Spiritual Temperaments

From the time I was a little girl, I always loved being out in God’s creation.  I loved to explore and investigate the world around me and to read up on all kinds of fascinating creatures.  I dreamed of adventures to exotic places like the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, the Australian Outback, and Antartica.  I adored going to zoos, aquariums, and Sea World.

Not surprisingly, when I went off to college, I majored in Biology, and later on in life, I went off to explore the rainforests of Costa Rica, trek gorillas in Rwanda, spend many hours watching elephant seals off the Coast of California, and much more.  Not surprisingly, my explorations continue to this day!

The simple truth is that the natural world around me has always had a great hold on my attention; I am indeed a “naturalist” when it comes to my spiritual temperament.  The world around me is not only a beautiful and fascinating place to behold, but it is a place where I regularly encounter God’s presence.  It is an icon.  It feels most natural for me to pray to God when I am out and about enjoying His beautiful creation.  In fact, I have always related to my favorite fictional character Anne of Green Gables when she said,

“If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.  I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky – up-up-up-up – into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness.  And I’d just feel a prayer.”

When it comes to praying and sensing God’s presence, I know that many people feel this way too when they are out in God’s creation.   I believe this is true because God seemingly has created each one of us to be “in tune” with creation.  There is a deep resonance between our sense of beauty and the beauty that is embodied in the rest of creation, and this beauty draws us towards God, the One who created all this beauty.  Paul even talks about this in Roman 1:20 when he says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”  The Creation has a “sacramental” quality about – it is a vehicle of God’s glory and presence.

Uniquely Made – Discovering Our Spiritual Temperaments

While creation has a sacramental quality about it, able to usher us into God’s glory and presence, it is not the only means by which people encounter God.  For some people, they most sense God and are drawn into prayer when they are reading and discussing theology, or when they are in the midst of a beautiful stained-glass cathedral, or when they are caring for the sick, or when they are sitting quietly in a simple room with nothing other than a cross on the wall.

The truth is that we are all wired differently and uniquely, which predisposes us to experience and respond to God in different ways.  We might even say that we all have spiritual temperaments or personality types.  What this means practically-speaking is that each one of us is particularly drawn to certain places of worship, particular spiritual disciplines, and particular worship styles – these places and practices become our go-to ways of becoming attentive to and entering God’s presence.  What this reality also means is each one of us naturally finds certain places, spiritual disciplines, and ways of worship particularly challenging, boring, or unhelpful.

Since this is true, if we are not careful and ignore the fact that each one of has unique spiritual temperaments, we can judge others when their spiritual practices look different than ours, or oppositely we me can feel deficient when practices that work well for others don’t work so well for us.  Neither of these postures is helpful.  (This, by the way, is the cause of much of our “worship wars”, I believe.)

Thus, the challenge for each one of us is to be charitable to others and to ourselves when it comes to the ways we seek God’s presence.  The other challenge is to find a balance of spiritual practices in our lives – to engage in those practices that come most natural to us, while at the same time also engaging some practices that are more difficult for us but are nevertheless helpful and will ultimately bring out greater maturity in us.  I’ll talk about finding this balance a bit more later, but first let’s look at some of the possible spiritual temperaments that we might have.

In her book, “What’s Your God Language”, Dr. Myra Perrine suggests nine spiritual temperaments:  the activist, the ascetic, the caregiver, the contemplative, the enthusiast, the intellectual, the naturalist, the sensate, and the traditionalist.

Click below for brief descriptions of these spiritual temperaments.

For fuller descriptions, be sure to read “What’s Your God Language:  Connecting with God through Your Spiritual Temperaments” by Myra Perrine.

Page Written By Kristen Yates

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