The journey from reluctance to acceptance isn’t usually a dramatic event, it’s a slow process. It happens so slowly, in fact, that it is almost imperceptible. But the realization that you have crossed a line can come as suddenly as a summer storm. In that instant you realize that you are no longer fighting or questioning, instead you are slowly moving forward on a journey toward the Cross.
I’ve been asked so many times about our journey toward Orthodoxy. “Why” ask my Protestant friends. Often unspoken is the “Isn’t the Protestant Church good enough? Why do you need to change?”
The journey began over 11 years ago. On attending an Orthodox Church in Chicago my husband, Cliff, came home and said to me “I felt like I had come home!” His face portrayed the peace he felt. I ignored this. “That’s nice dear. Now let’s move on with life.”
And so we did. Periodically the Orthodox journey would arise and our house began to fill with books and articles, with icons and discussions. We argued about it a lot. For every thing he said I had a counter point. It was exhausting. It was defeating.
And so he backed off. And I was so grateful. I needed the space and I needed the time. In conversation I have found that this is similar for many couples who have converted: it is their husbands who first enter a church and find they are called to a discipline and accountability they never feel they had in the past. Their wives come along three steps behind, glassy-eyed and tired, initially unable to understand the draw, unmoved by the icons and images, the incense and symbolism.
But in 2012 we found out that our daughter-in-law’s father was diagnosed with cancer. He was given a few months to live. We had last seen this vibrant man, full of life and joy, dancing at our son’s wedding. Specifically having a father of the bride/father of the groom dance-off. It was unbelievable but it was true. When you begin to see friends and family die in your middle years you ask some questions of yourself and of God. You think about life and its brevity, you wonder what is next, who is next. You reevaluate and talk to those you are close to. And so we asked ourselves some questions. What would you do if you were given a couple of months to live? One answer was the same for both of us – we would travel overseas a last time to see the places and people we love. The second answer came from my husband “I would become Orthodox.”
The words hit me like a deep punch right in my gut. And it hurt. At the same time that this conversation happened, I had been praying about us for a couple of months; about our faith as individuals and as a couple. Where had the passion gone? We claimed faith as paramount to our existence, yet we were living like ones who have no faith, who don’t believe. We had gone a couple of months without attending church and we did not miss it. In fact, it was a relief. Our conversations on faith with our children felt hypocritical and flat — how could we encourage and challenge them in their faith when ours was so defeated?
After a particularly difficult weekend Cliff and I were texting back and forth on a Monday morning. Both of us sad. Both of us discouraged. Both of us defeated. And Orthodoxy came up again. In that moment I knew, beyond doubt, that this was our next step. It could not have been clearer if it was shouted from the Heavens. This was where we were to go. This was the journey that would take us from middle to old age. This was right.
And so began the journey of the Reluctant Orthodox. I now know so much more of what others go through as they are walking into faith, or fighting faith. I understand far more of the arguments and frustrations, of feeling like you are on the outside of something and wanting to get in, yet hesitating.
And you as readers have journeyed with me. Through wondering about the length of the services to being angry about communion; from learning to love icons to a physical faith, from learning not to kiss the pharisee to myrhh bearing women.
The journey is not over, but as Marilyn went in the waters of baptism, Sophia Maria emerged. As struggle surrendered, God was faithful. As reluctance was buried, acceptance resurrected. Questions will always be there, and that is a good thing. It keeps me ever humble, understanding that this is a walk of faith. I see through a glass darkly and will until I see the face of Jesus, in all His everlasting glory welcoming me to my true home.Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth Who art everywhere present. And fillest all things, treasury of good gifts and giver of life. Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from all impurity, And save our souls oh good one. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal one have mercy on us.
Thank you for reading and walking with me.
In the United States, today is Father’s Day. I want to give a shout out to fathers everywhere! Where would we be without you? Well….we wouldn’t be at all. So thank you. It’s a tough job and takes immense grace. A special thanks to my own dad – Ralph E. Brown and to the father of my children, my husband Cliff.
Blogger’s note: This ends The Reluctant Orthodox series on Communicating Across Boundaries. To all of you who have read – I thank you.