Writing down your ‘Rule of Life’ will reap benefits

When we were engaged, we had great aspirations of reaching high levels of fulfillment, holiness and success in our relationship and as parents.

However, in the first few years of marriage, we quickly transitioned into survival mode, where just getting through the day without anyone getting hurt was almost asking too much.

More often than not, if we are Catholic, our spiritual lives have been structured for us as we’ve grown. For one, we have been handed down a 2,000-year-old tradition that provides prayers, moral guidelines, a holy book, a community, plenty of role models, and even a weekly or daily schedule of worship.

For all of us, religious or not, most of our life is spent in one sort of community or another in which we are given some sort of structure in which to operate. But, when we have a family, all of a sudden we are a part of a community whose structure, guidelines, schedule, etc., depend solely on us.

Not only that, but we have to make decisions together with another person who often does not have the same thoughts and feelings about things as we do.

We’re not good at everything
Another factor we must face is that, especially in today’s culture, we often fall into the trap of thinking that if we have a general understanding of how something works, and if we truly believe that it’s a valuable thing to do, we must already be good at doing it.

It’s kind of like watching a karate movie and then believing that you could probably take down a gang of bad guys pretty easily.

It works the same way when it comes to wanting to intentionally structure our home life toward holiness, goodness, truth and love. Most of us haven’t had much practice at making these kinds of decisions and following through with them because we’re in the habit of expecting that either someone else will tell us what to do or that it will happen naturally because we believe that it should.

So, we focus our energy where we’re comfortable focusing it, where structures already exist – at work, at school, kids’ sports, at church, or whatever other organizations we belong to – and our home life flounders in survival mode, but we’re too exhausted to do much about it.

The direction is key
Intentionally creating a rule of life for you and your family isn’t complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Not only does it mean we have to find extended time for uninterrupted dialogue with our spouse, but we have to agree on a direction we’ll take together as a family, and then, we are the ones who have to follow through on it!

No, it’s not easy, but it is definitely possible. Schedule a monthly dialogue and dig down deep. (Schedule it – otherwise you’ll be trying to fit it in before you fall asleep.)

We found that it’s the simple things that end up coming to the surface that need changing. For instance, we both subconsciously felt that some of the shows we were watching were causing us to become cynical, which was dragging us down. So, after we realized it together, we decided together to cut some specific shows out. This was harder than we expected, but out of respect for each other we did it.

Keep your focus on God
This obviously works the same with prayer time, tackling issues with children, exercise habits and deep sources of conflict. As much as we’d love them to, they won’t take care of themselves, and we aren’t meant to face them alone.

Writing down your rule of life as it develops and keeping it in a high-visibility area is extremely helpful. Make sure you are using something like a dry-erase board because your rule of life will need to be flexible and it will develop as your marriage and family develop.

If we allow him, God will lead us in intentionally guiding and structuring our family to grow toward him, but he will not do it for us!

“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you.” – Psalm 32:8-9

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