Rules for People Who Don’t Like Being Boxed In (or Who Feel Like They Already Are)

Relevant photo. Just keep reading…

Back in 2018 (I keep wanting to say “last year,” but that is no longer correct…), a lot of fairly momentous things happened. In hindsight (which is, as they say, 2020–that’s a pun, guys), Paul and I were being prepped for each of these events for a long time, but in not-hindsight, all of them were a complete surprise.

Exhibit A: Moving house–which we had already planned to do, but weren’t expecting to buy my parents‘.

Exhibit B: Converting the Pilgrimage to a dba of the Sanctuary at Woodville.

Exhibit C: Being invited to become the part-time pastor of Central Baptist Church.

The moving thing took up the middle six months of the year, at least, and the other two events spent the final three months hurtling toward fruition, and around that time I was meeting with my spiritual directors’ peer supervision group and my colleagues reminded me about a Rule of Life.

Each of them, it turns out, had one. I was familiar with the concept, but you guys. I don’t like being boxed in. I’ve never been able to colour within the lines. I’m the type of person who wants to make sure I do what’s expected of me–in as unexpected a way as possible. My best illustration of this is when I was a senior in high school and one of the theme days during Spirit Week was “Beach Day.” So, rather than dress in swim gear like everyone else, I cut the visor off a baseball cap, sewed a cardboard beak on instead, made wings out of some old pillow cases, and dressed up as a seagull. (If there were photos, I would post one, I promise.) My methods are, as you can tell from that vignette, not tremendously efficient, and it might not surprise you to learn that I had few close friends pre-college.

And yet, I’ve always been like this, and so the idea of gridding up my life or heck, even just planning, was not appealing. At the same time, everything about my life in 2018 felt kind of out of control, and in reality, I have also always worked best with some kind of structure, so I bought myself a book about creating a rule of life and slowly picked my way through it. All. Year. Long.

Turns out, the book wasn’t a great fit for someone like me. Turns out a Rule of Life is exactly the perfect fit for someone like me. I know I’m kind of a strange bird (haha–cf. story above), but I actually think a Rule of Life is exactly the perfect fit for someone like you, too.

For me the catalyst to finish it was my five-week stint as a Transportation Security Officer last fall. (More about that later. Sometime. Maybe.) The breakthrough in my thinking about it came when listening to a podcast in which the author of a new book described a rule of life as a trellis. (A trellis is not a box or even a wall. A trellis is a structure which promotes a plant’s growth, health, and improvisation.) And the motivator to help anyone I can possibly lasso into the project create or discern their own trellis came from the fact that this last Advent and Christmas season–my first as a new pastor–was the least stressful Advent and Christmas season in my adult memory. It’s not that they weren’t busy. It’s just that the busy-ness was not in charge.

Also, from about September on, I’ve continually run into references to and resources for Rule of Life work. And so that, dear reader, is why I really hope you’ll take me up on this offer to join the experiment in our upcoming Online Spiritual Conversation. I’m not at expert on or at this. My trellis is still a little wonky and I’m not exactly following it to a T. And yet, life is still a lot saner than it was.

Get yourself signed up. Get yourself a trellis.

Published by Jennwith2ns

Jesus person. Wife and step-mom. Collector of stories: mine, yours, tangible, not... Pastor of Central Baptist Church, founder and spiritual director at The Pilgrimage, and author of Trees In The Pavement and Favored One.

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