When I was in high school, I memorized the rules of the road. Actually I didn’t, but it sounded so good when I read that sentence I had to leave it. I should probably say that I read the rules. I knew them well enough, even though I only got a B during the traffic portion of my exam, thanks to the poor attention span of a heavy teacher whose name I won’t mention. My first job in high school was in our school’s driver education center, and I worked with that teacher and several others.
I was the guy who set up the “range,” pulling orange cones in formation depending on the day of instruction. My favorite was day seven because I had to set up the figure 8 for the class. The eighth and last day was reserved for parallel parking, something I got good at. But I digress.
I took the cars to the mechanic on 63rd Street to get oil changed, to have tires repaired, or to get the vehicles winterized. I drove each car to the gas station whenever necessary, usually going to 87th & the Dan Ryan. I took them to the Amoco in Evergreen Park so I could get them washed. The Chicago Public School surrendered the Amoco credit card to me, and I had to improvise and put general expenses it. The station on 95th near the Plaza was the only one near Simeon where I could get a full tank and a wash. Well, perhaps, it wasn’t the only one, but I was in high school, driving eight different cars. Do you think I’d find the closest car wash owned by Amoco?
For two years I unnerved my friends by pointing out their driving mistakes, shaking my head when they didn’t click their signals before changing lanes. I would even smash my foot down in the passenger side floor when friends got too close to the car in front of us, thinking of the cars in our center which came equipped with a passenger-side emergency brake in case the teacher needed to stop the car. I still do that to this day when Peter Hong or my wife or anybody else drives too fast, though they don’t notice.
The rules are important.
And I didn’t get rid of rules when I started in ministry. In our seminary I was introduced to a different rule.
Each year students in the seminary write or revise a document as a part of the vocational formation course I teach with a few other church leaders. The document is called a Rule of Life. Though it will be revised at several points in each seminarian’s career over the two or three years, it is an important first draft. Thursday our students handed in their assignments. I have yet to read them and jot my feedback down. I’m looking forward to it.
A Rule of Life is a document that you develop to capture the activities you will engage in or refrain from as you attempt to live a balanced life. It comes out of the Benedictine tradition. Benedict was a monk who withdrew from wider society with the hopes of living a cloistered life in a monastery. He wrote a Rule book to detail for other monks in his Order how to go about manual labor, prayer, solitude, study, and community. His book became popular and has been the foundation for many centuries on developing a Rule of Life.
A Rule is best thought of as a structure, a helpful structure that helps to facilitate spiritual growth. You write it to focus in on areas you feel weak in, areas you’d like to stretch or grow in, and you always include a measure of accountability so that you can track your movement.
It can focus on spirituality or relationships or work. In fact, it can have many areas of focus, but since it came out of the monastic tradition, it’s used mostly for developing activities which help a person engage the Divine. Developing a Rule is connected to developing you. So when writing one, you query your insides for the things that resonate with you, causes you are inclined toward, issues you feel called to address. And you formulate goals around those things.
Are there rules, Benedictine or otherwise, that you live by? If so, what are they?