From time to time I’d like to give an update on how I’ve done living according to my newly established life rule. Hopefully this can be an encouragement to you as you consider developing or adapting a rule of life to help you follow in Jesus’ path and/or align your life patterns with your stated values.
In a macro-sense, this experiment has been incredible. My wife noted yesterday that in the last few weeks I’ve been much more at ease, my stress level is way down, I seem happier, I’m much more attentive to her and my kids, and my presence is more calming. I’ve been able to keep all of my rules regarding phone usage and have been vigilant that, once I step away from my work for the day, it stays away. Since the phone was such a hindrance to my faith by making me buy-in to the lie that I always had to be available and by enabling my desire to escape rather than engage, putting it down and removing distractions from it has been a vital step. I’m happy to report that, after the first week of my life rule, my screen time report informed me that my usage was down 61% from the previous week. In the second week, it was down another 13%. This is while still needing my phone to text, call, and FaceTime students and ministry leaders for at least an hour a day. Putting the phone down has been incredibly freeing and life-giving.
- Before I open my phone in the morning, I will first do my devotion time. With the exception of the morning that I overslept and woke up to needing to get breakfast ready and get to work before I had a chance to stop, this has been a success. Previously, I would have spent 30-45 minutes on social media or playing games before I did a quick devotion time. Now, I make a cup of coffee and have a nice, leisurely devotion time. Stepping into the day in better communion with the Father has made a world of difference.
- Pray a Psalm a day. With the same exception as listed above, this has been a success. I love praying the Psalms!
- I will put a weekly Sabbath on my calendar. Yes, and it’s great.
- Part of my Sabbath will include a weekly reflection journal. Nope, haven’t done this yet. I’m terrible at journaling, but know this will be we welcome and helpful addition. I’ll do it this week.
- Call a friend once a week. Yes, and it’s been great to catch up with people just because.
- Arrange to do something fun with someone I’m not related to once a month. There hasn’t bee much of an opportunity to do this yet (social distancing and all), but I’ll figure something out in the next two weeks.
- Find a way to go on a date with Jenna at least once a month. Again, this has been difficult because of social distancing, but I’ll figure something out, especially with Mother’s Day approaching.
- Have an activity that I do with Ava and Caleb individually at least once a month. Ava has an activity. Caleb does not yet. In the next two weeks, we’ll find something.
- After 6 PM, put my phone down for work-related purposes. This was amended to 8 PM pretty quickly because I was having some meetings that started at 8 PM. It’s hard to put your phone down for work-related purposes when you’re getting texts about the Zoom link at 8:05. However, I do have all the apps on my phone except calling and texting locked after 7 PM until 7 AM the next morning.
- No phone in the bathroom. Take time to pray. Some yes and some no. Haven’t done as great with this one as with others.
- Limit TV consumption to 10 hours a week or less. I went a little over this past week because we introduced our kids to the original Star Wars movies over the weekend.
- Limit podcast consumption to 1.5 hours a day. I didn’t realize how hard this would be. I generally listen to podcasts while I work. I’ve had to filter down the ones that I listen to pretty drastically. Some days I hit this and some days I go over. Still in progress.
- No multi-tasking. Ugh. I love multi-tasking. I’ve done better at being present with my family, but some of those Zoom meetings…
- No social media on my phone (IG ok, since it has phone-only features that I use for work). This was actually pretty easy. Everything has stayed off my phone and I installed a strict 15 minute a day limit on IG. I even managed to do a 5 minute IG live one day and still stay under my limit.
- No email on my phone. Done. Don’t miss it or the incessant bings.
- Begin to systematically appraise purchases based on how products are produced. I mostly intended clothing when I wrote this, but I am beginning to wonder if I should include food and other goods, too. It will be a matter of prayer over the next few weeks.
- Utilize the Daily Office to guide my devotion time. Love, love, love the Daily Office. This was a great decision.
I don’t want to go back to the way things were before this. Obviously, I’ve got a few areas to shore up on my plan, but overall this has been faith-affirming, life-giving, and a much needed change. I fee like my habits (those small decisions you make minute-to-minute without even really thinking about them) are beginning to align with what I say I value, what is eternally important, and bring me nearer to the heart of Jesus.
Nope, not going back.