The why will come later. Because it may take a while for me to figure the words out.
I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. A bad Orthodox Christian (sometimes really bad), but still, an Orthodox Christian. I was not born this way; I converted as a youngish adult. Most of my immediate family converted too, in different locals but at much the same time, and my children are what we in the Orthodox biz call “cradle” Orthodox. For over twenty years, I was the member of an Antiochian Orthodox parish. Antiochian as in Antioch as in the area of Turkey when the ancient city of Antioch was located. The patriarch of the Antiochian Orthodox world-wide now resides in Damascus, Syria. (Yup, the Syria where, right now, so many people are being killed by the not-quite-official civil war happening in that country.) Then we moved and I am the grateful, happy, and sometimes frustrated member of a small Greek Orthodox parish. I might touch on the “frustrated” thing at some point, but maybe not. The members of my parish don’t deserve to have me talk about them behind their back, so if I haven’t told them what’s going on, I won’t write it here (the converse will work, though; if I have, I will).
So, what was I before I was an Orthodox Christian, bad or less so? Wow, that is a fantastic question and I don’t know if there is a real answer, but here is the answer that feels true today:
I was nothing. I was at times less than nothing.
Remember, in my first post I wrote that if you don’t know that I was raised by a man determined to find the will of God and live by it, then my life makes no sense. (It barely makes sense if you do know that, but barely is better than none, I guess.) Dad was searching, and we were along for the ride. I do remember going to an actual church building and being bored out of my skull. I couldn’t have been older than three, as it was before the car wreck that almost killed me and my mom and that happened in the fall of 1968, and I was born in 1965. So, three. Bored. Out of my skull. Sitting in the big sanctuary part of the church, begging my mom to tickle my back (she was the worst at that, seriously), and then being sent to the children’s Sunday school area where I became so bored that I started yawning. A lot. In fact, yawning in such extreme amounts that somehow I became convinced that I could breathe out of my ears. (I’m not kidding: I would yawn, my ears would pop a little, and especially in the right one it would sound like air was going out of my ear. So I kept yawning, over and over, to see if it would sound that way every time. It did. By the bye, I kept this observational experiment going for years. It wasn’t until the fourth grade that I reluctantly accepted the reality that, no, I could not breathe through my ears.)
We only went to the boring church building once. Being there must not have felt like the will of God to my dad. Because shortly thereafter, we started having church services in our house, which was so much more fun. Lots of people around for me to talk to and spend time with, to try to charm into them saying sweet things to me because I was such a cute little kid. (I wasn’t; I was annoying. If I had been one of those adults, I would have told me to go away.) House church was fun! And we had it often, several times a week, and I could wear my play clothes to the services and sit on the floor and pray out loud (again, hoping to charm others by being such a good pray-er). There weren’t many other little kids around for these services, though. It was 1969, and we were attracting the lost young people of that time and place, the runaways, the hippies, the Jesus people, all looking for truth. It was a confused and exhilarating time, and I had no idea what it was all about. I was a child. I didn’t know what I truly believed, and the adults around me didn’t either, not really.
Oh wow, this is taking longer than I had initially thought. Gonna stop it for right now, figure out a way to compress the rest. And the why may seep in was I go, maybe. Or not. I guess I’ll find out when I write it.
Thank you for being patient. I do love you, for that and for so many other reasons…