Establishing a Rule of Life
A rule of life is simply committing to a particular way of life. It was used in monastic communities and convents going all the way back to the early church. The most famous is the rule of life put in place by Saint Benedict in the 6th century. Each community established a pattern of daily habits specific to their institution. It was a means to live out their calling individually and as part of a community.
There are usually private and communal components. Each member was expected to live according to the rule as part of the community. In creating and adhering to the rule of life, they were committing to a life of accountability for their own spiritual formation before others and before God.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure that you understand that developing a rule of life is not a means to earn God’s favor. It is not a means to earn salvation. It is not a means to get God to do what we want him to do. A rule of life doesn’t make God love us. He already does. A rule of life should flow out of us as a response to God’s love for us. It should be a response to his grace and love, not a means to earn it.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. – Titus 3:3-8
With that being said, a rule of life is an ancient practice that can seem pretty foreign to us. Most of us aren’t part of a monastic community so we might wonder if this is a valuable experience. I’d argue that there is tremendous value in creating one because it helps us think through who we want to be, how we want to live, and most importantly, how God wants us to live. A rule of life helps us govern how we interact with others. It will help us sort through priorities and keep us from being overwhelmed by things that we can’t fit into our schedule. It will help create more space in our lives for the presence of God. It helps bring order and freedom to live as God calls us.
A rule of life often includes a commitment to prayer for self and others, scripture reading, service, worship, as well as the other spiritual disciplines. It may include how you spend your sabbath, how you spend your money or a commitment to self-care through healthy eating and exercise. You may choose to include committing to quality time with family, friends, neighbors, or a mentor.
Here are some things you might consider in crafting your own rule of life.
Start small and develop good habits. Lasting change usually occurs by establishing good habits. It tends to occur slowly over a long period of time. Be willing to take the time.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you create it. Listen. Be obedient.
If you are part of a small group (Sunday school class, accountability group, Bible study, prayer group), consider crafting a rule of life together.
The rule should evolve over time as you grow in your faith. I recommend revisiting it every 6 months to a year to see if there is something that needs to be adjusted.
Consider creating a rule of life for your family. They don’t have to be massive lists of things to do. It can be something as simple as committing to spending a few minutes each day as a family praying for one another and reading the Bible.
Write it down someplace that you can review it regularly to hold yourself accountable.
Explore how others have crafted a rule of life. Here is a great resource to help you explore creating a rule of life along with examples that others folks have created for themselves. Use as much or as little as makes sense to you with where you are at.