Spiritual High – what do I make of this?

Reflections on spiritual or ‘camp’ high

Spiritual high

I want to talk about a phenomenon known as a “spiritual high”.

Last weekend, I went away to a quiet, bushy place called Yarramundi, along with a hundred or so high schoolers from North Sydney Girls & Boys. This was the annual camp run by the Christian group, called ISCF. We spent a weekend hearing talks from the Bible, playing crazy high-energy games, chatting in discussion groups, learning from workshops, eating mediocre camp food, hanging and having late night chats, and just having a great time. Maybe you’ve been on some sort of Christian camp or conference before, or maybe, if you are reading this, you were even at camp with me last week.

Now, camp is one of the things in the ISCF calendar that everyone looks forward to. For many people, it is a highlight of their year. I know it was definitely a highlight for me back in high school. Around April each year, NSGB ISCF is “keen for camp”, and if you’re really super excited, a “keen bean”.

I think there is a trend here.

Christians (and non-Christians too) absolutely love their camps and conferences. It excites us. There is something about camp which thrills us, which stirs us – something that is so deeply enjoyable and satisfying about going on camp. You might know the feeling, friend. You spend a few days constantly talking about particular things, doing particular activities, around particular people. You are saturated with teaching which bears words of truth that have an eternal and infinite significance, which convict us and makes our hearts soar, and remind us of a good, great, cosmic reality. You are surrounded by your brothers and sisters, a community which so unconditionally loves, a community which shares its joys and burdens with such unity – and it is really a safe, and warm, and loving place to be. Camp is an awesome place to be.

And by the end of you camp, you feel like you are on fire. You have tasted the sweetness of God. You have experienced the reality of true and loving community. You want to love Jesus with all your heart, soul, strength and mind – you want to live for Him. You are so encouraged, and so warmed, and you are on fire for God.

This feeling, my friends, we sometimes call a “spiritual high”. Some of you might call it a “camp high”. And it feels really great.

It’s funny – I was hearing from my sister that on the first week back to school, the entire population of year 10 girls who came to camp (an astounding 20-30 people) all came to lunchtime ISCF that week! The group has never been that big at lunch, and wow – the leaders needed to quickly reshuffle things so that they could fit everyone into a group. This really shows that camp does set us “on fire”. We are excited and so moved.

But…

No matter how great it feels, the spiritual high inevitably comes to an end sooner or later. You might have experienced this yourself before. The daily rhythm and hustle-bustle kicks back in – things get busy, perhaps you have exams and assignments, friendships to enjoy and deal with, things to do and think about… and the spiritual rush you had from camp slowly wears off. God isn’t on your mind anymore. He doesn’t excite you… or at least, you don’t think too much about it. Maybe you stop going to church, ISCF, youth, or whatever it might be. There are other things to do now. You’ve lost that “rush” that you felt at camp.

What do we make of this?

Am I less of a Christian now? Why aren’t I feeling excited? Why is God so distant now?

I often thought about this, particularly when I first started growing as a Christian. I would ask the question “how do I keep this spiritual high up?”. Maybe you are asking this question too. I tried and fought really hard to keep this passion, to keep being “on fire”, to keep up the passion and excitement I had for God.

But… there would always come a point where it died down.

And this is perfectly OK.

I would like to share with you a really nice illustration, inspired by C. S. Lewis, which helps me think through this issue. [1]

Picture in your head a newly married couple. Can you imagine the story behind this? The two people meet, they fall in love, start dating, and then they get engaged, and then bam, they get married. And now they are on their honeymoon, maybe somewhere fancy on some tropical island or somewhere cool like Europe or America. Imagine what they are feeling. They are completely in love – the emotions overflow, and they are so, so excited, and very ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Maybe you can relate – at least, with the feeling of “being in love”. Can you imagine that rush of emotions? Of affection? Of love and adoration for the other person?

But we all know that no marriage stays in the honeymoon stage forever. Maybe in a few months, or a few years down the track, life completely settles and it becomes… “normal”. There’s no rush of emotions, or any of that “being in love” feeling anymore. But here’s the question – does this mean that they no longer love one another?

Absolutely not! Whilst “being in love” is what might start a marriage, it isn’t what a marriage is built on. Marriage is built on a promise (that’s what they do at a wedding, hey) – to love and cherish one another, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. This first thrill of “being in love” is replaced by a more steadfast, lasting kind of love. The husband and wife love each other, no matter what happens, even if they don’t feel it. And there’s something really genuine and real about this kind of love – it’s more than just an emotional feeling. Rather, their love is an unwavering, joyful commitment to one another.

I think our spiritual lives are often like this. Our spiritual high is a bit like being spiritually in love. It’s a rush of feelings and emotions. It’s not a bad thing – no, enjoy it! It’s a good gift to be enjoyed. But we know that this first thrill won’t last. Rather, it transforms and becomes a more steadfast and lasting kind of love. It becomes an unwavering, joyful commitment. This is what we call faithful Christian living. So, friend, know that it is OK that your spiritual high will eventually wear off.

My encouragement to you is this: in your spiritual high, make the “promises” needed to give you that steadfast and lasting kind of love. In the good times, make habits that will last through the bad times. Right now, when you are pumped up and on fire for God, make a commitment to keep seeking God.

What does that look like?

Keep going to ISCF, or church, or youth – and commit to this. There’s nothing better than getting a steady diet of God’s truth along with your brothers and sisters. Go even when you are busy and have heaps of exams and assignments. Go even when you don’t feel like it. It’s easy to go when you are pumped up right now. But what about later? Make it a commitment, and a habit right now, so that it will last when aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian living is like.

Keep reading God’s word – and commit to this. Find a time and a place that works for you each day. Maybe it’s in the morning when you wake up. Maybe it’s on the train to school. Before you sleep. When you get home from school. Wherever. And let yourself keep it up even when you aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian is like.

Surround yourself with Christian brothers and sisters – and commit to them. Encourage them, and let them encourage you. Continue to love them, and continue to encourage one another to seek God, even when you aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian living is like.

When the spiritual high fades away, you will still have God’s truth and promises, and you will still have your brothers and sisters. These are the things that will not fade. And it is beautiful, steadfast, lasting. =)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25


[1] Check out C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity” – in particular, the chapter on “Christian Marriage” (Book 3, Ch. 6).

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