The New Year is on its way, an opportune time to reflect, ponder, appreciate, and listen for whispers to the heart for the New Year, or potentially consider an intentional “Rule of Life”.
This past year, 2014, was an intentional Sabbath Year, a 7th Year of Rest. It was a reflection of intentionally scaling back life as much as possible to a few key defining roles. This was coupled with room to breathe, freedom, joy, and new patterns which gave fertile soil for cultivating living intentionally at an unhurried peaceful pace.
Along the months, I found some real treasures; contemplative prayer, lectio divina, the prayer of Examen, and a rule of life which date back to the first centuries in Christianity and they have added such a sweet richness in today’s pace of life. Others jewels are creating margin in living, acknowledging an intentional Sabbath and most delightful are discovering a resource of spiritual disciplines that can be used as a tool to foster spiritual intimacy with possibilities of some relating more to a season of life or ones uniqueness. Still another is the beautiful art of spiritual companionship or Spiritual Direction, unknown in my circles of Protestantism which has been refreshing and has drawn me to pursue certification coursework.
Throughout some of the intentional spiritual formation readings, one precious gem that has forever changed my life is the truth of simply just stopping and acknowledging God and sitting in His Nearness or Presence in silence, often. This has been most soul nurturing, especially when in the natural I can feel the pull to feel “on” with the needs of autism more often than not. The “ah ha” moment that began early in the year after prayerfully going through a lifetime layering through a course of several weeks was realizing it’s not about only certain times of sensing His anointing, finding God or inviting Him into daily life, but a simple stopping and just acknowledging His living Presence inside and sensing His Nearness with the ability to choose to live there, anytime.
All have a Rule of Life, whether it’s acknowledged or not. One view of looking at resolutions is that they arise from what is desired to be changed in the current, unexamined, default Rule of Life.
From antiquity, Rules of Life were designated to monastic living. The principles, however can be applied to individual, community, and family life and bring beautiful paradigm shifts when welcomed. They in reality stem from a desire for intentional contemplative living; a welcomed unhurried peaceful pace, meditative reading, and soul care for the benefit of others and are formed to be authentic with one’s philosophy of life.
An intentional Rule of Life may seem at odds with modern society, but creates a “structure” to living an examined life full of value, thought, sincerity, compassion, and kindness by prayerfully setting “new intentional patterns” of living, rather than resolving to accomplish resolutions. It’s all about being and becoming, rather than a living a life of self-doing. It’s about living a praying without ceasing and being still and knowing He is God kind of life.
There are several resources on creating a Rule of Life including even praying about specific seasons of time and going through steps to create one through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of the beautiful truths that come from St. Benedict’s Rule of Life include “never giving a hollow greeting of peace” or living with sincerity and authenticity between one’s thoughts and heart with kindness. Not turning away when someone needs compassion, living led by love rather than fear or circumstances or pretense, and speaking the truth with both heart and tongue or bridling and holding the tongue if it is not kind, a mark of maturity in faith. It also focuses on community.
Living with an intentional Rule of Life rather than a default inherited one or what has sufficed sets new regular patterns and is authentic with ones philosophy of life. It is a “trellis” so to say that refers to a pattern or model. Regulations are both sometimes difficult and but also liberating and nourish the soul to grow (as a trellis would nurture the direction of growth) and affect others through love rather than a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts. Most of all it replaces anxiety with a calm and tranquil way of living with humility and joy, embraces suffering as a gift of a season of growth and is polar opposite to man made wisdom of selfishness, prestige, independence, and avoiding pain as embracing it brings both healing and transformation. It’s a “Follow Him” philosophy rather than one focused on self ambition.
This year, what would it look like if one were to set a day or two apart to intentionally “be” and pray, go through a series of questions as a guide for creating a Rule of Life, and then and only then, make action items through prayer and hearing God’s heart for the season ahead? One special way to be creative and enhance this special time is to listen for a particular theme, Scripture, or word that would best identify the upcoming season. This process has been a blessing for me during the past two seasons. My husband and I also took two days away to pray this way for our family patterns this summer and listen to God for the theme of the year, which has been most rewarding and almost a remembrance stone we can come back to throughout the year.
As like other parents of special needs or autistic children, one can find default as always “on” as I did the first few years. This year, 2014, I have found solace in some of these ancient practices of prayer this year, not that they are a means to an end, but point to the One who nurtures my soul, God. Love is said to be the beauty of the soul and our hearts find their true rest in God.
Praying peace, moments of still quietness in His Presence, and more intentional authentic living for you and yours this upcoming year,