A Rule of Life

Friday, July 14, 2017
A Rule of Life

Christian monastic communities, since the days of St. Benedict, have regulated their lives together through the use of a monastic rule, a guide to living together with each other and with God.  Those rules, properly called a rule of life or regulam vitae, explain in practical terms the lived patterns of seeking to be child of God alongside others.  While the rule of each community became a distinctive marker of various monastic traditions (Benedictine, Franciscan, Jesuit, etc.) the underlying idea of identifying core values, principles, and relationships is important for every person.  What would your rule of life look like?  How has it changed?

By way of example, here’s mine (at least for today).

Regulam Vitae (A Rule of Life)

  1. At all times and in all places remember that there is a God and you are not him/her.
  2. That same God genuinely loves and cares about you and every other person.
  3.         Your ultimate destination is to belong in and to that same God and participate in his/her life for eternity.  Whether you live or whether you die, you belong to God.
  4.         Your purpose therefore is to give expression to God’s infinite creativity in tangible form in this universe in, among other things, you.
  5. Specifically, what you are about is becoming an ever-closer approximation to the creature that the aforementioned creator intended you to be.
  6. No matter what you do or how hard to you try, you will not be able to do this, at least in any immediately understandable sense of “you.” This is not because of any particular error or omission on your part (although that may be the case as well) but rather a certain incompleteness in your design as a creature giving rise to separation from that creator and the rest of creation.
  7. That separation can be steadily overcome but never completely solved through attentive practices of reconnection between heaven and earth and you and other people together, chiefly: love and prayer.
  8. Love is neither sentiment nor emotion, but committed action displacing yourself from the center of meaning and value and placing the other in your ego’s place.
  9. Love of God precedes all other loves in that God’s being provides the ground for all being.  That love will find its ultimate satisfaction in union.
  10. Love of neighbor is far more difficult as you find so many neighbors disagreeable (as do they often find you).  To the greatest extent possible hold each and all in compassion as they too are trying their best amidst chaos and confusion.
  11. Human love takes its ultimate expression through your covenant with your spouse.  By and through your covenant your identity and ministry will be shaped and in turn shape creation.  It will, however, take work.
  12. Whenever possible, remember that the inchoate sense of awe quickly followed by an overwhelming sense of gratitude is your baseline experience of the divine so just go with it and don’t worry if it doesn’t match other people’s experiences.
  13. You will be more critical of yourself than any other human or supernatural being.  Stop it.  Use a Nerf baseball bat on your forehead if necessary.
  14. You tend to forget that you have a body.  Exercise and take better care of it.
  15. When faced with adversity it is perfectly acceptable to retreat inwards, just don’t confuse the interior of your mind with the world.
  16. There is nothing natural about prayer; you will need to attend to it with discipline.  When in doubt rely upon the Psalms and hesychia.  When you cannot do that, just return to your breath.
  17. Your chief discipline of prayer is study.  Not all your conversation partners are conveniently living in the same century as you.  They too pray for you.
  18. Much misery is chiefly caused by the lack of sleep and food.  When distressed, eat, sleep, and then reassess.
  19. Floss
  20. You will never be what your ambitions once dreamt of, but your ambitions were not really yours after all were they?
  21. Jesus lived and died and lived to redeem all creation and all humankind.  As that job is already taken you do not have to.
  22. The chief purpose of your ministry is simply to point to God and God’s Kingdom.  You cannot and will not deliver on those promises.  Your role is semiotic not iconic and never consequential.
  23. You are inclined to expect rationality on the part of all people.  You will be sorely disappointed.
  24. It is all right to be afraid, just don’t let those fears paralyze you.
  25. Melancholy is not the same thing as depression, so don’t worry about it because it is just the way you are made.
  26. All your stuff will go away; your experiences of life well-lived will endure.
  27. The conflicts that you run into are rarely about you.
  28. Since you know so little about God, how you live and thereby participate in God is much more important than the truth claims that we make.  All your claims are probably metaphors at best because God is way beyond your pay grade.  Jesus may be your rabbi, but he is also your special education teacher.
  29. Before you speak, think.  When you think, ask yourself to what end am I about to utter this, what will be the effect of my speech?
  30. A little wine is good.  A little more wine is not.
  31. Comparing yourself to others is a trap.  There will always be those greater and lesser than you.  Moreover, desire (at least misplaced desire) is one of the chief causes of your misery.
  32. Create beauty wherever and whenever possible.  It all contributes to the healing of the world.  Do not worry about your craft or skill, it will be perfected in time (either yours or God’s).
  33. When all is said and done, you lack the context to make any final evaluation about your life or the lives of others.  Everything you know or think you know is bracketed by this mortal existence and blurred by imperceptions.  That being said, all is moving forward as it must and in due time you will know and be known.
  34. You cannot make another person happy or feel anything.  While you cannot control all your circumstances or those of others, your feelings, and everybody else’s, are your own concern.
  35. You incline towards hyperbole good and bad.  When you think that “everybody” thought that sermon was a disaster ask yourself: precisely for how many people do I  possess relevant, admissible evidence demonstrating such a conclusion?
  36. When in doubt, breathe