Did you know that you have what author Gary Thomas calls a spiritual temperament? It’s true!
A spiritual temperament or sacred pathway describes the way that you best relate to God. You see, while we all share the common purpose to love and to know God, each of us is uniquely wired in the way we relate to Him. We aren’t all naturally drawn to know and worship Him in the same way.
For example, one of the ways I connect with God is through my senses. When I can smell a certain fragrance or have particular music playing, it helps me remove the mental clutter and focus more intently on the Lord.
But just because this helps me better connect with God, doesn’t mean it does the same for you. It may be that you relate to God best through nature or intellect, or maybe tradition or contemplation.
So, how can you determine what your spiritual temperament is? This week’s episode of the 4:13 Podcast is a great place to start! You’ll hear the first part of a two-part conversation with Gary Thomas.
If you don’t already know Gary, he’s one of my favorite authors and thinkers. Gary’s the author of nineteen books, including one of my favorite books, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, which this conversation is based on. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied under Dr. J.I. Packer and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from Western Seminary. You may have seen him before on CBN or heard his familiar voice on the Focus on the Family Broadcast and Family Life Today.
So get ready to learn about four of the nine temperaments and start the journey to discovering yours. Plus, this conversation will help you appreciate those who are different from you in the way they worship or relate to God. Friend, you’re going to learn so much!
The Spiritual Temperaments: Part 1
- The Naturalist. Gary explains that naturalists feel like they need to get outside to connect best with God. They’d most likely agree with Psalm 19:1 that says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Because God created the earth, He reveals Himself through it. Gary shares that being by a river, out in the woods, in the desert, or by the mountains, surrounded by all that God has made, speaks to them.
So, rather than having quiet time inside and first thing in the morning when it’s dark, naturalists might take a walk or go to a park, and let themselves feel the breeze. It’s good for them to try to create afternoons where they can go on some hikes and just get together with God, surrounded by what He’s made. But, as Gary notes, they also need to be sure to remind themselves that they’re transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2), and not just by natural beauty. So they need to be in Scripture too. One of my favorite ways to immerse myself in Scripture is through the Bible app, Dwell. The best part is that a naturalist can listen to it while sitting outside or walking.
- The Sensate. People who are sensates are those who Gary says are awakened to God through their five senses: taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell. They connect most deeply with Him through them. For sensates, where they’re meeting and worshiping God really makes a difference. They don’t want a cluttered, ugly place. They might love an Eastern Orthodox worship service because there’s incense burning, bells ringing, and lots of things to see.
For sensates, bowing their head and closing their eyes might be the worst thing they can do when trying to connect with God. It may lead them to go to sleep. It just doesn’t inspire them to get alone with the Lord. But, as Gary shares, they do need to be careful not to get so lost in the beauty that they forget to worship the God who creates the beauty. Or, to get so moved by a worship experience that they’re drawn to the experience itself rather than to God.
- The Traditionalist. Gary says that traditionalists are moved by routine. They like relating to God in ways that people have for thousands of years. Traditionalists connect best with God through familiar prayers, including those written thousands of years ago or by someone else. For them, routine is meaningful, not boring. They like when the church service is on schedule and enjoy having rules for prayers.
Symbols are also important to them. For example, like Gary, maybe they have a cross hanging somewhere they pass every day. It reminds him, as he goes out to meet with others, how he wants to live. Or, like one of his friends, there’s a landmark on the way home that, when he sees it, serves as a symbol that it’s time to transition from work to home. We see lots of examples in the Old Testament of symbols being meaningful (see Scriptures such as Genesis 28:18-22 and Joshua 4:1-8).
- The Ascetic. Ascetics tend to prefer solitude and simplicity. They’re most likely quiet, as well as strict and regimented in their faith. Gary says, think of it in terms of what a monk or a nun does: they get away to focus on the Lord. For them, the outside world may be bothersome. They might find being outdoors distracting. Or, maybe they don’t like noise and smells as they worship. All of these things inhibit them from connecting with God.
Gary notes that a weakness for ascetics is that they might sometimes overemphasize personal piety at the expense of social concerns. In their desire to get alone to worship God, they may forget to also minister to the needs of others. Also, it can be a temptation to believe they can gain God’s favor through works rather than God’s grace.
Did you hear your spiritual temperament or sacred pathway in those four? If not, you’ll hear Gary unpack the last five in the next episode. Until then, remember, whatever you face, however you feel, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
The Spiritual Temperaments: Part 2
Hear the rest of my conversation with Gary in the next episode: Can I Embrace My Unique Spiritual Temperament? With Gary Thomas [Part 2][Episode 106]
Books and Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
More from Gary Thomas
- Visit Gary’s website
- Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God
- Can I Find Freedom From Toxic People? With Gary Thomas [Episode 75]
- When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People
- Follow Gary on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram