Tossing Old Journals + Other Radical Practices: Life Lessons From Rob Bell

Rob Bell has been a constant companion with me during every phase of my life.

In my 20s, my bold Bible-toting days, he ushered me out onto the trampoline and challenged me to bounce up and down, to maintain a flexible faith instead of constructing a brick wall with my supposed truth.

Years later, he unveiled some of my tradition’s most toxic beliefs and proposed we could all afford to be intentional about our expansion and evolution, that perhaps this God-being was more loving and inclusive than we’d ever dreamed. At the time, I wasn’t ready, my whole life centered around who was “in” and who was “out” of The Kingdom.

In the aloneness of my thoughts, I couldn’t ignore the nagging questions. I quivered at the thought of veering off the narrow path I had been raised to walk.

But in my 30s, a childlike curiosity took over and I wandered into new and unfamiliar lands, which I’d secretly hoped had always existed.

I didn’t know of many people still seeking, most had cemented the foundation of their beliefs in certain answers and considered the seekers disillusioned and in need of salvation.

But there was Rob Bell.

He looked as though he laughed in the face of the unknown, marking each season as another adventure.

He made it look fun to wander from “the fold”, glide down the “slippery slope”, and lead an interesting life full of twists and turns.

In 2022, I spent 3 hours with him, via zoom, in a coaching session. It felt like a continuation of the conversation I’d been having with him in my head throughout the years. It confirmed what I’d felt coming through all of his books and teaching- life was meant to be explored so why worry about having it all figured it out right now, if ever?

Not a week goes by when I don’t find myself referencing some timeless principle I’ve picked up from Rob Bell. Here are five more of my favorites:  

1. “It’s good to be me.”

A phrase I hear him say in many podcasts is to “enjoy the experience” of being in this body, my body, something no one on the planet will ever know or appreciate or fully understand.

2. Remember my real work.

Rob often describes with unmistakable delight his regular rhythms- when he picks his daughter up from school, walks his dog around the neighborhood, surfs in the mornings, or rides his bike to the Saturday market. These are not interruptions to his work, they are his work.

3. Let questions lead.

On a recent podcast, the host asked him – if he were to stand in front of a crowd of eager listeners and deliver one final message what would he say? His response– I would ask them questions.

And from what I can tell, this is exactly how he’s chosen to live- intrigued by the questions and where they lead.

4. Embrace a surfer mindset.

I realize how high-strung I am in the presence of Rob Bell’s loose and light-hearted surfer mentality. We all need a guru in our lives who wakes every morning and walks towards the sea with a surfboard under his arm. I doubt there will ever be a time when I don’t need the reminder to head toward the waves and have fun in them as they pummel me below the surface one after another.

5. Toss out old journals.

Rob Bell once mentioned he tosses his old journals into the trash. He makes it a practice to move on, to evolve. I gasped at the mention of such a horrific act. My journals legitimize my journey and yet I can’t deny they weigh me down too. Heck, we’ve hauled them across oceans and continents, only to stick them on a high shelf in the garage. With the voice of Rob Bell in my head, I finally tossed every single one into the recycling bin.

Since then, I’ve since made it a sacred practice, a reminder to start fresh as often as I need to. What’s worthy of remembering will live beyond the tattered pages of a $10 journal. And now I have space to create newness once again.

Who has been a consistent voice and teacher throughout your life?

What practices have you adopted from them? Share one below!

Whoever it is, give them credit and appreciation today!

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