Crafting an Integrated Rule of Life
While crafting your own integrated Rule of Life, you are encouraged to include the following commitments included in the Rule of Life for the Society of Urban Monks and prayerfully include your own practices, activities, and actions regarding each commitment.
I. Deepening a Personal Covenant with God
The scriptures are filled with God’s desires to deepen a personal living covenant with you. An integrated Rule of Life helps heed to these scriptures and cultivate a deepening relationship with God over the coming years.
Deepening your personal covenant with God can involve more than reading scripture. It can involve responding to the scripture that you read. Reading scripture creates a monologue—God speaking to us. Responding to scripture creates a dialogue—us speaking to God—after we hear God speaking to us through scripture.
Perhaps the most powerful words that were given to Christ by the Father and passed on to us concern God and our neighbors. These words are meant to shape and guide our daily thoughts, words and deeds. They are:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10.27).”
These words should largely shape your integrated Rule of Life. You can read these words as God speaking to you, reflect on them, and begin a dialogue with God by responding:
I will love you with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind and love my neighbor as myself.
You can further your dialogue with God by responding to the following related words that were communicated to Israel, as spoken to you.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6. 5 – 9)”
You could create a dialogue with God and say,
I will love you with all my heart and with all my soul and might. I will teach them diligently. I will bind my words as a sign by writing them in my integrated Rule of Life.
You could further your dialogue with God and respond again to Luke 10.27 and Deuteronomy 6. 5 – 9 and say,
I will love my neighbor as myself and I will bind my words as a sign by writing them in my integrated Rule of Life.
II. Living a Personal Covenant with God
Your living personal covenant with God should be rooted in the passion of Christ as encouraged in the scriptures such as Philippians 2. 1-18. The source of Jesus’ passion was his intense love for humanity, which resulted in his uncompromising commitment to walk a very precise and narrow path to redeem humanity. The scriptures remind us to imitate his love for humanity because such love should be the source of our own passion and redemption. The scriptures also remind us that the life of Christ provides a pattern for living a passionate life.
Philippians 2. 4-5 states
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 2. 13 states
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.”
You can respond to these verses by writing in your integrated Rule of Life “I will look out for the interests of others for it is God who works in me to act on behalf of God’s good purpose.”
You can also proclaim to God, as did the Psalmist,
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your law is within my heart.
III. Nurturing a Loving Private Relationship with God
Nurturing a loving private relationship with God involves choosing from the many spiritual principles and practices that have evolved over the centuries and including them in your integrated Rule of Life. The spiritual principles are steeped in the scriptures. Most, if not all, of the spiritual practices have stemmed from the spiritual disciplines of reading scripture and prayer.
You can learn how to cultivate an intimate, personal, and private relationship with God from several rules of lives that have been practiced throughout the centuries by monastics. Some of the well-known rules of lives include the rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, and the anonymous Master.
Each of these rules provides instructions for monks to live a contemplative life. They contain instructions about various spiritual practices such as prayer, chanting, scripture reading, meditation, contemplation, silence, and fasting. Instruction includes appointed hours and days for prayer, reading scripture, and fasting, acts of reverence during prayer and scripture reading, and steps and stages for achieving humility, obedience, meditation, and contemplation.
There are several valuable books that focus on nurturing a loving private relationship with God.
The author of Monastic Practices provides instructions for contemporary monastics concerning many of the spiritual practices that are found in the rules of life of the earliest monastics. The book is clearly written for monastics and novices who want to enter the monastic life. The book specifically addresses how monastics can use the various spiritual practices and disciplines that have evolved out of monasticism during the past centuries to cultivate an intimate, personal, and private relationship with God.
While the book does not specifically address how non-monastics living outside of a shared community might use these spiritual practices and disciplines, it is clear that such persons could begin to incorporate them into their daily life. As a matter of fact, the author states that “A selective, prudent use of these practices might be of benefit to persons ‘in the world’ wishing to follow the traditional Christian methods of spiritual deepening.”
Everyday Mysticism: Cherishing the Holy is a book that teaches how to nurture a relationship with God through spiritual practices while working, in school, taking care of children, and moving about in public while attending to daily needs. Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict describes how to incorporate the Rule of Saint Benedict’s balance of prayer, study, work, and solitude into the everyday life activities of the laity as does Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life. Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics: Lifestyles for Self-discovery is a study based on interviews of mystics or those who have had mystical experiences. These experiences provide an opportunity for others to reflect on any similar occurrences in their own lives or their desire for such experiences to begin. Finding the Mystic Within You distills the experiences of two mystics—Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross—in order to help others understand the stages and experiences of the outer and inner journey of a mystic and to encourage them to begin or continue a similar journey.
There are also several recent publications that have served as an introduction to various spiritual practices and disciplines including those that have evolved out of monasticism. These books are also of great value to help Urban Monks create or revise a rule of life. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us describes over 50 spiritual practices and disciplines and related reflection questions for each one that helps the reader put them into practice. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation also serves as a good introduction to various spiritual practices as well. Both books encourage readers to rearrange their lives in order to find the time to make the spiritual practices and disciplines part of their everyday life.
IV. Maturing a Loving Public Relationship with God and Others
Maturing a loving public relationship with God and others involves publicly engaging your spirituality by integrating your personally chosen spiritual principles and personally chosen spiritual practices into your efforts to help with solutions for social struggles, which should be the core of your integrated Rule of Life.
Spiritual principles that you could further develop and integrate include:
- Service; and
Faith, hope, and love are inseparably linked in the Christian scriptures (1 Corinthians 13.13) and should also be in your integrated Rule of Life.
