Joe and I have a very curious eccentricity, which so far we have not discovered anyone else shares! When we are away on holiday we take days off from one another! Think about it – throughout the normal working year we spend quite a bit of time apart. We don’t see each other during the day. Sometimes we don’t see each other in the evenings if I am away at music practice, or he is attending a union meeting. Suddenly we are in each other’s company for 24 hours! I defy any loving couple not to find that hard at least for a few days! We don’t have distractions like children – it is just Joe and I. So we devised a system to spend a day apart. It doesn’t always work! In Egypt it was not cultural for a woman to travel alone. In Saltsburg Joe found something really interesting to do on his day off and I gate-crashed! There are things that Joe loves to do like trailing across World War 1 battle sites that do nothing for me. There are things like shopping and visiting churches that do nothing for Joe. I am not saying that we do not attempt to share one another’s interests because we do, but days off are good ideas!
Not everything it life hoists the flag to the top of the pole for me. There are things that just don’t appeal. Trailing around museums does not appeal. I can do art galleries at a push.
I came across a really insightful chapter in one of the books in my bookcase the other week. The book, “God is Closer Than You Think” is by John Ortberg. The chapter is about spiritual pathways and begins with a quotation from C S Lewis, “Why else were individual created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love them each differently.”
John Ortberg recognises this and writes about pathways to God. He is talking about the different ways that people relate to God. We all desire to connect with God but we don’t all do it in the same way.
Some people make the connection through the mind – reading and analysing the Bible. They hear God best when they are learning. They delight in Greek or Hebrew words. They are thinkers or philosophers and love to engage in discussion.
Other people connect with God through relationships – the small group junkies. They are not people who are into solitude but like to be with people.
Still others find the connection through serving or helping others. They are motivated by the passage in Matthew – “when I was hungry – did you feed me…”
Ortbreg identifies a number of pathways – through worship, through being active in the political arena, through retreats and contemplation or through being outside and communing with nature. It is not for us to ignore any of the pathways to connecting with God, but some are easier than others for us.
I find myself to be naturally making connections with the mind. Reading and studying God’s word really does hoist the flag for me. I am not so much into Greek and Hebrew words – but God speaks to me through His word. It is not dull or lifeless to me, but bristling with revelation. Word bombs explode inside my head and there is always something new to see – another path to explore. That is not to say that I am dull to worship, or to seeing God in the nature around me – it is just I love the written word!
To some extent, reading the chapter was like someone opening a prison door – it is OK to study the Bible and get excited about it! It also explains why sometimes I find it hard to relate to some people who do not share my passion for words. What rocks my boat does not rock the boats of other people. I have a little bit of the political activist in me and I don’t always see in reflected in people around me. People are different. We say that we acknowledge and respect the uniqueness of people but then we push them into a mould to make them just like everyone else. We think that is “this” works for me, then it has to work for her. I can remember earnestly thrusting a friend into a bible study on the character of God to deepen her relationship with Him. Getting her to switch off the TV was an accomplishment – but maybe she was one the relational types that just needed someone to be a friend, to watch TV with her and chat.
What Ortberg does challenge me on is to take a walk along the pathways I least explore and allow God to connect with me. It would stretch me in a way that perhaps a Bible study would not.