Finding the Presence of God

Psalm 63: You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

I’ve often shared that my favorite God-time is outdoors, doing some physical activity whether that be a hike or a run on a forested trail, a mountain bike ride on a deserted path, or a cross country ski on a cold sunny day with some beautiful tracks set ahead of me.  I find it extremely easy to come into the presence of God in that place.  It is completely natural for me to praise God in that place, chat with him in that place, come to him with my hurts, my complaints, my every thought and emotion.  That is my ideal God-time.

Our pastor recently preached through a series called “Hope for Relationships”.  Pastor Dan focused one Sunday on “Practicing Presence”, which centered on finding your God-time.  He shared Gary Thomas’ nine different ways we can connect with God, taken from his book Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God.  The nine Sacred Pathways he uncovered were:

  • Naturalists – love God best outdoors.
  • Sensates – love God through their senses (e.g. art, music, smells etc.)
  • Traditionalists – love God through religious ritual and symbols (e.g. sacraments of Church)
  • Ascetics – love God in solitude and simplicity (e.g. prayer and quiet time)
  • Activists – love God through fighting for godly principles (e.g. social & evangelistic causes)
  • Caregivers – love God by serving others, and worship by giving of themselves
  • Enthusiasts – love God through celebration (i.e. outward displays of passion and enthusiasm)
  • Contemplatives – love God through adoration (i.e. attentiveness, intimacy, active prayer life)
  • Intellectuals – love God with their mind (e.g. intense study, apologetics)

Thomas makes it clear that we’re a mixture – we rarely rely on a single approach to connect with God. We’re more likely to connect with him in a few different ways, and those ways can change in our lifetime. Although I’ve understood that people connect with God in different ways, this summary of Sacred Pathways was really helpful.  Firstly, it reminded me that I’m uniquely made by God, and I don’t need to pretend to be someone else.  Looking at the above list, the Naturalist pathway is definitely me, but at various times I’d also throw in the Caregiver and Sensate, and now later in my life, the Intellectual pathway.

Secondly, and more importantly, it reminded me of how different my brothers and sisters in Christ are, and how beautiful that is.  Not long ago I had a chat with my cousin Sandy and she shared with me how she loves the sacraments of the Church.  She attends a pretty formal church which places high value on religious ritual and symbol, and she shared how much that meant to her.  While I cannot personally relate, at all, it was so exciting to me that her eyes lit up as she described it, and I could picture her at the front of her church, all by herself, setting up the sacraments and being totally one with God.

The latter point is incredibly important if we want to be a local and global church of unity.  We need to understand that the way we worship God is no better than that of our Christian brother or sister, it is only different.  Whatever the Sacred Pathway, as long as it brings us in union with God, as long as it brings us into the presence of God, a place where he can continually change us to be more like him, then this is a good place – a very good place.  What are your Sacred Pathways?  Make sure you make room for them.  And remember to honor the Sacred Pathways of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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