Last week at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center, Summer waved a 92-degree goodbye, and Fall announced its arrival with consecutive, jarringly cool nights. Signs of a changing season are all around. School is back in session. Church programming has resumed. The fiscal year nears its end. Starbucks’ annually-anticipated Pumpkin Spice Latte has been available for a month. Frenzied fall routines are in full swing. For some, it feels more like a new year than January first feels.
Whether or not September evokes new-beginning emotions for you, what opportunities exist for fresh starts? How might we embrace the gifts this next season offers? When I think about setting intentions at the beginning of something new, I’m reminded of a Rule of Life. Sixth century saint Benedict of Nursia described a Rule of Life as “a framework for freedom – not as a set of rules that restrict or deny life, but as a way of living out our vocation alone and together. It is simply a handbook to make the very radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life.”
More like a ruler than a list of shoulds, a Rule of Life is a tool with which to measure your life. It says, “This is the sort of life I want to live, and here are the practices and patterns that will keep me on my own yellow brick road. If I swerve from my path (1) grace abounds and (2) my Rule reorients me in the direction I’ve said I want to walk.”
While there are endless ways one could structure a Rule of Life, the most traditional often include daily, weekly, and monthly practices. Rather than completely upending your current routine (which is likely neither possible nor practical), start by considering small adjustments you could make to move yourself a little closer to a free and sustainable life. What rhythms and habits might you create? And in the spirit of Fall, when the earth seems to spin slower and creation prepares for its annual slumber, what might you resist? Which parts of your daily, weekly, and monthly routines aren’t bringing forth life? What could you let fall in order to experience more rest and renewal?
Personally, I may consider interrupting an evening of endless scrolling with a short weekly fast from social media. I might wonder about the time I spend in worry, judgment, or doubt, and what relief I might feel if I gave my inner critic a sabbatical. I might let go of a fear or a fixation or an unfair expectation. I think about how a couple years ago I committed to drinking a glass of water before doing anything else in the morning and how that simple daily practice strengthened my ability to keep promises I make to myself (and it nourishes my body more than the inevitable bottomless cups of coffee I will consume 😊).
When you think about the rhythms and rituals you could follow to help meet your current set of needs in this season of your life, consider these additional questions. What in your life currently brings you delight? What has sparked joy in the past but isn’t part of your current routine? What’s pulling you away from remaining anchored? What could you easily let fall away to make space for renewal?
If the thought of this inner work gives you pause, consider again the season before us. Fall is undeniably beautiful, and that beauty signals a coming death. The trees will drop their leaves, the animals will disappear, the temperatures will plumet, the days will get darker. But that’s not the end of earth’s story. The many little deaths on the horizon are necessary for the new life that one day Spring will eventually bring. Likewise dear friends, may you know the beauty and trust the renewal that will come from letting fall what needs to fall.
Jeremy Bork is the Director of Programming and Communications at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center and an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. To read more about creating your own Rule of Life, follow this link.