All consistent gym goers know that as the new year starts, the gym becomes overcrowded. People make resolutions to become healthy and lose weight, following a strict diet and exercise plan. Unfortunately, as the weeks go by, the gyms become less crowded and people slip back into old habits. I wonder if some of this is because all too often we focus our resolutions on the physical body rather than on the mind and the spirit. What if instead of making resolutions about changing our physical health, we made resolutions to become more spiritually and emotionally healthy? What could we do to accomplish these goals? So many of us know how to create a physical exercise plan, yet don’t know where to start with an emotional or spiritual exercise plan.
I recently finished reading Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary L. Thomas. In this book, Thomas discusses his theory that we all have different spiritual temperaments and thus, have different ways that we prefer to connect to God. In the book, Thomas describes the following 9 spiritual temperaments.
- Naturalists connect with God through His creation and love being outdoors. This reminds me of my husband’s testimony which involves being amazed by God’s creation on a Young Life retreat. This awe helped him to cement his desire to live in relationship with God.
- Sensates crave sensory stimulation. They love incense, sounds, images – beauty. They grow closer to God through their senses. I have a harder time identifying with this but I do know that scent is powerfully connected to our memories and our relationships. In the book, Thomas reminds us of the woman pouring expensive perfume on Jesus. When the people question this woman’s actions, Jesus says “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6)
- Traditionalists can most easily connect with God through religious rituals and symbols. This temperament was one that intrigued me greatly. Being from New England, I know many people who grew up in more traditional churches who felt they never learned about the relational nature of God or the true message of salvation. I too grew up going to a more traditional church but I don’t feel the same animosity as some I know do. I always felt a connection to God at church when I was younger. I now attend a less traditional church but have had the opportunity recently to visit some more traditional churches through my daughter’s choir and have come to love seeing each of the different old buildings filled with history, perusing the Book of Common Prayer in the pews. While this wasn’t my highest scoring pathway, I do think this is one that I identify with more than others and would like to explore this area more in the coming year.
- Ascetics meet God through simplicity and discipline. This was my highest scoring pathway. As an ascetic, I can identify with being easily distracted and desiring a quiet empty space where I can fully focus on God to better connect with Him. In a house with three kids, this isn’t always easy. In the past, I’ve used closets as prayer and study spaces but in this home, I haven’t found that space so I’d like to intentionally create that in the next year.
- Activists meet God through confrontation. These are people who most easily find God when they are fighting for Him. They don’t back down from a fight and worship God through their dedication to help further God’s truth in the world.
- Caregivers meet God through caring for others. They don’t simply care for others out of necessity but out of a desire to serve others to grow closer to God. We all can find God while meeting others needs and should do so more. When I think of this type, a few people in my church come to mind as natural caregivers who clearly find God through their work of caring for others.
- Enthusiasts meet God through the grand celebrations. They love being surprised by God and enjoy being part of emotionally joyful worship. This is probably the pathway that I find hardest to understand, and thus I think I need to grow in this area the most. I’ve been known to cringe at the word joy and have a hard time identifying what I enjoy. I’d like to try to meet God more through this pathway this year as I think that will stretch me and force me to rely on Him.
- Contemplatives meet God through love and adoration. They talk of God in terms that most talk about their spouse, enjoying sitting by His side and sharing their hearts with Him. They regularly both talk to and listen to God and desire an intimate relationship with Him through this time.
- Intellectuals connect with God through their mind. This was my second highest pathway and I identify with it strongly. These people enjoy studying God and feel close to Him when they understand something new about Him.
I think this book is a nice tool for those who would like to increase their spiritual health in the next year. Thomas describes various ways we can try to meet God using each pathway. He encourages us to start with our strongest but to not stop there as we can grow closer to God through each one of them as Jesus displayed each one in His relationship with the Father while He was on earth. While some churches may seem ideal for different pathways, it’s important to remember that diversity in the body of Christ is important so it’s good to be around those with different pathways. Rather than going to a church to better fit our pathways, Thomas encouraged us instead enrich our personal time with God through our stronger pathways.
You can go here to take a quiz on Focus on the Family’s website to identify your strongest pathway. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and get started on growing in your spiritual health in the next year. Note, if like me, you listen to books in the car, I found this to be a good narration, making it an easy listen.