Resting in a rule of life when our souls run weary and wild

Written by Taeryn Novak

Over the last number of years I have recognized the need for mystery in my faith. Problems arise when we begin to worship our own image of God, or one very specific interpretation. As C.S Lewis writes in A Grief Observed, “My idea of God is a not divine idea. It has to be shattered from time to time. He shatters it Himself.”

I am coming out of a season of acknowledging what I don’t know, while also dissecting aspects of my faith as I walk alongside friends who are deconstructing theirs. Deep down I have the foundational belief that God is with me no matter how I feel. 

I prayed and gave thanks and thought about God every day. But I stopped turning to Scripture. I let my weekly Sabbath rhythms fall to the wayside. I became overwhelmed by the voices and opinions of the world. 

When I’m not intentional with spiritual rhythms such as Scripture reading, rest, and time in corporate worship, I’m less grounded and rooted in Christ. Proverbs 29:18 says that “when people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild” (NLT). My life quickly gets out of control when I am not connected to the Holy Spirit, the truest source of wisdom and guidance. 

So what do I do in the moments when I am not feeling drawn to the Lord, when I am running wild and doing things on my own strength? It is in these moments that my soul needs some kind of liturgy. 

I grew up in an evangelical denomination with its own form of liturgy but was rarely exposed to the more traditional practices and prayers of other churches. I know that for some these practices can lose their potency through repetition, but I think they also have an incredible way of keeping our focus on Christ, no matter how we feel, just as a trellis provides a plant better exposure to the sun. 

This image of a trellis comes from the ancient monastic tradition of a rule of life, a set of practices or habits that provide structure to help us focus on Jesus and become more like Him.

It is a way to align our time with our values in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and overwhelming. 

These habits can slow down our bodies, and consequently our souls, in order to be more present to ourselves, to God, and to others. Practicing The Way, a new online resource being launched by John Mark Comer and his team at Bridgetown Church, offers a free, practical workbook to begin crafting a rule of life. 

I find myself craving grounding practices—a written prayer, a daily scripture, time with other believers, a weekly shabbat dinner, and time to slow down. Mystery is all well and good. It is necessary. But I am human. I cannot contain or sustain all the mysteries of the world and who God is, so I need rhythms that make the intangible that much more tangible, livable. 

As a start, I have been reciting a prayer at the end of the day, a Jewish liturgical prayer similar to the one Jesus would have prayed every night. I slow down my schedule on Friday afternoons, putting on a pot of soup and settling in for a tech-free time of rest and connection. I am returning to the habit of daily reading the Bible. 

I am also realizing I cannot do any of this alone. In order to live out my walk with God, to battle discouragement and the lies that creep in, I must remain connected to Christ’s body of believers. “Do not neglect meeting together,” Hebrews 10:25 tells. This isn’t so much a command as it is a statement about how the world works. Life and faith work better when we accept the invitation to step into community. To walk with a group of people all on the same road toward wholeness. 

Let us trade some of the mystery for rhythms we can return to daily. Let us lean on the trellis of spiritual practices that connect us to Jesus, our source of strength, hope, and love. And let us never stop leaning on each other, no matter the season.