One Wild and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? [1]

When I first heard them a few days ago, these words from poet Mary Oliver struck a chord in my heart.

Most of us don’t live as if our lives are precious. We certainly don’t live as if our lives are wild. Instead we typically live as if life is a series of mundane work days and meals and loads of laundry and dishes. I’ve got one or two friends who undeniably live a “wild and precious life,” and most people look at them and say they’re at least a little bit crazy, that they’re not living in reality.

And it can’t be denied that the work days and meals and laundry and dishes are a part of reality, at least for most of us. But didn’t God create us to do more than just trudge through them wearily, rotely marking off the days until the weekend … until vacation … until my toddler is out of this phase … until retirement … until death? Isn’t there room—and a craving—for a little more “wild” and a little more “precious” in each of our lives??

But where can we find it? And how in the world can we fit it in amidst the “reality” of life that we all know all too well?

You might be surprised to know the context in which I heard Oliver’s words. You might expect them to have been shared by an adventurous world traveler or someone whose life is full of amazing Instagram-worthy endeavors and escapades. “Wild and precious,” after all, doesn’t sound like the life of a typical everyday American.

And on that last part, at least, you’d be right. But it wasn’t from a thrill-seeker or romantic wanderer that I heard Oliver’s words. Rather, it was from a monk. A monk who was, no less, talking about the importance of creating a rule of life. [2] Whaaaaat???

A rule of life, in case you’re not already familiar with it, is set of life disciplines that are purposefully chosen and followed in order to allow one to grow and flourish spiritually. Religious communities like monasteries often follow a rule of life, and probably the best known one is the Rule of Benedict, from the sixth century. The term “rule” itself is derived from the Latin word regula, from which we also get words like “regularize” and “regulation.” Doesn’t sound so wild or precious, does it?

But then, neither does life as most of us know it. And growth and flourishing do sound pretty good.… So maybe this whole rule of life thing is worth considering.

A few things that are important to know:

A rule of life is not meant to be restrictive, burdensome, or guilt inducing. It’s not just New Year’s resolutions on overdrive. Rather, it’s meant to provide enough structure and support to allow us to make headway toward things that are of ultimate significance, while certainly not neglecting the things of everyday necessity. It is a daily reminder of our truest, deepest longings, a gentle prompting toward our best possible selves and our best possible relationship with God.

Nor is a rule of life meant to be just another something added in on top of “normal” life. Instead, it’s a different lens through which we can view our everyday pursuits and practices. It’s meant to be a guiding framework by which we can evaluate whether or not the things that we are doing line up with what we actually want to do, who we truly want to become. It’s not just about adding in disciplines for the sake of something more to do or because were “supposed to.” Sometimes it even means taking things out of our lives in order to make room for what remains.

And a rule of life is not meant to be a one size fits all kind of thing. It is to be creatively designed so that its implementation brings growth and joy in your life, in a way that fits who you are and gently guides you into who you want to be. Each individual’s rule of life can and should be one of a kind, then, tailored to his or her values, dreams, life situation, and goals. [3] Custom made to fit the life and relationship God is drawing you into day by day.

Now that does sound like it has the capacity to lead us into a life that is both wild and precious, doesn’t it?

So I ask, What is it that you want to do with the one wild and precious life God has given you? What kind of structure and guidance could free you and empower you to actually do that? And how can you best open yourself up to the growth and flourishing that will certainly come from deepening your connection with God?

Because I doubt that there are many of us who want to get to the end of our time on earth only to realize that, simply due to a lack of attention and intention, we’ve lived a mundane and unsatisfactory life. We all crave a little “wild” and “precious,” after all, for God has put that longing and potential within us. And maybe a rule of life is just the thing to help us find it.

[1] From “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16CL6bKVbJQ
[2] “Growing a Rule of Life: Why write and keep a Rule of Life?” http://ssje.org/ssje/2016/01/25/why-write-and-keep-a-rule-of-life
[3] Yes, communities sometimes follow a rule, but it’s one they’ve discerned and/or agreed to together. At least in healthy communities, a rule is not something forced upon anyone; rather it is something that each individual freely chooses to submit to and live by.

 

Laura Callarman is a house church member and minister in Abilene, Texas. She completed an MDiv (Missions) degree at ACU, meeting her husband Rosten in Greek class on the first day. They have been married since October 2012 and have one adorable son, Asher, who was born in May 2015, a daughter who is due to arrive in September 2017, as well as an amazing dog, Sydney, who looks like a dingo. Laura and Rosten are part of an intentional community that is in the process of launching the Eden Center, a retreat facility outside of Abilene offering opportunities for spiritual renewal, creative innovation, and missional training.
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Author:  Publish Date: April 11, 2017

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About CHARIS

CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

The CHARIS website is supported by Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA), the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The purpose of CHARIS at ACU is to seek God’s blessings for a healthy relationship between the Christian college/university – its faculty, staff, and students – and the church heritage that gives identity and meaning to such a school. This underlying concern for Christian colleges/universities, and their relationship to the churches, is reflected in the form and content of the CHARIS website.

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