If you know me well enough, you know that I like to keep very close tabs on how I’m feeling. I’m constantly evaluating, reflecting and taking inventory of what is going on in my blender of a brain. Because of this, I am an avid journaler. The only way for me to ensure that everything I’m thinking is figured out and processed is to write my thoughts down in pretty journals. Yes, they must be pretty journals. It doesn’t work as well otherwise. But seriously, thoughts run through my head as fast as Usain Bolt on the track, so being able to put words to what I’m feeling and label my thoughts is crucial to my sanity.
When I get overwhelmed it is usually because so many things are going on in my head, and I haven’t written them down. As a result, I don’t feel grounded because all the thoughts are running loose and they might be forgotten—which would be achingly unsettling given that I wouldn’t have a clear grasp on my headspace. (Like the scene from Spongebob where the office inside in his brain freaks out and starts setting everything on fire.) When I know my feelings are written down and accounted for, I know I don’t have to worry about them anymore.
So fittingly, I have accumulated an impressive stack of journals—and there are few things I love more than going back and reading all my old ones. Sometimes it can be difficult to re-live certain moments, but it is a great way to get some perspective. Plus, there is something so incredibly satisfying about knowing exactly what I was thinking and how I was feeling in a specific moment.
Okay, pause. This blog post wasn’t even supposed to be about my journaling obsession, but somehow I started talking about it to give some context, and then I got carried away. So here we go, here’s the real stuff—buckle up.
I feel like I’ve been learning a lot this summer—about all sorts of things in all sorts of aspects of my life.
In fact, I’ll label this Summer (see what I did there) as the Summer of growing and learning and discovering. All that journal stuff to say that I have been writing down what I’ve been learning. In each area of my life, but especially in my faith, I have been trying to do a specific type of learning. You see, rewind to a conversation I had with a guy in Eugene who I respect a lot. He runs our Young Life College ministry with his sweet wife, and they are some of the coolest people ever. Anyway, he challenged me to know the ‘why’ behind everything I believe.
So that is what I’ve been doing this summer, it’s more than just learning; I have been figuring out the ‘why’.
It sounds obvious. I mean of course you should know why you believe what you believe. But it is easy to know a lot of general things, or a lot of random things, or a lot of things that everyone else says regarding the topic. I don’t want to struggle to put words together and then spew scattered and fractured examples, or unnecessarily specific facts that are irrelevant. What I want to be able to do, what I set out to do this summer, is learn how to fluently express my heart behind what I believe in an articulate and cohesive and wholesome way.
In order to figure out the ‘why’, you have to ask questions. This used to freak me out a bit, and here’s why: because by way of journaling I had already processed and written down everything I knew. It was labeled, it was locked in, and I could reference it if needed. So when all of the sudden I started asking ‘why’, I realized there was so much stuff I actually didn’t understand, and that freaked me out even more. One ‘why’ would lead to another, and another—until I had so many questions that there weren’t enough pretty journals to fit them all.
But the same guy who challenged me to know the ‘why’, lent me a book that says questions are a sign of life. Yeah. It makes complete sense, I know—but I had never thought of it that way before. I was so focused on how anxious it made me feel to not be able to put a finger on what I thought and knew about everything, that I was shutting myself off to so much growth. Asking ‘why’ is a sign of humanity, so if you don’t wonder, you aren’t really living.
Questions and the lack of answers seemed like they would lead me into a huge world of uncertainty that I wanted nothing to do with. What I wanted was comfortability and familiarity—two things asking ‘why’ would not give me. But then I realized that if I was willing to inch my toes a little over the edge into unknown—if I was willing to set up a tent outside my comfort zone, I could learn so much more, which would in turn be so much better than the place I was before.
I used to think asking questions would cause me to feel more empty, because there would be things I wouldn’t know or understand. But what I’ve learned is that asking questions has actually made me feel more full—full of liberty and discovery, and full of what it means to be human. Seeking answers and digging deeper has lead me to a more trustworthy and firm and knowledgable place. I believe that we were intended to live life to the full, and I believe that asking ‘why’ is a step in the right direction.
So just like that guy challenged me, I challenge you. Know the ‘why’ behind everything you believe. Don’t just think things because you’ve grown up thinking them, or because they’re safe and comfortable and easy. Think them because you’ve done your research, you’ve listened, you’ve tested the waters, and you’re confident that you’ve landed on the answer. It’s not always a quick process, I am sure to be asking questions for the rest of my life, but it is worth it.
And then after you’ve asked yourself, ask your friends, ‘why’? Force those around you to have an opinion—a full understanding of what they think.
And finally, please ask me as well. Ask me what I believe and why I believe it. Ask me why I do what I do, and make me have an answer—or make me go figure it out. Trust me, you’ll be doing me a favor. Whether we know each other well or not, please ask, because I want to tell.