With light and with love…” -Woods
As far as Orthodoxy goes, my ex-wife and I weren’t that present, but that it was also hard to fit in and assimilate. I have owned we had a hard time going yes. I’ve never tried to pass the blame and apologize if that’s how it has sounded. I just felt when we were there I for one, can’t speak for Courtney, found it hard to assimilate, fit in, and truly form some bonds. That’s all I’ve ever tried to make known.
And I’m not at all saying anyone (from our priest to us and the parish) are to blame or are at fault. And we certainly have deep gratitude for the journey to our house on campus our priest made weekly to be with us, friends, and professors. Again, I’ve ever meant to imply there’s blame or lack of gratitude. I would have gladly drove to Oak Ridge or even paid our priest for the trips had I had the resources to do so. I’ve never meant to sound ungrateful and hope that anyone who thought so can forgive that if so. I’ve never been good at conveying emotions and such so that probably got in the way of what I was trying to say and bring up. I put my foot in my mouth because if that a lot.
I don’t find my expectations coming into Orthodoxy to be unreal. Of course to many like my priest and other Orthodox folks they are unreal. But I felt and feel they were authentic, honest, and completely real. Of course that means little to me now, but I simply don’t find they were unreal. What I do find is that Orthodoxy couldn’t meet them. If they were then perhaps conversation about expectations coming into it could have been had. Maybe it was Protestant baggage? I don’t know! I do know despite my dislike of much of Protestantism there’s plenty of churches I’ve been too in my day that I’ve seen intentional things being done to include new comers into their fellowships and churches. And I don’t mean big things either. Just little things to help people find their niche and way into a community.
I have no family outside my siblings. And they all were and are disgusted by Orthodoxy, my ex wasn’t capable of my venting and talking about these things to her, and her family was just as opposed to Orthodoxy as mine. I don’t find thinking of parishes being like a family wrong, in fact, I find the Church should be like that. And for families, married people with kids in their 30s, I’d absolutely agree that as far as my former parish goes that is their family. I saw it and observed it. I don’t think the blame falls entirely on me and Courtney here as it is so often shifted to be! And it often feels that way to be honest! I can and thought I had owned my mistakes in that. It was certainly a tumultuous time to have been trying to find a church home and family. In retrospect, I would have never suggested to her that we try Orthodoxy at that time. But hindsight is 20/20.
And I don’t my thoughts or “critiques” for kicks and giggles, I simply do it to be honest. Shit, maybe it is the expectations, but may be not. I certainly wasn’t ever looking to be fixed when I “became” Orthodox! Thats not what faith communities are for and that goes against my deeply held belief that we can’t fix others or be fixed, especially by religions!
And this is my problem! Expressing this kind of things, maybe due to my lack of clear expression, nuance, and tone, always seem to be unwelcome or taken as insult, which I’ve never tried to do. I’ve always tried to make it known I admired a lot about Orthodoxy, my former priest, our parish, and the religion in general.
My former priest once said it takes a decade of faithful Orthodox practice and living to really settle in; I’m sure the time frame of a decade probably rings true. I wasn’t expecting to be a guru-straight-laced-honest-to-God-best Orthodox Christian right away. Spiritual living and growth is life long and doesn’t happen over night. I know that! And I know I didn’t do enough or say enough at the time for whatever reasons, good or bad, but in my studies of ADHD and the ENFP personality type I know that people like me despite being so outgoing, loud, and extroverted have a hard time feeling like they belong. I’ve never felt I belong anywhere, especially in Orthodoxy (which despite learning disabilities and personalities should be the last place someone should feel like that)! And of course that played into all this for me; I don’t doubt it!
I just felt and still feel held at an arms length in Orthodxy; disconnected, frustrated, and quite frankly very, very angry. At God, at Church, at life, at Christianity! It has been a few disappointing years. And I find myself repulsed by Orthodox people, beliefs, and even writings sometimes. Why there’s such a burning frustration and anger (which I’m sure ties to shame and carries over from other ecclesial frustrations prior) is beyond me at times. I even find myself thinking sometimes I purposely want to make it my goal to “persecute” intellectually and culturally Christianity in general and Orthodoxy specifically. Why? No clue. Hurt, anger, shame, disconnectedness, all sorts of shit! However, my frustrations, hurt, lostness, and pain are not entirely to blame on me I feel!
These days I find myself to be a very ecumenical, open-minded, Christian theist practicing a more “generous O(o)rthodoxy!” I claim no particular Tradition within Christianity over another! I find myself to be drawn to a lot about all the Traditions within Christianity! I also find myself drawn to Buddhism and its practices of mindfulness, meditation, happiness, compassion, and attentiveness! In my spiritual journey, I find myself going down my own spiritual path and not being able to define everything so clearly! Instead, as the picture says above, I find myself looking inwards to find only light, only love! I find that one need not be religious to be either moral or spiritual!
I firmly affirm the Christian narrative, but I find myself more compassionate to those who lie outside it and question it or reject it! I find that I have more in common with these people than I do those who call themselves Christians despite my long held, steady faith in Jesus Christ and the work He has done in my life and is doing!
They share in my frustrations, disappointments, hurts, pains, and issues with “organized religion!” I find myself believing that the Divine, the Logos, the Word, God, the Mystery, the Numinous can’t be contained to a box, to a religion, to a faith tradition, etc!
I have no ecclesial home!
No spiritual community!
All I have is my faith, my experience, and my love of God as I have found in the Christian narrative! I don’t know if I can ever find a Christian community that welcomes mutts like me, but I know that despite being a spiritual vagabond and wonderer that I hold fast to faith in Christ and wish to love, live, and share the light of God to all humanity despite what God they believe in! I wish to unite with others unlike me and like me! I wish to share faith with those who doubt it like I do and to wrestle along side all sorts of people who doubt like I do! I wish to live, love, and look both inward and outward with light and with love!
We have to recognize that real faith has no easy answers. It’s difficult and stubborn. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know, a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt, in a never-ending conversation with it, and sometimes in conscious defiance of it.” -Leslie Hazleton
The tendency to equate faith with doctrine, and then argue terminology and concepts, distracts us from what faith is actually about. Faith is not a commodity we either have or don’t have– it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience!” -Dr. Sharon Salzberg. “Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience”