Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coming up empty

This week has been really hard.  Beginning at the beginning, Felicity's parents visited church this weekend.  We had let them read Frederica's 12 Things article to prepare them for the service.  Even though they've had a girl living with them who is also exploring Orthodoxy, they've never been to the Divine Liturgy before.  (In case you don't remember, her parents grew up either irreligious or very strictly fundamentalist.  Neither is very comfortable around a lot of ceremony.)  This Sunday being Pentecost, the service was really different.  We didn't even know what was going on, and trying to help them follow along was also hard.

The trip back home was really nice.  A lot of good conversations: what was happening when..., why did they..., what did that mean...? Good questions, good conversation.  It also continued into the afternoon and evening.  They both thanked us for taking them and I think they're doing some processing of their own.  My mother-in-law kept saying, "I'm a Protestant!  This is so different!"  Not in a bad way, just as an observation.

Sunday afternoon I also had a conversation at a McDonald's with my parents.  My mom kept calling it my "Greek Orthodoxy Thing" (she doesn't get Jurisdictional heirarchy any more than I do).  She asked me "Is this Jesus plus?"  No.  "So you don't worship Mary?"  No.  "Transubstantiation in communion?"  It's still bread and wine, but it's not just bread and wine.  I felt really blindsided by the conversation.  I knew it was going to be coming up, I just wasn't prepared for it.  Their main concern was that we spend time thinking about all that we're doing--as opposed to just popping up and doing it because it's new and shiny.  Good concern to have.  They're very wise people.

If a few weeks ago I felt fine not knowing anything, I don't feel that way anymore.  Why is it so hard to have a good day after you spend the morning and evening praying?  Why are the attacks so much more violent now?  How come I can't "greet the coming day with peace" or see "everything that happens as sent by You"?  Why does our relationship feel more strained than it used to?  How come I can't just answer the questions our parents ask?  I'm just coming up short in so many ways, and that's very hard.

The past few days have been very hard as well.  My last check from the old job comes this week.  I work for very little money--not enough to really pay all of the bills that we have.  I had a really good interview on Monday with a school down here, but I'm still waiting to hear if I'll have a job or not.  No one else is calling.  This is where real life meets fantasy, and I'm caught somewhere in the middle of it all.

It's hard to keep praying, when praying seems to make things harder.  It's hard to stay faithful, when you realize that you haven't given as much thought to what you're doing as your parents (or others) think you should have.  I know we're only in the beginning of this experience.  I know there's more, better things to come.  Right now, the sky is dark and I'm waiting for the moon to rise.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things that the fathers (the neptic ones) say about the life of prayer is that when you start to pray the Orthodox way with some regularity, the evil one really, really goes after you. In a big way. The reason is that the last thing he wants is for you to really make progress in prayer -- he wants you instead to be despondent, and turn away from prayer so that your progress is halted or even reversed.

    I was reading just earlier this week in a newish small book I received on prayer called "Two Elders on the Jesus Prayer" -- it contains mostly the writings of Archbishop Anthony of Russia who spent much of his life in various Soviet gulags. He wrote a lot about prayer for newcomers to the life of prayer, and one of the things he says is that, especially at the start, you will find yourself assaulted by temptations and thoughts which are sent by the enemy precisely to move you off of the path of prayer. If you keep praying through this, calling upon Jesus Christ for help and mercy, it passes, but not without difficulty.

    Of course, we all have good weeks and bad weeks, and sometimes we *do* just need to give ourselves a break. But sometimes we also need to be aware that there is indeed an evil personage in the universe who very much wants to trip us up, and will make things hard for us at the very moments we are beginning to make progress, even though we don't perceive it that way. He does, and he hurries in to mess us up, if he can.

    It sounds like you are going through a difficult time on various fronts. I will put you on my prayer list for these times.