Saturday, March 27, 2010

Anniversary

Today marks our eleventh liturgical year being Orthodox.  We were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese with a group of friends from the Episcopal Church on Lazarus Saturday.  It was a glorious beginning, full of hope, good intentions, love and faith.

I knew I was coming to the Church of the New Testament.  I knew I was putting my feet on the clear road to spiritual discipline, to humility, to love of God and neighbor.  It was not a different road really, I had just been walking a well trodden but unmarked path in the wilderness toward the same place.  What I didn't know was... I was coming to the Church of the New Testament and I was on the road to spiritual discipline, humility and love of God and neighbor.  And even on a clearly marked road one can still take off ramps, park, back up, fall asleep at the wheel and hit other cars when you change lanes without looking in the mirror.

I soon found out that the Church is still the Church.  2000 years later, we still have Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians.  We still have Pharisees, wranglers over words, slackers, posers and all manner of sinners.  We still have living saints. We still have Diotrephes (the presbyter who loved authority and the praise of men), Tychicus (of good report), Lydia (who gave alms), Barnabbas (the encourager), Demas (who went back to the world), Priscilla and Aquila (whose house was a Church... I figured I'd save you the time looking them up).  We still have those who are "of Philip, of Jonah, of Bartholomew, of Kyrill". 

And I am still me.  For eleven years I have not looked in the mirror often enough and have caused wrecks, I've taken the off-ramps that looked like short cuts, I've looked too far ahead on the road instead of where I am and hit the people right in front of me. I have a lot of zeal to be forgiven for. I had a lot of agendas and visions and ideas that overshadowed people and the Cross and my own salvation.

I've learned that humility is not gotten any way but the hard way.  It is not learned quickly.  Even the hard lessons can be forgotten in a heartbeat. There are a lot of glittering and close substitutes for anything Orthodox that are cheap, look like the real things and are a lot easier to attain.  In the end they are fueled by vainglory and pride and are hard to maintain in the long run. I've learned that the real thing is always just plain hard work, unglorious, costly, unpredictable, death on the ego and always Cross-ways to an agenda or a dream or a vision.  As my friend Joe used to say,  "Why is it that when God works in mysterious ways I always get kicked in the ass?"  The real mystery is, why don't I get it yet?

Even though nothing I imagined or dreamed or hoped has come to pass, more than I ever dreamed or imagined or hoped has come to pass.  Though I doubt that I might have done it if I knew what was coming, I plan on sticking around even though I know that in the next eleven years God will continue to work in mysterious ways.  And I will continue to bow low even though I know God is probably behind me and not in front of me....

23 comments:

Larry said...

Great post. Today is also the anniversary of my own baptism and chrismation, though it's only the second anniversary for me. Thanks to you and everyone else who came into the Church before I did, because you helped blaze a path for all of us who came in after you. And being one of the lucky ones who got an Orthodox Study Bible from you and Bill Gould while I was investigating sure didn't do any harm either. Don't remember if I ever thanked you for that, so I'm doing it now. :-)

Many years!

nothinghypothetical said...

Your pain watered the garden where I grew. I doubt it was intended for my benefit, but it was redeemed as such.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Many Years !

elizabeth said...

many years! yes, humility is usually learned the hard way. But I remember my spiritual father's encouragement to me about the Israelites - they did fall off but God always called them back.

Thanking God for your 11 years!

May we call to God for His mercy on this Holy Day!

Reader John said...

Just discovered your blog two days ago, though I've enjoyed Steve the Builder.
"Even though nothing I imagined or dreamed or hoped has come to pass, more than I ever dreamed or imagined or hoped has come to pass."
Since you quoted your friend Joe, and I've watched a couple of upsets in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in the last few days, I'll tell of the coach who was asked after the upset victory "Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you'd be in the Final Four." Coach replies "In my wildest dreams, they don't even play basketball."
Orthodoxy has exceeded my wildest dreams as it has yours.

Ikonophile said...

Wow, so many have I seen who were received into the Church on Lazarus Saturday. Yesterday, I as well as my brother (from another mother) were received into the Church as well. How excited I am to know that being received into the Church on Lazarus Saturday is not rare at all.

You have eleven years on me Steve, and I thank you for whatever insight you can give, even in a short blog post.

Many years!

JD said...

Steve,
Thanks for the jaunt down memory lane. I will chime in to echo that you and Bill's podcasts really helped me on my path to the church. I am a newbie with my one year anniversary being this next Pentecost Sunday. So thanks are in order for me as well. Many years to you brother!

Kirk said...

Many years, s-p! I'm following your tail lights.

Anonymous said...

Many years!

Tom said...

Congratulations on your anniversary s-p.

I don't know whether you've caused any wrecks or not but your podcast with Bill Gould was very helpful to me when I was an enquirer. Looking back over the 3 years since I was received, what strikes me most is how surprised I often am. This gives me an idea of the sort of dynamic salvation St Gregory of Nyssa might have meant when he spoke about being led from Glory to Glory. Salvation as an infinitely slow perfection, marked by constant surprises ...

... Or, to put it another way, and to borrow the punchline of one of the jokes you made on OLIC (the traditional Texan Paschal response), "ain't it great?" ;-)

pudlasz said...

many years!

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

Blessings on you on this special anniversary Steve and thank you for your friendship.

mamajuliana said...

Many years!

From one who has been Orthodox for only 3 years and Mom to one who has only been Orthodox for about 7 hours!

James the Thickheaded said...

Many years! and many thanks!

And yes... I think there is a touch of humility in realizing the wakes we leave may cause more disturbance than intended... and yet, paying too much attention to the aftermath is a problem, too!!! All of which is to say simply, "Eeez puzzlement! Ah...but thanks for the puzzle. Now if only I knew what the doggone puzzle's supposed to look like when I put the pieces together???!!!"

Have a great Pascha!

s-p said...

JtTH, Yeah, we always talk about how "the other jerk" is "for our salvation", but it doesn't occur to us that sometimes WE are the burden and the jerk (even if we are right, "nice" and even pious when we're being the jerk). How to unravel that? Can't be done, I just have to hope both they and I learned our mutual lessons, repent and don't beat up the next person I meet (at least in the same way...).

Chrys said...

Very well and beautifully said! For me, it's fifteen and half years. The journey has been much richer and slower than I ever imagined. For expressing my own experience so eloquently: thank you!

Dion said...

Well, speaking of milestones. I should just let you know that yesterday, Lazarus Saturday, 2010, my daughter Ava (Eve) was baptized and Ava, my wife Denise (Katherine) and myself (John) were Chrismated. We are officially Orthodox now, after about 3.5 years since this journey began. Glory to God! It was an amazingly full day. To finally step toward the chalice with my family and partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord was a moment I will never, ever forget. The next leg of the journey has begun. Steve, you and Bill, as I've said before, were a huge part of my "catechumenate". Thank you. Next time we are in Phoenix you will see us, God willing, at St. John the Evangelist. Blessed Holy Week to you and yours.

VSO said...

Many years!

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I love your writing. You have a way of expressing things that I am feeling in a way that I never could.
Thanks.
And happy Ortho-versary.

desertseeker said...

Yes, many years! Thank you for putting into words the experiences of us all. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. Rather than compromising the Truth, you only make it shine brighter. Thank you for speaking this Truth into so many, including myself, journeying along the same road, and causing plenty of accidents of our own.

Ian Climacus said...

God grant many, many years to you all!

Thank you for the reflections and honesty on your struggles, which I identify with.

Mimi said...

Many Years!

thegeekywife said...

Many years!