“My Wife is Absolutely Opposed”

iStock_000011553872Small

Recently, Father Evan Armatas was fielding telephone calls on Orthodoxy Live when one listener called in with a particularly vexing dilemma. The caller wants to become Orthodox, but his wife is dead set against the move. Father Evan gave some really good answers — answers that may surprise some listeners.

Brian from Cincinnati asked:

I have a difficult life situation. I thought maybe you could give me some words of wisdom.

You’re speaking with someone who’s been a Calvinist for about fifteen years, and in the last three years of intense study, and prayer, and reading of the early Fathers I’ve become convinced that I need to convert to Orthodoxy. I am just voraciously reading everything I can, and I’m persuaded.

The problem is my wife is absolutely opposed. And I don’t know the path forward because it’s not going to be easy. If I stay where I’m at I’m miserable spiritually, and if I move forward it could create a rift that may be difficult for my family. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I appreciate what advice you could give.

Brian’s question is the first of several in this hour long podcast. The conversation with Brian begins at 4:15. In addition to being theologically sound, Father Evan’s counsel is filled with pastoral wisdom. He opens with: “First of all, how healthy is your marriage? . . . . Is there room for improvement in how you treat your spouse?” (8:55) What may strike some listeners as a tangential issue actually leads to the heart of Orthodoxy, where faith and spirituality come together. Father Evan’s advice is practical and comforting, surprising and challenging.

Go to Orthodoxy Live and give it a listen! Link

Robert Arakaki

See also: “Called Together” by Fr. Isaiah Gillette on OrthodoxBridge 5 June 2012

17 April 2016 podcast: Orthodoxy Live: Answering Pointed Questions About Orthodox Faith, Tradition, and Practice

 

37 comments:

  1. For me, Orthodoxy Live is a “Must Listen” program. I wish Father Evan had a weekly call in broadcast instead of two broadcasts in most months.

  2. I’m sure he will hear how common this is and I hope he finds a spiritual father.

    Humility is key, always see the spark or flame inside your spouse, even if they deliver you to be killed, God knows how to help us rid ourselves of the passions and to help us become like Him.

    “Throw out of your head the idea that you can, through a comfortable life become what you must be in Christ.” +St. Theophan

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Travis,

      Thank you for your comment. Fr. Evan addressed a challenge many inquirers face. The road to Orthodoxy for many will not be an easy one. It will be like Jesus’ command that we take up our cross as we follow Him. As interest in Orthodoxy grows, we will need to provide them with the support they need whether it be words of encouragement, prayer, or something practical. We live in a time of great opportunity. It is up to us to make the most of it.

      Robert

  3. My situation mirrors that of Brian’s. Raised in a Baptist church and found Orthodoxy when challenged by my spouse to do some research in church history about one year ago. Since then I have attended several services in the area and have met with the Priest on a number of occasions. The problem is that my spouse is RC and does not want anything to do with Orthodoxy. Like Brian, I am persuaded to become Orthodox. Father Evan words of wisdom spoke to my own heart. Seek the Lord’guidance and look at my own relationship with Him. Let a change of heart be evident. It’s hard to do because of the strong yearning to finally worship our God as intended.

  4. I’m in Brian’s situation, and so this podcast was very poignant to me. For what it’s worth, I’ve been able to pick up a few things on the way that may help.

    Father Evan’s question about the health of Brian’s marriage to his wife was spot-on. When I began to acquire some of the disciplines of Orthodoxy, the Lord revealed to me that I needed to improve (a lot) as a husband. Converting to Holy Orthodoxy doesn’t mean to accept merely a new set of truths; it means also to change one’s life.

    The Lord is doing His work in my wife’s heart in His way and in His time. Her journey to Orthodoxy will be different than mine, even though we walk together. I must not dare meddle in His work.

    It may be that the Lord began His work in me earlier to lead us both to Orthodoxy because I am in need of more change than she is.

    I must have faith that the Lord led me to Orthodoxy so that we both will be received together eventually, with joyful and willing hearts.

    I plead with God (and now the Blessed Theotokos) often that we both will be received into Orthodoxy together–and quickly! I’ve been waiting only six years, but I’m not getting any younger. But at the end of it I can only pray that God will continue His work in her heart and in mine, so that He may be glorified no matter what happens.

