Monday, March 07, 2011

Leave me alone!

A few months ago I wrote about my 52 year struggle with my "call" to  the priesthood.

I figgered I had pretty much finally put that idea to rest. 

Three weeks ago our priest was out of town and we had a visiting retired Romanian priest who is attached and serves at a local Greek parish.  Being the subdeacon and having been around the Antiochians, Greeks, Serbians and the OCA, I assisted him in the altar and pretty much smoothed the speedbumps between what he was used to and what we do in the OCA.  At the end of the liturgy he said, "You will make a good priest some day..."  I just said, "Thank you, Father... God willing" but thought, "Thank God that's not on my radar anymore."

My sister made her annual visit this past week from Montana.  She mostly comes down to visit our parents  because my Dad is on borrowed time, and to spend a day with me, the Wifey and the kids. We were having our annual catch up bottle of wine and spiritual talk.  She said, "You know, you seem to be really at peace with who you are." I asked, "What do you mean?"  She said, "Don't take this wrong, but it's like you've become what you used to pretend to be." That is probably one of the top three most sucker punch statements anyone has made to me in my life.


Last week I dropped off my HVLP paint sprayer gun to a new repair shop I've never been to before.  My old repair shop went out of business.  I was in my painter's garb... crappy jeans and stained T-shirt. I talked to the repairman for maybe five minutes, filled out my repair order with my name and cell phone number, and left.  They said they'd call me when it was repaired.  The repairman called my cell phone this morning.  I answered, "Hello..."

He said, "Father Robinson?  This is Joe at Spray Tech..."


Then I said, "Ummm... This is Steve Robinson. I dropped off an HVLP gun..."

He said, "Oh, yes... well, we have your gun ready."


I told my wife what happened. She said, "Ignore it, sweetie."

I love my wife. 

But of course I'm not ignoring it because I'm blogging about it. 

I hate this.


Ingemar said...

Stop wearing a cassock.


ofgrace said...

Temptation! How fitting at the beginning of Lent. . . .

Anonymous said...

Oh darn...It's the first bloody day of Lent and old dragons are rearing their heads at you again? May God forgive us both for whatever epic crashes and burnings we experience during this Lenten season.

On a totally unrelated subject...I was going through some of your older posts and you mentioned your unpublished book "The Lord Of The Hunt" and was wondering if you could post some of it like you did with your "Life, Death..." manuscript? Sorry for bugging you.

- loyal Orthodox lurker :)

Anonymous said...

As a test of whether you really meant your "Miracles and Shysters" post, these incidents are almost embarrassingly clunky in their obviousness. That is to say, listen to your wife.

Steven Clark said...

from another Steven, who at one time was entertaining thoughts, as well as running fast as I could away from them, of priesthood.

I grew up a baptist preacher's kid. I know what the life of a clergyman is from the inside. I'd have to be insane to want to be a priest (perhaps I am insane).

At one point I confessed the above to Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas. His response was "No one who is called WANTS to be a priest. Certainly I don't WANT to be Bishop."

I was hoping for a less sympathetic response .

Kassianni said...



wv today is "nonjorks", if that helps at all... :D

justjamey said...

I've known you long enough to say this, I think. Stop being pious. Stop doubting. Stop waiting for the Damascus road moment. And stop worrying that your sin and pride will get in the way sometimes! Because it WILL!

Ask your wife, "Honey, do you think I could be a good priest?" Next, go to your spiritual father or parish priest and say, "Your fatherliness, do you think I would be a good priest?" Then go to your bishop, and ask, "Your Grace, will you ordain me a priest?"

Notice, I said "could" and "would" and "will." These are important and distinct questions. If they all say yes, I say that the Lord has called you.

Some people are called to great things when their eyes are a little tired, not when their eyes are bright (and foolish). You have a lot of wisdom, and your influence has affected people for time and for eternity (to paraphrase the Bible Answer Man). And frankly, you already dress like Neo.

