The youth group at my church goes on a mission trip every summer in June to the Great Smoky mountains at Eagle Rock Camp. There they put on a week long VBS for the kids that live on the mountain ranging from babies to 18 year olds, as well as a group of handicapped adults. It is a trip that our pastors have been giving our church’s students the opportunity to go on for 20+ years, and lucky for me, I am just coming off of my 11th year going. I attended the trip as a student as soon as I was old enough to go, and have gone every year since. First going as a student, now having the privilege to go as a leader. It is an absolutely incredible trip. Honestly, there aren’t words good enough to describe it. I mean, clearly something great is going on at that place if I have gone for 11 years and still have a new and better experience each time that I go. With my husband working full time at our church with the youth ministry, I have an excuse to keep going (even though I’m old now), and I pray that there will never be a year that I have to miss it.
You see, there is something about this camp, this place up in the mountains, that just has a powerful, lingering presence of the Lord. Granted, the Lord is always present in our day-to-day lives, but people always seem to experience God in a fresh and deeper way at Eagle Rock. They notice, or choose to notice, God’s presence in their lives at Eagle Rock more than they do in their daily lives at home. Maybe it’s the beautiful view from the back porch of the lodge overlooking the Smoky Mountains. Maybe it’s the quiet and stillness surrounding the camp. Maybe it’s the seclusion from the “real world.” It is more than likely a combination of all of those things, but I really believe that the reason people experience God so profoundly at Eagle Rock is because they go there looking for Him. They are cut off from the “real world,” and they are surrounded by people that have the same desires and goals as them: to love, praise, worship, serve, and seek out the Lord. There are no distractions, and their surroundings promote Jesus, encouraging them to walk more closely with Him. They have no shame in their faith. They are more open and surrendered to God during the week, and are in turn able to experience Him and hear from Him more. When we go to Eagle Rock each year, especially the people that have been before, we see it as an opportunity to give our relationship with God a jump start into a new beginning. We all really want to be serious about pursuing Him with our life after we leave the mountaintop this time because of all that He did in our lives while we were there.
Now I am not sure if any of you have heard of this thing called a “camp high,” but I have experienced it many times in my life, and I have watched it happen in the lives of many students and adults over the years. For those of you that are new to the term “camp high,” allow me to familiarize you with it. It is exactly what it sounds like. Having a camp high is when you experience God in a powerful way on some kind of Christian camp trip. It changes your life for the better, causing you to possibly make commitments related to further following the Lord upon your return home from camp. Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking down on these things. I am a full supporter of camp and mission trips, and believe that they are a real opportunity for God to work in and change people’s lives. I have grown up going on trips like these. I wouldn’t be the follower of Christ that I am today without them. However, where we go wrong, is when we have all of these big God moments at camp, maybe making commitments, and fail to carry them out when we get home. We leave camp and we are high on the Lord because of how He worked in our lives. But, once we return to our daily routine and life, we come off of that high. We don’t follow through on the commitments that we made. We forget about how God spoke into and changed our lives. Ultimately, we drift and become distant from God, settling back into our old ways and habits. This has happened to me so many times in the past, and I have watched it happen too many times to others. So why does this continue happen? How can we prevent it from happening to us or continuing to happen to us?
I don’t have perfect answers or solutions to these questions that will forever prevent this from happening in our lives again. I do have suggestions and truths that when applied to our lives, can help to break the chain of camp highs that seems to be getting longer with every passing year. So why do we see camp highs continuing to happen in our lives or in the lives of others? Truly I believe it is because we come back from our trips and don’t do either of these 2 things:
Surround ourselves with accountability and/or support.
Allow God to consume our lives instead of allow our lives to consume God.
When we find ourselves making commitments on camp trips, no matter what they may be, we cannot come home and expect them to magically be sustained in our day to day lives. Maybe we decided that we will spend more time in God’s Word. Maybe we desire to have a quiet time every morning before our day starts. Maybe we committed to serve our community more. Maybe we simply want to love God and be an example of God’s love to others in all that we do. These desires and commitments are possible to achieve, but without a community to surround ourselves with that can encourage these commitments and desires, we are likely to fall short. It is important to have a group of people or even one person holding you accountable, supporting your goals, and maybe even walking alongside of you in fulfilling the same commitments with you.
Without community and support we find ourselves slipping right back into the lives we were living before camp rocked our world and changed our hearts. These lives we may have been living aren’t always bad and aren’t always avoidable. I am not necessarily talking about slipping back into the party scene or things of that sort, although that does happen. I am speaking more to slipping back into our schools, our jobs, our churches, our families, our day-to-day seemingly mundane schedules without the God that we just experienced; as if nothing changed. Instead of seeking to allow this God we experienced in such a powerful way to seep into our daily lives, we go back to doing it all without Him for some reason. Instead of allowing God to be at the center of and consume all of who we are and all of what we do, we allow all of who we are and all of what we do to consume God so much so that He becomes absent instead of present. It becomes God and us instead of God in us.
So, how can we prevent our camp highs from continuing to be just a high that eventually fades away? Understand the simple truth that is it not God AND us, but that it is God IN us. What that means is that we don’t have to do anything in our own strength and by our own power. It means that we CAN achieve these goals that we set for ourselves and desire to achieve because we don’t work by our own control and power, but by God’s. Our flesh is not capable of achieving these commitments. We are weak and we are susceptible to the enemy’s attacks. We often fail when we try to win on our own, and then we give up and find ourselves fading off from the high; from the passion we had just a few short weeks ago. We are prideful to have the mindset that it is God and us. With that mindset we are declaring that we think we know what’s best, that we are in control of the things we want control over, and that we will let God do His thing when we think we need Him. We settle back in and become comfortable. Complacent. It doesn’t work that way, and it definitely doesn’t work out well that way. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” God’s power is at work withIN us, not just around us. With that power in us, we are able to do all things because it is Christ who gives us strength, not me who gives me strength. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
In Romans chapter 7, Paul writes something that cuts so deep to my heart. Paul, one of the best examples of what it looks like to live a life fully devoted to God, struggled just like we do. The Message translation says it like this:
“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different” (v. 17-25).
I read this passage of scripture and my jaw drops a little because who knew someone like Paul could feel the same way I do sometimes? The way we do sometimes? A lot of us truly delight in God and have great intentions with our decisions. But we aren’t seeing the fruit of those decisions. They aren’t resulting in action and we realize we can’t do it on our own. Our flesh may fail, but it’s important to know and believe that God never will. I love when Paul says “Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable.” Does your camp high get the better of you everytime? Has it become so regular that it’s predictable? Thankfully, Jesus is IN us. He is our answer, our rescuer. With His power in us, the parts of us that want to follow through on our commitments defeat the parts that don’t. By His power and not our own, we are able to fight and be victorious over the influences that surround us and try to pull us the other way. Know that your camp high doesn’t have to just be a high. It can be a forever when you allow God to consume every part of your life, working in and through you.