In my faith journey this past year, I’ve discovered some people who have walked the road before me and can offer wisdom, challenge, and comfort when I need them most. Aaron Friar is one of those people. He comes from a protestant background, has attended many churches in the past, and has a deep and abiding respect for the traditions of his past even as he is fully a part of the Orthodox church today. Today his post gives me joy and encouragement as I move into the ever-new (for me) yet ancient traditions of the Eastern Orthodox faith. You can read more about Aaron at the end of the post.
By the Waters of the Maumee, We Sat Down and Wept
Marilyn’s series on the Reluctant Orthodox has spurred me to share a bit of my own faith journey. I offer this in tribute to her present struggle to discover and live the ancient, yet ever-present faith of the Orthodox Christian Church.
My honeymoon with the Orthodox Church ended on that hot summer day, in Toledo,Ohio. I had left a vibrant Protestant summer camp and traveled eight hours south to attend a Parish Life Conference hosted by our local diocese and to partake of the best that the Orthodox Church had to offer. I was newly chrismated into the faith and had high hopes of finding answers to long-held questions about God and the Church. I came seeking Bible study, catechesis,and motivating talks encouraging me in my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
What I found instead was a business meeting with a little bit of Church sprinkled on top and not a very civil meeting at that. The one motivational speech delivered by our bishop about welcoming newcomers into the Church was received by the assembly with a debilitating apathy, and I began to seriously wonder what I left behind for this exalted faith once for all delivered to the apostles. But I clung to the words of the convert priest Fr. Peter Gillquist of blessed memory that perhaps this was still the right faith “delivered to the wrong people.”
All I knew was that my heart lay in pieces as I strolled the banks of the Mighty Maumee crying out loud to the God who rescued me from the jaws of multiple church divisions only to land me in this uncertain, foreign land. But just like the Israelites who were also exiled in a strange land, I had to learn how to sing the Lord’s song in a new way and in a new place:
By the Waters of Babylon
There we sat down and we wept, when we remembered Sion…
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.*
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem… If I forget thee O Billy Graham, O Chuck Swindoll, O C.S. Lewis, O Keith Green, O G.K. Chesterton, O Rich Mullins, and all the other countless men and women who brought me to the threshold of that moment. Without all of them, I would not have known the Lord Jesus Christ, let alone His Church. And mystically they were the ones testifying to me in that moment that the treasures contained in the Orthodox Church were buried in a field for which a man must sell all that he has to obtain it.
It may be the right faith for the wrong people, but who was I to count myself among the righteous? What made me think I could plumb the depths of the riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God by simply joining the right church? The flood of purifying tears I shed by that river made plain to me that my journey was just beginning. I had not found the true Church; she was finding me. I did not make it; no, it is making me. It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man…
My prayers are with all who find themselves on a similar road of discovery. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on Him while He is still near (Isaiah 55:6).
Aaron Friar lives with his wife and four children in Boston and blogs at Like Mendicant Monks. The family name Friar comes from a mendicant monastic order in the Middle Ages which traveled from place to place rather than remain in a cloister. Over the years, the family’s desire to travel has taken them to numerous encounters in different parts of the world. If you are in the Boston area and want a tour of this beautiful city, be sure to contact him and he can arrange a custom-designed tour through his work at Boston Pilgrim.