    Above all, don’t give up: “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Prov. 24:10).

    1. Wonderful words Brian. It mirrors my situation in coming to the Orthodoxy faith. When I came into Orthodoxy and expressed my issues to my Spiritual Father, My spiritual father told me to leave her be and let God grant the increase. Coming from a Calvinist background that stressed male “headship” of the home there was so much I had to learn (and still have to learn) about being a truly loving Christian husband. He sAid “you’re not her spiritual father…let her work it out.”

      It took a year longer….but she was chrismated and is happily Orthodox. Moreover, the process sanctified me and helped me change my attitude…and recognize that indeed…it was my place to patiently wait and simply focus on changing myself …not her.

  5. So well said by all my spiritual brethren above. This is not an unusual situation at all … God calls us separately. And sometimes His knife performs surgical operations even on the sacred bond between husband and wife. Prayer and obedience to one’s spiritual father seem to be the only solution to me. Such a situation may even occur between a “cradle” Orthodox and his/ her likewise cradle husband/ wife, if one of the two is called to a deeper conversion, a more intimate, dedicated discipleship. When Christ calls “Follow me”, one ultimately has to follow Him at any cost.

  6. I’m tempted, like many here, to say that I’m in the same boat. Yet, forgive me, I have to express some frustrations. First, I’m tired of hearing guys complain that it took their wife six whole months or a year to come around on Orthodoxy. Please. My interest in Orthodoxy started over six years ago. I was ready to convert a long, long time ago. Yet after all these years, I now believe my wife will never convert. There are just too many issues to list out here. But I don’t believe it will ever happen. And, even if I were to do everything I possibly could do to serve her more, and treat her better, and If I were to win “husband of the year” for ten straight years, it won’t change the fact that she’s not going to become O.

    So, my question is, what is there for guys like me? Just give up, throw in the towel, go back to the circus at the local megachurch and forget I ever hear about O?

    1. Gary,

      I appreciate your honesty here. The point of the article here and elsewhere is that it is usually better for an inquirer to wait so that an entire family may enter Orthodoxy as a family. However, there may come a time when you will have to go forward on your own and become Orthodox. In any event, please let your priest know of your situation. I know of one man who waited for his wife and when she did not show any inclination to become Orthodox, went ahead and was received into the Orthodox Church. Oftentimes converting to Orthodoxy involves loss as well as joy. My prayers are with you.

      Robert

    2. Gary,

      In my case, I had been exploring Orthodoxy for three years and attending an Orthodox Church for another year and a half when it became clear to me my wife was not going to convert. At that point I was chrismated without her. She followed a year later, but it was in no way certain that she would when I made the move. I had resolved myself to the fact that I simply needed to live my life as an Orthodox Christian as best I could and work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I let her alone so that she could come to—or not come to Orthodoxy on her own terms.

      No case is the same and the pastoral care required to deal with individuals and couples and their unique circumstances make every persons approach different. As Robert has indicated, such questions are best referred to an Orthodox priest who has become familiar with you and your personal situation and the complexities of your familial relationships.

      But in my case..I moved when I was sure she would not. I made peace with whatever would come from that.

      ~O

    3. Hey Gary,

      I share you heart & understand completely. I began inquiring into Orthodoxy (56)… reading, arguing, studying, talking to converts & Priests…then finally attended a few DLs. Twice a PCA Ref Elder I read much…but within about 10-mths I was pretty persuaded. Yet I didn’t wanna move too fast, esp since my wife was indifferent if not hostile. She’d read about half of P-Gilquest book & listen to a few of Deacon M-Hyatt’s SS classes on AFR. But she is far more the happy and sweet mother-hen, content at the Ref Church we’d diligently & self-consciously raised our 8-kids at…all grown but now with six grands (10 total) at the Church with our married kids. I resolved to follow the “waiting super-husband” strategy the next 2.8 yrs and shut my mouth. But I increasingly felt more and more like a hypocrite & phony, Orthodox in heart but outwardly pretending to be Ref — while she was settled and blissfully content to stay.

