FOCUS – Don’t knock the mountain top

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by Lt. Amanda Reardon – 

‘Tis spring, ’tis the season…for youth councils. For those of tender age, it is an annual highlight. I remember vividly my experiences at youth councils. I remember the places they were held (which varied), the friends I saw, and even the way we carried on in the van as we journeyed to the campground or hotel.

Last year I went to youth councils–not as a youth, but as the corps officer. For the young delegates and the chaperones alike, the spiritual atmosphere was palpable. Intoxicating. We were swept into an intense spiritual mode that generally only occurs at retreats such as these–a reality quite unlike our daily Christian walk, but a reality nonetheless.

Regrettably, many Christians are critical of these “mountain top experiences.” The glow will fade, they argue, as it faded from Moses’s face after the original mountain top experience. Emotional highs will not carry young people through their daily lives, so such highs are assumed entirely valueless.

I challenge such criticism: it is the nature of teens to be emotional; if they are not swept away by spirituality, they will be swept away by something else. The Roller-Coaster Years, by Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese, describes teens as being “like manic-depressives…they alternate between periods of excitement, even euphoria and periods of worry.” This is through no fault of their own. Blame the chemical make-up of the growing adolescent. If euphoria is to be expected, it is surely far better that the teen become euphoric over Christ, rather than euphoric over ‘N Sync or Brittney Spears.

But this issue does not only concern teens. How refreshing it was for me, an adult, to experience the “youth councils high” last year! I wonder if we should even seek out such experiences.

A relationship with Christ is, after all, a relationship. Though it may seem strange to us, the Bible even puts this relationship in a romantic context. In the book of Hosea, for example, Israel is described as God’s beloved, his betrothed, who committed adultery by worshipping other gods. In the New Testament, the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ.” Likening our spiritual relationship to a romantic one, one can see the benefits of emotional moments.

Permit me to use my own marriage as an example. When my husband and I first fell in love, we walked on air. Our wedding day was sickeningly romantic, and we basked in our joy. Soon after the honeymoon, we found our pace for daily life. Comfortable and secure in our relationship, we settled down to pedestrian existence with all its unromantic elements, like laundry, yard work and dirty diapers. But even now there are days, or sometimes just hours or minutes within a day, that are pure magic. I look at him, and my heart thumps wildly. Or he holds my hands in his and says something terribly sentimental. Or we sneak away for a quiet lunch followed by a bit of window shopping. These moments are not the glue that holds our relationship together. Our marriage depends upon a far stronger bond than simply romance. And yet, where would we be without these moments? Not only are they sweet in and of themselves, but their fragrance lingers into the ordinary moments, when we’re taking out the trash or doing the dishes.

New Christians often come across as people who have just fallen in love. They become animated and excited when talking about Christ. They are smitten. Their effervescence may fade in time, but the relationship simultaneously grows deeper, stronger. The danger is that, devoid of any tender moments, the relationship may eventually become mundane.

Mountain top experiences remind us how much we are in love with God and he with us. More worship-oriented than task-oriented, they are part of the joy of the love relationship. Certainly Christians can experience the joy of the Lord without going on a retreat or experiencing a full-scale “spiritual high.” But the spiritual highs are special and wonderful and we should rejoice in them, not shy away from them or belittle them.

Nothing can replace the steady discipline of prayer and study in a Christian’s life. These are the daily duties of love. Some days these tasks are anticipated and enjoyed; some days they are forced. But some days–ah, some wonderful youth council-like days–we find ourselves giddy with love for our God, and amazed at his love for us. Dear reader, I pray that these days may multiply in your life and in mine.

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