Bible journaling, help or hindrance?
Bible journaling. They tell me it’s a thing, and I can’t help wondering why trends always become crazes before I ever even know they exist!
Maybe I’m just out of the loop.
For others in the same boat, let me shed some light. Granted, my exposure to this new practice is limited, but as I understand it, Bible journaling is where Bible study and scrapbooking meet. According to saralaughed.com, a blog that covers the topic extensively, Bible journaling is “a creative process of making art in your Bible to connect with scripture and with God,” and lots of people are doing it.
To be clear, this kind of Bible journaling goes beyond the traditional journaling most of us are familiar with and practice as a regular part of Bible study, taking/making notes in Bible margins, underlining, highlighting, circling, etc. …way beyond!
So, how do you go about Bible journaling?
Well, according to saralaughed.com, you first pick a verse, one “that you know well and that means a lot to you.” Next, you “reflect on the verse,” “think about the parts of the verse that mean something to (you),” and “figure out how (you) can represent them in art.” Then, you “sketch it out with a pencil,” “outline it with pen,” and “fill it in with color.”
Although the margins provided in Bibles specifically manufactured to accommodate traditional journaling practices are large enough to accommodate new Bible journaling designs of good size, most Bible journaling posts that I’ve seen on Pinterest and on social media take up half or all of the Bible page on which they appear. Some even incorporate clear velum and 3D stickers.
Honestly, many are absolutely beautiful!
Now, my initial gut reaction to the Bible journaling craze was, What in the world?!?!?! and I’m not sure why. I’ve never been one to shy away from writing in my Bible—although I do regret the month or so that I used a sparkly gel pen, which, by the way, is NOT heat resistant and will continue to smear for years after application!! As a matter of fact, the artist in me was quick to raise her hand and say, “Ooo, I want to try that!” sure that she could make something just as beautiful as the next person.
I felt a check in my spirit, though, so I’ve been giving the matter some prayerful thought, and while I can see a few benefits of Bible journaling, I have a few concerns that just won’t go away.
Knowing some of the folks who Bible journal as well as I know them, I’m sure that many folks who Bible journal do so in response to the Scripture they read, allowing God to determine if, when, what, and how they will journal. I’m sure that their motives are God-centered. I’m sure that they allow the Holy Spirit to do a life-changing work in their lives before they even begin to concern themselves with what they will draw or create. I’m sure that they journal to remember significant encounters with God and chronicle His activity in their lives. I’m sure that they spend their journaling time praying to, meditating on, and worshipping God.
However, I’m concerned that some people who Bible journal might do just the opposite, reading Scripture in response to their desire to journal rather than the other way around—something God can still use, nonetheless—looking for and choosing verses that lend themselves to their craft rather than expecting and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring about true life change. I’m concerned that some might even Bible journal to elevate or promote self rather than glorify God’s activity in their lives, focusing more on the quality and content of what they produce than the message they are illustrating, ultimately worshipping a created thing rather than the Creator Himself. Most of all, I’m concerned that I would fall in the second category if I were to participate.
Bible journaling. Man, it’s a tough call, and I’m glad it’s not my job to make it for anyone else.
I will say this, though. If you think that Bible journaling is a suitable substitute for or equivalent to actual Bible study, it’s not. Bible journaling is to Bible study what scrapbooking is to family vacation, and while it might be a good entry point to the discipline of Bible study for someone who has never read or studied Scripture before, a good way for someone who has gotten out of the habit of reading their Bible to get back into the habit, or a good way for a serious student of Scripture to celebrate what they are learning, it could, just as easily, become a distraction and prevent people from digging deeper and experiencing true communication with God through the written Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe I’m overthinking it.
Still, I’d rather err on the side of caution in this or any matter than look back later and realize I’d melted down something holy and used it to craft my own golden calf…so, until I’m sure that Bible journaling would be a stepping stool rather than a stumbling block to my own walk with Christ, my inner artist will just have to wait.