As I considered my thoughts for yesterday’s post on God as silence, I was drawn to revisit a book by Gary Thomas that I read years ago. It’s called Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God (the link is to a more recent edition than the one I read and own, but the content appears to be substantially the same from what I can tell).
In this book, Gary presents nine distinct spiritual temperaments that he claims have different ways of best relating to God. No one-size-fits-all approach to worship or discipleship will work for everyone. Given that God designed each of us differently, he suggests that discovering our temperament (or blend of temperaments) will enable us to best form a relationship with God in the ways that we were created to be.
This sounds like a relatively straightforward concept, but I still remember how revolutionary the idea was for me when I first encountered this book. I had struggled all of my life to fit into a model that did not suit me, and suddenly I was given permission to relate to God in the ways that best suit me!
Each of the nine temperaments that Gary presents have their strengths and weaknesses, and he describes both for each one to help the reader stay in balance even as they honor their God-given design. The nine temperaments are:
- Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
- Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
- Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
- Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
- Activists: Loving God through Confrontation
- Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
- Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
- Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration
- Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind
These descriptions not only helped me understand myself better, they also offered me so many new options for ways to approach loving God. At the same time, it gave me so much more understanding of those whose means of loving God looked different from my own. I can better appreciate other members of the body by understanding the things they bring to the experience of loving God, even if those things don’t resonate with me.
While I would have called myself a contemplative, he uses the word differently than I would have, so I’m actually more of an ascetic mixed with strong naturalist and intellectual tendencies. The importance of each of the three varies a bit depending on mood and life circumstances at the time, but all three are vital parts of the way that I am able to connect with God. I can relate in varying degrees to all of the others, except the activist. I deeply appreciate the work of the activists among us, but I don’t appear to have any of that temperament in me.
I had nearly forgotten about this book until I began writing yesterday about the idea of God as silence and realized how well that fit the ascetic part of my temperament. This is a good framework for my to revisit periodically to be reminded of the ways I am most drawn to love God and to be reminded of the need to cultivate my less natural approaches to loving God to remain in balance. This is a good place in my journey to be drawn back to this book, and I think it may be time to read it again.
What temperaments appeal to you as you read the list?
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