“One is not born into the world to do everything but to do something.”
—Henry David Thoreau
Do you ever feel like most of your life just happens to you? As in, instead of choosing the things that fill your day, life seems to sweep you up into its flow of expectations and obligations?
I love my life. I really do.
I love my family. I love my work. I’d be hard-pressed to find ways I could be more fortunate than I am.
Still, life just seems busier than it should be. So many things feel urgent. Every small task, every opportunity feels so important.
When I can get my head above the water, when I have a moment of solace from the fast current of expectations, I find myself wondering if my life is as it should be.
Is life just supposed to happen to me? Or is there a way to feel like I’m truly choosing the things that fill my day?
It used to be that when I would ask a friend or acquaintance how they were doing, they would reply something like: “I’m doing good. How are you?”
Now, in response to the same question, I normally hear a slight but important addition: “Eh, I’m busy, but good. How are you?”
We wear busyness like a badge of honor from a battle we wish we never fought.
Somehow busyness, in our society, connotes a degree of respect. To be busy is to be needed, to be wanted, to be valued and valuable. To be busy is to choose to be a productive member of society, a productive member of God’s kingdom.
We elevate those who’ve built their businesses into institutions on the backs of unending hard work. We revere those people who have it all and yet seem to have limitless capacity for more.
If there’s any respite from busyness in today’s society, it’s usually nothing more than a form of distraction. We do much less true resting and much more avoiding. There have never been more opportunities for distraction than the day we’re living in now.
In our pockets, we have a device with seemingly unlimited potential for distraction. Social media algorithms are designed to catch and keep as much of our attention as possible. There is more sincerely entertaining television being made and presented than a reasonable person could possibly consume.
We seem, as a people, to jump from fast-paced productivity to mindless distraction, crashing into the various opportunities for escape after giving ourselves to the engine of society that never slows down and never stops
A Different Way
But if we look at what our busyness and distraction are producing, is this way of life really working for us?
While we can marvel at the industries, the technology, the advancements achieved faster and more regularly than ever before, is the state of our humanity improving?
Is the technology we created really serving us, or are we serving it?
And are things far better in our Christian spheres? Are we unified and anointed? Are we bearing significant, visible, and eternal fruit? Do things look much better in our churches, our denominations, our institutions
In Ephesians, Paul tells us, “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are . . . Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (Eph. 5:11, 16–17 MSG)
If we take honest stock of the quality of the investment of our time, our money, and our talents—resources God has given us to steward—it’s plain to see that we need to reset and reinvest.
We are not getting enough return on our investment. We are not healthy and thriving. Our families are not healthy and thriving. Our churches are not healthy and thriving.
And thanks be to God there is a better way. But that better way might just look a bit like an old way made new.
A Rule of Life
I first encountered the concept of a Rule of Life in reading Pete Scazerro’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. And in a time when my life felt abundantly chaotic and scattered, his book led me through a truly transformative experience of creating intentionality for what matters most.
The Rule of Life, while not necessarily common among our modern-day expressions of faith, has a rich history in Christian tradition. The Rule of Life has roots as early as the fourth century but most notably was used by St. Benedict in the sixth century. The Rule of Life from St. Benedict facilitated a support structure for intentionality in two main ways: practices and vows.
St. Benedict encouraged the practices of “prayer, work, study, hospitality, and renewal” within the vows of “stability, conversion, and obedience.” If you’re interested in reading more about St. Benedict’s rule, there are ample free resources available online.
And in such a distracted and fragmented time, I’m noticing more and more faith communities leaning on the notions of a Rule of Life to help them create and maintain the quality of life only intentionality can produce.
Thus, in creating a Rule for your own life, you’re joining a rich history of believers both past and present, all seeking to find meaning and abundance in intentionality in God.
This is an excerpt from Craig Denison’s upcoming book, Living Intentionally: Finding Meaning with a Modern Rule of Life, which releases on March 1st. Pre-order your copy today!