shopping…

I’m not shopping for a church.
For me, church should not be a matter of shopping, I’m not buying anything here. I’m searching for a community, a tribe, a safe place, but I’m not shopping because I walk into these places with lots of baggage and no coin. As far as consumer purposes go, I come into church a beggar. I come in empty-handed.
So I’m not “church shopping.”

Lately, though, my journey has edged along the lines of “window shopping” I admit. I’ve looked at every community in a 20 minute radius of my Chicago home. I’ve gotten feedback, suggestions and insights into most of them. I’ve trolled their websites and driven by a few. It’s hard to discern a whole lot just from peeking in the windows.

The weird thing about the Orthodox communities is that while the people I’ve met are welcoming and loving they are not pushy. They don’t go out of their way to hook me up, at least that’s my impression. There is no greeter at the door, no “sign up for small groups” clipboard, no book table to further my connection, no overzealous preacher making sure I feel the worship is “relevant” and no latte stand at which I can caffeine up before the sermon. In Orthodoxy, I have to want to be there. I have to show up.
Most days I don’t want to show up. I’m tired and I just want to sleep in.

I did visit one Orthodox community last Sunday for Liturgy. I sat in the back, as I am wont to do, hoping for an early exit because my family was at home waiting to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately I got hemmed into the corner with no escape route when my row was filled by a group of college students. I had intended to go unnoticed and just focus on the Liturgy but my plans were thwarted by an old familiar foe…the ol’ “Are there any visitors here today?” gig. I really thought I’d be immune to that by attending an Orthodox church, but apparently not. I didn’t raise my hand but the row of visiting college students drew attention to me and then I was called out.

There’s nothing I hate more than that…being noticed when I’m trying my best to go undetected. The moment I’m detected I become accountable, recognized, responsible. There was no way I could sneak out now so I stayed until the end.

As I drove home I realized that becoming Orthodox is kind of a pain in the ass. In fact, being a follower of Christ is a pain in the ass. It’s a life fraught with difficulty and sacrifice and challenge. Being called to be the best versions of our selves is completely counter cultural and more than likely utter lunacy. Every time I turn around I’m faced with the now and the not yet. I’m wanting dessert at breakfast. The trouble is that I’m an adult, I can choose dessert at breakfast or instead of breakfast. It’s up to me, there is no one, not my priest or my husband or even my best friend who can talk me out of it. I’m responsible for me.

Which sucks sometimes. I’d so often really like someone to do it for me, someone to put the hammer down on my overindulgence and self-importance and rebellious nature because I’m weak and grief-stricken and angry. And I’m back then to Orthodoxy, my big, unchanging rubber room where I can meet God, regardless of how much baggage and how little coin I carry. But I have to show up. I have to want to be there…and this might always be my struggle.

3 comments:

  1. It is true Angela, you have spoken to what may always be your struggle. The important thing is that you recognize that, and set up some form of accountability that insures you continue to enter into that struggle. I disagree on one thing…..I think that we are responsible for one another, that is the inherent character of community, which is exactly what the Church is….a community. It is actually the place where we work together for the salvation of our souls. It is where we fumble around, make mistakes, show openly our weaknesses, rejoice in the times of elation, console in the times of sorrow, and where we get to practice everything taught in the Scriptures. I am accountable in one way or another to everyone there. And I THANK GOD for that. In that structure, I get to encounter a multitude of situations presented to me to help me achieve salvation for my soul. And, it is also the place where in my own frailty I might be able to help, encourage, and maybe utter some word to another person that might help them in their journey or maybe ring for them in some way that makes the struggle less of a struggle. As Fr. Parthenios says…..we are bound up with one another. It is the way the creation is set up….individuals but then again not. So yes, we all have struggles, and I firmly believe that God is pulling each one of us to Himself….and yes, we do have to turn to Him in order for that salvific activity to become a part of us. It gets easier. It really does.

    Think of you often.

    1. Thank you, Presbytera! I do fully agree with you on that point, absolutely. The sticky piece is that I do have to submit myself to this and I will, I promise. It’s something I do desire, to be mutually submitted, one to another, in community even as I recognize the messy nature of that prospect. 🙂

  2. I know you do! Believe me, it does get easier. Submission is a hard thing for many of us…smiley face inserted here….But there is another quote that Fr. Seraphim Rose used to say…..”It is later than you think, hasten therefore to do the work of God.” The beauty of the Orthodox Church and it’s antiquity, you can always find the words recorded by someone who found success in seeking to do God’s Will and struggling for salvation. They can guide, strengthen, and speak to us at just the right moment in our journey. Carry on my dear…..you can do it!

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