Properly understood, The Common Rule is not about self-denial or asceticism for its own sake; it is an expression of joyful willingness—the desire to embrace a new way of life in which we don’t sacrifice what is best for what is easiest.
We underestimate the power of habits, especially those we adopt unconsciously, as a result of our busy and hurried lives. We like to think of ourselves as spontaneous and authentic in our worship and work, when in reality we’re enslaved to habits and patterns that dominate our waking moments. As a consequence, we are wonderless in an age of wonders. Our technology has only freed us up . . . to live like slaves.
In This Is Our Time, I tried to apply insights from each chapter to our everyday lives, so that Christian faithfulness would take shape in habits, both individually and communally. One of the recommendations I made was that we prompt ourselves to give priority to God’s Word by making our bedrooms “phone free” and by opening the Bible in the morning to read and pray before we grab the phone and check in. Out of all the practices I recommended in This Our Time, the “Scripture before phone” application has come up in conversation with readers more frequently than anything else.
A recent reader of my book, Justin Whitmel Earley, has developed a website called The Common Rule and is writing a book on the power of “habits of love for an age of chaos.” I was excited to see the “Scripture before phone” practice recommended there, as well as the daily habit of “kneeling prayer” (in which our bodies and hearts are united in inclining ourselves to God). Justin includes other habits as well, both daily and weekly, and the patterns he recommends are intentional in turning us outward to loving God and the people around us. He writes:
If we are going to live lives shaped by the love of God and neighbor, we need to think about our habits. The vast majority of our lives are governed by habit. We are not formed simply by our deepest beliefs and greatest aspirations, but also the most ordinary of habits that guide our everyday lives. We usually don’t think about these habits, and that’s why they matter so much.