The last time I wrote, I said that the best thing you can do to grow in your faith and relationship with God is just to show up everyday. There is nothing better than simple practices of prayer, study, and service that you commit to and do over long periods of time.
Christian Life Is About Growing in Love
Julian of Norwich, who was well known for her profound mystical experiences of God, points out that ordinary Christians, simply living a faithful life and learning the precepts of their faith, can be further along the path of love than she is, even with her dramatic experience of God. This is because the Christian life is not about having profound experiences of God; it is about growing in love.
This is the path of Christian maturity. As St. Paul says, “It is Christ whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)
A Rule of Life
What do we do every day when we show up? It is helpful to have a checklist of simple faith activities that you practice, and something of a vision of where you want to grow. This vision and simple checklist is what we call a ‘Rule of Life.’ There is sometimes confusion about this name. It is not a list of rules that you have to obey. Think of it more in terms of the Latin name REGULA, where we get the word ‘regulate.’ Think of this list as a way to regulate your spiritual life.
Why Not Just Follow the Spirit?
One question I often hear is why we should have a Rule of Life. Shouldn’t we just be able to pray as the Spirit moves us and serve as God brings people into our life? It is a good question. From the perspective of the Spirit-filled life, having a Rule can seem artificial. Indeed, there are times in our spiritual lives when it is right to put aside our rule and follow God’s promptings in the moment.
However, it is most common for people in their spiritual lives to experience consolations from God for a season, and then to find that the experience of God’s consolations and closeness starts to fade. People often wonder if they have done something wrong. This is not usually the case. God withdraws the consolations so that we can learn to love and follow God for himself, and not for the sake of wonderful experiences.
Personally, after helping many people through this transition, I believe that God wants to wean us off the need for profound experiences. From there, we can learn to walk faithful lives out of love and obedience. He wants us to come to know him in the ordinary ways of prayer, study, service and community. We do this by having a regular Rule of Life that we follow.
Staying on Track with a Rule of Life
My own rule of life has been invaluable. It describes the ways in which I commit to spending time with God and living out my life of faith. It represents how I walk with God. The commitment is important because the reality is that I don’t always want to take the time. Sometimes I am too busy. Sometimes I am too lazy. The Rule of Life helps me to be accountable to God and to myself. No one else reads it.
I have revisited my Rule of Life several times over the years. Each time, it gets simpler. At this point, you might ask: what should I put in my Rule of Life? Stay tuned for more!