There is strong chemistry that addicts us to extreme sports. Ask a sky diver or a marathon runner. They feel most alive when they are engaging in their sport. Every extreme sports enthusiast craves the next high they get as they are scaling a mountain wall, or base jumping. Don’t you feel a rush of adrenalin when you engage in a new or even risky activity?
I’m no expert but I have read that the latest research shows that a specific region of the brain is stimulated when we experience new and unusual activities and acquire new and unusual things. Also, dopamine release can be affected. This contributes to a sense of well-being and/or euphoria. This is a major contributing factor to addictions like gambling, drug addiction, and sex addiction. I also believe this is a driving factor in why porn addiction can be so tenacious and all consuming.
As I was pondering the emotional highs of a “worship service” it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, there was a connection. That maybe I was engaging in the same type of activity with my “practice” of Christianity. What does this look like?
During my many memories of being in bands, worship teams and just plain doing worship ministry my motives, and I’m sure the motives of most, were, and are pure (although is it possible for humans to have 100% pure motives?) But I have had nagging questions about our practice of Christianity my whole life. So…
Food for thought:
Every week, in many evangelical churches (especially “seeker-sensitive” churches), much time and care goes into making the Sunday morning “worship service” as impacting as possible. This entails choosing the right music, the right words, and the right order of service (although in most churches this is pretty much set in stone). If “the Spirit moves”, the congregation has been impacted in a strong, emotional way. If not, there is disappointment and a push to get it right the next time. Come Monday the “high” from Sunday’s powerful service is waning and the attender can’t wait for the next Sunday to get back “on the mountain top.”
I have been there…on both ends. I have seen the prayers and the planning, the emotional highs and lows, the mid-week desire to make it to Sunday. I’ve seen it in myself and many Christians I know. Is it wrong to want to experience God in a powerful way? Is it wrong for our emotions to be affected by our love for God? Is it possible that we have become addicted to these emotional experiences? If the experience is not powerful enough (producing enough endorphins?) do we believe our experience wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit? I have come to believe that there’s a thin line between experiencing God and having an emotional religious experience. I don’t pretend to know where that line is for anyone else but myself.
So, I am detoxing from the “highs” of emotionally charged religious experiences and learning to listen to the “still small voice” of God. I am learning that my purpose in life is nothing more (and nothing less) than loving God and loving people. THIS is the most significant call that God has on my life. If the world doesn’t pay much attention and only a few people are affected by my “call” that’s more than enough for me. I’m learning how to not be defined by what I do (sing, play an instrument, etc) and to be ok with just being me.
It’s very liberating…and satisfying.