I’ve talked to several couples who converted to Orthodoxy. In most cases the man began the journey first, with his partner coming after. It makes sense. Men tend to strike out on a journey headlong, not counting the cost or even using a map. Women tend to be more cautious and protective. Becoming Orthodox is a huge step that men seem to take first.
My own journey has been helped immensely by regular talks with my priest. When we get the opportunity to sit together after our Wednesday evening service, I ask questions, listen to stories, and receive the benefit of his wisdom and experience.
A spiritual father is something Orthodoxy takes more seriously than the Protestant churches I attended. As my priest he is truly responsible for shepherding me in the faith. While my own choices and actions are ultimately what determines the state of my relationship with Christ, my priest is a guide and a mentor.
As someone who has seen numerous people come to the faith and seen all too many drift away, my spiritual father knows that all relationships with Christ are not created equal. We all bring our own baggage into our Christian walk and it colors our thoughts and feelings. We all approach this differently.
Being the head of a household is something I take seriously, and I consider it part of my job to set an example. I’m not a very good example, and I often fail and have to try again and again to be the kind of person my family deserves.
My first Lent as an Orthodox Christian has seen ups and downs. I have tried to increase my prayers, my giving, and my self-discipline. The results have been mixed. My fear is always that I’m doing a poor job of showing my family what they should be doing.
During one of our recent talks I told my priest that I knew I wasn’t doing enough to make sure our family prayed daily. We weren’t reading the Bible enough. And I couldn’t seem to be able to get them interested in trying harder.
His simple response was what I have come to expect from him.
“Your journey is not their journey.”
Each of us that are engaged in this Christian walk are starting from different points. We are each carrying a different set of memories and sins and struggles. We Orthodox Christians believe there is a correct way to worship. We do not believe we all arrive at this knowledge on the same schedule.
Lately I have been making it a practice to shut out my surroundings during the Divine Liturgy. I don’t allow myself to be distracted by our bored daughter’s lack of rigid self-discipline. I don’t think about what program might bring in more visitors. I simply focus on worship.
The more I do this, the more I notice the small things my family is doing to worship in their own way. Christ is working on their hearts in His way, and in His time, not mine.
Observing their journey is encouraging me to continue my own. Watching my wife bow humbly before an icon of Jesus is more powerful than any sermon.
No offense, Father.
The Christian walk is nothing if not a journey. There are many starting points, and I am learning that it is enough to say that we have started to walk.