A Rule of Life

By Jared Barnett
In eLetter
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It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself, once again, starting my day in the exact opposite way than what I wanted. How’s that? Slouched over in my bed. Holding up my bright phone to my squinting eyes. Scrolling through news, social media, texts, and email. You know the feeling! The eye strain is real at 6am.

And if emotional and spiritual health are interrelated, I was not in a good place with either. Especially this early in the morning.

Emotionally? I was popping my daily dose of judgment and anxiety with each tap of the screen.

Spiritually? I lacked fervor, fire, and focus. The presence and word of God seemed more like theory than reality; more like a wish than a promise.

I don’t know who they are, but they say that how you start your day is important. And I can relate. Starting my day this way sent me swirling internally and striving externally. I wanted to love God and love neighbor, but my habits just weren’t helping me do either.

As always, God’s grace and patience met me. His kindness drew me to repentance and renewal. This time it was through a recommended book called “The Common Rule” by Justin Whitmel Earley. I love this quote from Earley: “Our habits don’t change God’s love for us, but God’s love for us should change our habits.” That struck me at the heart level. I could feel the gentle nudge of God’s love. I sensed this invitation from the Spirit, “Will you let me help you practice new habits of the heart?”

In his book, Justin explains a simple tool called a rule of life that serves to help us grow in love of God and neighbor. Don’t let the word rule throw you off! We are a people saved and formed by grace. The best image for a rule of life is that of vine and trellis. With no trellis, vines grow wild and unkept. With a trellis, vines have a structure to thrive in both form and function.

My habits were unhelpful and unfruitful. I needed a better trellis. Or in the words of Jesus, I needed to yoke myself with his form and function, with his way.

“The Common Rule” took me through four daily and four weekly habits. They were simple, but immensely helpful. My heart began to settle into the presence of God’s love and truth as I practiced habits like “scripture before phone” and “a meal a day with others.” This trellis allowed the vine of my heart to take better shape.

A rule of life formed in me habits that fueled more love of God and neighbor, and less emotional and spiritual squinty straining (if you know what I mean).

My role here at IBC is called Discipleship Pastor. Discipleship is Jesus’ call to be with him, become like him, and carry on his work in the world. It’s my passion to equip and serve and pray for IBCers on this journey of discipleship.

That’s why I am so very excited to have Christianity Today award-winning author and speaker, Justin Earley, here to host a two-day workshop at the end of the month!

Author of “The Common Rule” and “Habits of the Household,” Earley will spend the weekend teaching us how to cultivate healthy habits and rhythms as individuals and families. You are invited! I fully believe God has something unique and special for you in this amazing opportunity of spiritual formation and discipleship. Make plans to be there.

For more information on both workshops, visit irvingbible.org/earley.

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