“...we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven charter; and proven character, hope...” from Romans 5:3,4
How beautiful is the path that strips away our facade and shines a light on what is real in us. But truly, how many willingly choose this path?! None of us want to relinquish our comforts, our secure beliefs and relationships and yet, for all of us, there comes a time when all that feels safe and right, is shattered. It may come through the loss of a loved one, a betrayal by someone at work, a severed relationship...life deals some tough blows. Where do we go to re-group and find strength... and peace?
The church had been a comfort in the past, as it was a place to learn about God’s Word, to be inspired by a moving sermon, to be with kindred minds and hearts. But these were the days when my husband & I found ourselves in a very loving Methodist Church, but sadly, it was also void of growth and more importantly for me, ....children. Since our two little ones were the only children in the congregation, that meant there was no sunday school and no one to watch our baby & toddler during morning worship. Hubby & I took turns entertaining them downstairs in what used to be a lively nursery. After a few years of this, I was weary and frequently frustrated,: Why am I even going to church? I don’t get anything out of it anymore!
This unrest and developing apathy toward church life coincided with a season of private emotional pain for me. I wondered why God was giving me so much to carry. I wondered if God even heard my prayers and pleas....I wondered if I was losing my mind. There may be a time to write more on this dark chapter, but not now. It’s enough to share the remarkable lessons learned through brokenness.
I believe every christian goes through dark valleys where the sun seems very distant and pale...”time in the desert” I call it. What took me many years to learn though, is that these places afford doorways to growth that you cannot find elsewhere and so, I am thankful for the desert.
One such doorway discovered was concealed with vines and dense brush, the evidence of pride and self-righteousness. The thick growth was not removed slowly, bit by bit, but was obliterated in moments by a truthful word. It came through a counseling session. My counselor pinpointed a vice in me that proved to be transforming. After listening to me for a time, he replied with two simple words: “You’re jealous”. Those little words, what may seem so little and trivial, became the beginning of a flood that washed away the walls I had built to preserve my “justified, righteous anger”.
It’s no fun looking at the raw deal - to catch a glimpse of your heart as it truly is- and yet, without doing so, there is no hope for spiritual growth. Unless we recognize our sins, how is it that we can overcome them? Oddly enough, it was also during these counseling sessions with a Baptist minister that I came to understand the vital link between confessing our sins and being healed of them. In voicing our faults, our sins, in the presence of another is to know shame and to be accountable for it. When we confess to God alone, in our private times, we cannot understand the full impact our sins have within the Body of Christ. This is one reason we are told to confess to one another. (James 5:16)
This path of pain and spiritual awakening slowly merged with my reading of the ancient Celts, of Saints Columba and Patrick, with my study of church history. I devoured books, seeking an answer to my foremost questions, “How can I find peace in troubled waters? How can I be healed of emotional pain?”
My paradigm began to shift....the church, as I had always know it, was a resource for learning and evangelizing. Now, I was looking to the church as a hospital. I wanted to be healed, I longed for true worship - whatever THAT meant - that left me with a peaceful heart rather than critiquing the pastor’s sermon. I wanted to find a place where the sanctuary was regarded as a sacred space rather than a social gathering room. I wanted to get away from all distraction in worship and realize the heart of it...I wanted to be lost in prayer and thanksgiving. I wanted to receive the Lord’s Supper each and every time I entered God’s beautiful house. I was seeking the faith of the Apostles, of St. Patrick and Columba, knowing that I would find “home” when I found the roots of the church.
“Thus says the Lord, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
*These few entries touch the surface of how I came to the door of the Orthodox Church. For anyone interested in reading my earlier ramblings and disjointed thoughts, you can do so here.
It’s not a short response, but now, when someone wants a quick answer to, “So, why are you Orthodox now?” I’ll just hand them a card with my blog address on it =-)