      After praying long and talking with two local Priests…I resolved to become Orthodox alone. I did this not only for my own Spiritual health and life, but also to resolve before my wife and family to follow Christ even if it meant bearing/suffering a real cross in leaving them in protestantism. I knew then and still believe they’d never dare give Orthodoxy the slightest glance if I’d stayed. But now I have the opportunity to silently witness to them from an honest and genuine Orthodox posture. After 11-mths a Catechumen they all came to my Chrismation 2-yrs ago on Holy Sat. Now I speak guardedly but openly with great joy…IF THEY bring anything up or ask a question. I live honestly before them without pretense. Has it been easy and has their been heartache and suffering? Yes there has. It has not been all wonderful as the Elders did mildly ‘trash’ me before my family and congregation in a letter when I left. But I have learned joy in my suffering (misunderstanding) and am persuaded God will use it for good…some day. So, I’m willing to grant that the “waiting super-husband” might normally be the best thing. Just not the only way for every spouse. I’d do it all over in a mili-second. Pray for me/us…as I shall for you dear brother. Lord have mercy.

      1. Davide and Onesimus,

        Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I’m sure others will learn much from what you went through. In the meantime let us continue to trust in God’s mercy, His gifts, and His miracles.

        Robert

    4. Gary,

      I can sure relate to your dilemma, too. In my situation, my mental and spiritual health were at stake when after a couple of years of intense spiritual struggle (and several before that of a sense of stagnation and spiritual inertia in my Evangelical megachurch), I became convinced the Orthodox Church was the Church of the NT and my true spiritual home. It scared my poor Evangelical husband to death (because of a legalistic Gothard influence in his upbringing, he mistakenly thought at first this meant I would leave him!), but he eventually if reluctantly came to terms with my need, realized I was not entering a cult, and after becoming part of a healthy, very welcoming inquirer-friendly OCA parish in our town several years ago where he frequently attends with me, I believe would even acknowledge some benefits of my becoming Orthodox, even though both of us would also acknowledge challenges and losses. Nine years later, I still see no indication he will become Orthodox, but my 16-year-old special needs daughter is asking to be baptized and enter the Church. (We dedicated our kids as babies in our Evangelical church, but after I became Orthodox hit a stalemate about going forward anywhere with their baptisms when I objected on biblical grounds to the heresy that God turns His back on us when we sin and needed to punish Christ for our sin before He could receive us in forgiveness being promoted in the children’s baptism class curriculum at his church, and my husband agreed with me). Both of our children are believers, but have not been baptized. My son long ago reached the age where he needs to make his own decision about this. My husband’s church no longer requires professing believers to be baptized before receiving communion either–removing themselves yet another step from the historic Christian meaning and practice of these sacraments. Yet, I respect the pastors and faithful members of this church–their intent is to be faithful to the true spirit of the gospel and to Christ and they are doing many good things reaching out in practical ways with the message of Christ’s free gift of salvation in our community and throughout the world, remaining faithful to traditional Christian moral values as well.

      There is a place for waiting and then there is a time to convert. The Lord and your Priest will help you to discern, but it sounds like it may be time to move on to the next step for your own spiritual health’s sake. I will pray for you and your wife and family as well.

      1. Thank you, Karen. I did not know about your journey to Orthodoxy. I pray for God’s blessing for you and your family.

        Robert

      2. Karen, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts! Thank you also for your prayers, I truly appreciate that!

  7. Robert, Onesimus, and David,

    Thank you all so very much for your comments! I found them to be very helpful and encouraging.

    David, I resonate deeply with much of what you wrote. Particularly the part about being a hypocrite and a phony. Thank you for your prayers, I will do the same for you!

  8. Thanks Karen,

    Must have been especially hard for your to go ahead and convert
    without your husband/family…but I think I understand at least some
    of your internal struggles. Let us all pray faithfully for one another
    and our respective families/spouses. I moaned in hopelessness once
    on FB about God bringing my family to Orthodoxy…and a sweet
    Orthodoxy lady/covert said…”of course he will” in such a way it re-
    buked my doubting. 😉 Lord have mercy.

    1. Thanks, David. I believe the Lord is faithful to guide us, in His perfect knowledge of us and all our loved ones, in ways to further all our salvation. Slowly, slowly (to paraphrase a contemporary Greek Elder) He orders things such that He is able to move us bit by bit to where He wants us to be. I’m very blessed in that my husband is supportive of my faith and appreciates my parish and Priests–in very many ways he has an Orthodox heart. I appreciate the prayers and do, of course, offer mine.