When one doubts that a seemingly intractable social struggle can be solved, faith instills confidence that a solution can be found. A difficult social struggle can be solved as one’s faith grows. Hope also normalizes doubt by inferring confidence and conviction. Hope can grow as well. Love, noted as the greatest of these in the New Testament, is key because the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and the second is “love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22. 37 – 39).” The second commandment shifts our focus to others, which advances public engagement on behalf of others.
Forgiveness, acceptance, and humility are also interrelated in the Christian scriptures. The very social struggle that you publicly engage may be the very struggle during which persons or groups of persons inflicted hurt and in the past and feel afflicted. Some may feel unheard and others are accused of turning a deaf ear. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6.37)” is the core of acceptance. When this teaching is realized, that you have been afflicted with hurt but that you also inflicted hurt upon others, public engagement will be furthered and the work towards solving a social struggle will be advanced as well.
Humility follows and becomes a vibrant force when one learns not to think less of oneself but think of oneself less. The scriptures are clear “. . . in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2. 3b-4).”
There are many spiritual principles that you could adopt, adapt, and integrate into your efforts to help with solutions for social struggles.
As previously noted, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us describes over 50 spiritual practices and disciplines and related reflection questions for each one that helps the reader put them into practice. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation also serves as a good introduction to various spiritual practices as well.
I grouped my spiritual practices in my integrated Rule of Live. I have termed them as convictional, disciplined, and impassioned.
Convictional Spiritual Practices
My convictional spiritual practices fuel my desire to work with others to solve an outstanding social struggle. They help unify conflicting attitudes or beliefs that are necessary in order to help develop solutions for social struggles while working with others.
Three of the convictional spiritual practices that I adopted, adapted, and integrated and include in my integrated Rule of Life are:
- Incarnational Solidarity, when paraphrased means if all is not well with you, all is not well with me, and if all is not well with you and me, then all is not well with God;
- Wounded Healer notes that we are all wounded and all wounded healers and should be prepared to heal the wounds of others out of our own woundedness;
- Spiritual and Material Poverty are interactive for when we see others experiencing material poverty and have material resources and do nothing about it we experience spiritual
Disciplined Spiritual Practices
My disciplined practices are based largely upon structure and instruction that developed over past years, decades, and centuries. They encourage a day-long relationship with God out of a sense of commitment and intimacy with God.
Three of the disciplined spiritual practices that I adopted, adapted, and integrated and include in my integrated Rule of Life are:
- The Divine Offices of Prayer, which provide daily opportunity for ongoing dialogue with God;
- Daily Examen, which is a time to discover how God has been present and what areas in our lives need further growth and healing;
- Lectio Divina, which creates a dialogue with God while reading scripture when you believe that a word, phrase, verse, or passage is being emphasized by God and you respond in prayer.
Impassioned Spiritual Practices
My impassioned spiritual practices evolved out of my spiritual passion to move beyond the structure and instruction that have shaped disciplined spiritual practices. They also evolved out of an intense spiritual passion that added more fuel to my desire to solve social struggles. A passion that was increasingly energized by my convictional spiritual practices.
Three impassioned spiritual practices in my integrated Rule of Life that I shaped and reshape are:
- Praying the Psalms that contain prayers that have a full range of human feelings that I intensify and heighten out of my own feelings about injustices while reading them;
- The Divine Hours of Prayer and the Blues highlight certain times of the day such as morning, evening, and midnight during which the Psalmists and Blues writers express deeply emotional terms that express pain, grievances, demands, and injustices among other similar feelings that I also intensify and heighten out of my own feelings while reading and listening;
- Praying Passionate Love Prayers written by various church mystics that passionately express a love of Christ (e.g., “give me a lively faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that I may love you with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength; make me firm and steadfast in good works and grant me perseverance in your service, so that I may be able to please you always).”
V. Leaving a Life-long Integrated Rule of Life for Others
Integrating spiritual principles and practices into solutions to social struggles is a life-long experience that can help ordinary people live extraordinary public lives.
Leaving a life-long integrated Rule of Life for others to help them nurture a deep, collective, and public relationship with God in order to encounter, elucidate, and end social injustices is a unique spiritual legacy. As a result, others may be encouraged to craft their own integrated Rule of Life. Others who have crafted an integrated Rule of Life to nurture an intimate, personal, and private relationship with God, may be encouraged to be more intentional about nurturing the relationship with God out of a desire to help solve social struggles.
Others who have crafted an integrated Rule of Life may want to learn how you nurtured a deep, collective, and public relationship with God because of your commitment to, and experiences with, helping to solve social struggles. They may want to know what spiritual principles and practices that you chose to integrate into your efforts to help achieve solutions for social struggles for others when needed.
Sharing your life-long integrated Rule of Life with others is a unique spiritual legacy. Leaving your life-long integrated Rule of Life for others is a distinctive spiritual legacy.
So, while crafting your own integrated Rule of Life, you are encouraged to commit to leaving a life-long integrated Rule of Life for others.
You are encouraged to read the following scriptures and hear the words as God speaking to you.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12.3).”
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day (Proverbs 4.18).”
“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear (Matthew 13.43).”
Hear the words of God and reflect on them. Are you willing to craft and develop your integrated Rule of Life over the coming years and share it with others a unique spiritual legacy and leave your life-long integrated Rule of Life for others as a distinctive spiritual legacy? If so, bind your words as a sign of commitment by writing them in your integrated Rule of Life.