Four Questions to Build a Rule of Life

Four Questions to Build a Rule of Life March 21, 2024

Love Is the Model

The Rule of Life is a supportive resource that can enrich, challenge, and renew our rhythm of being.  It originated with St. Benedict, an Italian monk who both founded monasteries and wrote the Rule of Monasteries in 529AD.  This Rule was meant for the shared life of monks, but the concept has been adapted for individuals by many organizations.

This model from the Gospel Coalition teaches a Rule of Life stemming from our relationship to God, Self, Others, Church, and Work.

This model from Renovare uses the teachings of Richard Foster to ground a Rule of Life in characteristics of Christ.

I was privileged to attend an Advent retreat in December, where my bishop described her Rule of Life grounded in the framework of the Shema.  This is the central Jewish prayer that Jesus references when he was asked what the greatest commandment was.

‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Mark 12:29-31

Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength became the format for our Rule of Life.  If that sounds like a lot, then we need to assess what “all” means.  It cannot simply mean doing more or trying harder.  All means “whole”.   How do we love with our whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength?

Four Questions to Build a Rule of Life

  1. Can you name the brokenness in your heart?  This may reveal which healing practices are needed for you to love with a heart that is whole and undivided.
  2. Can you identify the ways in which your soul is hiding or afraid?  This might reveal what is hindering you from baring your whole soul to God or others.
  3. Are you willing to look for obstacles or blindspots in your own perspective?  This may reveal assumptions, fears, or roadblocks that hinder us from loving with our whole mind.
  4. How is your body in need of non-judgmental loving attention?  If we hate our wounds, then we will hate the wounded.  This may reveal something about how you view God, yourself, and others.

These questions invite us to consider our wholeness, and what might be the hindrances to our wholeness and wellness.  A Rule of Life isn’t just the way that we directly love God and others, it also includes the practices that enable us to love.

For many people, going to therapy or seeing a spiritual director is a prerequisite practice that helps us to pursue wholeness of mind.  For others, a good night’s sleep can be the first step toward loving with all of our strength.

We cannot pour from an empty cup.  Even if serving and giving is fulfilling, something precedes that action to enable, prepare, or free us to do it.

A Renewal of Boundaries

Another way of assessing where we need supportive practices is to look at where we are burning out.  When trying to love with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, which one sounds the most exhausting?  That might be an area in which you are doing more, but need to take a step back.

A Rule of Life can include actions to omit, or boundaries to strengthen.  Some people choose to stop watching the news on TV, and receive it in print form instead.  What is something you could remove from your life to promote wholeness?

A Rule of Life can and should change as we grow and change.  Howard Thurman describes the spiritual life as being like water that can look like a channel, a reservoir, or even a swamp if we’re not intentional about filling our cup and having an outlet for service.

Franciscan monkWhat is promoting wholeness in your life, filling and empowering you to love with your whole self?

To read more posts, visit my column here.  Check out my writing in “Soul Food: Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership”, or listen to me read a portion of my writing for the podcast Read, Pray, Write.

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