Writing and remembering
Someone asked me recently if I ever dreamed of Tom. Off hand I would have answered that I really didn’t. I would have guessed that I’ve only had a couple of dreams of him in the four years he’s been gone. And really, I never dreamed of him when he was alive, so nothing new there. But I’ve been writing to him pretty regularly over the past four years, and when I’m feeling particularly masochistic I have been known to go back and read what I have written. Given, there are tears – but there are also clear indications of healing. And, pertinent to this bit of writing, there are a lot of references to dreams of Tom. Like, maybe twenty or thirty occasions where he appeared in my dreams. My reality is actually a lot different than my remembered impressions.
I’ve been thinking how this relates to faith in Jesus Christ. For Christians, having an experience of spiritual enlightenment or recognizing an answer to a prayer or feeling God’s love are all ways in which our faith in Christ grows. But just like my impressions of my dreams, experiences with the Holy Spirit have a way of slipping away. In the moment, I am sure of the reality of God. But time and life have a way of making me doubt those experiences. Over and over in the scriptures we find the counsel to remember God. The law of Moses was full of actions and clothing and rites all designed to help the children of Israel remember God daily. And my experience with faith makes it clear why God puts such emphasis on remembering. I can’t just have a spiritual encounter with God and then go on my merry way and expect it to stick. I have to remember it and ponder on it and let it change the way I live my life. This is a place where journal writing comes in handy. There have been dark days when I have felt alone and unsure … and how grateful I have been to pull out an old journal and read of some of the times I have felt God’s hand in my life. It has reminded me to trust Him and not lose hope. And just like my experience with dreaming of Tom, I have been surprised to see just how often God reaches out to me and invites me to believe in His Son and His great mercy and strength. When I begin to think that I never have “faith promoting” experiences, a quick scan through my journals reminds me that my reality is very different than that impression.
There are a lot things we can do to grow in faith in Christ – prayer, scripture study, living a Christ-like life – but recording and remembering our spiritual experiences is an important one. In the writing, I articulate what my experience meant and in the re-reading I remember just how God reached out to me.