I'm not saying you are called. But you might be, even if they don't chain you up and drag you to the ordination.

With love,

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

It's talk to Spiritual Father time, s-p.

Sounds like God thinks you may now be ready, especially as you don't want to :-)

ephrem said...

Dear Steve, you have enough 'spiritual glory' with your blogs and podcasts to fill many cassocks, sticharia, oraria, felonia and epetrachilia. If your heart is truthful in this calling God will take care of the rest.
As I was once told- the spiritual warfare of a layman is one thing; of a deacon another; a monk again different; a priest another; a bishop.....etc.
God bless you

Fr. Andrew said...

I really feel there's a parody song in here somewhere, beginning, "Here's to you, Father Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know..."

But it's 6:14 AM, and my satire generator only runs so much right now.

Reader John said...

Is this like the barren couple that resigned themselves, adopted, relaxed, and then ... pow!?

Anam Cara said...

I laughed out loud (something I rarely do while reading on my iPad) when I came to "WTFilioque"

My husband's church group (Anglican) has been studying church history and, of course, the filioque has caused much discussion (I guess I am partly to blame since I am the only Orthodox in the group.)

Last night we were discussing transformation. I have sent them an excellent example of what we were discussing in your sister's comment "'ve become what you used to pretend to be."

I would never presume to know what God wants for your life - I have enough trouble figuring out what he wants for mine! There are many things that go into making a good priest and I'm not sure I know what all those qualities are. Having just finished reading Chrysostom's "On the Priesthood," I am pretty sure that reluctance is one of them. I will say this, listening to you on podcasts for years, then reading your blog, you certainly have a calling as a preacher/teacher.

discourse said...

This is coming from a catechumen,

but I'd say pray about it during Lent and address it afterward.

I have met priests that probably weren't "called", whatever that means to whoever is saying it. They struggled mightily, and probably continue to do so. The priesthood is holy and so it's not going to be fun and games for anyone, called, driven to it, or dragged to ordination.

Our dream priest is a hardworking person who has lived life like a human being, understands what it is to fall and sin and struggle through- not some guy who felt "called" and now feels like he really won the golden ticket. Oh, and I always think I want a priest who has had children, just because most of my struggles revolve around parenting and family life.

On another hand, my verification word is "DUTYMP". Duty metropolitan? You're in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Brother, to this day I regret that I asked my bishop to ordain me a deacon (which was some 24 years ago) and I determined that I would not ask for ordination to the priesthood. Rather, I would wait until I was called to it by my bishop, my spiritual father, or a congregation. Eventually I was called--and it was a real calling--and ordained priest. I think this is a safe path. FWIW.

Matushka Anna said...

Well Steve, I don't have any words of wisdom at all, but I'll let you know that you're still on my daily prayer list. Hope that helps.

Steve Robinson said...

Ingemar, I wasn't wearing a cassock when I dropped off my sprayer. That's the weird thing about it.

Anon-1, "Lord of the Hunt" got published and several chapters have been Ortho-ized and are now "Steve the Builder" podcasts, more to come.

All: The problem is I've been down the "wife, SF, priests, Bishop, monks, abbot, abbess" path. My wife and all of the above at one time or another have thought I'd make a good priest and have tried to get me ordained even with my "prior to conversion divorce" (which is an impediment to some Bishops, but not all). I refuse to play the "go shmooze that Bishop over there, he'll ordain you" game. I'm under THIS Bishop who won't do it.

I like doing what I do now. My aspiration at this point in my life is to learn how to be a Christian. If I never put on a black robe again in my life, I can honestly say I'd be just fine... except for the fact that it has become a cross for me, it's no longer a badge and I know I need the cross.

Anyway, just when you thought you had it all worked out... you nod off for a second and WHAM!

James the Thickheaded said...

What Jamey said.
Would add as a friend put it who is a deacon "because my wife didn't marry with the expectation of being a priest's wife and it would be changing the bargain"... that maybe he's on to something. Orthodoxy seems very much team talent based. She not only has to see you as a priest, but herself as priest's wife. Least that's what it looks like from here.

elizabeth said...

