Have you ever felt distant from God?
Ever had moments in your life when you felt like God seemed more like a distant relative than a close friend?
I have. I’ve felt alone, like God wasn’t really listening. I’ve felt like God just ghosted me.
If you can relate, let me introduce you to something that has changed my spiritual life: the concept of spiritual pathways. And the more I learn, the closer to God I become.
Now let me say this upfront — there is only one way to be reconciled with God and that is found in a personal relationship with Jesus. But I have come to realize that we can draw close to God in different ways. And just like we are wired with specific personality traits, we are wired with different spiritual pathways.
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways, describes nine different practices that Christians over the centuries have used to draw close to God. At FamilyLife Canada, we have condensed the list and focus on seven different pathways. Here is a very abridged version of each.
- Creation: when I am surrounded by what God has made (mountains, forests, lakes, sea, gardens, a sunset) I feel close to God.
- Intellectual: I crave uninterrupted study time in God’s word or reading Christian books. I love discussing what I have just learnt with others.
- Relational: I love sharing deeply and honestly with others. I feel close to God when studying, fellowshipping and worshiping with others.
- Service: I feel closest to God when I am supporting a friend going through a difficult time, helping others, volunteering or going on a missions trip
- Worship: I am energized, moved and nourished in deep ways through music and corporate acts of worship.
- Solitude: If I can escape for 30 minutes (or more) a day to a quiet place to pray, journal, read God’s word and be alone with God, I come away refreshed and strengthened.
- Activist: I love standing up for justice, helping to right wrongs, meeting the needs of the poor and marginalized and making the world like God intended it to be.
Which one or two of the above points resonated with you? Those would be your primary pathways.
Please note there is no hierarchy here. One pathway is not more spiritual than the others — it doesn’t work like that. Additionally, every one of us is wired to use each pathway; however, there will be some that we are more drawn to.
For me, I resonate with creation, worship and intellectual pathways the most. When I seek God through my primary pathways I feel energized, connected and close to God. It is good for my soul.
Unfortunately there are still times when I feel like God is distant. But when I pause and reflect on why I might feel this way, I quickly realize that it’s because I’m not seeking God through my primary pathways. So as you are learning about how you connect with God, please give yourself grace and grant yourself time to learn.
My wife Valerie and I are as different as two people can be in personality. But with our spiritual pathways, we match. It is the one area in life that Valerie and I are similar! This has helped us to connect with God together in our relationship, which has strengthened our spiritual oneness. We understood each other’s pathway right away.
But this is not always the case, and that’s OK! You can still have great spiritual oneness with your spouse even if your primary pathways are different. Here are a few things to try.
Discover the different pathways and identify which pathways you are most drawn to. Read Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas or attend a FamilyLife Canada Weekend Getaway or Together for Good Workshop to find out more.
Carve out some time in your schedule to discuss your pathways together. If they are different, help your spouse understand what it practically looks like to connect with God using your pathway.
Connect with God using your primary pathway and also spend time experimenting with your spouse’s pathway. Not only will this give you a chance to draw closer to God, but you may also learn something about your spouse in the process!
Exploring, explaining and experimenting with our spiritual pathways has been a great experience for me and Valerie. Not only has it drawn us closer to God, it has drawn us closer together as a couple.
With communication and understanding, our primary spiritual pathways can bring us closer together and can lead to greater spiritual oneness as a couple.
For more on how to stay spiritually connected to your partner, listen to Neil and Sharol Josephson’s interview with The 700 Club Canada.