In biology lab, my professors always required me to "draw what I observed
." That was frustrating and embarrassing. I don't have an artistic bone in my body, and my stick figures often don't even resemble stick people. When Pictionary rolls out at parties, I find my way back to the snack table hoping I can find a conversation to jump into. How in the world was I supposed to "draw" microorganisms or the organs of dissected cats or the reproductive system of a flower? If I had wanted to draw, I would have registered for that nude drawing class across campus in the Art Building.
My disdain for this practice was intense and acute. I imagined that my professors must be finding small ways to fulfill their real dream of being kindergarten teachers. Or that they needed to find some way to legitimize requiring us to purchase those $15.98 quad-ruled lab notebooks with the special water-resistant paper, so they decided picture pages would be a great way to fill them up. Maybe they got tired of reading our hypotheses and methods and thought throwing in a few pictures along the way would make the grading process more enjoyable? Perhaps we were a part of an experiment to determine the artistic limitations of left-brained engineering students? I'm a little slow on the uptake, and I just didn't get it. And I hated it.
When exam time rolled around, however, I was grateful for all those really bad little doodles decorating my lab notebook. Granted, my angiosperm life cycle sketch looked like a 5-year old had drawn it, but I understood why my professors made me do it. When I was forced to draw something, I was forced to look more carefully
. I had to pay greater attention to detail. I had to look at it a little bit longer and notice features, colors, lines, angles and connections that I might not have noticed otherwise. While the drawings and diagrams in the textbook always look cleaner and nicer, they never really helped me identify my specimens during the exam. It was the sloppy, incomplete, dumb looking sketches that I made that helped me identify the stuff on the exam table. In short, biology professors make you draw what you see because when you draw, you see more
I think that's why journaling is so important to our spiritual development. Biology students see more when they are forced to draw what they see. Students of Christ see more when they are forced to write about what they see. When we write what we observe from Scripture, it's harder for us to skip the tough parts. When we write down where we see God at work in our lives, his fingerprints show up in unexpected places. When we make written notes of what we are thankful for, we see blessings in overlooked and unexpected places. When we make a list of our prayer requests, we notice when God answers them.
Journaling helps us recognize and acknowledge the hand of God at work in our lives and thus becomes an act of worship. As we see God more, we are able to praise him more.