Why does it seem so easy to fall back into bad habits and so hard to stay on the right path? What happens when the spiritual high wears off?
It can be very easy to give up and just accept defeat when it comes to spiritual challenges in our lives. I have been thinking a lot about this lately.
Here’s the typical pattern. A person goes on a retreat, mission trip, or discipleship training school. It could even be something like a rehab program. This person is removed from his/her typical environment and placed in an artificial surrounding. Many of the pressures and triggers that cause problems are removed. The person is introduced to new routines. Reverse peer pressure causes individuals to develop good habits and “spiritual disciplines.”
Everything seems to be going well. But I wonder how much the person has really changed. If you take the individual out of the new construct, will the changes still be there?
If the change depends too much on the system surrounding the person, then the peron may never really experience much internal change. That is what I see takes place on many of these spiritual experiences that claim to strive for lasting transformation and discipleship.
Transformation takes time, and the only way to test the quality of the tempering is to see how the individual responds when put back into a challenging environment. Notice I didn’t say hostile environment. A challenging environment could be a place with no real conflict other than busyness or boredom.
All of this is to say that I believe re-entry is the most critical aspect of any revival/renewal experience. More camps and mission trips do little good if the person is not prepared for their life back home. That is why I wonder if taking people completely out of the environment is the best thing. Shouldn’t we help them learn how to cope and be victorious in their typical setting?
While the isolation approach may work for monks or nuns, it only works because they dedicate their life to the monastery or convent. That is not the reality for most people. What if mission events, camps, retreats, discipleship programs, included a lot of free will and less strict discipline? What if the experience included opportunities to wrestle with their real world dynamic and new spiritual disciplines at the same time?
All of this relates to my previous post titled “Manage Expectations” where I quoted Bill Hybels the senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He said that there has to come a point where Christians learn to feed themselves. This is true about spiritual motivation and discipline too. We have to respond to our daily changes by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our will has to be subject to Christ.
Do you have any thoughts on re-entry? What you have seen work in the lives of your community of faith? Does this all start with getting a real glimpse of who God really is?
I welcome your thoughts.