What are Sacred Pathways for kids, and why are they important for Christian families? Read on for a parable and explanation.
Once there was a daddy with nine children. Yes, nine. Each Saturday, Daddy chose one child for a special date night. Over the years, each child got to spend many date nights with their daddy, getting to know him.
One Friday evening, a fight broke out in the home. The topic? Daddy’s favorite thing to do.
- Eli said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was to go for a walk around the park, feed the ducks, and eat chocolate ice cream, exactly in that order.
- Claire said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was go for a hike in the forest or on the beach.
- Nathan said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was play at the beach, building sand castles, covering himself with mud, and washing off in the water.
- Niki said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was volunteer at the animal shelter.
- Maria said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was lead the anti-bullying campaign for the community.
- Mark said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was read a good book and talk about it.
- Halle said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was have a dance party in the van.
- Silas said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was go for a quiet walk.
- Little Anaia said that Daddy’s favorite thing to do was snuggle on the couch and read books.
Each child each tried to convince their siblings that they were right. Eli, Claire, and Silas joined efforts for a bit because they knew Daddy liked to walk best of all. Anaia and Mark teamed up because they knew Daddy liked books the best. Niki and Maria fought against everyone because they knew that Daddy most loved to help others. But eventually, even those teams fell apart because they just couldn’t agree.
After what felt like hours, their daddy heard the hubbub and came to investigate. He wiped away tears and calmed down angry bodies, settling them all onto the floor. The kids glared at each other. Each of them knew what Daddy liked best, and that everyone else was wrong.
Maria explained the fight, even though she had to hush her siblings often just to get through the story. Daddy’s eyes crinkled as she talked. It almost looked like he might be trying not to laugh. But Daddy wouldn’t laugh at them, would he?
Which child was right?
When Maria finished the story, Daddy pulled all the kids close to him. Each tried to elbow in closer to Daddy, and he waited patiently until they all sat quietly.
“My beautiful, unique, darling children,” he began, “you are all right.”
Mark sat a little straighter. “Daddy, that’s impossible. We can’t all be right.”
Daddy winked at him. “But you can. You see, when I take you out on Saturday nights, I know what you love best. You love to study books and learn new things and talk about them, and I love you. So when we’re together, we study books and learn new things and talk about them. That brings me joy.”
Every kid looked incredibly confused. Only Mark was brave enough to ask the question. “So, your favorite thing to do is…be with me?”
Daddy nodded. “Yes, and with Anaia and Silas and Halle and all your brothers and sisters. I love being with you. You are all different and unique, so I love being with you in a different and unique way. When I’m with Nathan, who likes to taste and smell and feel everything,” he stopped to pull Nathan’s fingers out of his mouth, “we taste and smell and feel everything together. And that brings me joy.”
Little Anaia asked, “so Daddy, what IS your favorite thing to do?”
“My favorite thing to do is be with you.”
Each child sat in silence until the weight of his words sank into their hearts. Daddy’s favorite thing to do was…to be with them? Doing the things they liked to do?
Halle was the first to jump up and leap on Daddy. “I love you Daddy!” she shouted. All the other kids joined in. In a big, enormous dog pile of children and Daddy and I Love Yous and hugs, every child felt loved and known, and knew how to love their Daddy back.
And Daddy smiled.
Sacred Pathways for Kids
In this story we saw nine different children connecting with their dad in nine different ways. The daddy knew that his kids were created uniquely, so he sought out ways to spend time with them and show his love to them in ways they were uniquely created to receive. He intentionally connects with each child in the way that he knows they’ll love.
Our Heavenly Daddy is the same way; he longs to touch your life and your child’s life in a meaningful way. But he does it in unique ways, and the way we respond to his love will also be unique. This is your spiritual temperament.
A spiritual temperament is a bit like a love language but relates to your relationship with God instead of with people.
Gary Thomas refers to these temperaments as “sacred pathways.” He says that Christians have different and acceptable ways of demonstrating their love for God.
These ways can be put into nine general categories:
In his book Sacred Pathways, he says “In fact, by worshiping God according to the way He made us, we are affirming His work as Creator.” (See Sacred Pathways on Amazon.)
Isn’t that amazing? Just like the kids in the story, we can easily be caught up in thinking that the way we connect with God is the best way, or even the only way. It’s tempting to think that people who dance in worship, or speak in tongues (or don’t speak in tongues), or love liturgy or doctrine aren’t following God. But God is so much bigger than our perceptions of him.
This post is the first of 10 in which we will dive deeper into what these Sacred Pathways look like for children.
I also have a downloadable quiz that you can take which will help you determine which of the 9 worship styles your child leans toward. Download the quiz here!
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