It was startling,
reading an essay about a man who seemed to be CRC
(Christian Reformed Church - the one I grew up in)
and had some painful experiences while trying to figure out if
the Orthodox Church was for him.
I wrote a long reply to him, after finding out that
his article was not upfront with the changes he was making,
namely leaving the CRC to become Anglican and go to their seminary.
Thankfully there are comments and also earlier articles are more upfront about this.
(my reply is at the end of this post).
I've been thinking about one's journey and struggle in trying to find
out where one belongs in terms of church.
It brought up a lot and I am thinking of how I may write about it here.
I think the first thing to say is the following:
Everyone has their own journey.
I have lots of friends who are all over the spiritual map.
My local closest friend is a Protestant who knows a bit about Orthodoxy.
Mainly my closest friends, who live for the most part in Canada,
are Orthodox; yet on a daily lived out manner,
my Mom is my best friend after my Husband.
She's CRC and always has been.
I say this as being a committed Orthodox Christian,
one who believes that the Orthodox Church is the fullest expression
of Christianity found today.
But I know that everyone has their own journey,
their own struggles and path.
I often wish everyone knew about Orthodoxy and all that it offers.
But for many reasons, many will never become Orthodox, even more,
many will never be Christians.
I really liked Dimitri's Cross in part because he somehow was
able to work well with other Christians of different churches; of course the world was
very different then; a lot of Christian churches are vastly different in
appearance, belief and action today.
In the end,
I trust God to have mercy on all of us,
including myself, who has been given so much,
a good Husband, a Christian upbringing and for 12 years now,
the Orthodox Church.
It's in God's hands, not mine, to sort all of that out.
I think what I want to focus on first though is how we must not judge
another person's journey and, with that, be careful of how we speak of
what we have found to be best for us or even the highest truth.
I am not at all meaning or implying that every road or path is equal or that
there is not Truth. I became Orthodox at age 27, knowing that if I was not
allowed to become Orthodox, I would have nothing left.
It was Orthodoxy or nothing.
I had found something that for me was irreplaceable...
I remember that summer
that I was in Michigan, still a catechumen
(someone who is in that process of
instruction before fully joining the church)
I had this irrational fear, huge and gripping,
that somehow I would be found
not ready to be a full member by Chrismation (the service where one joins,
some are only Chrismated, some are Baptised and Chrismated)
and I would have absolutely no where else to go.
I still feel that way, that Orthodoxy is all I have and all I need.
That said, I think gentleness when hearing another person's story is
always of paramount importance.
You don't know what struggles and life experience have brought them to
the point they are at; the battle they are in, the person themselves
may not fully understand.
Life is really hard, let's be gentle first.
Zealous excitement about one's faith can often, as it did this
soon to be Anglican seminarian, really hurt someone and
even stop them from a journey they may have been on towards
Orthodoxy.... or, worse, towards God Himself, if the person is not
Anyway, I thought I would write about the one thing
that I always hesitated to write about,
for fear of being misunderstood or worse, hurting someone else.
So, going back many years,
I was recently chrismated when I moved
back to Canada;
I had 3 Sundays as a newly chrismated Orthodox Christian before I went
back to Canada to do my Masters in Library and Information Science,
over ten years ago now.
I went from two great parishes with friends my age
to a small lovely parish that had very few people my age, a church that
was hard to get to at the time, (they have moved now, different priest, location,
everything), and I was so lonely. Surprisingly to many,
my Masters degree was the first place I went to that was not a Christian institution.
I grew up going to Christian Schools from Kindergarten through to my
Honours BA in English Lit.
I had one Christian friend my age that whole first year, a Protestant.
At the time the church was small and there were some
very excited more zealous people who somehow left me,
I, who was still quite new and excited about the Orthodox Faith,
feeling excluded and bewildered.
I think part of the issue, looking back, was that they did not realize that
I was still getting my inward footing;
I have some beautiful memories from that parish.
It was just that Church was going through
a real time of transition and growth
and I went through a time of intense work at school,
not a lot of connection with my church during the week;
my blog was over a year from being 'born', facebook was not yet
what it became later, no Instagram etc. So not much social media
So I was isolated. Lonely. Confused.
Add to this that the place I was renting became difficult;
I had a lovely small tall walled studio apartment,
ground floor of a big sprawling old yellow bricked house,
that in it's glory would of been a sight to behold.
The people in the apartments above me, got worse and worse.
Parties every weekend, etc. Loud. Drunken.
Eventually, weeks before I was to move to Ottawa for co-op,
the one group of kids was evicted after the cops told them
that I had reported their party. (CRAZY).
(Were talking 2 AM in the morning here or worse).
They were evicted because they verbally threatened me through my window,
the next day, which was open with a large old fashion fan in it.
I remember calling my landlord and leaving a very panicked voicemail;
thankfully it was enough to finally evict them.
So I was so exhausted, frazzled, for months.
By the time I came to Ottawa I was really inwardly
depleted, conflicted and confused;
the Church that had given me so much was now something
I wondered if I could keep going to; I felt so alone;
it was so painful.
And then, well, I moved. Ottawa!
I met my spiritual father of 7 years.
I met tons of Orthodox friends my age.
My sister-friend and her husband moved to Ottawa the same
time that I did; I suddenly had a church in walking distance from my home;
my questions, the pain I was in, within 2 months or so evaporated.
I was able to go to Confession often; I was loved and accepted for where I was at.
I suddenly had this great community to support and love me.
It all got so much better...
such happy memories now.
My questions, my confusion, it was all healed.
And I know that my third church, the one in transition,
I know it's better too; it's now local to the community instead of far away; etc.
But I write this to say that if I had been shamed, guilted or
treated badly by my Ottawa church, who knows what would of happened;
I was in a really confused vulnerable space.
Remember, I had been a catechumen for just under a year and then moved to my
3rd church (life of a student, moving for work, moving for school) and
that church was so far away that I felt left adrift, etc...my Ottawa church was my 4th
church in 2 years! I was really new!
An example of how one can struggle,
how one can be healed by being loved,
and how one must be gentle with others who
may be struggling too.
Well, that's it for today.
My response to this essay, that triggered this post,
as I mentioned earlier, is below.