Since 1985 I have kept notebooks and journals to record personal thoughts, make notes, list needs to be remembered in prayer, and offer reflections on everything from the weather to a new idea picked up in a book. For the better part of a decade I have also kept a “garden journal” where I jot observation of the goings and comings of my back yard. There I note how things are growing (or not), what is blooming and when, and what mammals, birds or reptiles are on the move. At the church office I keep a journal that was given to me when I left for seminary. It is record book of baptisms, marriages and funerals (thanks Dede Maddox for keeping that one up to date!).
For no particular reason, I will occasionally take one of those old notebooks from the shelf and read snatches from my past. Some inclusions are pithy and simplistic and quite frankly embarrassing to read. I am thinking to myself, “I cannot believe I wrote that…thought that…how naïve!” Yet it is part of my past. Some entries list the names of great people whom I heard preach, teach or lecture; many of which have returned to the earth from which they were created. My personal journals include thoughts and struggles as well as joys and hopes. My old notebooks and journals are simple reminders of where I have been – good and bad, memorable and forgettable. In the end they are just pieces of paper that will one day come to nothing.
No doubt you are familiar with the saying, “Life is an open book,” and I suppose in many ways this is true. Each waking moment is its own blank page waiting for our mark as well as the marks left by others. What I am discovering is that what will remain is not what I record on paper, but the impression I leave on others. I hope what lives on will be the love I have for my wife and my boys and my family and not my failures, shortcomings and mistakes. I hope too to leave behind a legacy of love for others – my neighbor, the stranger, and even my enemies.
Life is an open book, and I am writing the pages. One day God will write the ending and the final word will be grace. God’s one word will be the only word that really matters. May it be the word found throughout my pages – and yours too.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me…(Psalm 139:16)
Kept in the firm grip of grace,