The people who owned our house before we did planted a bunch of fruit trees, bushes, and vines. This year we had more apples than we knew what to do with along with peaches, pears, and plums. Needless to say, our neighborhood squirrels ate like kings. Among the many fruit-bearing plants, the former owners also planted a grapevine in the backyard. They planted it at the base of a post that led to an overhead trellis that spanned the length of our back patio. The idea was that the vine would grow up the post and expand to fill the length of the trellis. Although a good idea, it didn’t really work out.
Grape vines need room to breathe, absorb sunlight, and to grow. That’s the only way they will produce healthy fruit. The post they were growing up became cramped and crowded and the vine produced no more than 15 sour grapes – not exactly a healthy, fruit-bearing plant. Last fall we decided to make some changes to the back patio and took down the trellis since it wasn’t really serving its purpose anyway. In the process we cut down the grapevine as well. That was not enough to deter the plant, however. The vine came back this year uninvited and sprawled out on our patio looking for vertical purchase. Finding none, it produced no fruit at all.
Our faith is kind of like a vine. If we’ve built a life on unhealthy habits and rhythms we will subsequently produce unhealthy fruit. If we have no rhythms or structures at all in our lives we will produce no fruit at all because our faith needs some kind of trellis to follow. I meet people all the time who have either an unhealthy trellis or no trellis at all for their faith and yet find themselves disappointed by their lack of growth as if there is nothing they can do about it.
One of the terms we use for this faith-trellis is “Rule of Life.” It’s a structured scaffolding that helps guide us no matter how mellow or hectic, social or lonely, rich or poor, lush or dry our life happens to be from season to season. A Rule of Life is made of rhythms. Sure, these rhythms run the risk of becoming rote and monotonous but they are the very things that keep us on course when our circumstances try to derail us. A Rule of Life is made of rhythms that move us toward God, toward healthy relationships with others and ourselves, and toward our neighbors in need. These rhythms help us maintain a holistic, multi-directional approach to life and faith.
How would you describe your Rule of Life? What rhythms do you have in place that help you grow and develop?