Have you ever created grand resolutions only to watch February chew them up and spit them out? I have!
My friends, there’s a better way!
Forget New Year’s Resolutions, and create a Rule of Life. For centuries, the church has taught and used a rule of life for individuals and communities.
What is a Rule of Life?
In The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Pete Scazzero defines it like this:
The term Rule of Life has its linguistic roots in an ancient Greek word that means ‘trellis’… it is a support structure that helps us to grow up and abide in Christ. This, in turn, enables our lives to thrive spiritually and our leadership to be abundantly fruitful.
A rule of life helps us wrestle with the chaos of demands, determine what’s important, and live a life of flourishing.
Where to Begin
Who do you want to be? Many have heard you can be whoever you want to be. Then life and cynicism suffocate our dreams with a weighted, wet blanket.
While the idealism of “you can do whatever you want with your life” is not the most helpful hot take, there’s something profound about the question — Who do you want to be?
When creating a rule of life, this question is the best place to start.
A rule of life is a powerful tool that helps us define our life, knowing when to say yes and no to opportunities. But before we start making commitments, we have to examine desire.
What Do You Want?
Jesus repeatedly asked this question (Matthew 20:21,23; Mark 10:36, 51; Luke 18:41). If Jesus asked you, what would you say?
When attempting to bring definition to our life, we must begin with desire.
- What kind of a person do I want to be?
- What do I want out of life?
- What do I want to do for Jesus?
- What do I value?
Some church traditions teach that our desires are always selfish and questionable. However, one of St. Ignatius’ excellent insights is that God uses our desires to lead us in life.
Dreaming about the Future
Before crafting (or reworking) your rule of life, prayerfully dream about your life with Jesus.
Spend time reflecting with Jesus on all the people you respect.
- What is it about them that is attractive to me?
- What specific character traits or virtues stand out?
- Out of all the people I respect, do I see any themes?
- Have a conversation with Jesus about this.
Spend time asking Jesus to help you imagine the type of person you want to become.
- What character traits or decisions would I regret?
- What character traits or decisions would make me proud?
- How do I want my relationships to look?
- What do I want to do vocationally?
- How do I want to be remembered after I’m gone?
- Have a conversation with Jesus, asking him to shape your desires to become the kind of person He destined you to become (Ephesians 2:10).
With a clear picture in your mind, it’s time to choose practices that will help you become the person you desire.
How to Create a Rule of Life
First, write these four categories on a piece of paper.
- Communion – This encompasses anything that allows you to connect relationally with Jesus. Typically, spiritual practices associated with Scripture and prayer.
- Rest – Enjoyment best sums up this category. What helps you enjoy God and His good gifts?
- Community – Your commitment to friends, family, and church.
- Work – Your paid-work goals, non-paid work goals, and service at church go here.
Second, consider the rhythms of various practices.
Third, choose essential practices for this season.
- What do I need right now to experience Jesus?
- What activities put a smile on my face and energize me?
- What does love for neighbor look like right now?
Fourth, keep it simple; be intentional.
Start small, pray, and prioritize. Pick rhythms of life that will counterbalance your unhealthy propensities.
For example, my back chronically aches from scoliosis. If I do specific stretches, I feel good. Neglect them; I hurt. A rule of life is similar. Do what helps you become spiritually and emotionally healthy.
A rule of life is a trellis to help you do the essential work of abiding in Jesus so that you flourish in life.