this summer at our weekend gatherings the refuge has been focusing on the practice of love–loving God, others, ourselves. it’s been a fun mix of different conversations & one thing is really clear–they each are intimately connected and can’t be separated or parsed out from each other. this past saturday we did a fun interactive exercise centered on discovering the different ways we love and connect with God. i mentioned that “love” can be a really strong and scary word, especially for people who are in a season of healing from religion. hearing we’re going to talk about “loving God” can make some break out in hives because it can feel like pressure or demands or one more way we’re supposed to conform to a particular form of worship. to me, love is about connection so i encouraged any who struggle with “loving God” to consider replacing “love” with “connecting with, communing with, hanging out with, getting energized by, feeling more alive with,” etc.
God is big.
we are unique.
opening up to recognizing and respecting our individual preferences can be really freeing.
i can’t re-create the experience but we adapted material from a book called sacred pathways: discovering your soul’s path to God by gary thomas and had 10 stations around the room with 5 questions for each. each one of these stations represented a different way we connect with God. everyone split up and moved through the questions and tallied the number they had for each (if you want the questions that help discern, email me and i’ll send them to you. we adapted them from the book, too, some were just a little too churchy for us). after everyone was done tallying, i shared this chart & we processed a bit together in the large group.
here’s a short blurb on each of the 10 types (the book only has 9 but we added the “healers” category).
#1 NATURALISTS: loving God through nature – learn best God lessons in the outdoors, can visualize scriptural truths, see God more clearly & learn to rest in the outdoors, feel free & unconstricted outside.
#2 SENSATES: loving God through the senses – connect with God through sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. inspired by tangible experiences that connect with the senses (see God in art, feel textures, listen to music, smell perfume, taste food).
#3 TRADITIONALISTS: loving God through ritual & symbol – value rituals, symbols, and liturgical practices. appreciate reading or saying specific prayers. high value on the beauty of the church calendar, including the practices of lent and advent.
#4 ASCETICS: loving God through silence & solitude – love being alone with God. value simplicity. make room for quiet. like to fast and pray, distracted by senses.
#5 ACTIVISTS: loving God through confrontation – spiritually nourished through the battle of a “cause”. connect with God through social activism, advocating on behalf of others. offer time and energy to create change.
#6 CAREGIVERS: loving God through loving others – love to help, listen, care for others in a variety of ways including listening, actively helping, repairing broken things for others. feel close to God when actively engaged with people.
#7 ENTHUSIASTS: loving God through mystery & celebration – love getting caught up in worship experiences. look for movements of God–both big and small. expectant about God’s power & possibility, dreams & visions.
#8 CONTEMPLATIVES: loving God through adoration – love to rest in God’s presence. value spending quality time connecting with God through different forms of prayer including centering prayer, intercessory prayer, meditative prayers.
#9 INTELLECTUALS: loving God with the mind – love the Bible, systematic theology, and creeds. value beliefs about God. stimulated by Bible studies, lectionaries, and historical texts as well as philosophical conversations about God.
# 10 HEALERS: loving God through recovery – feel close to God when we are powerless & desperate. experience connection with God through the principles of the 12 steps. find God’s love through connecting with own and others pain.
which ones are you?
my top 3 were strong and clear–wanna guess? yep, activist, caregiver, healer. i’m so predictable. i definitely had some marks in several other categories, though, too, and i do love being outside, quiet, and connecting with God through art, music & beauty, but they are definitely not as strong. some people were really surprised by theirs. many expressed it feeling freeing somehow. others shared how years ago they were in a different place on their journey and would have fallen in a different category. for me, it was this beautiful reminder that this is just “me” and i feel connected to God when i am in the trenches with people. it doesn’t make me less spiritual or less worshipful.
also, each of these has a danger, a dark side. i really appreciated that part & connected with the dangers in each of my categories. download the chart to see some of the potential dangers.
the part i loved the most about this exercise is respecting our uniqueness and embracing the freedom to be who we are & to let others be free to be who they are, too. it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow from being exposed to different ways. it’s good for us to stretch and try and expand. i also think that when churches/communities/groups only rely on one way in all of their practices, they leave out a big chunk of people. diversity is key. creating spaces that honors this diversity is very rare, but i think it’s sort of our call as individuals–and to those who are community cultivators–to honor & respect that everyone loves God in all kinds of different ways & to not expect everyone to conform to one as “the best” or “the right way”. i felt humbled & challenged.
what do you think? how do you connect with God? have the structures you’ve been part of helped you cultivate this?
here’s an uncropped fuzzy picture of the cool symbols my lovely friend jenny came up with for each type that was up front. the communion table was really pretty, too, even though this picture doesn’t give it justice. all different colored cups, same elements. all different ways to love, same God. amen.