In the past year, things have moved very fast in many areas of our life together. We had a baby, moved three times in an unsuccessful attempt to buy a house, and finally came to the realization that Peter's position at this church isn't going to work. Through all the stress and pressure, we've learned a lot about ourselves, our marriage, and our faith and, a few months ago, we were faced with the stark reality that, given the choice, we would not choose to attend this church. Now, with his position drawing quickly to a close, we're not bound by a paycheck to attend anywhere and that choice again belongs to us.
This is the first time in our marriage that we've had this choice, and we've realized the importance of truly choosing together. We did go to church together before we were married, but it was almost by accident: he was a good friend who had a car, and I wanted to go to church, which one didn't really matter. After a while, I continued going because I liked him and our rides home usually included lunch pseudo-dates (but that's another story). That sort of decision making (if one could even call it that) was not going to work this time around, it's more serious and we need to be intentional. The church we choose will, probably, be the first church that our daughter (and new baby due this summer) remember attending. It will send a message to our parents about what type of family we will be, and how we will make important decisions in the future. There is a lot of pressure from all sides to get this right, and to be able to defend our choice.
In the midst of all this, Peter began to toy with the idea of being ordained. I'm still not sure how serious he was (or is) about the idea, since he'd always avoided the topic before, but it certainly served as a useful way to narrow our focus. If he wasn't comfortable being ordained in a given denomination, then we didn't want to consider it in our "church shopping" (a horrendous phrase which I dislike using - it seems to equate choosing a church with choosing a pair of shoes or a box of cereal, as if it were that trivial). Perhaps some would resist our resolutely chopping off entire branches of Christianity in this way, and I'll allow that not all churches under any given theological or ideological umbrella are uniform in their beliefs or practices, but we simply aren't willing to wade through all the choices one by one (I don't have the stamina, frankly). In any case, it became obvious fairly early on that we were looking for some specific things, and number one among them (Liturgical Style) cut out most denominational churches and the vast majority of non-denominational ones anyway.
Having had a very good experience with an Anglican church in college, we found ourselves leaning that way. Peter called an old friend, who has since become an Anglican priest, for advice. His asked a simple question, which was predictable, because he knows my husband, but still caught us off guard, "what's stopping you from going all the way and becoming Orthodox?"
It took us a while to answer that. Eventually, we realized that it was mostly fear of the unknown and of disappointing and alienating our families, that stood in the way.
I feel I should take a moment here to explain that I had not really come to feel "called" to Orthodoxy to this point. I had always found the idea interesting, but in the same way that one finds the idea of being the star in a big stage production interesting: fun to dream about, a thrilling part to play, a "wouldn't it be cool if" scenario, but not anything that I, as a normal, average person, would ever get to do or, honestly, be very good at if given the opportunity. Now the reality of that opportunity stared me in the face with a very real, very frightening supposition behind it: are you willing to give up your family for Me?
It had never occurred to me that I might come face to face with the choice presented in Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters...he cannot be my disciple." And yet, here was the choice: become a part of this community, take the ideas seriously, follow and support your husband, obey the tug in your heart and be willing to anger your parents for the sake of it, and face the possibility of that relationship not ever fully recovering - or - take the safe road, keep your parents happy, sing happy songs about Jesus without ever really knowing what living them out looks like, and always live with a twinge of regret, wondering what would have happened if you had chosen differently.
I'd like to say for sake of dramatic effect that the process of making that choice was hard and that we wrestled over it for a long time, but we didn't. Over the course of a single evening (whose date I should probably have recorded, given it's significance), we decided that, if nothing else, we needed to give Orthodoxy a try. We still aren't really sure what that means. We haven't had "the talk" with our parents about it (though I have gained insight, thanks to a good talk with my sister, into how best to have it with mine).
Until the end of the month, we can't really move forward. Even though he's officially resigned, Peter's last day is still two weeks away. After he's done, after we move, then we'll begin what we've termed our "Orthodox year". We'll find a church, become involved and, after a year, see what steps forward or back need to be taken. I have a lot of learning to do, a lot of Protestant assumptions to overcome, a lot of doubts and confusion to be cleared up.
It will be another busy year.
It will be another busy year.