Too funny. Well; you can't worry about it I gather since Christ said not to worry :) It seems from what I gather that we are to seek to be in God's will alone.

How to do this, well, glad it is not up to me to know. Lent can be confusing.

May God help us and the Most Holy Theotokos protect us.

Sophia in West Texas said...

Are there ways that you are ministering NOW that you would lose if you became a priest? Almost definitely. I was raised with the idea that the goal of the Christian life is not full-time ministry. There are lots of ways that Christ can be preached that do not require the title "Father."

Steve Robinson said...

Sophia, Exactomundo. A priest pointed out to me a few years ago how many nuns and monks might not have places to live if I was serving liturgy at my parish on weekends instead of being able to build their houses and Churches. I am very grateful for being able to use my "secular skills" as ministry in a lot of ways.

Alexander The Mediocre said...

>I refuse to play the "go shmooze that Bishop over there, he'll ordain you" game. I'm under THIS Bishop who won't do it.


Then PROBLEM SOLVED. The rest is just to make you worried...the more you get panic attacks when somebody calls you "Father", the more they will! Try not giving a damn the next time it happens...he likes making us's his way of enjoying himself on time someone calls you Father just answer "After the operation you may call me "mother" :-)

123 said...

Most Americans(Orthodox and non-Orthodox) tend not to have an image in their mind of what male, non-professional piety looks like. Recognized is female piety, geriatric piety, handicapped/sick piety, children's piety, momma's boy piety, even ethnic male piety, but a regular, American, male, piety that is not ordained or preparing for ordination is lacking. Maybe it's just an American thing, maybe it's a Western Civ thing, I don't know.

We need 'poster men' not poster children for this.

I have argued that the most proper place for the the leading men in a parish is in the altar, not on the parish council, not at the candle stand, not working around the property or manning a stand at the festival. Those other things are obvious, easy places for men to pitch in. What we are lacking are role models of male piety that isn't being paid for it (in either money or the honor associated with a black dress.)

We need altar men, not altar boys. (Or, we need altar men setting obedient, humble, pious examples for altar boys.)

123 said...

Until the bishop calls, you aren't called. Even then, tell him to double check with the Synod, and your wife.

el cuerpo negro said...

I think finally becoming what we pretend to be is a good aspiration to have :)

Chocolatesa said...

LOL! @ WTFilioque XD

Well. I'll pray for you!

Fr Nathan Thompson said...

Fr. Alexander Golubov (from St Tikhon's) always asks the incoming seminarians why they are there. Someone invariably answers that he was called. Fr Alexander then replies something to the effect of "God called you? On the telephone?" "Uhh, well, no... I mean..."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alexander the Mediocre. The matter has been settled. It's Lent. Time for temptations. It's not that I can't see myself as a priest's wife, with you as the priest. I truly can. But the bishop won't ordain you. And you've made peace with it and with who you are. The main thing is to serve God, to strive to know Him and His Will. The Evil One likes to stir things up.

Steve Robinson said...

Melxiopp, "Unpaid piety"... Amen. I was at a conference recently when someone was talking about priest's "salary negotiations". One of the things that was brought up was how much time the priest spends doing services as part of his "hours in the week". I spoke up and said they better not go there because there are a whole lot of laypeople and readers etc. who show up every time you guys do and they do it for "nothing". The last thing we need is professional piety.

Fr. Nathan, LOL! I love it. Even in my Protestant days I saw that the "I feel called" thing was an open door for delusion. That's why I don't put too much stock in my personal feelings about it any more. I like Fr. Tom Hopko's line about the quality of some of the seminarians at SVS while he was there, "Few are called, all are chosen."

Steve Robinson said...

Anon (aka Wifey), That's why I love you.

Helios Blog Log said...

nice post....

Anonymous said...

I don't really have a comment except to note that the wv is: dedness. yup.

