For the foreseeable future, the vast majority of us are now quarantined in our homes by COVID-19. What will we do with all of this time? It’s likely that much of the population has already begun to binge Netflix, chips and video games. Many are staying up as long as they like and waking up whenever they get to it. The first few days might’ve been nice. However, many of us are now wondering how to use this time wisely and to maintain a sense of direction while quarantined.
What we might need is a set of rules, rhythms or boundaries that can help grow our love of God and neighbor. In other words, “a rule of life.” A rule of life has a long standing tradition within the monastic tradition. You might have heard of the rule of Saint Benedict, the rule of Saint Augustine and more recently Justin Whitmel Earley’s The Common Rule. Developing a rule of life can come in handy at time like this because all of our normal rhythms and routines have been disrupted.
How can rules in my life grow anything? Well they can’t. Margaret Guenther describes a good rule of life being like a trellis. Grapes and other vines that are fruit bearing often use a trellis for support. Therefore, a good rule of life doesn’t produce the love of God and neighbor but it should support it. However, no rule of life will be the same. She writes, “Like the vines, we too need to be supported but not constricted, held up but not rendered immobile.” Therefore, these rules might seem either too strict or too lax. The rule of life I practiced as a college student would not benefit me as much now that I have two kids. Only you will know what’s best for your position in life.
All this being said, here are 7 potential rules for you to live by during this time. Maybe they will help you as you develop your own. Almost none of these rules are original to me. Others have shared their rule of life, and it’s helped me develop my own. My point being, maybe this hodge-podge list will help you as you develop your own.
1. Scripture Before Phone
This one comes straight out of Justin Whitmel Earley’s The Common Rule. Many of us have an unspoken rule that we live by every morning. We wake and the first thing we check is our phone. You might say it’s our first devotion of the day! Isn’t that a terrifying thought? Earley writes, “Daily immersion in the Scriptures resists the anxiety of emails, the anger of news, and the envy of social media. Instead it forms us daily in our true identity as children of the King, dearly loved.” Let scripture form your perspective of the day and not your phone.
2. Give Something Away
When we’re quarantined it’s incredibly tempting to turn inward on ourselves and become self-serving. Perhaps, every day we should commit to giving something away. Large or small, turn to bless another every day. Maybe you give of your time and call your grandmother who is home alone? Maybe you offer to do the dishes for your roommate? Go through your closet and ruthlessly prune things you don’t need and others may find helpful (Just make sure to sanitize it first!). There are any number of opportunities to give. Before the day runs away from us, how can we commit to blessing those around us?
3. Kneeling Prayer 3x a Day
This is another one from The Common Rule. Who does your day belong to? We easily forget whose we are whenever we don’t have a rhythm and habit of prayer. You don’t have to kneel, you could open your hands or lay face down. It’s just important to stop and get your body involved into the prayer.
4. Strict Bedtime and Wake Up Time
This one doesn’t seem that spiritual, but it’s still important to your walk with Jesus. Whenever you open the scripture, kneel in prayer and serve those around you—you need to be fully there, so get some sleep. It would be so easy for us to lose each day because it doesn’t have an established beginning and end.
5. Daily Exercise
Again, on the surface this doesn’t seem spiritual. I’m sure I don’t need to argue that exercise is beneficial. Still, it’s deeply important that we steward our bodies as belonging to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Exercise can benefit so many different things that it can’t be really covered in a small paragraph. All this to say: make it a daily rhythm to go for a walk, a hike, a run or at least get off the couch.
6. Limit Screen Time To ______ Hours? Minutes?
What if Job’s famous words, “I have made a covenant with my eyes…” (Job 31:1) took on a whole new meaning in our digital age? I can’t say this enough, limit screen time. It’s insane how many hours we spend a day looking at our TVs, computers and phones. I imagine if aliens were observing us from afar they would assume that we receive most of our guidance from consulting our phone. It’s not far off for some of us! In Earley’s book, one of his rules is, “One Hour with Phone Off” that rule has been helpful for me. However, now I feel the need to overhaul all of my screen consumption. When we decrease the amount of time we spend looking at screens, we are increasing the potential time to love God and neighbor.
7. Gather Weekly
First, obey the CDC guidelines because right now the best way to love one another is stopping the spread of this virus. However, find a way to still pour into and be poured into by a community. It might be that you gather physically in small groups and take the appropriate precautions. It might be that you meet virtually. The scripture warns us to never neglect meeting together, but to instead gather and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). Don’t isolate yourself from the world but commit to remaining connected to your community. It’s hard work but it’s worth it.
I hope that you develop your own rule of life during this crazy time. It’s tempting to just turn this time into a free-for-all, treat-yo-self kind of season. Yet, I’ve never seen that kind of living to bring about the fruit that I’m looking for in my life. Establish some discipline, build the trellis, and watch how God moves freely there. I leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).