Imagine this: a gorgeous, snow-capped mountain overlooking a range of other peaks covered with pine trees, carrying a magical sense of awe and wonder. Perhaps a bird soars effortlessly in the background, and a girl sits at the peak, snuggled under an Aztec blanket holding a coffee mug. Have you seen this photo? I have too. Probably fifteen different times. The baffling thing is how it continues to evoke a sense of longing within my soul every time I see it. I’m drawn to nature in a way that makes my heart beat faster, my soul sing louder, and my flesh desire deeper.
I’m not alone in this. My generation is enthralled with traveling the world, fighting for meaningful causes, and seeking fulfillment in adventure.
ETERNITY IS WRITTEN ON OUR HEARTS
This desire has been intentionally and beautifully stirred inside of us.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 sings in my soul as I reflect on our unattainable longing for more.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Instead of letting the Lord gloriously reveal himself to us, though, we’ve grabbed onto our ideas of eternity and created realities out of them. We do it in church, at universities, even in business.
And quite honestly, I’m overwhelmed with how many movements, upgrades, and “once in a lifetime” experiences exist. The need for everything to be a necessity, a guarantee for life-changing transformation, is exhausting and unrealistic.
Have we left behind patience for God’s movement and instead created our own?
REACHING BEYOND OUR GRASP
Our longing for more may be leading us to build up experiences so high and mighty that we're trying to reach God's height.
I’m not setting myself against this persona. I can very much be classified with the majority in this. But the difference I hope to make is not to kill dreams, but to purify and purpose them.
Our churches and ministries are either full or void of young people, and the ones that are there are probably consumed with this zeal for adventure. What do we do with them? As disciple-makers, we should learn to come alongside this culture (inside and outside the church) and witness for Jesus.
More specifically, we must find ways to challenge the spirit of worshiping creation over Creator. The photo of the girl on the mountain stirs a desire to go see the mountains, but also to feel that wonder and awe. We’re not just idolizing the physical mountain; we’re idolizing experience and the emotional thrill that comes with it.
A recognition of the object of our worship would actually refocus how we seek fulfillment. In this we are led to redefine what fulfillment is, and discover the omnipresence of God.
I remember hearing the term “mountain top experience” in youth group, and at summer camp we would come home with “camp high." The term was used to describe the heightened awareness of God at work within us. Every time I heard it, though, I was a little frightened that I may lose track of his presence. We all tried to doubt and dismiss the idea until a few weeks later we were left slightly disappointed with the normalcy of life.
It’s natural to elevate a time or experience that’s especially impactful to our spiritual well-being. It’s not good to expect that every day.
COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE
In my younger years, I think the crashing reality of this mountain top experience was helpful in encouraging me to build healthy spiritual disciplines. I was drawn to pray for God to not leave me, I was inspired to remind myself of his character through his Word, and I was provoked to ask older and wiser friends how they would deal with this disappointment. The cultivation of these very necessary Christian principles showed me how my faith could be sustainable in normal life.
As much as I wanted to live at summer camp forever, I knew that was not a possibility. The daily search for Jesus was attainable, however, and that sense of awe and hunger for more helped train me to look for Jesus in my local surroundings. This has been so vital to my faith that I don’t know if I’d still be walking with him had I not learned.
However, it still cost me disappointment when I saw people growing faster or deeper than I was. It also cost me a lot of time that was seemingly worthless at the moment. But the most costly was the deep grief I felt when others didn’t understand what God was doing inside me. I haven’t grown out of these costs, and I still have to endure their price as I walk forward in faith.
I’ve learned, though, that daily and weekly practices like Bible reading, prayer, and living in community with the church are some of the most influential tools in carving out intimacy with Jesus. The costs revealed that no community, mentor, or experience compares to knowing Jesus. And I know him better because of my daily practice of acknowledging his presence.
MY SPIRITUAL HIGH IN THE LAND DOWN UNDER
I spent a short time of my life living in Australia. My season there was marked by the deepest union I’ve ever felt with God. I could physically see mountains, but I also felt that spiritual high I referred to earlier.
I remember one night I was praying and reading Scripture on my bed, and I noticed a warm glow outside my window. I walked over to the window and peered out into the darkness. Flickering stars covered the sky with dazzling light while the moon was a perfect crescent shape framing the sky, producing a remarkable glow. My breath was literally knocked out of me, and warm tears blurred the scene in my eyes.
My physical response was weak compared to the way this moment impacted me spiritually and emotionally, however. One of my greatest friends always quotes Psalm 19:1 which reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” I couldn’t ignore the powerful declaration of God’s glory because my eyes were witnessing it in the skies. This verse came to life.
God is the most magnificent artist, and his earth manifests the work of his hands. When we witness this, our hearts are moved to worship with an incomparable fullness. It’s a heavenly fullness, one spoken of in Ecclesiastes 3:11.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM ELIJAH’S MOUNTAIN TOP HIGH
This same heavenly fullness was experienced by Elijah when he was on a mountain.
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. —1 Kings 19:11-12
Elijah experienced the mountain top high, am I right? This movement of God is not to be downplayed or ignored. When the world around us is quiet enough for us to listen, we become divinely aware of God. It’s in these moments that we hear the Spirit gently speak to our hearts, and remind us that we have been created for eternity.
The peak of the mountain doesn’t compare to the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a sliver of a glimpse, but it can’t be manufactured by mankind. We can’t stir the Holy Spirit with our overdone methods and strategies; we have to trust and remember that the Spirit is who stirs us.
HOW THRILL SEEKING RELATES TO DISCIPLE-MAKING
This wave of thrill seeking, adventure, and passion to change the world is moving people to do more than they ever have. It’s challenging people to venture outside their comfort zones and to think beyond their normal capacity. It’s a trend inside and outside the church, and it has the potential to be incredibly helpful to both.
However, if we aren’t producing healthy, loving, disciple-makers then these sentiments and actions will only fall flat. Our first and foremost pursuit must be loving God. Things will begin to crumble if we aren’t intentional about this first pursuit. It can’t be the spiritual high, new experiences, or even service. The fruit of our labor is only a result of loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. That’s where fulfillment is found, and that’s where transformation begins.
Ask those you disciple, your community, and yourself questions like these:
- If I was called to invest in one community for a decade, would that be enough?
- What do you spend most of your time praying for/ about?
- How do you define fulfillment? Do the ways you find fulfillment point you to God, or do they simply leave you wanting to chase another experience?
We are created to seek fulfillment in God, not this world or the experiences it has to offer. When we become vulnerable to the incompleteness of us, we become aware of the very complete presence of God.
Chelsea Vaughn (@chelsea725) is currently living in Nashville but has spent time in Texas, Thailand, and Australia. Obviously travel is a passion, along with hours in the kitchen or across the table from good friends. She does freelance writing, editing, and speaking for various organizations and non-profits. She hopes to spend her life using her gift for communication to reach culture and communities with the love of Jesus. You can read all of Chelsea’s article here.