conner)
But I would suggest that it is so worth the effort.
Journaling is not a literary exercise. It is for our eyes only. It is the traveling notes of a pilgrim. Some of those notes may be scattered thoughts or plaintive cries, but if recorded regularly they will give an accurate depiction of God’s grace along the way.
Journaling can increase our capacity for other spiritual disciplines like meditation and prayer. It can support an effort to fast before the Lord as we record our thoughts and impressions of His generosity to us. It helps quiet our minds and shift our focus off the trivial details of daily living.
Bottom line, it’s tough to keep watch over our own spiritual growth. We can’t step up to a door jamb and mark our progress with a pencil line on the frame. But it is so encouraging to note progress towards spiritual goals, and a dog-eared journal can help us do just that.
So maybe this week is a great time to purchase a moleskin notebook, find your favorite pen, grab a cup of coffee and begin.
“Lord, as we reflect, question and record, let us be honest about ourselves. Help us ‘keep watch’ with the help of your Spirit.”