  9. My wife got baptized and married me in the Church. Soon it became more clear that she did enter the church just for the marriage. So gradually and sometimes abruptly she turns against the Church and the Orthodox faith. Not only does she deny Christ and even God -she is somewhat against Christians all together. She is not very sophisticated in her christophobia and she has no ideology of socialism or atheism or anything. She has just turned against all related to faith.
    This makes it hard for me to keep going to Church and fasting and praying at home. She forbids me to talk about Christ and the faith with our children. This is hard for me and I am just a sinner so please pray for me. But that is not why I am typing. By silently praying for her and loving her through Christ it works just fine. It is when I neglect the prayers we gets into fights and arguments that always ends in divorce discussions. So my advice is to love your partner through Christ, through faith and by praying and beeing kind and understanding. We can not know Gods plan for our wifes and husbands, doughters and sons. But we can trust in the Lord and we can remeber what he told us “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.
    And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
    In Christ
    Olof. Sweden

    1. Olof,

      Sorry to hear of your wife’s lack of interest in Christ and his way. You are doing the right thing praying for your wife and loving her. I encourage you to talk to your local priest or a spiritual father in a monastery.

      Robert

  10. My wife was not pleased with my journey towards Orthodoxy but even more so, I could of killed her faith completely if I had kept pushing her to follow me. I finally took the advice of a Reader and to love her, be silent, live the faith as much as I could, and prayer for her. It took time but my wife noticed the changes in me. She began to see that as my wife she should take more proactive interested in what I was doing and she began to read and try to understand. One summer we visited All Merciful Saviour Monastery and the dear Abbot Tryphon asked my wife bluntly why she wasn’t Orthodox. Set her back a bit and made her think, but we also picked up two books of the writing of St. Theophan. Little over a year later she was received into the Church.

    It was several years agonizing, praying and hoping. To my embarrassment and joy, our journey to unity of faith together has shown her to excel in Orthodoxy as fall behind though still on the same path.

    1. James,

      Thank you for sharing yours and your wife’s journey to Orthodoxy. In your sharing I learned about the power of prayerful silence.

      Robert

  11. I want to thank each of you for posting/commenting and sharing your stories. I am the Brian who called Fr. Evan. His advice was so good and I have since received the same advice from the newly installed priest at the Greek church here in Cincinnati. I am working on being the best husband and father I can be. It isn’t easy because I struggle on Sunday’s when I have to sit in a Baptist church where a rock band plays and the Lord’s Supper is scarcely mentioned. But, this is part of my ascesis.

    I wanted to thank you and let you know how much your stories have encouraged me. As for my wife, she is not any closer than before. Pray for me.

    1. Brian,

      Thanks for writing. I will be praying for you. May I suggest you pray for your Baptist friends while you’re sitting there? The Holy Spirit can move in unexpected ways.

      Robert

  12. I know this is an old topic, but I’ve not found it discussed anywhere else, so I’m here, heart on my sleeve so to speak, because this is my situation, with a few tweaks. We’ve attended this reformed church for over half or lives now, my wife and I. And while it’s dwindled from hundreds to 20 or so, it has remained extremely faithful to its reformed roots. I have no quarrel with our pastor, I’ve been an Elder here for two decades, but my heart had been restless for a long time, I find so much unnappealing about the reformed expression. My heart is becoming Orthodox.
    My wife looks upon our Pastor as her spiritual Father, and he had been a good pastor to us, and an informed teacher. The rub is that he is VERY reformed, the classic protestant parenthesis that jumps the church from Athanasius to Calvin is very real, and Othodoxy, with all its beauty has been taught as open idolatry, equivalent to the priests of Baal, or the Catholics.
    So, for me to entertain conversion to orthodoxy is to court damnation, and asking her to fairly consider that it could be a very deep, rich walk of faith, to her mind sounds like rebellion against the true church and apostasy, as has been taught from our pulpit over the years.
    I sympathise with Brian, in his fear that it could become a very real hurtful rift. I guess my question for anyone still out there in the same situation is how do you face it, either secretley practicing it, or openly being thought a heretic. I am fairly sure, as one of two Elders in our church , if I announced I was no longer reformed it would break or pastor’s heart , earning me untold bitterness from my wife who simply isn’t in the same space in her journey. Would you keep the secret to keep the peace? What If it meant never truly sitting in a service you were comfortable with? Would you keep serving knowing there was a need when you couldn’t hold to the Confession of Faith? I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the last few months with these questions, and lack the right spiritual connections outside of my church and family where I can go ask a neutral party, so I’m praying someone is still reading along. Thank you.

