We are all living by a rule of life whether intentionally or unintentionally.
How do we choose our “best yeses” in order to create space for God to do His transforming work within us?
“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. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” —Romans 12:1-2: (The Message)
What is a Rule of Life?
- Saint Benedict: Saint Benedict was born to privilege in a small Italian village in 540 A.D. He was raised in a wealthy Roman home in which he was taught to value the family and service to the community in which he lived. He chose to radically change his lifestyle by leaving his life of comfort to live in a narrow 10 foot deep cave where he prayerfully sorted out what it means to live a Christian life in a pagan world.
While in the cave, Saint Benedict developed a “rule of life” that he shared with monks who were living in community. He believed they were to order their days simply around three key elements of their life in God: prayer, study and work.
His simple rule of life consisted of a pattern of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that were regular and routine and intended to produce a certain quality of life and character. The backbone of his rule was to live a life of prayer in contemplation and a life of love in community.
- The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia: Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. His book, Crafting a Rule of Life, was inspired by Benedict’s desire to humbly listen to God and to wait on Him to inform our hearts and order our steps rather than following our own self-centered ideas.
He challenges followers of Christ, to formulate a Holy-Spirit-empowered rule of life that is humbly fulfilled for Christ’s glory. Jesus is our model as He lived a life balanced with being attentive to His Father and to His daily life. He lived in community with His disciples, where Jesus modeled loving accountability.
Stephen explains, “Your personal rule of life is a holistic description of the Spirit-empowered rhythms and relationships that create, redeem, sustain, and transform the life God invites you to humbly fulfill for Christ’s glory. It allows us to clarify our deepest values, our most important relationships, our most authentic hopes and dreams, our most meaningful work, our highest priorities. It allows us to live with intention and purpose in the present moment.” (pg. 14, Crafting a Rule of Life)
- Ruth Haley Barton: Ruth is a spiritual director and author of spiritual formation books. She is the founding president of the Transforming Center. Her book, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation includes an entire chapter concerning establishing a Rule of Life.
Ruth prefers the language of rhythm to rule.…
She says, “An effective rhythm of spiritual practices will be very personal. No two individuals will have exactly the same rhythm, because no two people are alike.
Your practices will take into account your personality, your spiritual type, your season of life, the sin patterns you are contending with, the places where you know God is trying to stretch you.” (pg. 148, Sacred Rhythms)
Why Have a Rule of Life?
- We are all living by an unwritten personal rule of life that we are following, some with great clarity, others unknowingly. It is our hope that through prayerful consideration, we can determine a rule that more closely matches the heartbeat of God.
- Without a defined rule of life, Macchia compares us to a wild, untamed grape vine that will produce some fruit, but probably won’t be as abundant as it could be. Instead, we may become more vulnerable to things that threaten our spiritual vitality. However, those who are intentionally reflective, prayerful and attentively responsive are like cultivated vines. “Growing on a trellis (a rule of life) and cultivated toward maturity, they become spiritually formed. The trellis curbs our tendency to wander and supports our rather frail attempts to be nurtured spiritually. Our lives will produce an abundance of fruit for the glory of God. Mature vines are cultivated to produce the best fruit.”
- Through developing a R.O.L. or maintaining consistent patterns of sacred rhythms, we are choosing to be intentional in creating space for God to do His work of spiritual formation and transformation to align ourselves more fully with His will, His word, and His design of who He created us to be.
Framing your Rule of Life
Who am I?
First we must consider our unique and God given identity. As children of God, each one of us is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21) We are His beloved daughters, uniquely designed and gifted for deeper relationship with Him and for His kingdom purposes.
Prayerfully consider, examine and journal about:
- Your roles: What are my primary relationships? (Psalm 51:10)
- Your gifts: What are my God-given gifts, talents and temperament? (Romans 12:3-8)
- Your desires: What are my God-honoring deepest longings of the heart and core values? (Psalm 37:
- Your vision: What is the intentional passion God has planted in me, what is God calling me to that is fueled by this passion? (1 Samuel 3:10)
- Your service: Where and with whom am I currently investing myself in service to others? (Philippians 3:10-14)
Forming Your Rule of Life
Prayerfully consider, examine, and journal about your priorities in the following areas:
- Time: What are your spiritual priorities? :Example: scripture, lectio divina, prayer, silence, solitude, Sabbath rest, examen, soul care.
- Trust: What are your relational priorities? prayerfully ask the Lord to lead you to the relationships we are called to deepen, support, encourage, and come along side.
- Temple: What are your physical priorities? Example: exercise, nutrition, sleep, rest, recreation, health.
- Treasures: What are your financial priorities? Prayerfully release your earthly possessions into God’s hands, seek to conform to the image of Christ, and become generous like Him—for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Recommended read: Revolution in Generosity by Wesley K. Willmer, Editor)
- Talent: What are your missional priorities? Where and with whom are you currently investing yourself? Where and with whom do you desire in the future to invest yourself? Is your current investment of service in alignment with your personal mission statement?
Putting it Together
Take your journal entries and prepare your Rhythm of Life using illustrations, charts, drawings, poetry, a list, etc for recording a Holy Spirit led, deeply personal Rule of Life you wish to uphold.
Keep accountable with your R.O.L. within a trusted community of believers, i.e.: church, ministry, study group, etc.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.”
Macchia says: “Sharing our stories helps us clarify the intentions of our hearts toward the fulfillment of his divine will. A small circle of friends also reminds us of the presence, power and protection of the Holy Spirit. Confiding in one another instills a sense of hope for the future as children who are dearly loved by their Father.”
“Cease the continual striving of a life of nonstop technology, noise and activity. Stop looking exclusively to others’ ideas of how you are to live as a Christian. Instead, begin to listen to God with an attentive, reflective and discerning heart. In the context of your spiritual community, take the necessary time to discover afresh his invitation to the abundant life. This journey of personal discovery is sure to be life transforming for you and all whose path you gracefully cross” (Crafting a Rule of Life, Stephen Macchia, pg. 19).
“Lord, I honor you today as the cornerstone of my life and the joy of my heart. I want to seek your mind on how best to understand your personal rule of life for me. So, as I meditate on your Word, sit reflectively and creatively with the exercises before me, I ask for you to guide, protect and multiply the work of my hands and the prayers of my heart for the sake of your name, the expansion of your kingdom and the enrichment of my life in you, dear God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen” (Crafting a Rule of Life, Stephen Macchia, pg. 20) .