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.
15 thoughts on “The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 30 “From Reluctance to Acceptance””
Marilyn, thanks for the honesty and openness that you offer the world and those of us who read your blog and website. I, too, started at another place (another Christian denomination) and in very recent years landed in a Quaker meeting without all the icons, rituals, and such that Orthodoxy offers you. But like you, I found myself at home there. I discovered I had been Quaker for a long time, and just didn’t know it. Thanks be to God, who lets all of us worship in different ways to what speaks to our hearts and minds, our moral center and outer service inclinations.
I’ve been following your blog for a while. Primarily being drawn to the posts on TCK loss/grief. They have been a soothing balm on a festering wound.
I had bypassed most of ‘The Reluctant Orthodox’ series. My own faith was in tatters thanks to depression (mostly TCK related), & the appalling response of my church (they pushed deliverence ministy beliefs).
So I went on my own spiritual & intellectual search for answers that weaved itself been psychology, sociology & religion… 2 years later I’ve found myself in a presbyterian church – so far from the pentecostal place I started, & wasn’t what I expected. Yet I feel like one by one God has answered my questions & ticked all the boxes.
Peace and grace Marilyn, I just happened to find your blog now; I too have been on a magnificent journey into the most beautiful sacred holy Orthodox Church; I am now an Orthodox nun, serving the poorest of the poor; nearly 100 boys, giving them the love and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ in Orthodox ways and tradition..in Nairobi, Kenya….we ask for your prayers…. Sister Demiana St. John the Beloved
“Wa Toto Wa Tumaini Na Ahadi” ” Children of Hope and Promise”
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Dear Marilyn, I feel like your mother; not fully understanding your journey, but I do want to say that regardless of my lack of understanding, I love you. I want to bless you and Cliff on this journey our wonderful God has taken you. Much love, Lea
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I knew these “Reluctant” posts would be coming to an end, but I will miss my Sunday afternoon read. They are so good, I hope to see them in a book – with photos? It was good to read the summary of your journey. I can’t say we fully understand, but we love you both, and thank the Lord for His work and His leading in your life together. Whatever church we belong to here on earth, we know it is an imperfect foreshadowing of the Church Triumphant – as a Protestant hymn puts it, “Tis a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, washed in the blood of the Lamb…” And how amazing it is to know that God sees us now as we will be when His work is completed in us. All Glory to Him!
Thanks Mom! And I hope to compile it into a book – next step :)
Thanks for your honesty.
Thank you Petra – for reading with me and supporting across the desert miles!
Thank God for the Orthodox Church. It has saved quite a few of us from losing touch with our faith in Christ. Maybe this has already been said, but I assume the word “reluctant” was a humble nod to our great father in Christ C.S. Lewis who termed himself “the most reluctant convert in England.” Is that right, Marilyn?
As Cliff’s and their son Jonathan’s godfather, I say Axios (worthy) to all of you! Welcome home. Please make yourself at home.
Actually – I didn’t know that’s what C.S. Lewis called himself! It was built off the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist that takes place in Pakistan and is nothing like this journey. Thank you for walking this journey with us!
Wow Maril. . .Sophia Maria! What a privilege it has been to follow along on this journey. Anytime I saw the words, “The Reluctant Orthodox” in the subject line, I would wonder what image and what “step” you would be revealing this time. Because, yes, this has been a process. For you and Cliff, it’s been 11 (eleven!) years. For us virtual followers, it’s been shorter, but still fascinating. Thanks for this volume 30 post that looks back and gives us a big-picture view and a sense of the progression. How insightful of Cliff to not push you into this journey. How wonderful that it all is right for you two. That is a gift right there. Now my wish for you all is fulfillment of your other desire: to travel and see the places and people you love!
Ann – your support and love from across the oceans shines through in this comment – thank you! I love too that you are rooting for us to have our other desire as well. Such a deep desire that is as well. I look forward to the time when we can talk in person and you can watch Cliff and I interrupt each other yet again as we sit in your living room :)thank you for your friendship through the years and the journeys.
Wonderful thoughts, Marilyn! I love to hear about your journey!
Thank you so much Karissa. Your own journey has helped me in this! So I thank you doubly.