Mere Christianity: Hooked on a Feeling

I never remember a time in my life that I didn’t hear about God and believe in Him. But there’s a difference between hearing about Him, believing in Him, and actually experiencing Him. And when I was eight years old, I experienced Him.

I was at the altar of our little country church when I was struck by a thunderbolt of knowledge that God KNEW me and LOVED me. It was a quick experience. Simple, yet profound. No angels singing Alleluias or lightning crashes. Just a KNOWING that came on me faster than the movement of a dragonfly’s wings. But it was real. And in that instant, my perspective on life changed forever.

I’ve spent a lot of years since then trying to find God, that real, again. Even this past Sunday, I closed my eyes against the spray at Wahclella Falls (in Oregon) and tried to feel Him in the mist. I opened my eyes and looked for Him in the moss on the canyon walls. And though I didn’t feel Him, I knew He was there. He’s always there. And on the way back down the mountain, I hummed Rich Mullins’ lyrics, “everywhere I go, I see You…”

There have been a couple of things I have learned about experiencing the God Who Is Real that I would like to quickly point out. First of all, for most of us, that Real God Experience doesn’t come by rote and repetitive liturgy. Unless you have experienced God before you act on the religion, you probably won’t find Him in it. But the Real God Experience comes in surprising ways, at surprising times. Like a day at the ocean. Or even at home on a hot day, when you realize God is whispering in your ear.

Second of all, you can’t spend your time wandering around hooked on the feeling. Just like I couldn’t spend my life floating on the ethereal mist of my 8-year-old’s revelation of God, most of life is about the rubber meeting the road. If I spend my life with my head in the clouds and my eyes to the sky, I’ll trip over my feet!

CS Lewis warns us about not getting hooked on the feeling. He tells the story of a military man who experienced God in the desert, during wartime. But he allowed the feeling of that experience to discourage him from pursuing further relationship with God because he felt that nothing else could live up to that Real God Experience. (Just retelling that saddens me…)

Lewis says this:

What happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion–all about feeling God in nature, and so on–is so attractive. It is all about thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. (Lewis, 136)

Christianity is ALL ABOUT the relationship with God. We need to have that Real God Experience. But there will be days and days and weeks and years of drudgery, when we simply have to shoulder the pack and march on long after the thrill is gone. As hard as it is, we can’t be hooked on the feeling. We must simply keep marching.

Have you have a Real God Experience? If so, how? Are you ever tempted to chase the emotions or thrilling experiences of God? Are you ever tempted to step off the path when the thrill is gone?

This post is part of a weekly series on CS Lewis’ classic “Mere Christianity” that is co-facilitated by my buddy, Jason Stasyszen and I. Please feel free to follow the convo, even if you haven’t read the book! All comments are appreciated! If you are taking part in the convo and want to post a link to your discussion of it at your own blog, please do so on the link widget below. (NOTE: I’m on vacation and this post was pre-scheduled. If there is any malfunction with the widget, please simply leave your links in the comments! Thanks!)



About Sarah Salter


  1. I have had several times in my life when I was overwhelmed by an experience with God. Nothing compares to those moments, but as you and C.S. Lewis stated, those moments are not the totality of my relationship with Him.

    Because I have experienced God and His love for me, I continually want to know more about Him and spend time with Him: be it on the mountain top or in the ruts of daily life.

    The Widget is hidden so here is my contribution to this weeks discussion: Of God: Theology and Doctrine.

  2. Feelings can be fleeting, and usually are. What lasts is what stays in the heart (and the head). A faith that depends upon feelings is going to be a fairly-quickly-abandoned faith.

    My contribution to the discussion:

  3. I experience God in times of joy in the laughter of people around me, and in times of sorrow in their compassion and comfort. I experience Him in the sacraments.

    My contribution to today’s discussion is here.

  4. We wrote very similar posts, Sarah (with different quotes). What’s amazing to me is that after deep experiences, it ultimately has driven me back to the word, but maybe it was because I had some of that foundation before the experience. Interesting to think about. Thanks.

  5. it seems to me that our experience with God will continually be changing as we change, not that God changes. And i think that God has many ways of relating with us. So between our changing in perception and understanding along with God’s many ways of relating… keeps us connected, and also makes it a but silly to try and come up with any hard and fast rules. which is actually good, because our trust is not in the rules, but, in God.

  6. This speaks right to my heart.

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