When cultivating a fertile soul, staying grounded in Christ is a big rock and worth guarding. Part of guarding is knowing yourself and what may or may not work for you; it also involves getting creative and throwing some shoulds out the window. I should read my bible for twenty minutes a day. Or I shouldn’t be too busy to help with the clothing drive at school. Or I should be reading a spiritual book a month.
In God is closer than you think by John Ortberg, he describes seven pathways for people to connect with God. Because each one of us is different, there is no “right” way to access God or (spoiler alert) even better way. That being said, it’s likely that there will be some of the pathways that you more commonly walk on because they are naturally you. One way of knowing a pathway is yours is you feel alive on it and enjoy participating in those types of activities. Cool to know that while we have preferences, we aren’t limited by them. Who amongst us walks on just one path?
You will most likely see elements of all of them in your life. The following is a brief description of each and how they may manifest themselves negatively in times of stress or challenge:
1. Intellectual pathway—If this is your pathway, you draw closer to God as you learn more about him. Practices like reading and studying are important because for these people, the way to the heart is through the mind. However, in times of crisis someone on this pathway can go into and analytic or problem solving mode.
2. Relational pathway— If this is your pathway, being with people engages you. You have a deep sense of God’s presence when you’re involved in significant relationships. Ortberg cautions those on this path against two dangers. The first is superficiality from being spread too thin from too many relationships. The second is becoming a spiritual chameleon and relying too much on what others think.
3. Serving pathway—If this is your pathway, how you experience joy is through serving. God’s presence seems most tangible when you’re involved in helping others. The danger is to think that God is only present when they are serving and the temptation is to resent those who don’t serve as much.
4. Worship pathway— If this is your pathway, being involved in worship brings life and you have a natural gift for expression and celebration. Things to guard against are judging those who are not as expressive as you and looking for the next “worship high.”
5. Activist pathway— If this is your pathway, you are passionately aware of God when mobilizing people in a cause. Your passion is to act. A caution for those for whom this is their primary pathway is in your zeal to be aware not to run over or exploit people in your pursuits.
6. Contemplative pathway— If this is your pathway, you have a large inner world and feel presence of God most when alone. God is most present to you when distractions and noises are removed. Because of the reality of modern life and the added pressures that come with transition, you may need permission to follow this pathway. Realize that in times of disappointment and stress you may be tempted to retreat. As John Ortberg said, “Involvement in significant relationships and regular acts of service will help keep you tethered to the external world.”
7. Creation pathway— If this is your pathway, you have a passionate ability to connect with God when you are experiencing the world he made. However, in times of stress and transition guard against using this pathway as an escape or a reason not to connect with others around you.
As you read over the list probably several of them jumped out to you as natural ways that you connect with God. Is anyone surprised that I lit up about reading?! What you might not know is that after three songs in a worship service I am ready to move on. And the most horrifying verse in all of Christian music?
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
10,000 years of singing? And that’s just the start?!! I want to run screaming from heaven and the gauntlet of musicians. But then I remind myself this was written by a person who probably loved singing and a verse about 10,000 books might make them vomit.
Other than my fear of singing forever, I am encouraged to be reminded of how vast and broad our God is in the ways he looks to commune with us! He is gracious to have created such variety in the ways we can connect with him and allows us to mature.
It’s freeing to see that we don’t have to be on all of the above paths. If music is not your thing, that’s OK and more than just OK! Can you imagine if everyone liked to sit around and sing? Who would be out organizing the causes? Who’d be writing books or cooking meals or going on prayer walks?
Reading through the pathways you can see how very much we need them all. Amen? Amen.