I used to get jealous of people’s passion for God. I felt disappointed that I wasn’t as connected to God in the ways that they were.
I couldn’t feel the strong passion for God that other people did when singing their hearts out and raising their hands in worship. I would hear people pray the most sincere and passionate prayers but I couldn’t feel God’s presence as intensely. When others shared how they were inspired by spending time in nature and seeing God’s beauty in what he created, I couldn’t relate.
Why couldn’t I match their strong emotions for God when I did those same things? I wanted more passion for God, but I wasn’t moved in the same way other people around me were. This brought me to question, “What are my unique approaches to God? In what times do I feel most connected to God?” Here is what I have been discovering.
Learning about “spiritual pathways” is transforming the way I think about my relationship with God.
Gary Thomas defines a spiritual pathway as, “the way we relate to God, how we draw near to him.” Each of us has certain patterns of relating to God, and we each have different ways we demonstrate our love for God.
As I learned about the different pathways and did a quick inventory, I discovered that my primary spiritual pathways are relational and contemplative.
First of all, I’m a major extrovert. I experience God more fully when I am in community with others: making new connections, building relationships, learning to study the Bible together, and worshipping with other believers. I have difficulty flourishing in my walk with Christ when I attempt to do life alone.
But I also need my own personal time to think and reflect on how God is at work throughout my daily life. I like to journal and put my thoughts into written form. All I need is some space, privacy, and quiet to gaze upon the face of my loving Father. I am able to discern better the activity of God in my life in these moments, and my inner world is made richer with these reflections.
Even though these two pathways seem contradictory at times (desiring to be in community, and needing alone-time for reflection), my need for both are evident in my daily life. And both are unique ways that I feel closest to God.
And even though the ways I primarily experience God are different from others, I’ve learned that that’s OK.
It’s important to remember that one person’s preferred pathway is not superior to another’s. There is no hierarchy of the best ways to draw near to God. There is freedom in the different ways people nourish their souls.
In the past, I compared my pathway with other peoples’ pathways, wishing I could connect with God in the ways they did. I am now able to better encourage people to do what helps them flourish spiritually, and see my particular spiritual pathways as distinct and different, but not lesser by any means.
God has uniquely created us to experience him in different ways. In fact, as Gary Thomas expresses, “by worshipping God according to the way he made us, we are affirming his work as Creator.”
Once you discover your spiritual pathways, you can begin to develop them by prioritizing time for those specific activities.
If you are able to draw closer to God by taking walks outside or sitting by a river, do that! If it’s engaging in intellectual discussions about theology, do that! If it’s serving those who are hurting and in need, do that! Whatever pathway will lead you to a revitalized walk with God, follow it.
To build on my strengths and lean into my dominant spiritual pathways, I need to do certain things in my life so I stay spiritually nourished. I need to have intentional time to connect and grow in my relationship with other believers throughout the week. I also need to set aside quiet times in my week to journal, process, and pray through my thoughts.
The ultimate goal of knowing your spiritual pathway is to know how you draw closer to God. The sooner you discover the best ways you draw nearer to God, the more you’ll understand how you can more fully experience God personally.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Fill in the blank “I feel closest to God when _____”
- Do an inventory of the different spiritual pathways (I suggest this one by Family Life Canada)
- Read Gary Thomas’ Sacred Pathways