Alexander The Mediocre said...

...s-p, if you love wifey just because she agrees with me, I'm very much flattered... :-D

justjamey said...

Steve, I know that you've "been down the 'wife, SF, priests, Bishop, monks, abbot, abbess' path" and I know that you say "THIS Bishop who won't do it." I still say ask the questions. And the question of the bishop is "WILL YOU?" And maybe he still won't. But more impossible things have happened in the history of the world.

That said, I saw your Anonymous Wife's post. And so I won't tread any further.

Anonymous said...

So here's to you, Rdr. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you can know...(and so do the rest of us who draw joy, entertainment, and spiritual sustenance from your unfailing public honesty and self-disclosure).

Boy can I relate to your struggle, in a perhaps surprising way: for you, the yearning (major recurring source of questioning/discernment/angst) is for ordination. For me, it's the question of (desire for) having another child.
I work through the pain of not having what *I want* (need?), of accepting that perhaps the factors that coalesce such that I wonder if this is the much-vaunted discernment: I want, but factors x, y, and z together say "nuh uh."
And with time, I think, OK, factors x,y and z, perhaps you are indeed representing God's will. I make peace, move on, or so I think, then BAM! Something comes up again to make me question: Is the desire for such a holy thing (new life) God-given and that's why I can't *get past* the yearning, and that to stop struggling with this is giving up in a matter that has more spiritual import than I'm realizing?

Or is the never-ending desire for another child my "thorn in the flesh" - I've pled with God to either make the life factors align such that a child does come to us, or else make it so stinkingly clear to this old donkey that He. Has. Spoken. Period.

If this is my thorn in the flesh, and if St. Paul is any example, this "desire" is both never-ending and never-to-be-fulfilled.


Can you relate at all, or is this all about me?

Steve Robinson said...

Anon-Mom, I think the whole thing is kind of archetypical of anyone who believes that God is involved somehow in my life. The questions are then "how much and how?" and "how can I tell if it is God or me or something else?" If we look for signs, I think signs will be given to us, but not necessarily from God. (I seem to remember Someone once said something like "this generation seeks for a sign but no sign will be given it except some Old Testament story...") Once I accept that a "sign" might be a lie feeding my passions, then it ups the ante for being careful, and there aren't many people I know who I'd trust to give me the straight dope, not even a local "clairvoyant elder" that I know has given some bogus advice. Sometimes you just have to get the best counsel you can, pray and do what you think is best and pray. That's why God has "providence" in His back pocket. :)

Fr. David said...


1. I think your sister's comment is one of the most beautiful things I've heard. Don't we all really want to become what it is we are pretending/wishing/hoping to be?

Reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit.

2. Flee!

Steve Robinson said...

Fr. David, Yeah, that's a lot better than, "Hm. Still faking it, I see..." But then even that would have been helpful, even though I know it already... :) Flee? I thought I had, but someone keeps hunting me down, and I'm still not sure who it is. :/

Adam S said...


I am 36 years and I am RC. Want to know why I avoiding the Diaconete in the RC Church...because I want to go there.

Still threshing out my fantasies and delusions. ; )

A Blessed Lent to you and yours,


Svetlana said...

I whole heartedly endorse the "fake it until you make it" way of living. Not because I strive to engender a cartoon character so much as I strive to imitate the example of my betters as it were ... How else should be begin to learn?

Anonymous said...

Do remember that if you answered a call that is OR isn't there you would get to be in unavoidable close association with the bishops we have. That is well worth missing. The situation of the layman is much emptier of temptations. If the bishop shows up in town and you don't care for him, you can stay home or go elsewhere. Not so the cleric. Avoid it and be thankful. -- bob

The Poor Blogger said...

WTFilioque ... that made my day a second time.

Denny Brown said...

Hey Steve,

I've listened to you for quite awile now,and I must say you would be a better priest than I would be,but you know what, I am glad that you love the construction business as much as I do. May the Lord Bless you always!!!