No one likes making mistakes, but for three decades I made one continuously: I had no limitations, boundaries or space for rest in my life. I knew a regular practice of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments, but I didn’t think God really meant it because I hadn’t seen anyone practicing it. Too often I said I was busy, tired, okay, distracted or overwhelmed in answer to the question, “How are you?” I would confess my fatigue and tweak one or two things in my weekly schedule, but soon find myself right back in the cycle. I was worn out and frustrated, feeling like Charlie Brown at his Christmas pageant rehearsal, “Is there anyone who knows what the abundant life is all about?”
I had no idea what real rest meant or how to build it into my life.
I began asking the questions: What if I obeyed God by setting apart a day for rest, with no errands, chores or work? What if I arranged my life for one day to do only that which brought me joy? What if I had a guideline to help frame my decision-making and to say “no” to distractions?
My first glimpse of hope came from the book of Acts. The first believers devoted themselves to gathering together to watch wonders, hear the apostles’ teaching, break bread, sell their possessions, distribute the proceeds, attend the temple and pray. They had “glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people,” according to Luke. They knew how to balance work, sleep, church, meals, relationships and the study of God’s Word. These people experienced life as rich and joyful through these rhythms, and I wanted it, too.
Like a trellis that guides a plant’s growth in a certain direction, a Rule of Life curbs my tendency to wander.
In my search for these rhythms, I sought wisdom from mentors, studied the Bible and began to read books on the topic. These books described regular rhythms that encouraged sanity and disciplines that led to loving God more deeply. They didn’t speak of discipline as a legalistic attempt to earn their salvation, but instead as the overflow of sanctification framed within the gospel. Through one book in particular, I discovered a spiritual discipline called a Rule of Life. Instead of setting goals, measuring deliverables and making checklists with my days, I learned to look at choices and time differently. I began to frame them within who I knew God created me to be instead of what I thought He simply wanted me to do. This is a Rule of Life, and no one could set it for me. I had to seek the Spirit, know my true identity and live within it.
Like a trellis that guides a plant’s growth in a certain direction, a Rule of Life curbs my tendency to wander. It honors my limits, keeps my desires in focus and mitigates against “too much.” It is written for who I am, not for who I am not or who I wish I was. It shows me where I need to be stretched and challenged, and it highlights where I am burned out and need balance. It is not fixed and rigid, but adaptable and shaped for how God has knit me together for His glory. It is fulfilled in the routines of everyday life, from a well-ordered heart, resulting in a joy-filled life.
As a Christian, my life is hidden in Jesus. I have everything I need for life and godliness, yet I need the Holy Spirit to grow holiness in me. If I want to be kind or patient, my day must include time to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow. If I want the core values that serve as the foundation for my relationships, responsibilities and decision-making to flourish, I need pauses in my day in order to hear God. I must acknowledge my powerlessness, and as I get rid of time wasters that deplete energy and practice saying “no,” God transforms me and helps me see Him more clearly.
I still make the mistake of packing my schedule too tightly, but it happens less often. God is faithful to remind me that the work of His Spirit depends not on my will or exertion, but on God who gives grace and mercy. When an abundant life appears to be a paradox or on the days that “abundant” seems like an impossibility, I take heart and submit myself to my limitations. I embrace rest. I follow a Rule of Life.