“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him . . . fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out . . . God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:1-2 The Message).
I sunk into the red, overstuffed sofa, cupping a mug of freshly brewed coffee in my hands. Coffee is one of life’s greatest joys, I thought as I opened my journal. Of course, I thought the same thing every morning when I poured a cup of coffee. For more years than I cared to remember, I had found the simple morning ritual of coffee, Bible reading and journaling both comforting and powerful.
In bold letters, I wrote, “My Personal Rule of Life” across the top of the page. While I had decided on the basics years ago–to love God, to love others, and to glorify God through every aspect of my life, I found myself trying to nail down the “every aspect of my life” part, specifically, what it looked like in ordinary, day-to-day existence. I penned the short, to-the-point list below it:
- Define a healthy, sustainable rhythm of life that takes into account my unique design, my purpose and passions, and the things that give me joy for the glory of God.
- Identify and eliminate the things in my life that drain me. Surround myself with people and activities that nourish me and give me life.
- Nurture close, soul-healing relationships with friends who celebrate my authentic self.
- Retreat twice a year to a country setting for reflection, rest, and receiving from God though prayer and study.
Well that took all of 15 minutes. Now what? I thought.
Looking out the window, my eyes rested on the mountains behind the cottage I was renting, and I inhaled deeply as if trying to absorb the strength and stability I saw. I would later realize that although the rural setting of The Inn at Meander Plantation in Orange, Virginia invited rest and reflection, it would take far more than a few journal entries and mountain views to create a meaningful rule of life that worked for me.
Creating a Rule of Life Takes Time
During my time away that weekend, I failed to appreciate just how complex life could be and didn’t understand that it would take time, and many false starts, to create a rule of life that flowed from my God-given design and worked with my life stage and limitations. But the discovery process is part of the fun.
Now, five years later, I have a rule of life that suits me and takes into consideration my unique temperament, strengths, gifts, and life’s purpose. Through many fits and starts, I learned what a contemporary rule of life looks like—at least what it looks like for me.
Introduced by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally, the concept of a rule of life first appeared in A.D. 540. Its purpose was to provide a balance between being and doing, a life of contemplation (prayer) and community (a life of love). In recent years, its popularity has grown as believers are choosing to live the Christian faith counter culturally, ceasing from the continual striving of a life of nonstop noise, production, and technology.
It includes both the rhythms and relationships of life, and evolves over time, as seasons change. If lived well, it offers a wealth of freedom and peace to experience life to the full. But with a scope this broad, it’s bound to take time. I’ve learned not to rush the process and short-circuit the work of God in my life.
Finding My Personal Rule of Life
My Primary Relationships
Since my initial attempt at creating a rule of life during that weekend in Orange, Virginia, then it has taken many forms and gone through many reiterations. After about the fifth revision, I concluded that it is a living document, subject to change based on the needs and preferences of a particular season.
Like the lavender plants in my spring garden, my relationships with my husband and my son and his wife require constant tending. Neglect becomes apparent almost immediately. If I don’t want relationships to wither like the plants I’ve killed over the years, I need to tend to them regularly and with love, whether it’s convenient or not. Intimate relationships do not happen by accident. So I am choosing to be deliberate, arranging my life for life-giving relationships.
See part 2 for the completion of this post.