Despite a seven year enlistment in the Army, I have never been very good at getting in line; especially if the line isn’t moving. It is safe to say that I reject an overwhelming majority of ideas I hear. Sometimes that is based on the ideas themselves; sometimes it is based on who presents them. I suppose this is why I am so fortunate to have begun my journey to Orthodoxy in a somewhat anomalous community. God was very merciful to me in that regard.
Growing up, I was not unfamiliar with Christianity; obviously I knew what it was. The hands-off approach of Protestantism, however, was not bringing me anywhere near the destination I desired and which God desired for me. I developed a “wake me up when it’s over” attitude toward my spiritual life, which eventually led to a spiritual shutdown of sorts and, in my mind, a destruction of God’s identity.
Fighting in the Iraq War for 15 months as an Infantryman caused some upset in my psyche, and losing the notion of God as Christ added significantly to that. Of course it was God’s will that I find the Church and so after returning from the war and experiencing a long two years of anxiety, severed relationships, sleepless nights and an extremely negative view of the world and of humanity, I met my now wife, Christiana.
While describing her faith to me, she was careful yet thorough. The woman is a phenomenal evangelist because, at that time in my life, my heart was nearly impenetrable. Over the course of several, long conversations – me objecting, her gently rationalizing, me rejecting, her thoughtfully presenting, I opened up. It is very difficult to explain how I decided one day that salvation requires belief in paradox; so I’ll leave that part out. Though I was incapable of truly understanding God, I was presented with a 2,000 year history of people who did understand Him, a set of rules and a list of things I ought to say to Him. This was much better than what I had experienced before.
Then I learned about all the work I had to do. My first Divine Liturgy was overwhelming to say the least. Both because of the realization that a man standing twenty feet away from me was holding the Creator of the universe in his hands, and because there were a lot of kids there that day! Nowadays I am less overwhelmed by the latter.
Over time, I began to love the Church. To say that this Parish has shown me love is a great understatement; I cannot imagine beginning my spiritual fight elsewhere. This is what I meant by “anomalous community”. I would have fallen so many more times had I not had the support of my wife, so many welcoming friends, the distinction between tradition and Tradition, and the wisdom and care of our Priests and Deacon. I am very fortunate to have begun my journey here.
As far as rejecting ideas, I still do that on a regular basis. However, I now have a source of Truth other than my own finite mind. Because of the Church, my less-thanloving outlook has been replaced by an awareness of a warfare unseen, a greater love for those around me and a wonderful fear of Him who went a great distance to bring me into His fold.