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Coming Down from the Spiritual High

8 Dec

You can get high on things other than drugs. Fitness fanatics talk about a “runner’s high;” I’ve felt a “writer’s high” when you finish a story. But there’s also a “spiritual high,” that sense of being so connected with the infinite. But like all highs, you crash.

This is an experience I’ve had many times in my life. I was so moved by one that I thought I’d be a minister. Unfortunately, this happened when I was twelve, and it changed my life… for the worse. The problem with getting a calling so young is that you tell everyone–and then people have a higher expectation of you than a teenager is ready to commit to. So the high wears off and you crash because you can’t possibly meet the expectations you gave yourself.

One of the most troubling–and fundamental parts–of the Bible is the Sacrifice of Issac. Why would God command Abraham to kill his favorite (but not his only) son? He waited so long for this kid that he was promised, and then was told to throw him away. It’s troubling and yet essential, because as the text continues, it assures that Abraham is truly the chosen one to bring God’s message to the world.

However, if you notice in the text, Issac and Abraham do not go home after this incident on Mount Moriah. Sarah dies immediately after, because according to the sages, the Devil told her that her husband killed her only son. You’d have to think that Issac would think his dad was a real bastard. Yet there’s another interpretation.

The one interpretation that I like is that while Abraham is raising the knife, an angel holds back his arm, preventing the killing. Which means Abe can’t see the angel–but Issac can. So Issac is personally witnessing the eternal first hand and that changes his life forever. The sages say that he spent the next several years at the “yeshiva of Shem and Eber,” which according to them, is actually the priest-king of Salem (later Jerusalem) who we met in the previous chapter.

Imagine living your life with that image of an angel–direct experience with God–your entire life. Everything else pales in comparison. This explains why he is “blinded” in later chapters and can’t see why Jacob is so cool and Esau is so evil. Because everything after that experience pales in comparison.

The trick to coming off the spiritual high–as I’ve learned the hard way–is to accept that the spiritual is in all things. Doing your laundry, making dinner, walking around the neighborhood… these can all be spiritual things full of wonder if you let them be. It’s when you expect everything to be of that same intensity–that same spiritual high–that you feel like a failure and the guilt of unrealistic expectations drives you down.

However, I could be completely wrong–what do you think? Is there a better way to stay in that spiritual high? Is there an alternative to the crushing guilt of being merely human? Let me know in the comments below!

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