Living Order in Chaos
What does it mean to live order – especially in a world where so much is available at our fingertips, boundaries are fading and almost nonexistent, and comfort is so much more attainable than greatness?
Living order in daily life is hard. Living order in the time of Coronavirus seems impossible.
What does it mean to live order? For the sake of this conversation, we’ll define order as keeping “first things first,” a Jesuit principle that emphasizes the importance of keeping God at the center of our lives. When we focus on this “first thing,” the second, third, fourth, and fifth things tend to fall into place.
In theory, this sounds easy enough – “Ah yes, I will focus on God and everything else will come after Him…” But put into practice without a plan, even my best intentions go awry.
I remember being a student at UC Santa Barbara and watching how beautifully the FOCUS missionaries lived order in their daily lives. They attended Mass and Holy Hour daily and incorporated the Rosary and other spiritual practices into their lives. As a student, I tried to follow suit. Daily prayer and daily mass became part of my routine, especially as the unknowns of post-graduation life crept closer.
When I began my first post-grad job, I was rudely awakened by how difficult it was to maintain this order. I was out the door by 8:00 am and arrived home after 5:30. Mornings were for workouts (when I could get up) and evenings were for spending time with my friends or just collapsing under the exhaustion of the day. Daily mass wasn’t a possibility (unless I walked 1.5 miles uphill at 5:45 am) and daily prayer quickly fell by the wayside. There were so many distractions and I was pulled away from prayer toward things that provided quick relief. Why sit in silence for an hour hoping God might show up when I could watch The Office? I would pray each night for about ten minutes, listing my consolations and desolations and thanking God for the day, many times falling asleep before saying “Amen.”
Since I couldn’t do everything, I opted for nothing.
Since I didn’t have an hour, I gave Jesus just my final few moments of the day. Since I couldn’t get to mass, I didn’t bother reading the daily scriptures. In my mind, that chapter of my life was over, and it was beyond my control to do anything about it.
A few months in I began settling into a deep fatigue. There was a deep aching in my heart. I was unsure how to navigate the new normal, but I knew that I needed community, I needed the mass, and I needed time with God.
Slowly, I inched towards creating new habits. I began waking up 15 minutes earlier to read the Gospel and talk with God before the day started. This shift in my daily routine was small, but it opened the door to more conversation with God through my day. After a few months, this became a 30-minute time of prayer, with ten minutes of silent time to just listen. These moments became the anchor points for my day. Without knowing it, I had begun to craft my Rule of Life.
A Rule of Life is an agreement you make with God (and a spiritual director if possible) that outlines how you will keep God “first” in your life. It’s rooted by commitments you make daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually that keep you on track to grow in your spiritual life. My Rule will look different from your Rule; just as my Rule today looks different from my Rule when I was in college.
Is this legalistic? As my very wise spiritual director often says, “Keep the Rule and the Rule will keep you.” We create habits for the purpose of growing into better versions of ourselves, or to make aspects of life easier. A Rule gives us the freedom to live order in our lives so we can love Jesus more. Creating a Rule of Life keeps us accountable to what matters. Just like you would never go into war without a battle strategy, you can’t grow in holiness without a game plan.
For example, a Rule of Life could look like this:
- Daily: Morning Lectio Divina with the Gospel, Nightly Examination of Conscience
- Weekly: Rest on the Sabbath, Adoration, Confession, Bible Study
- Monthly: 24-hour technology fast, Spiritual Direction
- Annually: Go on retreat
A few pointers as you go about setting your Rule:
Don’t sprint before you walk. Where are you today? What are you doing today that is working for you? Maybe you want to add one or two days of daily mass to your week. Maybe you want to add one rosary a week. If you’re not doing daily morning prayer, start at 10 minutes and work up to 30 or an hour.
Once you’ve done an inventory of your current practice, ask God where He wants you to be courageous. I remember when my spiritual director suggested that I take my 10 minutes of daily Gospel Lectio Divina to 30 minutes. I couldn’t believe how crazy that sounded. The first few weeks were a struggle (both waking up earlier and sitting still for that long), and today there are still harder days – but the fruits of this committed time have been abundant. He’ll give you the grace to walk farther with Him.
Over time, you’ll feel different promptings about what God might want you to add or remove from your daily practices. Listen to the Holy Spirit. If He’s asking you to attend daily mass, take the steps to make it happen. If there’s no way for you to make it, try making a Spiritual Communion. God will guide you, and your Rule of Life will change over time as you grow through different seasons.
As a caveat, remember that this time of Coronavirus has affected many of our Rules.
No longer is daily mass, biweekly confession, or adoration as accessible – or even an option. But the Lord meets us where we are, always. Take some time in your prayer today to ask Him how He wants you to grow closer to Him in this time. Remember – be reasonable, be courageous, and be receptive. He loves you and desires for you to grow into the person He created you to be. Keep first things first, and be confident that our good and loving Father will give you all the grace you need to face the challenges and unknowns of life.
Download your free Rule of Life Guide here
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Jane Kennedy lives in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and works in criminal justice reform. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably catching up with friends on FaceTime, getting lost in Rock Creek Park, quoting C.S. Lewis, or trying to recreate Salt and Straw ice cream at home.