When you become a new Christian, someone hands you a Bible (or a small booklet that says cool stuff about Jesus), and encourages you to go to Church and have regular, “quiet times.”
In Church language, that means you take your Bible, a pen and journal, find a quiet spot free of distractions, pray a little, read a few passages or follow a Bible reading plan, pray some more to back up the initial prayer, then wait for God to upload some deep brilliant thoughts into your mind.
Can we be honest and admit that most of us rarely engage in these, "quiet times"? In fact, the only time any of us ever get quiet enough for God is when we have some painful drama in our lives that reminds us of our desperate need for Jesus!
That was my story.
Though I studiously engaged the scriptures each week to prepare for the weekend sermon, I found that I didn’t personally “connect” with God really well in “quiet” environments like the one suggested above. When I tried, my commitment lasted for only about a week, maybe two. It was frustrating! I had friends who seem to effortlessly spend hours in deep prayer. Why was I struggling so much to slow things down and hear from God like they did?!?
Unfortunately, what often followed was guilt. I felt guilty because I wasn't being a good Christian who, “read my Bible and prayed everyday.” Feeling like my guilt wasn't penance enough, I followed it up with what came most naturally. I placed myself in Jesus-detention! […because heaven knew there was no way God wanted to speak to me after I skipped "quiet time!"]
By God's grace, a lot has changed since then.
I now have a beard. I've also matured spiritually. During that journey, I came across a great book by Gary Thomas titled, "Sacred Pathways." As I took in his insights, I began asking the question, “Is it possible that my heart and mind are not as engaged in those quiet times because I’m not relating to God in a manner that best fits how He has uniquely designed and shaped me to connect with Him?” I had no doubt in my mind that reading/studying the Bible and praying regularly was absolutely essential to my spiritual maturity as a follower of Jesus Christ, but I sensed that I needed to change the way I was going about seeking HIS truth and HIS presence in the Bible and in prayer.
The more I studied, the more it dawned on me that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to sustaining a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Consider the fact that God, who is able to experience a wide range of emotions, took the time to create each one of us uniquely different from one another. Basically, everything Myers-Briggs says.
If this much care was put into shaping each of us, does it not make sense then that God gives each of us a unique spiritual temperament by which we best relate to Him? Gary Thomas, [whose book, Sacred Pathways, I’ve sourced the bulk of the content of this blog post] writes this, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s spiritual walk. After all, it’s his not yours. Better to discover the path God designed for you to take, a path marked by [spiritual] growth and fulfillment, based in your unique spiritual temperament.”
In his book, he explains that Sacred Pathways refer to the different approaches to loving God, distinctive journeys of adoration that lead us closer to the heart of Jesus Christ. You should buy his book to get the full details on what I’m about to share next. But to get you started on this journey, here’s a summary of the different sacred pathways you can travel to relate to your Father in heaven. He mentions nine of them in his book. I’m going to highlight seven here. As you read through them, keep in mind the possibility that you might have a combination of these different temperaments. It's also possible that as you mature in your faith in Christ, the temperament with which you relate to Him also evolves.
The first spiritual temperament Thomas describes are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when they are outdoors.Whereas most of us view our Church meeting space as a sanctuary and a holy place where we come to meet with God, the naturalist sees all of God’s natural creation as their sanctuary, their own personal cathedral.
If there were a passage of scripture that captures the spiritual heartbeat of Naturalists, it would be Psalm 19:1-6 where the psalmists says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”
If this describes you, and you haven’t felt spiritually engaged during your indoor quiet time, perhaps it’s time to grab a notepad and a Bible, or even an audio Bible, step outdoors, and worship Jesus Christ there. It could be as simple as going for a ten-minute walk around your block. Play some worship music on your mobile device and listen to a Bible reading.
The second spiritual temperament Thomas describes are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when their fives senses are engaged (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste). If you are a creative or an artist, this is you. God has placed within the hearts of sensates a deep, almost spiritual, connection with all things artistic. Their faith in Jesus Christ is most vibrant when they are engaged with experiences that are colorful, creative, artistic, vibrant, alive, melodious, diverse; things that inspire beauty and awe.
