- Which character from Lord of the Rings are you?
- Which classic author do you most resemble?
- Find out which Pokémon you are!
I can find out which Bible character I am, which Disney character I am, which Harry Potter character I am. We love this stuff. We know we are not all the same, and we love discovering the differences between us, as well as the unique things that make me me.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. We connect to God in different ways. Some of us love nothing more than to sit and meditate on a simple but deep truth from God’s Word. Others of us like to delve into the detail of historical context and theological complexity in Scripture. Some of us are at our best fighting for God’s justice on the big issues in our world. Others experience the heart of the Father as they care for the needs of a single person.
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, describes nine different ways we might be wired to connect to God:
- Activists: Loving God through Social Justice
- Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
- Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration
- Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
- Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
- Intellectuals: Loving God through the MInd
- Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
- Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
- Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Jesus tells us that the #1 Commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In each of these pathways, you can see an emphasis on these individual facets of our being. As we learn about the ways in which we best connect to God, we can hone our spiritual practices to draw more closely to him, to speak better the language of our souls.
At the same time, knowing these pathways can free us from a “one size fits all” approach to spiritual formation. We can learn to appreciate others in how they approach and experience God, and keep from insisting that only one or two pathways are right and best. And we can even lean in to trying new pathways that are less natural to us, in our attempts to love God with even more facets of our being.
This is what my experience has been like, since first encountering these concepts about seven years ago. My two strongest Pathways are the Intellectual and the Sensate. The first was no surprise, as I came from a strong Biblical studies background. The second, however, was a revelation as I learned to re-orient my aesthetic sense toward the Beauty that is God. Then recently, over the last few years, I have begun to explore one of my weakest Pathways, the Contemplative. Though I will never be Julian of Norwich, it has been an enriching experience to follow these disciplines.
Over the next weeks, I will be posting on each of these to help you think through them as you ask yourself, “Which character am I?”