Adopting A “Rule of Life”
Kenneth Boa, in his book, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation states, “we have bought the illusion that we can be like Christ without imitating his spirituality. If we wish to be like our Master, we must imitate his practice; if we believe he knew how to live, we must seek the grace to live like him.” Furthermore, Boa pulls no punches in stating that it is
absurd to think that we could excel at any sport such as golf or tennis without investing the needed time, training, and practice. But when it comes to living the Christian life, we suppose that we are doing well if we attend church and open a Bible once or twice a week. If believers expended the same time and energy cultivating their spiritual lives as they are willing to invest in becoming reasonably skillful at any sport or hobby, the world would look with wonder at the power of the body of Christ. We desire to know Christ more deeply, but we shun the lifestyle that would make it happen.
Boa’s words struck the heart of this researcher and pastor as he continues,
There is no shortcut to spiritual formation…Scripture encourages us to continually press on toward the goal and to reach forward to what lies ahead so that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of us (Philippians 3: 12-14). This requires a life-long commitment to the disciplines that Jesus, the apostles, and godly followers of the Way have practiced through the centuries. None of the people whose spiritual vitality we have admired regarded these disciplines as optional, and it would be naïve to suppose that we are history’s first exceptions.
The phrase “rule of life” comes from “the rule that governed each religious order in the Roman Catholic Church. Among other matters, it described a pattern of life, a communal spirituality that came to distinguish a particular order from others.” The most famous rule was the Rule of St. Benedict composed by Benedict of Nursia for his monastery around AD 540.
Benedict’s rule dealt with everything from times for prayer, meals and sleep, to how one was to relate to the world outside the abbey. St. Benedict believed that when “we awaken to our life with God, our spiritual senses come back to life. But this awakening must follow a process guided by the sources of the spiritual life,” including scripture, the writings of saints, self-examination, active engagement in the community, and cultivating humility.
Following Easter Sunday, I sat down with my wife and we wrote out a “rule” that we would attempt to follow over a ten-week period. Harold Miller’s, Finding A Personal Rule of Life, was invaluable in giving suggestions for writing one’s own “rule.”
Our “rule” included weeks of reading and practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation (especially Lecto Divina), silence, solitude, fasting and vigil keeping. Our “rule” called for specific periods of time; for example, “Will attempt to pray together 20-30 minutes, twice a day, and individually 10-15 minutes, twice a day, beginning each time of prayer with a Psalm.” The hope is that such intentionality will push us to develop new habits, becoming closer to Christ as we practice “gazing at the Son,” as we practice drinking “deep draughts of God.”
Rev. Drew M. Christian