Today we’re going to continue our journey into the Worship Languages, which we’ve adapted from Gary Thomas’ Spiritual Pathways. If you’re just catching up, you may want to check out the Naturalist, the Sensate, and the Traditionalist. Today, however, we are going to be talking about the Ascetic.
Ascetics (not to be confused with Aesthetics, which has to do with how things look) are those who worship God through silence and solitude.
Almost the polar opposite to the Sensate, the Ascetic finds God in the still, quiet moments of the day when everyone has gone to bed, or in the dark of pre-dawn. They often find the world and other people to be distracting from the voice of God. In order to really hear from Jesus, the Ascetic needs to get away and be by her/himself. They do not need worship music or brilliant imagery to be drawn into God’s presence. In fact, the life of a monk may seem quite appealing if this is your primary worship language.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the distractions of the world, you may be an Ascetic. If you like to cloister yourself away to spend time in prayer without the distractions of life, this is probably one of your worship languages.
Churches can be both incredibly helpful and quite the hinderance to an Ascetic. The church building itself is often a quiet, lonely place when services are not going on. An Ascetic can hear the voice of God in the solitude of an empty sanctuary. However, weekend services are rarely marked by moments of silence. They are filled with music and teaching and people and handshaking, which do not draw the Ascetic the same way they draw some of the other languages.
If you are an Ascetic, I suggest you show up to church early. Spend time in the sanctuary before the service starts. If you kneel and close your eyes, people will probably leave you alone. You can also get up early or stay up late to use the silence of a sleeping house to speak to God. Retreat centres are often built around the idea of getting away by oneself, so check out a centre near you. I’ve had a very fruitful time at a silent retreat and look forward to doing so again. (Side note, if the idea of a silent retreat is causing you some anxiety, you probably are not an Ascetic).
For the artist, alone time may be vital for your creative process. As a writer, I rarely write around the house because it is loaded with distractions. I like being around people, but I need to isolate myself with music (or even just headphones with nothing playing) to get anything done. I suggest you take time by yourself to connect with Jesus, hear from Him, and then create out of that filling up.
The danger of asceticism lies in its isolation. We are a communal species and we need others to do life with. While it is healthy to get away and spend time by ourselves (even every day), we still need to spent time with others as well. If our spirituality is bound up in spending quiet time with God, we can forget that we are called to love and serve others and to take the Gospel to those in desperate need of God’s love.
Bottom line for Ascetics: Get away from life for a while to connect with your Creator and recharge your batteries, but then return to the rest of the world to spread the love and joy that you find in your solitude.
If you are an Ascetic, how do you connect with God?