It is amazing to me how certain days in our lives can be burned into our memory - infused into our souls - so that even some of the smallest details are recalled with ease. February 3, 1997 is one of those days for me. That was the day that journaling became an intimate form of prayer in my life.
Two days prior to the 3rd, most of my family members had rushed out to Omaha to spend time with my youngest brother, who was dying from cancer. The Mother Superior of his community had called us, recognizing the spiritual battle of a soul who was days away from going Home, telling us that time was short, and we should call the family together to come and say our good-byes.
I could write an entire book about the experiences of those few days themselves, but for the sake of the subject at hand, we will stick to the focus of why the amazing world of journaling opened wide for me during that time. Suffice it to day, any of my family members that were able to spend those 72 hours with us before and after my brother's death were deeply, permanently affected in a mystical way by the experience.
We were given the privilege of staying at the house where all of the brothers and priests lived during that 72 hours, as most of them had moved down the street into other temporary housing for our sake.
This not only gave us 24x7 access to be at my brother's bedside, but we were additionally blessed by 24x7 access to a private chapel, as well. It was here that I spent a good deal of time, when I wasn't sitting at my brother's bedside, or joining the community for meals, etc. It was in this little chapel, the evening after his death, that I finally gave the Lord my undivided attention, allowing Him to speak for as long as He wanted, and say whatever was on His heart.
My brother died at 3:10 on the morning of February 3rd, and all afternoon I sensed the Lord tugging at me, as if to say, "I want to be here for you, beloved. Come, sit with Me." I found a hundred other distractions, trying to avoid the sorrow that wanted to gush from my heart. I wanted to be curled up in the fetal position, exhausted from the two previous days, grieving the loss of my brother - but I knew He was waiting for me. It was an invitation I couldn't resist.
Guided by one of the three priests in the community, I discussed my desire to journal and the joy of sharing my brother's journaling with him. As a spring board to get me started, he suggested using a familiar scripture passage from the Gospel of John, Chapter 4 - writing down the most anointed lines from the famous scene of the Samaritan woman at the well. As I sat in the chapel alone with the Lord in Exposition on the altar before me, it was as if the flood gates of His Spirit opened up. I specifically remember sensing an overwhelming joy from His heart as if He was saying, "Finally - you are here..."
For almost half an hour He poured out His heart, steeping my soul in words of consolation and truth, as my hand wrote what I 'heard' without stopping to make sense of it all. At the end of almost 30 minutes He lovingly encouraged me to put down the pen, put down the notebook, and just allow myself to be absorbed in His presence.
The same priest from the community was available to review the journal later that evening. His reaction was one of absolute delight and confirmation when he finished reading that afternoon's entry. He seemed almost as amazed as I was, reading how the Lord confirmed, consoled and embraced me.
Here was the gift I had waited so long to open. Here was the treasure He had been waiting so long to offer me - and now His gift was finally received....