Every three years, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), has a mass gathering of high school youth called the National Youth Gathering (NYG) in a major U.S. city. It always takes place over the summer for about a week, and most people only get the chance to go once as a participant. About 25,000 youth usually attend, so it’s a pretty special event for these high schoolers.
When I was in high school, I was in that lucky age group that got to go to NYG twice – once after my freshman year and once after my senior year. This year, I’m going again as a Young Adult Volunteer, and I’m thrilled. I loved both of the previous Gatherings I attended, and I feel like this is yet another opportunity for me to grow in my faith and learn about the God who created me.
Perhaps the most loved event of any Gathering are the mass events that are held daily. This is where every last NYG participant is packed into a large building to sing worship songs and hear guest speakers talk about their faith journeys. It may sound weird to some of you, but it’s actually pretty incredible to be in a stadium with 25,000 other teenagers, all of whom share your beliefs, singing praise to God. It’s not really something that can be described; it has to be experienced firsthand.
This experience often produces what some people refer to as the “Jesus high.” It’s a surprisingly fitting term. While in the moment, it’s super easy to get caught up in the energy of the crowd and vow to change, to work hard to become a better person. You feel closer to God than you ever have before. For the remainder of the Gathering, and even for a few days after that, you may even stay true to that vow you made. The high fades quickly, though, and life returns to the way it was previously.
I’m just as guilty of this as anyone, and if I’m being honest with myself, it’ll probably happen again this summer. What’s the point, then? The point is this: Don’t forget what you learn at the Gathering. You’re there to learn about Jesus and to grow in faith. You will learn and grow while there, and you should take that knowledge and growth with you into your daily life.
Yes, you should also try to change any sinful habits you may find yourself falling into, but don’t let the loss of the high make you lose sight of what’s really important: faith in Christ. Keep in mind what you learn as you strive to change. I guess the best way I can put it is like this: The reason to change is love for Christ, so don’t let a change in behavior cause you to forget that. Don’t let it make you forget Christ.
Don’t mistake me; the “Jesus high” isn’t a bad thing. Enjoy yourself at the Gathering this summer. Have fun, learn lots and grow in faith and in love toward others. Let that faith and love carry over into your normal life once it’s all over and always remember God’s love for you is both the source and drive for all love here on Earth.