I have been thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and I have realized that for me they tend to be reactionary to specific desires and many times what is currently happening. For example, I always want to lose the weight I gained during the holidays and a little bit more. I make a resolution/goal to lose weight and I do usually lose the holiday gain but not more. I found that there is another way that does not need to include resolutions and goals. The Rule of Life is a document of simple statements that create a pattern of life to live by. So a New Year’s resolution concerning weight loss for me would be something like to lose 5 pounds by summer, whereas corresponding life rules would be something like “eat small portions” and “exercise daily”. You can see that resolutions and life rules can go hand-in-hand. The Rule of Life provides an order and a foundation to proceed with the resolution if needed. And if the Rule of Life is working well there is really no need for any resolutions.
So what is the purpose for creating a Rule of Life? For me, it is to better serve God, and that includes keeping myself healthy, having healthy relationships, being available for the opportunities God gives me, and making use of some of the spiritual disciplines. I have not formally set down and created a list of life rules, but informally I have some rules I follow. Some rules, like daily scripture reading, prayer many times a day, and weekly worship with other Christians, I have faithfully followed for most of my life. I do not like the term ‘rules’, I would rather call them habits or guides. Keeping these habits or guides have made my life better, and better prepared me to serve my God. Doing them does not save me or make me better than others, because God has done all the saving. At my church Immanuel we have the “Marks of Discipleship” (scroll down in the link to the marks), which are a somewhat similar concept to the Rule of Life.
About 15 years ago, three words came to me over a period of a year. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me those words. The first word that came to me was “Intentional”. I need to be intentional in what I do. The second word was “Discipline”. It takes discipline to be intentional. And the third word was “Relationships”. “People are important”, said my college pastor to me way back then, but it has taken over 40 years for that to fully sink in. Those three words have helped me in my life to better serve God. Those three words can be made into life rules.
- Be intentional in my actions.
- Be disciplined with my intentions.
- Make my relationships a priority.
- Always recognize that “people are important” (to add a fourth one, quoting my college pastor).
Am I going to make some rules or habits for life? I am thinking about it. Looking at the above two paragraphs you can see I already have several unofficial habits of life that help guide me and make my life more intentional. I see this as a way to counteract some of the bad cultural forces in the world today. I need to be intentional instead of reactive to today’s culture. The goal is to keep my life centered on God. He is my foundation. Note, a Rule of Life is not something one can whip up in an hour or two, rather one should spend some time to prayerfully consider how God has gifted you, what opportunities there are, and how to best grow to become more like Jesus. Take some time to do it right. I am thinking of doing that. Some categories I have decided to look at are
- Spiritual, Relationship with God
- (Other) Relationships
- Healthy Living
- Service Opportunities
This list of categories for me is a starting point. Your Rule of Life does not have to be long with many details (e.g. the Rule of St. Benedict), but it can be short and creative (e.g. this and this). I suspect mine will be a page or two.
I think a Rule of Life document should define how you interact with people and what activities you will always engage in. It is a little late to get this done by January 1 because it should take some thought and deliberation, but it is something to consider doing and not something to put it off.
PS I pray during this Christmas season, you remember (and have remembered) that Jesus came to earth and was born so that he could bring us back into relationship with God. Christmas is primarily about Jesus and not about gifts and family though those are nice too.