272 pages; ISBN – 978-0310329886
How do we grow closer to God and how do we feel most connected in this divine relationship? These are big questions that most people ask at some point or another in their spiritual journeys. In Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God; Gary Thomas brings good news to many sojourners on the Christian journey. The reason I say he brings good news is one of the common mistakes many Christians make is the assumption that the prescription for spiritual formation is a “one size fits all” approach. Far too many people entering the path of discipleship to follow Jesus have been discouraged and disheartened in their efforts when the recipe for Christian growth did not mesh with the way they were “wired.” Gary Thomas serves as a gentle and encouraging guide as he reveals nine uniquely different streams that all converge in the river of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength…exactly in the way we were created to connect with Him.
Thomas describes a “sacred pathway” as a way we relate to God and the way we draw near to Him. He states that while we may have more than one pathway, we naturally have a certain predisposition in the way we prefer to relate to him. He goes on to describe in fairly detailed exposition the nine different pathways in the following descriptions: Naturalists, who enjoy loving God outdoors; Sensates, who prefer loving God through their senses; Traditionalists, favor ritual and symbolism as a means to loving God; Ascetics, desire solitude and simplicity as a means to God; Activists, long for justice and confront social inequality as a way to love God with all their heart; Caregivers love God by loving others; Enthusiasts are more charismatic in their expression and love to worship and connect with God through celebration; Contemplatives, prefer entering the divine romance through worshipful adoration of God; Intellectuals will be predisposed to having their minds stirred through study and theological discourse as their means of connecting with God with all their heart. While there may be other means of connecting to God, these nine pathways are the general temperaments most people will follow.
There were two major benefits I found with understanding the different temperaments. The first benefit was the enormous relief and affirmation in finding that it is okay to be me. God is the “Wirer” of our souls and He calls upon us to put ourselves into Him whole-heartedly. It only serves to understand then if I am predisposed with an affinity toward reading and books, then my passion and connection to God might be stimulated through study. Conversely, my connection may not be as heightened if I were found on a nature hike through the Grand Canyon. And, that’s okay! God beckons to me; “come,” in the way He created me. This is good news! The second benefit, likened to the first, is that others do not have to follow my path. Understanding this frees me to love and respect them, which provides them the freedom to grow in relationship with God too. I have especially loved the conversations generated from Sacred Pathways with my wife. We enjoyed taking the quizzes together at the end of each chapter to examine one another’s “pathway preferences.” It was also an interesting exercise to see how we viewed each other opposed to how we viewed ourselves.
As mentioned, the book includes self-diagnostic questions at the end of each chapter to help determine your sacred pathway. Additionally, there are questions for discussion and reflection at the end of the book that are suitable for individual reading and journaling or the facilitation of a small group going through the book together. I recommend Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas most heartily.