How Do You Connect With God?Feb 07, 2017
Do you struggle with traditional spiritual practices? Does reading your Bible, spending time in prayer, or having any kind of "quiet time" with God feel like a monumental hurdle? There may be a reason for your struggle.
A few years ago, prominent Christian leader, Nancy Ortberg, shared her challenge with this discipline, too. Her "guilt" about this ran deep. Her marriage to John Ortberg, lead pastor of a large California church and highly respected Christian living author, made her personal pressure enormous…and public. Unlike her husband, she didn’t find anything about prayer, Bible reading or journaling easy. She was simply struggling to keep her sanity while raising young children.
One day, while sitting on a park bench watching her children play, she had a moment of clarity. She realized she was at peace. She felt connected to God. And her heart screamed at her… Jesus never journaled!
It was nowhere in the Bible.
It was simply a human method designed to enable us to grow closer to God. But, it was just one way. One option.
This simple truth freed her to start experiencing God in the ordinary moments of life. It released the pressure to “do” certain things to fit into the traditional definition of spiritual maturity and growth.
Honestly, I've spent most of my life in the "struggle" camp, too. For some reason, the discipline I channel into fitness and nutrition has a harder time finding its way into my spiritual life. Those "basics" of the Christian faith are still a work in progress, so when the practice of journaling came into vogue in the church a few years ago, I added it to the failure pile. I couldn’t seem to do that consistently either.
Oh, what a relief to know I wasn’t alone! To hear another woman with a voice in the church say, “it’s okay to experience God in a different way” loosened the noose I'd tied around my own neck.
In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas outlines nine ways we can connect to God. Each of us has one that is likely more prominent than another. It's the way in which we feel most in union with God.
Here are the nine ways we can connect with God (that don't involve journaling):
- Naturalists – Love God Outdoors
- Sensates – Love God with the Senses
- Traditionalists – Love God through Ritual and Symbol
- Ascetics – Love God is Solitude and Simplicity
- Activists – Love God through Confrontation
- Caregivers – Love God by Loving Others
- Enthusiasts – Love God with Mystery and Celebration
- Contemplatives – Love God through Adoration
- Intellectuals – Love God with the Mind
One of these probably jumped out at you right away. I knew immediately that my primary pathway is Naturalist.
It fully explains why I feel closest to God when I’m gazing at the ocean, in the heart of the mountains, or walking a great golf course (no matter how I'm playing!). My favorite spot in my house is the deck in the backyard, surrounded by trees and birds, or taking in the same view from my picture window. My heart is happy in these places.
I am not discounting the importance of prayer, Bible reading, or even journaling. These are all opportunities for us to know God better, to understand His desires for our life, and to grow in wisdom. We need to be connected to Him and these practices help us do so.
I am, however, advocating for the inclusion of less traditional approaches that enhance our spiritual growth.
Rather than subjecting ourselves to guilt over not doing it “right,” what if we allow for the possibility that taking a walk in the woods or gazing at the open water might bring more connection with and understanding of God than reading a book ever could?
What if caring for the sick or elderly or assisting in childbirth makes us more acutely aware of and in awe of the miracle of the human body God created?
What if fighting for justice… joining a protest or taking a stand for human rights violations… fuels our love for God and others who are too weak to fight for themselves?
Instead of feeling wracked with guilt over the daily struggle to pray, read, and journal, let’s acknowledge that we each have a unique, created-by-God, drive within us to connect deeply to Him. We are intuitively drawn to it.
Where is there less struggle in making time for Him? That’s probably a good place to start exploring a bit more. Be intentional about finding out how you are made to connect with Him. And then do it!
In the meantime, keep working on the traditional practices, too. Consider taking it in bite-sized pieces instead of ginormous bites. To help you AND me do this a little bit better, I've created a tool to help us with the basics. (Join us on the form below!)
And I promise. There's no journaling required.