It’s not the big events that really shape our lives. It’s the “dailies” that determine if we will be prepared for what life brings. Too often we don’t pay attention to the quality and choices of our daily actions and interactions. Then we hear a piece of good advice or an insight and say, “Wow, I need to remember that every day!” – and promptly forget it. Then one day we run across that advice in some notes we made and say, “Oh, yeah… I sure do wish I had remembered that.”
In spiritual formation, the “memory trick” for keeping wise counsel at the forefront of our consciousness is called a “Rule of Life.” A “rule” in this context is a set of precepts, principles, resolutions, practices, and sayings compiled to guide thoughts, words and deeds. Perhaps the most well-known rule is The Rule of St. Benedict or The Benedictine Rule, developed by Benedict of Nursia (who lived from approximately 480-550 AD) that he used to govern the life of his monastic order.
Many who’ve shaped the course of history developed a rule of life to shape their days. Martin Luther King Jr. was intentional about his spiritual and mental focus. His rule of life included:
Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.
Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
Seek to perform regular service for others and the world.
When Pope John XXIII (who served from 1958 to his death in 1963) was a seminary student, he included the following elements in his rule:
Fifteen minutes of silent prayer upon rising in the morning.
Fifteen minutes of spiritual reading.
Before bed, a general examination of conscience followed by confession; then identifying issues for the next morning’s prayer.
Arranging the hours of the day to make this rule possible; setting aside specific time for prayer, study, recreation, and sleep.
Making a habit of turning the mind to God in prayer.
[Both “Rules” are cited from Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 139, 140.]
So here’s the fun part: what ideas would really help you be the person you know God is calling you to be? Start your list. Don’t worry about being profound, nor about being “too corny or cheesy.” This is your list, for your eyes only, to help you keep the most important things the most important things.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).