Do all Orthodox converts fall into the trap of bringing their Protestant zeal to evangelize with them? Or is it just me?
Finding Orthodoxy has been a revelation to me, and it’s something that has given me joy, an increasing peace and a path for navigating the way forward. It’s also true that I’m in the honeymoon phase, and eager to share what I have found.
When I began thinking about a website to express my thoughts on Orthodoxy, I worried that this might be a way of “praying loudly in the streets.” What is my goal for this site? Are my motivations pure? Am I trying to share my faith and help others find the resources they need for their own journey?
Or am I looking for acknowledgement? Praise? A writing gig with Ancient Faith?
Reading the following did not calm my fears:
We must not give to others what we have received for ourselves; nor must we keep for ourselves that which we have received to spend on others.
You fall into the latter error if you possess the gift of eloquence or wisdom, and yet – through fear or sloth or false humility – neglect to use the gift for the other’s benefit. And, on the other hand, you dissipate and lose what is your own, if without right intention and from some wrong motive, you hasten to outpour yourself on others when your own soul is only half-filled.
If you are wise therefore you will show yourself a reservoir and not a canal. For a canal pours out as fast as it takes in; but a reservoir waits till it is full before it overflows, and so communicates its surplus …
We have all too few such reservoirs in the Church at present, though we have canals in plenty. Canals desire to pour out when they themselves are not yet inpoured; they are readier to speak than to listen, eager to teach that which they do not know, and most anxious to exercise authority on others, although they have not learnt to rule themselves …
Let the reservoir of which we spoke just now take pattern from the spring: for the spring does not form a stream or spread into a lake until it is brimful … Be filled thyself; then, but discreetly, mind, pour out thy fullness … Out of thy fullness, help me, if thou canst; and, if not, spare thyself.
—Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 18 on the Song of Songs
My Protestant upbringing instilled in me the urge to evangelize, to tell people around me about Jesus and to try to win them to Christ. I studied apologetics and learned ways to win arguments and debates over religion.
As I began down the path toward Orthodoxy, evangelism began to sound more like salesmanship. Learning how to win souls became a way to hit your quota.
In a post-Christian America where everyone is marketing and nobody is listening, traditional ways to evangelize are, in my opinion, all but useless. But blessing yourself in a restaurant? A revolutionary act. Living a Christian life will lead more down the right path than a lifetime of tent revivals.
To be fair, there are many Christians of all stripes who hold this to be true; I’m not breaking new ground. But Orthodoxy has given me tools to finally do something I should have been doing all along:
“Find inner peace and thousands around you shall find their salvation.”
– St Seraphim
Lord help me to be a reservoir and not a canal.
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