Q: When I went through a bad break-up, I took your advice and really pursued a deeper relationship with God. At first it was so easy to run to God, and I felt so close to Him. But now that things are settling back to normal, it’s almost harder to actively seek Him out. I’m doing Grant Horner’s Bible Study, I watch sermons all the time, and I’m always listening to my favorite Christian artists, but something just feels… missing. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep that mountaintop experience with God alive?
I totally hear you. In fact, as I’ve been reading through all my old journals the past few days (research for a book I’m working on), that pattern wove itself through every spiral-bound volume of my life! When circumstances were as bad as I thought they could get, that’s when I felt the closest to God. When I’d get dumped by someone I thought was “the one,” when my dad almost died, when friends betrayed me, or my parents were on the verge of divorce, my words bled devotion to God. My heart was ablaze for Him. I felt His touch; His grace kept me afloat.The same was true of other “mountain top” experiences, like mission trips, summer camp, and dating my (now) husband. But those experiences were the exception, not the rule, of my life. Most of my days, months and years were spent in the valleys—those long stretches of “normal life” that seem like day-old MacDonald’s fries compared to the spiritual “highs.”
Last week I took a hike near Colorado Springs, which is famous for some really cool red rock formations. After a considerable elevation gain (read: my thighs were burning!), I got to a place that overlooked a canyon full of these formations. The view took my breath away. Sights like that have a way of making you feel connected with God on a crazy intimate level. (Duh—I guess that’s why they call special times with God “mountaintop experiences”!) Standing there at the top, feeling the warm sun and cold breeze against my cheeks, watching the rocks turn fiery red in the late-afternoon light, I never wanted to leave. Like Peter, I wanted to say to Jesus, “This place—filled with your glory—rocks! Let’s set up camp here!” (See Matthew 17:4. I may be paraphrasing a teensy bit.). But eventually I had to head back down the trail. And as I wound my way back down through the canyon, sad that I had to go back to the flats, God spoke some surprising words to my heart.
Jessie, look how this perspective has changed what you can see of Me.
It was true. As I passed under an overhang of red rock, I looked up. Right above my head, the beginnings of an arch made a hole through the solid roof of rock that gave me a view straight to the heavens above. I noticed little streaks of stubborn green in the otherwise dying grasses. I felt the sandstone rock walls, like sandpaper against my fingertips.
God in the details.
Yahweh in the ordinary.
From the top of the mountain, God’s majesty, power and might were in-your-face obvious. In the canyon, I had to take the initiative to look for His handiwork, but when I did, I saw things about Him that I couldn’t see from that impressive overlook.
The hike reminded me that if we want to know God fully, we have to follow Him to both the “mountaintops” and through the “valleys” of life. We can’t see all that God has revealed about Himself unless we experience both. And ironically, we can’t appreciate one without the other.
So even though I would still rather spend as much time as I can “on the mountain” with God, I’m learning to appreciate the slow growth and self-discipline it takes to make it through the normal seasons of life. It takes more effort to stay connected to God in our fast-paced, distractible lives, doesn’t it? But don’t give up! If my volumes of journals are any indication, a person can grow a lot in those valleys without even realizing it.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it”? I think that’s good advice in this case. Keep doing exactly what you’re doing—reading your Bible, listening to sermons and Christian music—whether you feel the “fire” or not. You won’t realize how much you’re actually growing and changing until you can look back in hindsight!
This is more of a “big picture” answer. For a few practical tips on how to keep the keep the fire alive, you might enjoy the post “My Fire for God Is Dying.”