I most experience God when I am writing to and with him. The practice of Bible journaling was a breath of fresh air for me. It combines my love language with the one who gives me that love.
However, I quickly became overwhelmed with the battle of perfection. You may have felt the same way. I noticed that my Bible wasn’t as full or colorful or picturesque as my fellow Bible journalers. It can be intimidating, which breaks my heart. The reason Bible journaling so resonated with me was because it allowed me to be entirely free and open in how I studied his Word. That is what I wanted. However, it was far too easy to lose that in reaching for perfection.
“God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants us.” -C.S. Lewis
You are not alone
I reached out to followers on Instagram asking them what Bible journaling meant to them and what being authentic in these quiet moments meant to them. I was really shocked by the honesty that a lot of people hadn’t even touched their Bible journal because they felt intimidated! Where do they begin? What do they create? What standard do they live up to? What if they mess up? This breaks my heart, but I feel their fear. Maybe you have that fear, too. But like my friend Lindsay said, “God cares more about the state of our hearts than the way we style our Bibles!” Amen. Listen in close to that, friends.
How do we get back to the art?
First, it is important to understand that your time with God and his Word is already beautiful and powerful. Whatever comes out of those moments is the true art. Bible journaling is another love language in which we can experience those moments, not a means as to measure how spiritual or worthy those moments were. Allowing ourselves to be intentionally free and open in these moments is the key.
Don’t let your quiet time become a show
I follow many accounts and shops that create some of the most beautiful designs and arts in their Bibles. There is no fault in their creations. Not at all! I love them; I cherish them. However, I have personally felt less-than when I start to compare what I have created to what they have, which diminishes both my art and theirs. Which, friends, is so far from what our community of believers should be.
Or, my quiet time has become a show. I stress over how to make a perfect swoop, swirl, letter, or quote and I miss the message entirely. I pull up pictures and accounts and spend more time wondering how I can re-create these beauties more than I do in listening to what God wants me to hear.
I am weak. I fall into this trap of comparison often and hard. If you find yourself here, too, take a step back and take a deep breath. Remember that worshipping through art is about your heart and your time with God.
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O LORD; teach me your decrees” (Psalm 119:11-12).
The biggest lesson
What matters in these pages is not what is physically seen, but what is inside your heart. Listen in close there. God has something he wants you to hear. Even when you are following a study or a sermon, you can still be intentional about what you create. Allow yourself to simply create. Sure, you can look for inspiration, but don’t get so lost in searching for the perfect thing to create that you miss the message.
When you allow yourself to be open to hearing, whatever you create is purposeful and worthy. It is a declaration or those moments in his Word. Whether it is just a scripted word, a painted tree, or a quick doodle, it all matters.
Don’t be intimidated
Stay true to who you are in Christ! Don’t let yourself feel discouraged by how “good” other people’s Bibles look, and don’t spend your quiet time trying to measure up to what you see online, or recreating someone else’s page. God wants you, and he knows authentic worship. He knows where your heart is.
Bible journaling is not about showing off your skill, your style, or how often you make time to journal in your Bible. It’s not about you in that way, but it is about you and your relationship with God, so keep it real.
I do not want to diminish the time and energy some people put into their Bible journaling. This is not to say that they are un-authentic. However, this is not a measure in which to compare yourself. What you create is beautiful. What you create is worthy. When you center your time in the Word around what God wants you to hear, Bible journaling comes alive in whatever form you make it.
Inside my Bible
I mentioned that I try too hard sometimes. When I mess up on a page, spell a word wrong, get the spacing all wrong, or just can’t get in a creative state of mind, I cringe. Then, when I get it all right, create the perfect little page or section, I won’t hesitate to show it off. Here is where I remind myself to step back and breathe and get back to the message.
In complete honesty, my favorite is the coffee stain on the edges of my Bible, but in the moment, I was not so happy. Whether your Bible is full of your children’s scribbles, coffee spills, torn pages, watercolor, or beautiful hand lettering, it is the message that matters.
I currently have a Single Column ESV Journaling Bible. Yellow flowers, hardcover, and engraved, it was a sweet gift from a loved one. It took me awhile to do more than just write in the margins. Again, I was intimidated like most. My previous Bible, a regular, double-column NIV, was covered in notes and postcards, but nothing too crazy. But I loved that Bible because it represented many years of my life where I was just trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian. I was a new believer in high school—minus a couple years of Sunday school as a kid—and I just needed to take it all in. Scribbling as much as I could in those margins was my way of leaving my heart right there in God’s Word. However, this real-deal journaling Bible was a new journey. Just the fact that it is actually called a journaling Bible takes it one step further from my scribbled pages. So, yes, it took me awhile to really allow myself to be free and open in how I journaled his word and created art in those margins. It took time, and that’s okay. Although writing and art has always been a dear love language of mine, this was a new journey I was on and I had to learn to give myself time to be vulnerable in it. You just may need to learn this as well.
Moving through my Bible, though, I use Illustrated Faith pens because I love the way they write, but I also use Sharpie pens and colored pencils. I use stickers and bookmarks and cardstock and movie tickets and stamps and whatever I have in my home. Flowers, letters, you name it.
Something that can really make Bible journaling special is when we take reminders from moments in our life and create a lasting memory in our Bibles. What did that day, that moment, that experience mean to you? Bring it to God, share it alongside his Word.
And for those of you wondering, you don’t need a “Journaling Bible” to Bible journal. Whatever Bible you have, whatever you hold close to your heart on those toughest days, that will do. Then, if you do decide to shift to a new Bible, find the one that speaks to you. Look around, explore the different sizes and styles. There’s no pressure to pick the best or the right one.
Like I said, Bible journaling is another love language in which we get to open our hearts to God. That is all you need. You Bible, God, and your open heart. The rest will follow.
Get crazy. Be unique. Bible journaling is about your voice, your love, your heart. Show that in your margins.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).