Practically speaking, your quiet time might come more alive if you incorporated some art, color, creative design and vibrancy to your personal space where you do devotions. Because you have a sense of story, I would also encourage you to focus on the narrative sections of scriptures when studying the Bible.
The third spiritual temperament Thomas references are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when the historic practices of the Christian faith are incorporated into the worship gathering. The scriptures come alive and their prayers flow most freely when there is structure and ritual in a Church service. They prefer the hymns, the symbols, and liturgy in a church setting.
For these individuals, routine and structure is important. Hence, it might be helpful to get some sort of Bible reading plan you can follow, perhaps something that guides you through the Bible in a year? Try reading scriptures aloud to yourself too. It might help you engage better. Or even playing some hymns before you pray.
The fourth spiritual temperament are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when there is simplicity or they are in solitude with God. The scriptures come alive and their prayers flow most freely when they are left alone in prayer and the scriptures, with nothing to distract them. They love God best in solitude and simplicity.
If this is you, you might find it spiritually refreshing to take half a day, a whole day or weekend and just go away to a cabin, camp, or a retreat center to spend some time with God. Because for you, God’s voice is loudest when everything is quiet around you, you need to be very intentional about your space!
The fifth spiritual temperament are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when they are confronting injustice and taking a stand for righteousness. If this is you, then you feel most engaged in your faith when you are fighting for social justice or an evangelistic cause, and helping those in need.
You might find that your faith is more engaged if you partner with causes that engage your heart. There are movements all over that include activities like campaigns against human/sex trafficking, modern day slave trade, and causes to feed the hungry. Because you prefer to act rather than think and meditate, and because (as strange as it may sound) you love God best through confrontation, it might serve you well to consider working for some these justice-seeking organizations. It just might ignite a light in your heart for Christ! I would also place those with the spiritual gift of evangelism in this category.
The sixth spiritual temperament are people Thomas calls:
This refers to people who relate to God best when they have the opportunity to serve others. This group is different from activists in that their primary concern is people, whereas activist are more concerned about the cause. The scriptures come alive for caregivers and their prayers flow most freely when they are allowed to provide care for people in need.
You love the word of God, but you would rather see it in action. So here’s an idea. During your next quite time, after reading the scriptures, make a meal, (or whatever it is you love doing) pray over it, and take it to someone around you who you know is in need. That counts as worship because the way you personally love God is by loving others.
The seventh spiritual temperament are people we would call:
This refers to people who relate to God best when they have the opportunity to Study the scriptures, doctrines and theology, or any great book on Christian history. These individuals are all about engaging the mind. They connect most with God when learning in an organized structured setting, or find themselves are in the middle of a theological debate.
On amazon.com, there is a series of books by author Steve Lawson called, "A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles" , and it’s a life study of the great preachers and theologians of the early Church; Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and John Calvin. If you prefer more face-to-face engagement, you can also consider taking some Bible classes at some of the Bible colleges in the area. Some of them will let you audit a class.
There are two more temperaments Thomas references in his book. You can purchase it to find out more about them. But just to reiterate, you might have one or more, or a combination of these spiritual temperament. Furthermore, knowing what yours is not only helps you better connect with God, but it also helps you appreciate how others uniquely worship God.
Now here’s what’s most important to grasp in all of this; whether you are a naturalist, a sensate, a traditionalist, an ascetic or activist, a caregiver or an intellectual, Jesus calls ALL His followers to, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He also says, “The second (greatest commandment) is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
So listen, no matter what your spiritual temperament may be, pour yourself out to God wholeheartedly. As you do, I pray that you will find your relationship with Jesus grow much deeper and much richer, and it in turn, I pray it results in you having more fulfilling relationships with the people around you.
P.S: In case you care, my spiritual temperaments are Sensate and Intellectual. The latter might sound odd, considering I claimed in the beginning to hate "quiet times." As it turns out, what I needed was an outlet, like my blog, and of course, the privilege of a weekly pulpit where I get to share all God teaches me in His word. I found that I am most engaged with the Father's heart when I have the opportunity to creatively express theological truths in writing or speech.
So, yeah. I turned out okay. [..incase you were wondering.] :)