Book Review: Sacred Pathways

When I look back over some of the significant and tangible connecting points in my life between myself and an Almighty God who spun the universe into motion in just a word, I find that I have often came to the realization of those connection points in similar ways or methods. Gary Thomas calls these types of connections Sacred Pathways, or nine distinct spiritual temperaments designed by the Creator who knew what He was doing when He molded, formed, and shaped me into exactly the personality I am today.

A few years back our family went through a particularly trying time, when we lost our 8 month old son, to a rare and serious heart defect called Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS. Within the confused cloud of emotions, and the various stages of grief I experienced in the next number of months I found myself drawn into God’s creation in the most tangible way, on the wheels of a bicycle. When I felt lonely, I rode, when I felt deep pain, I spun, and when I was angry at God, I pedaled all the harder. Thomas defines this behavior as one of the nine temperaments, he calls the naturalist. “Naturalists often learn their best lessons in the outdoors. Three particularly come to mind: they visualize scriptural truth, see God more clearly, and learn to rest.”

Three years later after moving my family to a different part of the country, and seeing God move in incredible ways in our ministry, the bottom fell out again when poor decisions on my part and a series of broken relationships ended up in me losing my job suddenly and unexpectedly. Once again I found myself drawn to God’s creation where seemingly was the only place I could find rest and clarity in Him. This time it was with my boots locked in to a pair of skis gliding across the snow. I took a few day retreat at an icy cabin, and spent hours exploring the woods on cross country skis until I grew tired, then returned to read Father’s Word. I went to the ski resort and bombed down the mountain and felt the heavy weight of anxiety of the unknown fall away. It was in that cold brisk air, with ice in my beard, that I became more convinced than ever that God had a plan for me, and wasn’t done with me yet.

Thomas points out that pure naturalists have to be wary of individualism. He warns “Jesus spent time alone outdoors but he did so in preparation for going back into the world… ...we must make sure we are not using creation to escape the duties of Christian living.” This is a good check for me to consider in regards to how easy it is for me to use nature as a getaway rather than pressing in on a difficult conversations, or challenging leadership decisions.

Reading through Sacred Pathways was an encouraging journey for me. The end of each chapter contains a score sheet to help the reader discover their own spiritual temperament. My highest scores were in the areas of the Naturalist, and the Enthusiast. However, it was in the reading of the other temperaments that I began to see with greater clarity the people around me and a glimpse of their route to and from God. This realization is tremendously helpful.


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