Skip Resolutions in 2019 — Make a Rule of Life

A Rule of Life is “an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do.

The Rule is a way to “begin with the end in mind”—to envision a sustainable, thriving walk with the Lord, in his Word, in prayer, in community, in our family, and in our work, then work backward to a set of commitments. It’s not about detailed to-do lists that must be maintained. A Rule of Life instead gives you the opportunity to prayerfully discern what roles and responsibilities the Lord has given you, and to organize your life in the manner most conducive to spiritual growth and depth in him.

Take heed, and keep your soul diligently,
lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen,
and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. — 
Deuteronomy 4:9 (RSV)

I used to love making New Year’s resolutions—in fact, I loved making them far more than I enjoyed keeping them. But about eight years ago, I was introduced to the old tradition of creating a Rule of Life, and since then, it has proved to be a much better use of time and energy.

A Rule of Life contains spiritual, relational, and vocational rhythms needed to sustain the life in Christ we’ve been called to, and it doesn’t change much year in and year out. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Rule or hasn’t created one, January 1 provides the perfect time to establish your own Rule of Life.

This year, skip resolutions—make a Rule of Life instead.

Why Create a Rule of Life?

Every Christian has a well-established pattern of living, whether it’s an intentionally developed set of commitments or an unstated set of values and practices, like praying before meals and going to church twice a month. But many of us aren’t as deliberate with our spiritual development as we are with our time and priority management at work, and our lives and relationships suffer as a result.

Amid our busy schedules, we’re constantly juggling relationships and responsibilities and often feel like we’re dropping more balls than we’re keeping in the air. When we lack a consistent and thoughtful way of doing life well, we will end up distracted and overwhelmed by life, and our spiritual and emotional growth will plateau. Few of us want to take this approach to life, but it just seems to happen. We wind up:

  • Scattered: Our schedule is full but doesn’t reflect our purpose and priorities.
  • Hurried: We’re busier than we want to be, but don’t know what to change.
  • Reactive: It seems we’re never in charge, always responding to demands.
  • Exhausted: We end each day weary and discouraged, unsure if we’ve spent it well.

My experience as a pastor has shown me that many of my friends and church members aren’t undone by poor theology or a lack of biblical information. Instead, we often fail to grow spiritually because we haven’t planned and made space for a deep, abiding fellowship with God.

We often fail to grow spiritually because we haven’t planned and made space for a deep, abiding fellowship with God.

The lack of spiritual planning may be rooted in a lukewarm heart toward Christ, but at other times, we genuinely want to go deeper with God but don’t know how to make time and space to simply be with him and gain spiritual strength for each day’s challenges.

What Is a Rule of Life?

A Rule of Life is “an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do. . . . The starting point and foundation of any Rule is a desire to be with God and to love him” (Scazzero, 196).

The Rule is a way to “begin with the end in mind”—to envision a sustainable, thriving walk with the Lord, in his Word, in prayer, in community, in our family, and in our work, then work backward to a set of commitments. It’s not about detailed to-do lists that must be maintained. A Rule of Life instead gives you the opportunity to prayerfully discern what roles and responsibilities the Lord has given you, and to organize your life in the manner most conducive to spiritual growth and depth in him.

The Rule of Life has a rich history in Christian tradition. The Rule has been traced back to the early monastic movement in the fourth century, and the most well-known Rule was written by Benedict in the sixth century. The Rule of Saint Benedict has influenced Eastern and Western Christians for roughly 1,500 years, and many Reformers and evangelical patriarchs have practiced similar spiritual routines without the title. Lately, many Christian traditions have returned to the Rule as an antidote to our Western culture’s lonely and fragmented lives. (Yes, Christians were doing 12 Rules for Life way before it was cool.)

Five Basic Elements of a Rule

When helping others create a Rule of Life, I suggest five basic elements: Relationship with God, Personal Life/Health, Relationships, Church, and Work.

The goal of life is to dwell in deep communion with Christ and to be firmly anchored in our union with him. But how and when and where we practice these blessed realities will depend greatly on many factors, including our life stage, work, and physical capacity. If you have multiple jobs or small children, your Rule should reflect those responsibilities. In the words of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

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