Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership
Nine Ways to Authentically Connect with God
By Evan Nehring
One great breakthrough in my spiritual life happened when I decided to pursue God in a way that was meaningful to me, not just in a way that people expected.
Gary Thomas takes this idea farther when he lays out nine spiritual temperaments which might describe each of us . Consider how you feel about each of the nine. You could even rate each one on a scale of 1 to 10 for whether it’s “you” or not.
Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors. Mountain elevations. Wind in the trees. Waves breaking on the rocks or lapping on the beach. Silent snowfall. Spring streams trickling down the hillside. All of these draw my affections to my Creator.
Sensates: Loving God with the Senses. I bought a cross on a chain because I wanted to touch something that represented the ancient reality of faith. The cold steel on my chest helps my spirit connect. The mp3’s on my iPhone activate my sense of hearing in worship. The smell of candles or a wood fire brings warmth. Color, shape and architecture visually resonate with my spirit. The sweetness of the communion wine and the dry crumble of the bread pull me to worship through taste.
Traditionalists: Loving God Through Ritual and Symbol. Although I have not grown up in a main stream denomination, I appreciate the beauty of religious forms. Christian wedding pageantry and vows usher in the blessing of God’s presence. The weekly cadence of Sunday worship might help us feel some safety as we hear challenging words. The holy calendar with its major stops on Christmas and Easter brings seasonal rhythm to the decades of life.
Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity. As I study this bullet point, my spirit cries out for more of this. Thomas whets my spiritual appetite:
The ascetic temperament gravitates toward solitude, austerity, simplicity, and deep commitment. It’s the “monastic” temperament, so to speak, representing believers who aren’t afraid of discipline, severity, and solitude—indeed, believers who find that these elements awaken their souls to God’s presence. (Thomas, 96)Activists: Loving God Through Confrontation. I rated myself a “3” for activism at first. I’m not confrontational by nature. I’m a peacemaker. But I’ve gotten more involved in civic leadership in recent years, and the driving force is my faith.
I posted an article on my Facebook wall the other day related to a standoff in Madison, Wisconsin between Governor Walker and the public union employees. A lengthy and heated comment thread ensued. I was accused of being irreligious and vengeful. I attempted to keep a civil tone as I made my point, and then I added this.
One more thought...I'm disappointed in myself for having so few enemies and being so rarely criticized. The most meaningful times in my life have been times when I was public enough for a segment of folks to disagree. Jesus was reviled by many. I need to learn more about that.Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others. I married into a full family with a wife and two kids on the first day. We added little Jason to the mix eight years later. Tying ourselves to the routine of family life is one way we love God by loving others. People explode my senses. Eternal souls gathered together bring a vibrancy nothing else can match. I want to give massive chunks of my time and whole seasons of my life to caring.
Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration. Thomas says of enthusiasts: “They don’t want to just know concepts, but to experience them, to feel them, and to be moved by them.” (Thomas, 28) I love the land of faith, dreams, celebration and the miraculous. Sails unfurled in the wind of the Spirit. Keel and rudder deep into the truth of the Word of God.
Contemplatives: Loving God Through Adoration. I’ve always known that reading my Bible and praying was vital to my spiritual life. My parents and other church leaders gave me that. But it was mechanical in the beginning. Work through the prayer list. Study a few verses of scripture. Try to learn something and make a difference for someone. Then I learned about walking with God with no direction in mind. I learned the delight of meandering with God as a friend.
The focus is not necessarily on serving God, doing his will, accomplishing great things in his name, or even obeying God. Rather, these Christians seek to love God with the purest, deepest, and brightest love imaginable.
Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind
When intellectuals’ minds are awakened, when they understand something new about God or his ways with his children, then their adoration is unleashed.
This is part of the reason I love to study, write and speak. I love to grasp a concept from scripture and bridge the gap from “the big idea” to “how does this change my life today.” I want to understand.
In my forty-four years of living, I’ve learned to hang out with Jesus in many different ways. Variety is also the spice of eternal life! I can’t remember the last time I was bored with my spiritual life. I get burned out and occasionally out of focus, but never bored. What I want for my kids, for all kids, is not to connect with God the same way I do. I want them to connect with God in the most fitting way they can.
 Gary Thomas. Sacred Pathways (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 35.
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