I married into this family.
When I first met Orthodoxy I was taken by its beauty, its long tradition, its steadiness. I was taken by its ability to transcend the chaos of my life, of the world, of the pressure that pushed in on me every minute of every day. When I stand in Liturgy I catch glimpses of this- the eternal, the now, the not yet. I love it.
I chose that beauty and I married into the family of Orthodoxy.
My husband asked me to explain how I could enter into a family that would not support the marriages of my gay friends and at first, as I tried to explain it I found I could not articulate exactly what I meant. I reached for an analogy because at first blush it made no sense. Then today, as I sat with my mother in law on the couch avoiding talking about hot button issues it occurred to me- where matters of faith are concerned we are born into a family, this, we do not choose. Perhaps over time, we leave that family of origin, we build our own family, sometimes by marrying into another family. I was born into the Catholic family. When I left home I dated a number of denominations but in the end, I married into Orthodoxy. I do not resonate with all of the elements of this family and some aspects of the family I find I have real disagreements with, but we’re family still.
My real life mother in law often does not see things the way I see them. Historically we have had wide disagreements on political and social issues. Sometimes the discussions stay on solid ground, sometimes we find ourselves in the water, floating apart, paddling hard, fighting the waves we make in our tiny boats. Every time, we find our way back to shore because in the end, we really do like each other an awful lot and because we’re family.
Over time I think I’ve learned some things about being in relationship with my mother in law, not the least of which is that she has wisdom to offer. When I enter into a discussion with her on social or political issues I keep this and the reality that we are family in the front of my mind no matter how argumentative the conversation grows.
I realize the older I get, that I am not always going to agree with my family of faith but knowing that there is wisdom, history and tradition means that I offer respect in how I choose to engage those discussions. And in fact, sometimes it means I choose not to engage those discussions at a particular moment. For as long as people wander the planet there will be occasions to disagree; hot button issues, social and moral outrage, there is no shortage of opportunity to have those conversations. In each of these conversations the real challenge is to look for wisdom, to choose listening over lecturing, people over preaching. I won’t lie. It’s a struggle, but I married into this family, for better or for worse, and this is my tribe.