I was reading the blog of a friend who recounted his experience of “coming home” and I thought it was high time that I’d put pen to paper or words to blog about my own faith journey.
As far back as I can remember I have been a Christian; I know that sounds silly but it’s the truth. I remember being a child sitting on the floor of our living room, pulling on the shag carpet as my father read from the “Big Black Bible” stories about God. Of course, since the four of us were between the ages of 2 & 8, more of the time was spent scolding us for not paying attention. What can you do?
Loving God had been ingrained in me like the rings you see in the middle of an old oak when it’s been cut in half, continuous and layered. In fact, I think these two words really describe my journey: continuous and with many many layers.
Fast forward to being 19 years old. I sat in my truck and told God I wanted my own faith. I wanted to believe not because my parents believed but because now it was time for me to be on my own. It was time for me to pursue it or decide to abandon it. I chose the first.
Many years past and during that time I rode the highway of reasoning, ideas, and theology; all the while pursing God with dedication and devotion. I see now that it was part of my personality. If I was going to do this faith thing I was going to do it harder and better than anyone I knew. I found myself later on in life being blessed with not just leading congregations in worship but teaching on worship, the history, the biblical context, styles and expressions. I was fulfilled and good at it. I found my “calling”.
I was content with this life. . . for a time, but I finally hit a wall. I didn’t see how I could learn anymore than what I knew. I mean, I spent countless hours in classes, countless hours reading books, countless moments in practical application. Where was I do go?
As a side note: although I was lost, my dear husband on the other hand was right where he wanted to be. He became a catechumen and then eventually was chrysmated into the Eastern Orthodox Church while we were stationed in Germany but that’s an entirely other story.
There became this movement in the Christian community during this time that hasn’t really faded. Megachurch’s, young attendees, pastors with an edge, pastors who were reinventing faith to make it more user friendly. I wasn’t really aware that this was happening because we were stationed overseas in Germany. . . I was still basically living in the 90’s when it came to church. It was kind of nice.
Once arriving back home to the States I was inundated with what I had missed. New ideas about church structure and leadership, new worship teachings, news of pastors who split from church’s or who went to prison for various reasons. I wanted to go back to my bubble in Germany and not have to face the broken mess I called home. Yes home. The Christian faith was my home and it was showing deep signs of illness that, not only we understood, but now the world was focusing on.
I took a leave from ministry indefinitely. For the first time in my adult life I was sad for the future of the church. During this time I reconnected with friends who I grew up with but, unfortunately, many had decided that church and faith wasn’t for them. To them church looked and felt no different than the world. My heart was breaking. I found myself in many conversations about why and how I was still a Christian or why I was still “serving God”.
We were given orders to move to Wisconsin and this move from California came with a feeling of relief. I needed to get out of “kitchen” cause I wasn’t handling the “heat” well. It takes a little while when you move to find a church, friends, and things to do. For me, this was a perfect time of no distractions and I needed direction and peace in a real way. I look back now and see that there were many circumstances that put me on the road to the Eastern Church. Due to the location of the military base we were now stationed at, the best school in the area for our kids to attend was a Catholic school. I was thrilled when they asked all the parents to attend a service that came with an introduction for new students. The service was reverent and I loved the smell of the incense.
Something in me woke up.
So here I was feeling all comfortable with this new potential faith, but was this where I was really headed? We decided being new to the area to attend an Orthodox church because since I was floundering it made sense to go where John wanted to worship. after attending Divine Liturgy we headed to my first coffee hour, I felt very welcomed. The people at this small parish made me feel like they’d known me forever. There wasn’t any awkward moments of people questioning as to “why didn’t you kiss the icon of Christ” or “I noticed you didn’t cross yourself”. It felt like a little family and it was this feeling of family that first drew me in.
The service was reverent and it smelled like I had entered heaven. Some woman wore veils over their heads. There were pictures of Jesus, his mother and various saints on the walls. It wasn’t loud; it was calm and peaceful.
Blessed is the Kingdom
of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
Now and ever and unto ages of ages.
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
and they began to pray for the world. . .
It felt other worldly, like they were all transported somewhere else. Tangible but intangible. I wanted this.
There was so much that was so different from my Protestant up brining. It didn’t feel wrong, just different: and I wanted to know everything there was to know about this faith. I wanted to know why they did the sign of the cross a million times during liturgy (service). I wanted to know why they kissed pictures of saints. I wanted to know why they asked the Mother of God to pray for them. I wanted to understand from the beginning and that’s what I did. Head first into this pool I went.
After a month of reading the early church fathers, attending services, talks with the Priest, I came to understand the history of my faith; not just the Eastern Church’s faith but my protestant faith. What I began to learn was the history that belonged to every Christian from all of time.
You can’t know where your going.
Until you know where you’ve been.
I had finally found the context I needed to believe. I found a faith that not only provoked my emotions in worship but my heart and intellect in worship. There it was, from the beginning; always there and never changing.
I was home.