When it comes to living a life of meaning and purpose, an important step is to identify the priorities and core values that will serve as a framework for how you live. One way to do this is to determine your household’s Rule of Life.
What is a Rule of Life?
It’s simply the commitment to live your life in a particular way.
The word “rule” is based on the Latin word regula, which means “rule” or “measuring rod.” I first encountered this concept in the book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. In it, mystic and Benedictine scholar John Chittister presents St. Benedict’s Rule along with his personal commentary on why this ancient text is still relevant today. It has added so much richness to my life to incorporate this concept.
St. Benedict’s Rule revolved around five practices intended for those living a monastic lifestyle, but they are actually very relevant for those of us living outside the monastic community. These five practices include Prayer, Work, Study, Hospitality, and Renewal, and together, they offer the structure for a meaningful life.
Identifying Your Rule of Life
While most of us are not living as part of a monastic community, our households are communities unto themselves. Whether you live alone or with roommates, whether you are a married couple with no kids or you have a large family, identifying your household’s Rule of Life creates a deeper sense of intention and purpose for your household. While it may take some creativity to get everyone on board with being committed to the Rule you identify, it’s worth the effort.
To begin with, prayerfully consider your current season of life and the resources available to you. What is most important to you in this season? Who is part of our household community, and what do they need most in this season? If you live alone, how do you want your household to function, both in your solitude and in community with others?
Our Household Rule of Life
Our family’s current Rule of Life takes into consideration our children’s ages, our rhythm of life (school, work, extracurriculars), and our resources of time, energy, and finances. In our current season of life, we are committed to the following:
- Meals Together. At least three nights a week and Sundays, we all sit down together and eat a meal prepared by someone in the house (usually me, but sometimes the children or my husband). We set the table and have conversation as we eat, and everyone participates in some way–either setting the table, cooking, or cleaning up afterwards.
As Dr. Anne Fishel of The Family Dinner Project explains, “Over the past 20 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: Sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that for young children, dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?”
Prioritizing meals together at least a few times a week is one of the easiest ways we can connect with one another and prioritize our togetherness as a family. It also helps our children learn how to conduct themselves around the table and what to do when they are served something they don’t like. Our hope is that our children will feel comfortable anywhere they go and be gracious guests when they are in someone else’s home.
- Discipleship in the Way of Christ. As followers of Jesus, my husband and I believe that one of the best gifts we can give our kids is the experience of living as His disciples. This means that prayer, scripture, and regular discussions about what it means to be an authentic follower of Christ are part of our rhythm of life, as are home fellowship groups, worshiping together at church, watching movies and television programs that depict Bible stories in engaging ways, and cultivating friendships with other followers of Christ.
And it’s not always the adults who lead the way! Our children each have their own thoughts about faith and life, and we welcome them to take the ball and run when it comes to what it means to live as a Christian.
At the same time, we are not insulated or isolated from the non-Christian world. Our children go to public school and participate in clubs and rec sports with people from all backgrounds, and our community of friends includes people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives. We don’t believe so much in shielding our children as we do in equipping them. We want them to think for themselves and find their own path to God as the Spirit leads.
- Hospitality. Maintaining an open door policy and always being ready to welcome people into our home is huge value for both my husband and me. Back when we were dating and just starting to talk about what it might look like to do life together, we agreed that hospitality was a huge priority for both of us. We host meals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, playdates, movie nights, and overnight guests on a regular basis—and we love it!
- Contribution to the Common Good. Fostering a sense of responsibility for the common good is a priority in our household. We don’t ask the children to do “chores,” but rather to do “contributions,” and we don’t pay them to help out—we expect them to help because they are part of the community of our household. This practice is based on the teaching of Amy McCready (founder of Positive Parenting Solutions)*, and it’s one of my favorite things about that program. I often remind the kids, “We want to be people who leave the world better than we found it.” This includes serving within our own household, as well as in our community and beyond, where we try to be intentional as we pick up trash in our neighborhood, rake leaves and shovel snow for our neighbors, keep bags of snacks in the car to give people we encounter who are asking for help, and do other things to serve one another and our community.
- Fun Together. The Krispin family places a high priority on having fun together! Playing games together, Friday Family Movie Night, roller skating, hiking, one-on-one “special time” with the kids, and taking trips together a few times a year are all built in to the fabric of our family life. We are keenly aware that these years at home together are flying by, and soon enough, we won’t be able to spend as much time together. We try to make the most of it while we can!
What might a Rule of Life look like for you?
As you consider what it means to live with intention and build a life that is aligned with your priorities, what are some of the things that stand out to you?
What might your household’s Rule of Life look like?
Christy Tennant Krispin is a Whole Life Coach helping clients live more intentionally in alignment with their goals and values across all spheres of life. Schedule a free consultation with Christy here.