I know what it is that gives me such pause whenever I attend Orthodox services. I feel so much like an outsider and at the same time, I cling to my identity as outsider. Being an outsider has some value in that I’m not committed, not given the heavy responsibility of showing up and being engaged. If I have a misstep it’s easily forgiven, because I’m an outsider, because I don’t know any better.
As I think on this I have this odd right angle turn my brain takes and that is this; I am in some way, always convinced that I will not be allowed inside. I have this strange fear that underlies this entire process of becoming Orthodox that there will come a point at which someone will say, “no, you cannot come in, you cannot be Orthodox.”
I’m not entirely sure where that comes from, maybe it’s an old hurt in me, being excluded, being left out, barred entry. I’m sure that’s it on a deep level, I have had a number of those experiences growing up. And yet, I ask myself why I would project that onto this particular process. Is not the church meant to engage me, meant to embrace me? Is there TRULY a possibility that I might be given a “no?”
I suppose it’s possible. I have asked my priest several times, exposed every possible objection the Orthodox church might have to me and he seems to think I’m not unorthodox enough to be barred entry.
When I am able to move away from this unfounded fear of rejection and assure myself there will be a time I can enter in it’s because of something that occurs to me in that moment, something kind of important. God wants us. God wants me. If the church is not some exclusive club but rather this sacred place where He dwells, a gathering of people who worship Him, food for the journey then where else could I possibly be?
Of course, having traveled down the road of being excluded, being the outsider there will come a time and soon I think, sooner than I anticipated, when God will ask me to enter in. He’s already speaking to me abou this, about taking responsibility and about claiming some ownership in this Orthodoxy gig. Sometimes I imagine that is my own voice, the impatient, “gimme” voice I’m fond of using but other times, like today as I sat in the Theophany service I heard Him quite clearly as the holy water and incense met me. His words were about being embraced. I am to let myself be embraced, enter in, be inside. This is scary as hell, giving up my old habit of standing apart. His opening and closing words to me are always the same though, “don’t be afraid” and when He speaks those words I realize the choice for me is that one…not Orthodoxy or Protestantism or Atheism but fear. I can choose fear or I can put it aside and enter in when I’m called.