Developing a 'Rule of Life' in the New Year

By Holly Packiam

'What story has God called me to live out and what life rhythms will help me to enter and embody this story?'

As each year comes to a close, my husband and I set aside two or three days to get away to pray and plan for the upcoming year. Our time way was a bit shorter this year than in previous year, but nonetheless, we got some praying and planning accomplished! One of my favorite parts of the retreat is the opportunity to revisit my 'Rule of Life'.

A simple description of a 'Rule of Life' is a pattern of practices which center us on Christ and help us love others well. Sometimes the word 'rule' has a negative connotation and for those of you who don't identify as 'rule followers' may want to stop reading now. But the word 'rule' is from the Latin 'regula', which is about a pattern not a law. The Rule of Life is not a new idea, but one developed by Christian monastic communities dating back to the 6th century. The most well-known rule was created by St. Benedict. The intent was to give the community a model for freedom, a path towards connection to the love of God.

I've realized as I get to know myself better, that I highly value freedom. I am drawn to being involved in projects and jobs where I am given a large amount of freedom to develop a vision and mission and to see it come to fruition in the way I most see fit. On the flip side, I've also realized that I actually need daily rhythms and structure to get the things accomplished in life I desire to. So, I actually try to create an intentional daily rhythm within the structure of each day so I can work for the Lord with all He has given me. I am prone to wander and daydream, so the Rule of Life has been a grace-empowered way for me to follow the Lord in the repetitive demands that life throws my way. 

You may be wondering how this works. My husband and I have a friend, Rich Villodas,  pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York who writes and teaches about the Rule of Life on a regular basis. We have been encouraged by his articulation of it. 

A Rule of life can encompass four broad areas of your life: Work, Rest, Prayer, & Relationships.

Here are some suggestions from Rich on how to start your own Rule of life. (If you want to hear more from Rich, click HERE to reach him on Twitter.

Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight (e.g. people, places, activities). Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don't censor yourself. Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!  

Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ. This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively - such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.

Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impacting your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)

Step 4
Fill in the Rule of Life worksheet.  

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Here are some additional questions that may help in looking at each specific area on the worksheet.

Work - What are the gifts, passions, and burdens within that God wants you to express for the blessing of others?

Rest - What are the practices of self-care you need in this season of life to support you on your journey?

Prayer - What are the spiritual disciplines you need to anchor you in a life with God?

Relationships - What core relationships do you need in this season of life to support you on your journey? 

Step 5 - Share your Rule with someone as a means of helping you utilize it to order your life in the way of Jesus.

I encourage you to give this exercise a try.  I hope you'll be encouraged by pursuing these rhythms as I have been. Happy New Year!