How do I want to live so I can be who I want to be? – Ruth Haley Barton
I was somewhat familiar with the concept of having a rule of life. Yet, I first desired to learn more about this rhythm for spiritual formation when I listened to a theologian describe a weekly schedule he shared with his wife at my first spiritual formation retreat.
What he described was enough to wet my appetite.
My heart fluttered and I dreamed of what that might look like in my life. Right now it is still mostly a dream. James K.A. Smith would say that I already, like most people have a weekly liturgy that I follow. It may be intentional or unintentional.
Believe it or not, you may have a liturgy and rhythm by default and you don’t even know it.
St. Benedict first developed the rule of life to help give monks structure around prayer, study and work. Over time as they surrendered their life to this order it developed in them new behaviors and attitudes. This is what was most intriguing to me.
I’ve read Charles Duhigg’s book entitled “The Power of Habit.” It made such a strong impression on me that I led my former church staff through the book and we developed habits for our organization. It was one of the first things that I established in my current ministry vocation.
We determined to practice four organizational habits.
- People first.
- What are we doing to put people first?
- Make it better.
- What are we doing to improve our organization?
- Attitude of gratitude.
- What are we doing to express gratitude?
- Engage those far from God.
- What are we doing to engage those far from God?
When developing spiritual habits Ruth Haley Barton encourages us to “take time to listen to our spiritual practices” and “invite God to show us which have been the most life giving and have resulted in true life change.”
Where did God meet us in our practices? Which have been most powerful in meeting the desires of my heart?
To develop a rule of life we need to first…
Make a plan.
Think of your calendar in smaller segments. Plan out your mornings and evenings. Think of how to plan your days, weeks, months, quarters and years. What new arrangements do you have to make for this plan to work? How can your community help? Recognize that you cannot do this alone. Predict how will this affect your interaction with people? How with this enhance your current relationships?
Write out your plan in pencil.
Know that it is subject to amendments and adjustments and that it may not be realistic. It should fit into the natural rhythms and responsibilities of your day. A daily retreat may not be realistic if you are married, have a job, and/or have small children.
We are all on a journey somewhere. With planning, we can be on a path of spiritual formation that leads us to who we want to be.
“The path to spiritual wholeness lies in my increasingly faithful response to the One whose purpose shapes my path, whose power liberates me from the crippling bondages of my previous journey, and whose transforming presence meets me at every turn in the road.” – Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey
What is it that may interest you in having a rule of life? How could having a rule of life help you to become who you want to be? Please share your comments below.