The Word and Spirit has become much more than just a website for me. What started out as a way to connect with God personally and as a local church has become my rule of life. The Rule of Life is an intentional framework by which the rhythms of life are ordered for the purpose of facilitating one’s engagement with God – and, by extension, one’s engagement with the world. Margaret Guenther compares the rule of life to a trellis, which provides shape and structure. Just as the vine grows according to the direction of the trellis, so we grow according to the sacred structures we place in our own lives. The rule is not intended to be burdensome, but to open you to the movement of God in your life. It should be personal and specific to your context, answering the question: “What do I specifically mean when I say that I am a Christian?”
Rules of life can take many forms: verbal or visual, diligently ordered or more freely formed, confessional or experiential. Some questions you might reflect on when constructing your Rule of Life are:
- What Scripture passages speak to my deepest spiritual longings and experiences?
- What practices connect me to God most powerfully and profoundly?
- Who has God revealed Godself to be in my life?
- What themes or images reflect my spiritual connection to God?
- What spiritual framework has God revealed to me out of which I can order my experience of God?
My rule of life (see below) has taken a visual form and it is organized around the theme of Word and Spirit. The image of the tree represents the Living Word who grounds us and provides a home for us to land on. The bird represents the Spirit who invites us to “fly” into new experiences and terrains of faith. We are free to fly, while always having a home to return to. The two key Biblical passages which guide my identity are included as well. Surrounding this image are the seven practices which are foundational to my understanding of living out the Christian faith.
Central to the development of The Rule of Life is the practice of spiritual direction. Spiritual direction has its roots in ancient monastic communities. However, the basis for spiritual direction is rooted in the biblical witness. The relationship between spiritual director and spiritual pilgrim can be best understood from two biblical images from the Gospel of John. In John 14:23, Jesus states, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Furthermore, in John 14-16, Jesus speaks about the work of the paraclete who is to come. This is the Holy Spirit and paraclete is a Greek word that literally means “to come/walk alongside.” Thus, the spiritual director is someone who journeys alongside a spiritual pilgrim to assist them in establishing their life as a home in the Word and Spirit.
Spiritual direction involves exploring the ways we connect to God in our soul, spirit, mind, heart, body, will, and relationships. While the latter five of these areas are fairly self-explanatory, the former two need to be distinguished from one another. Soul is the very foundational act of being – our ontological self. Spirit is the part of our self that reaches beyond self to God and the reality beyond us. Our Rule of Life should include every aspect of our being. When we commune with God in these seven ways, then we offer ourselves fully to God. When we let even one of these areas become disconnected from God, then we risk isolation and spiritual dissonance.