The first warm days of spring feel more like the beginning of the new year to me. I've been cooped up, weathering blizzards, biting wind, and freezing temperatures. I've grown used to the shorter days, and long stretches of darkness and quiet. The color palettes to behold vary between grays and browns.
Then slowly the light begins to linger and grow stronger. The birds come back, and a robin perches at the highest branch of a tree and warbles its hopeful song. The snow melts and the air smells like new grass, dirt, and rainfall. The first brave tips of tulips push their way through the thawing earth.
I wipe off cobwebs from my pots, and untangle my pile of tomato cages. New tendrils of clematis and trumpet vine curl and wave in the wind and I gently tie them to the trellis so they won’t break off.
As everything around me is coming to life, I too want to shake off the grogginess of winter and regain some things I’ve maybe lost in that long season.
Yes, spring feels like a fresh start, a good time to ask introspective questions, check our heart’s temperature, and shift our priorities a bit.
Through this last year I’ve been searching out different ways to expand and deepen my spiritual life, and one of the practices I’ve found helpful is called A Rule of Life. It’s a way of intentionally setting up a trellis for your body and soul as you seek to grow more towards God.
I've gone through phases of making New Year’s resolutions. Some have been good, others have flopped. Sometimes, resolutions can be a way of reminding me how bad or undisciplined I am at something. However; A Rule of Life is not meant to be a heavy burden or something that eventually turns to legalism. Instead, it’s a few questions that help you look at your life from an aerial view, and help you determine what you need to prioritize, areas that need growth, or boundaries that need to be made or re-established. It can also give you the courage to realize some things about yourself that maybe needed a little digging to loosen.
Ultimately, A Rule of Life guides you with intentional to love God and thrive in your relationship with Him.
There are many different forms of these questions, and the beautiful thing about them is there is no right or wrong answer. Each answer is unique to each person. We are all created in His image, but uniquely so. And we have all been given agency to pursue Christ as He unfolds each of our stories, day by day, and season by season. These questions are a bit like the string I use on my vines to tie them securely to the trellis. As I sit with each question in stillness, asking God to guide me in my response to them, I also lean into the truth that He is my Vine and Life,(John 15:5) the trellis just provides some framework.
1. What are the spiritual practices I need right now to help tether me to Christ as I seek to follow Him?
My life has become increasingly more noisy over the years as our family has grown. Access to podcasts, sermons, music and every form of entertainment is ever at my fingertips. But have I become so accustomed to noise, even good noise, that I am uncomfortable with sitting in silence? Am I quick to check my phone, connect with a friend through a text, or put on a good sermon while cooking dinner, but uncomfortable with prayer? And when I do pray, does it look more like a one sided conversation, or am I comfortable with waiting and listening for a reply? Is His Word precious to me, or merely another thing to check off my daily to do list? Because of past hurts, or consistent excuses, do I avoid community with His people, or walk into church guarded?
2. What are the practices of self care that I need to nurture my body and soul?
The answer to the first question in The New City Catechism states, “ We are not our own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Sometimes for me, the term “self care” can conjure images of ways to pamper my body or make time for much needed rest. But I am more complex than just a body, or just a soul. God intricately designed my soul and the home of my body within which it dwells. He calls me to treat both with reverence.
Taking care of my body and soul may look like quitting something. It may look like an early bedtime, or boundaries with social media and my time. Maybe it looks like exercise. Or maybe it looks like sipping good coffee while listening to beautiful music. Filling my soul with what is good and beautiful and making the conscious decision to treat my body with kindness will help me move towards wholeness.
3. What are the core relationships that I want and need to pour into?
Am I stretched thin? Have I squeezed one more “yes” into a 24 hour day that needs more hours dedicated to sleep than I care to give? Is my default reaction irritation? Is my pace of life rushed? And are the people who matter the most to me getting the leftovers of my heart and love, yet again?
Jesus chose a small group of friends to continually pour into. It didn’t mean that He stopped loving people outside of His group. He was simply intentional about who He continually broke bread with, spent time with, invested in.
I know for me, sharing the answers that I arrive at with my husband and a few close friends helps bring clarity, discernment, and accountability as I move forward with the intention of creating better boundaries.
4. What are the gifts, passions, and burdens that God has impressed upon me and wants me to express for the benefit of others?
What are the things that bring me delight? Are there hopes I've hidden away, or desires and burdens I doubt and don't feel confident enough in? Do I make room for creativity, service, or that thing that makes me feel as if I am finally pointed north?
I want to believe with unshakable confidence that God has designed me with specific gifts and talents. I do myself and the world no favors when I suppress, ignore, or dismiss these gifts. He chooses the weak, the unqualified, the foolish, to accomplish His will ( 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). He sees me as I am, and who I am becoming and His banner over me in the in-between is Love.
As you read through these questions that I am pondering in my own life, I hope they evoke thought, prayer, and movement toward a relationship with God that is vibrant and sustainable in you as well. I hope you enter into this spring wide eyed and expectant to be met by God. I hope you rest in the confidence that you are not alone, but fully known and delighted in. Let the love of God our Father, Helper and Friend guide us as we meditate on what to prioritize, what to leave behind, and what to leap for in this new season.