Yesterday, my ten-year-old son and I finished reading the book Where the Red Fern Grows. Obviously there were tears. Side note that the book serves as a 1961 reminder of all the things you’re NOT supposed to say to a child who has experienced loss, though a classic nonetheless. I had been reading it aloud to Henry for a few weeks and upon finishing, the thought came that I don’t ever not want to be reading to or with my kids. What we’re reading now is one of the sweetest markers of childhood and is a delightful way to spend time together no matter the age.
Reading with my children has become what you’d call a rule of life.
Last week, I unveiled a guide I created to help you return thoughtfully to the world in 2021. It’s full of good questions about what you’re looking forward to post-pandemic and what you haven’t missed. The final prompt encourages you to write a Rule of Life—a list of non negotiables to serve as guideposts on your journey.
Though a “rule” for anything may feel rigid and legalistic, the concept of a Rule of Life is more about the patterns we adopt which ultimately lead to freedom. The idea of a Rule of Life has its origins in 6th Century Christian monastic communities. It was, and for many individuals and churches, still is rooted in Scripture so that the gospel may become a “practical reality in daily life.” -St Benedict
The word rule comes from the Latin regula, a feminine noun meaning ‘rhythm, regularity of pattern, recognizable standard’ and also ‘to mark with lines.’ The concept of a Rule of Life wasn’t designed around the rules and regulations of today. Rather the origin of the term, when St Benedict and monastic community coined it, was about guidance and signposts along the way.
Writing a Rule of Life is a beautiful exercise to help you explore your relationship to God, self and others. It isn’t a New Year’s resolution or a means to an end, except the end that has you reoriented and centered to your life. There are a few beautiful guides, like this one from Gospel Coalition and this workbook from Practicing the Way that go deep into the history of the Rule of Life and ways to organize your own.
My Rule of Life looks closely at my daily rhythms as well as my annual priorities. Some elements of my list include:
- Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Always be reading a book for pleasure.
- Eat family dinners around the table five nights a week.
- Create a line item in our budget for gifts and generosity to those we know and don’t know.
- Attend weekly church gatherings, in person whenever possible.
- Discuss purchases over $200 before buying.
- Move my body in a purposeful way six days a week.
- Prioritize an annual adventure trip with my nuclear family.
- Parent my screens: no tech time for the first hour of waking and in the last half hour before sleep.
If you haven’t downloaded my guide to returning thoughtfully to the world in 2021, you can do it today and then take some time this week to be intentional with your Rule of Life. Sit with it for a bit. Let it serve as a guide, a signpost, a banister to hold you steady as you move forward.
This year has so much to give back to all of us. Let’s walk into it wisely, friend.
I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the swarming locust, the young locust, the destroying locust, and the devouring locust.Joel 2:25