My leadership coach once told me, “Evan, the fact that you journal regularly, and that you actively return to your old journal entries, is the least Enneagram Seven thing you do!”
Because Sevens have such a hard time living in the moment, journaling allows me to take my thoughts about the future or the past and bring them into the present, and in doing so, my “someday” thoughts become anchored in the reality of my now. Another valuable process for me is to return to my journals and mark the progress God has brought me through. In doing so the journey and the journal come together and the inescapable by product is praise!
I’m inviting you into some intimate and vulnerable space, as I reflect on a journal entry from February, 18, 2009. A quick check of timeanddate.com duration calculator, reveals there are 4,875 days between that day and the date I’m writing this post, which breaks down to 13 years, 4 months, 7 days. What were you doing in early 2009? I was at a church leadership conference in Phoenix, leading a workshop, while also sitting in a session by American theologian and futurist Leonard Sweet. In his session, he spoke of putting Psalm 90:12 into practice.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Ps 90:12 NIV
The next morning, I penned the following in my journal:
- Pay focused attention to the day, hour, moment at hand.
- If I’m going to number my days, if I practice this, what would I learn, do or think differently?
- Number days =
- Living in this moment
- Focusing on each person
- Pouring into each task
- Making every day count
- … that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
- If I gained a heart of wisdom, what would I do, think or feel differently?
- I would know from God that my day would be blessed for being in His will.
- Am I to decide or do I ask God, “how do I make today count?
- Both – I can ask and I can look to see what Jesus did and follow him. Decide to follow.
The following morning, February 19, 2009, I committed in my journal, the following numbering of days:
- At 44 years of age, I have approximately spent 16,060 days of life.
- 18 years were before college – that’s 6,570 days.
- College was 1,460
- I’ve been married 7,665
- It’s been 2,190 days since I launched my ministry venture.
- I’ve been a dad 5,840 days.
- 5,840 days since I accepted Christ (I’m just now seeing that’s the same number of days since I became a dad… I don’t recall that timing… hmmmm?)
At this point, I begin counting in the future:
- There are 2,920 days until Blaine (my son) goes to college.
- 1,642 until Hanna (middle child) goes to college.
- 912 until Bailey (oldest child) goes to college.
- I’ll be 75 in 11,315 days.
- Today is 1 day. There is an urgency to do today well.
I’ve done this practice a number of times since then. It is always fascinating to look back, and think of the large number of days between one life event and some future or past date. And as I return to these various “day counting” journal pages, I gain new understanding, new insight, new wisdom and I see the timeline of my life from different perspectives.
Take for example, that in February 2009, I was 11,315 days to my 75th birthday. Having just celebrated my 58th birthday this week, I ran that calculation again, and discovered I’m now just 6,210 days from that milestone (God willing and taking into account James 4:13). How do I see that milestone differently now that I’m about half way there from that 2009 writing?
I really encourage you to try this exercise and take some time doing it. For some, you may get melancholy as you think about how much time you have left in some particular season of life. For others, there may be a recognition that you’ve come a long way. And yet others, my discover a date on the horizon that’s much closer than you thought.
An important step in this process is to ask God, “as I look at this list of life events and counted days, what do you want me to know, or think, about my life, about you God, about your plans for me… Lord, I’m listening.” And then listen.
On February 19, 2009, I sensed the Lord tell me:
- Get your chores done and come see what the Lord has made.
- Be ready.
- Share what you have learned.
- Watch my sunsets.
- Bring your bible.
- Be with Me.
In my new work designing and facilitating ministry team retreats, this is a powerful individual and group experience I plan to incorporate into some of those retreats.
If you give this practice a go, I’d love to hear about your experience. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would be honored to hear from you.