    1. Hi David,

      I appreciate your very open and personal comment. I trust that there are others out there who can speak to your situation. I will be contacting you privately. In the meantime keep trusting in God who is rich in mercy.

      Robert

    2. Dear David,
      For three years I have walked this path with my husband, who has no desire to convert. He does permit our family to attend our local Antiochian Orthodox Church every other Sunday until he can feel at peace about what to do for our family. He grew up Mennonite, and I grew up Lutheran, and we served overseas for many years as evangelical Mennonite missionaries. Returning from the field we’d found our church had welcomed a number of heresies that made our future there untenable. Adrift from both our church home and our vocation, we began this journey of visiting many, many churches. One however captured my heart, my soul, my imagination, and all my senses, bizarre and beautiful and unfamiliar, and yet so like home. My husband experienced a near completely opposite reaction to the “smells and bells”, the icons, and the liturgy. Over three years he has moved from openly hostile to the point where we now pray Orthodox prayers every night in our prayer corner, before an icon of Christ, with candles, and incense. He has come to value this deeply, because even as missionaries our prayer lives were never so deep and rich. There have been many arguments and impasses and tears. Our priest has honored our journey, and especially our marriage, in encouraging me to be patient and the best wife and mother I can be by God’s grace. God has been very kind to me in the midst of opposition. My husband’s family openly opposes Orthodoxy, and have said deeply hurtful things. The majority of our friends are Reformed, and are shocked and dismayed by our interest. My thirteen year- old daughter wants nothing to do with it whatsoever (the last thing a missionary kid wants is to be “weird” in her peer group in any way). My only advice to you is to keep growing in the ways that at present you can; reading, attending midweek services, receiving counsel from your priest, keep a prayer rule and invite your wife to join you; in other words, open yourself up to as much light as you can, and those around you will begin to notice a change. The greatest evidence for the truth of Orthodoxy for your wife will be the changes taking place in you. This was, and is, for my husband, the turning point. I was being healed, and I was filled with an obvious joy. Go slow, go joyfully, keep inviting your wife to explore the ancient faith with you.

  13. Hi,
    Five years ago my husband convinced me to convert to the Orthodox Church. We attended an OCA church for 3 years and now are attending a Serbian church in our area. My problem is my husband has begun speaking of leaving the church and becoming Anglican. I’m at a loss, we have 5 children and 2 serve at the alter on a weekly basis. I’m refusing to leave Orthodoxy, but how can I justify myself? Aren’t I supposed to “obey” my husband? We have very heated discussions and I admit, I’ve lost my temper with him. I just don’t know what to do. He’s even speaking of a possible vocation to the Anglican priesthood. I’m feeling backed into a corner, very confused, scared and stressed.

    1. I will be praying for you and your family. Hopefully, some of our readers can give you good advice. Lord have mercy!

      Robert

    2. Hello, Klynn,

      It’s no fun when the tenuous equilibrium of a family is skewed by the ambitions of a restless husband! I’ll be happy to tell you the rest of my wife and my story, but first let me ask the $64,000 question: Why does your husband want to leave Orthodoxy?

      Chip

  14. Hi Chip,
    Thanks for your prayers, my family needs it!
    My husband is having issues with all the other “stuff” in Orthodoxy. Myrrh bearing icons, Holy Fire, even the extreme cannons of the church. He had been discerning a vocation to the priesthood but these things have caused a road block for him. Caused him in fact to look outside of Holy Orthodoxy for an answer. He grew up Protestant (fundamentalist) and I see that thought process reflected in his decision making right now. I’m having a hard time countering his arguments.
    Any advice would be welcomed!
    Again, thank you for your prayers!

    1. Hi Klynn,

      I’m glad Chip responded to your comment. I have a question: Was your husband’s journey to Orthodoxy gradual or did he rush into it?

      Robert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *