We all have rules like "Do your best." "Never give up." "Never say never." "Just do it." These mottos tether us to certain behaviors and attitudes so we can, in the words of another rule, "be all we can be." They help us live toward what we most want. Developing a "rule for life" is a way of being intentional about the personal rhythms and guidelines that shape our days.
One of the early Christian rules for life is found in Acts 2:42. Here we find that believers "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This rule shaped their lives and hearts in the circumstances they were in. It acknowledged the impossibility of becoming like Christ through effort alone. The rule offered disciplines that made space to attend to the supernatural presence of the Trinity at work in and among them.
A Rule for Life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). Each rule, or rhythm, is a way to partner with God for the transformation only he can bring. Rules keep our lives from devolving into unintended chaos. They aren’t a burdensome list of do’s and don’ts, enumerating everything you might do in a day. Life-giving rules are a brief and realistic scaffold of disciplines that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others" (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).
To develop your own Rule for Life. Start by answering these questions. From the answers begin to write your Rule for Life:
1. When and where do you feel closest to God? How do you experience God’s love for you?
a. Pay attention to experiences, practices and relationships that draw you toward God.
b. Are there particular practices that open you to God?
2. What is most important to you?
a. What gives you a sense of security and self-worth?
b. What would people who know you best say it’s like to live and work with you?
c. What/Who receives the most attention in your life? (Your job? spouse? Family? Friends? Hobby?)
3. What practices suit your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythms and cycles? (prayer, Bible reading, silence, contemplative walks, retreats, etc)
a. What limitations are built into your life at this moment?
b. What longings remain steady throughout?
c. What responsibilities and rhythms change with various seasons?
4. Where do you want to change?
a. Where do you feel powerless to change?
b. What can you ask the Holy Spirit to help you do through grace what you cannot do through effort alone?
5. Which disciplines can you choose that arise from your desire for God’s transforming work and that suit the limits and realities of your life? Begin your practice.
*The above explanation and questions are found in Adele Calhoun's book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. Though "spiritual discipline" combined with the word "handbook" may seem a bit dry and boring, I've found this book to be a personal favorite. Calhoun's descriptions of various disciplines are clear and concise, not to mention very practical and applicable. This is a great resource for someone wanting to explore what it looks like to integrating spiritual disciplines into their daily rhythm of life.