Signposts: Daily Devotions

Wednesday, May 14

Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
—Job 19:23

Knowing ourselves is a lifelong process, one that we never complete. Consequently, it is not uncommon to feel daunted by the task. Where do we begin? For those who are open to using writing as a tool of self-discovery, keeping a journal can be a good first step.

Like any spiritual discipline, journaling is most valuable when it is done on a regular basis. At the same time, it is crucial that it not become a “chore”; when it turns into a burden, the practice can be self-defeating, wearing on our souls. Rather than letting ourselves become bogged down in chronology, for example—producing a “laundry list” of unrelated events—we would do well to find an angle or a focus for our work.

One method is to create a timeline, noting the major events in our life and elaborating on them as we go. What were the central occurrences of our childhood? Perhaps we achieved something that altered our image of ourselves, such as winning an award in sports or doing well in a difficult class.

For many children and young adults, a particular individual—a teacher who recognizes a gift, a pastor who takes their questions seriously, a grandparent who makes them feel loved—can represent a turning point or a time of significant growth. Losses, too, are important markers in our life. Whether it’s a job or a relationship, a friend or parent, the things and people we lose make an impact that can usually be seen best in hindsight.

When we sit down to create such a timeline, we should remember that it’s not how many events and people we list that matters, but how deeply we explore those we do. How did they shape our identity? How did they influence the image we have of God? If we “let our life speak,” as writer Parker Palmer has put it, we may hear not only our own heart, but the voice of the Holy as well.


O God, when I feel daunted by the prospect of ever knowing myself or you, help me to see where the markers in my life are leading me.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.