My Rule Book

I’ve played board and card games with members of my family who love to “bend” the rules and playfully cheat. They think it’s funny and I try to indulge them but deep down it’s a bit frustrating. If you don’t go by the rules, then the whole point of the game is lost. Winning isn’t important any longer. At least, that is the way my brain works.

    Speaking of rules, I’ve been writing a book all my life. I’ve had to start over, make numerous changes and corrections, refer to references and even just let it sit and simmer overtime before writing again. The size hasn’t really changed, but just the contents.

    The changes have come about with time, as I get older, wiser and introspective. As I experienced things, the book had to be revised. As my future changed, I had to make the changes and update the details. I’m not sure of a title but one I could use is “My Rule Book”.

    I recently saw again one of my favorite movies with John Wayne in “Hondo”. One line in the movie by Wayne I will never forget. “I made a rule a long time ago, a man ought to do what he thinks is best.” Now, that’s a good rule and can keep you out of trouble. Those are types of rules I am referring to — rules to guide my life that I­­ think are “best.”  

      I began my rulebook at an early age by the rules given to me by my parents, society, friends, school, and church. These served me well (though I sometimes tried to break them) until I began questioning some of them, especially as a teenager.

Now, peer pressure and the media influence began seriously challenging these rules and I began seriously listening to those voices. I threw out many of the rules and tried to put in some that served me best but found, to my dismay, to be destructive and frivolous. As I entered into my own family era, the rules changed again to encompass more responsibility. I took more seriously the church and family rules of happiness and discipline. Down through the years, lessons from good and bad experiences shaped the inclusion of additional rules and changing others that made sense.

    Within this rulebook are my “soul” rules. These rules guard and guide my spiritual journey that I live a life including and enveloping a Creator. These rules have served me well and are still being shaped as my faith is tested and my hope is attacked.

    My rulebook is mine, not yours. It’s a book that is stained with tears and blood. The pages are dirty, and the handwriting is sometimes hard to read due to the erasing and crossing out of the words. But it is mine. I wonder about your rulebook. Has it been updated or even referred to as often as needed?  Is it worn from use?  Is your soul part of the rules?


By Retired Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Ray Bailey

Former Deputy Chief of Chaplains