Finding Your Place in the Family: Struggles of an Inquirer
Erica writes a very vulnerable and fascinating blog about her experiences and frustrations as she looks into the Orthodox Church. She is in that familiarly painful place many converts reach at one point in their journey: the realization that they can�t go back to Protestantism, but they can�t see how they can move forward into the life of the Church.
In this recent post, she writes, "I have spent so long so passionately studying Protestantism, that even if I thought Orthodoxy was truly right, I don�t think I could change my whole fundamental line of thinking to line up with it. It is also frustrating that I have spent my whole summer (literally) in my pursuit of Orthodoxy, and yet don�t �get� it. I still am not even a catechumen; and I cannot bring myself to become one. Yes, I have had some interesting experiences, and some I will always remember, but I do not have any faith. I am still on my own as far as that goes; Orthodox to a Protestant, and Protestant to any Orthodox.�
If there is one thing I've learned in being an American Protestant convert to Orthodoxy it is this: I will spend the rest of my life trying to actually *be* Orthodox. Acquiring an Orthodox mindset , that struggle for purification of the nous, is what our life in the Church is all about and there is a sense in which none of us ever really �gets it.� The saints do, of course, but then they realize that Orthodoxy, while including�right belief,� is much richer and deeper than the shallow joy of simply having our �theological ducks in a row.�
There is a lot of advice one could give people who have reached the stage Erica is at: read this or that book, pray these prayers, read the Bible more, talk with so-and-so about �X� issue, talk with your priest, etc. These are all good, and all will play a crucial role in the journey to the Orthodox Faith. However, the one piece of advice I would give is this:
Enjoy and cherish this place in your journey.
I know this sounds trite, but I know it will help because I didn�t do it during those early months of encountering Orthodoxy. Looking back, it was the one thing I could have done that would have made it more bearable. I probably would have saved myself a lot of unnecessary agony if I had just taken a deep breath once in a while and laughed at myself. I was in such a rush to get where God wanted me to go, I sometimes forgot He was the leader of the dance, not me.
The theology, the history, the Church Fathers, the liturgy, the praxis; all of this and more will make sense in time. But it will start to make a lot more sense once you are actually *living* the faith and not just studying it, thinking about it, dabbling in it, gazing at it from afar, or whatever. And it will take time, probably years. And that is ok.
This is one of the first lessons we converts have to learn about the Orthodox Faith�it is not a philosophical paradigm to master; it is an *incarnated* way of emptying ourselves and living for God and our neighbor that, if followed with faith and love, will produce holiness. There is nothing that more seperates our western Christian experience from Orthodoxy than this point. Orthodoxy, like no other faith, perfectly weds our heads and our hearts by showing us how no part of our human experience is left untouched by the grace of God--no matter where we are along the journey.