Is it possible that the different spiritual beats we march to are part of our internal makeup?
It seems like a question with an obvious answer and yet there are frequent discussions with much disagreement, some pleasant and some not, about the proper way to encounter God.
We couch these things in terms of ‘personal piety’ and that is fair enough but I wonder if it is more accurate to think of it in terms of ‘sacred pathway’? A couple of months ago I finished a book of the same title (author – Gary Thomas, 2010) and in the book he lifts the idea that each of us are wired into sacred pathways or ways we connect with God. More accurately, we are wired into some combination of these pathways. He lists 9 such as contemplative, intellectual, enthusiastic, naturalist, traditionalist etc.
Of course this list is not exhaustive and that isn’t the author’s point. My read on it is simply to acknowledge that people encounter God in different ways. I kind of map out as a intellectual-ascetic with a dash of naturalist which kind of explains why I get more out of studying systematic theology while sitting by myself in my backyard overlooking the corn field next door than I get out of contemplative activities, during which I normally fall asleep in spite of my best efforts. Lectio divina and I do not get along in spite of any number of seminars and people telling me it is the best way to go.
That is not to say that contemplative prayer and lectio divina aren’t amazing things. They certainly are. But they don’t plug into my internal wiring very cleanly and there have been times I’ve been led to believe I am ‘less than’ in the spiritual department because these ancient practices don’t connect me to God very much. (I’m not looking for suggestions on how to make it work. I’ve tried plenty, thanks)
Can we create space for one another to allow for different sacred pathways? I’m not suggesting relativism or even do whatever you want but I do wonder if the passion in which we debate our practices is related to the way we connect with God. If so, then can we recognize our own internalization as to what connects us with God and thereby recognize that others connect with God in different ways than we ourselves do?
I’d go a step further and make the claim that this is a good thing. The breadth of connection gives us a breadth of worship practice. It has been said elsewhere that if we have exactly the same idea then one of us is irrelevant. Or putting it another way, it kind of creates the picture of a sci-fi movie in my mind. You know the one, where everyone is on an alien planet while standing in rows dressed identically and making the same kinds of noises in unison.
We really don’t want to be the droids we’re looking for, do we?