Lent is the time of year to spiritually sort things out and ask the question, “What is my rule of life?” Everyone has one. We are creatures of habit. Most people go to bed and get up about the same times daily. Early morning routines tend to be predictable in our lives. Habits become rules and rules guide our lives at deep unconscious levels.
The Rule of St. Benedict has steered the lives of millions since he wrote it sometime after 529 A.D. Several hundred years before him, St. Anthony wrote the first rule for desert monks. St. Basil in 356 did the same in the Eastern Church.
Athletes, especially those in training, follow a rule of life that sets out a regimen of discipline. We just finished watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia in which thousands of young men and women competed with each other and against their own best records for the gold, silver and bronze medals. To do so they followed a rule that for most began in childhood.
Our patron, Paul toward the end of his life compared himself to an athlete when he wrote in 2nd Timothy 4-7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
A rule of life can be quite simple or complex. Simple plans usually work best, especially for beginners. Start with a self examination and the question, “What do I need to improve the quality of my life in terms of my Christian journey?” Sometimes less is more. Our dean, Scott Richardson, outlined a simple five point rule when he first came to St. Paul’s: Worship Weekly. Pray Daily. Study Continually. Serve Joyously and Live Generously.
A daily rule of life should be sufficiently difficult to challenge our growth, but not so demanding as to overwhelm the individual. In my many years of doing spiritual direction I have seen people start with a rule that is too difficult and then give up out of frustration. A personal rule of life should enhance spiritual growth, not crush it.
A good rule is a like a highway in the desert. It helps us find our way and stick to it when we otherwise might get lost or give up. Many of our Religious Orders offer rules for lay members which can be found by checking out the website of the communities. The website for the Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas lists the communities of our church. Most have subheadings for associate members. Some people seek out a spiritual director who is like a certified trainer in a gym or a sponsor in a twelve step program.
It all starts with a self examination and a few good questions about what I need to do to keep growing spiritually.
Rev. Andrew Rank is a Canon of the Cathedral.