We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome…. But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.
-Prologue, Rule of St. Benedict
We live in a manic age and in internet time. There is always something screaming for our attention. Cell phones mean that we are reachable at any moment in the day, by voice, text, or email. The internet has created a web of information that has become so large as to be almost useless or at least overwhelming.
It has never been more difficult to find a manageable rhythm of life, especially for those engaged in ministry. And so to those of us caught up into this whirlwind existence, the immensely sane words of Saint Benedict seem like a draught of cool water: We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.
Nothing harsh nor burdensome. This not the way many of us would describe our life, our schedule, those commitments we have made to the work, family, church, friends, etc. Consequently, there’s a lot of wisdom in trying to order our lives in such a way as to give appropriate attention to each of these spheres and, ultimately, ordering our life so as to grow in Godliness.
Through the ages, Christians have used a rule of life as a personal compass to order their life for growth.
A rule is simply a pattern or rhythm of life (including spiritual disciplines) that is helpful in allowing us to grow as followers of Christ that is unique to each individual. A good rule should be realistic – this has to be something that is manageable – and, take personality, gifts and temperament into consideration.
If rule seems a little arcane or legalistic you could call it a “curriculum in Christlikeness” (Willard) or a game plan for spiritual growth.
There are three major sections to a life rule:
- Self-assessment – evaluate your life as a follower of Christ. What are your besetting sins? Where are you stuck? What challenges to Christian maturity does your particular stage or season of life present?
- Outline of practices – make a list of the spiritual disciplines you will practice and include an explanation of how those disciplines relate to your self-assessment. How do they address the particular sins or unhealthy patterns you’re dealing with. Make sure that your selection of practices balances head, hands, and heart (thoughts, actions, and affections) and has both inward and corporate disciplines.
- Source of accountability – with whom will you discuss your progress in following this rule of life? Some choose a pastor, spiritual director, friend or spouse.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30).
- You can find instruction on how to develop a personal rule here.
- Benson, A Good Life.
- Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.
- Thompson, Soul Feast.