In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep. From the mountains of faith, to a river so deep. I must be looking for something, something sacred I lost. But the river is wide, and it’s too hard to cross…
We are all searching for something. Something sacred, something true. Like travelers in the desert seeking water, we all have a need to discover more of what is truly out in the heavens.
Billy Joel sang about that need in his song River of Dreams. It is one of my absolute favorite songs, and it was quite important to me when I was lost in the wilderness of spirituality.
I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and was one hundred percent serious about it. I was an altar boy, a member of the youth group and worked as a camp counselor. All of these functions and services were never boring affairs. I even considered joining seminary at one point. In high school, I was confirmed with the name Peter. I really loved the story of Saint Peter, especially how he denied Christ three times, and yet Christ forgave him three times. Even with his fault, he became such an important figurehead in Christianity.
However, I got older and started asking questions. I started reading more about church history. Soon I developed several frustrations about the Catholic Mass. Little parts of the service would change on a weekly basis. The music became more rock driven to bring in the kids. I just didn’t understand why we couldn’t worship the same way every time. Why did we have to make spectacle of church service with an electric guitar and a drum set, not to mention someone on keyboards and alto sax. I didn’t come to church for a rock concert, if I wanted that I would have gone to the Civic Center.
Mass became more about hearing a story and feeling good, instead of participating in something divine. Other times, service was deadpan with zero energy and no life (Much like a funeral home). All I was asking for was authentic worship of the divine. But between rock and roll and the services that felt like funeral dredges, there really wasn’t anything in between. Surely this wasn’t how the apostles worshiped I thought.
There were times I could tell that the priest just didn’t care when he lead service. I could see he was just going through the motions. I was starting to see the authenticity behind everything fall apart. I would ask questions regarding theology and dogma and get completely different answers from different priests. I wanted more, and wasn’t getting it. I wanted the true depth of Christianity, but wasn’t finding it. I grew frustrated and eventually left the church as a young adult. I was still a Christian, I just didn’t have a church anymore.
I entered my 20’s searching for meaning and authenticity. The first rest stop on my spiritual journey was the Mormon Church. It figures that they’d be the first to reach out, I mean even wolves need to eat. I read the entire book of mormon, but was quickly put off by it. It just seemed ridiculous, with blatant hypocrisy and lies, not to mention church history not founded in Christ, but rather by a conman. (My research into the mormon church actually left me with terrible recurring nightmares for several years afterwards… elders in cloaks carrying torches that suffocated the light away from the room while they slowly encircled me)
Sometime later, I was living on my own and engaged to be married. She was a Lutheran and I would frequently go with her to church. I was even considering joining! I was already a reader in the church (and not even a Lutheran yet) and our wedding was to he held there. I felt how much they cared about the worship of Christ and when I asked my theologically based questions, I was actually given solid answers. However, they too lacked the authenticity that I was searching for. My reasoning was if the lutherans broke off of the Catholics and then other Protestants just continued from there, how do we know that we are truly participating in authentic Divine worship? or are we just copying what somebody else did?
My engagement fell apart and I was once again on my own and without a church once more. My next adventure was just about to begin though.
In fall of 2007, I entered a liberal arts college and started studying Anthropology and History. I couldn’t get enough of what I was learning. I was changing. I studied human evolution, history of mankind, and different facets of culture. The more I learned, the more unsure about my own beliefs I became. I started looking into eastern religions. I was especially fond of Buddhism. I read whatever my college library had on Buddhist meditation, and practiced it in earnest. With my newfound education and self-taught Buddhist philosophy, I was quickly becoming someone much different than that young camp counselor who preached Christ: I became an atheist.
I struggled with Atheism however, because I wanted more. I wanted a spiritual life, I just didn’t know where to get it. I was inspired by the American founding fathers and became a diest, believing in God, but not religion. I felt like it was a good compromise, being able to keep myself firm in my new scientific worldview but still hold onto the possibility of spirituality.
I wanted a church and I wanted an authentic worship experience rooted in history. I wanted the real deal and I still didn’t know where to find it.
It was during this time that I got my first tastes of Orthodoxy. My parents we’re considering converting, and I had attended a few Services at their little Mission Church . While it was a fascinating side of Christianity, I wasn’t ready to take that leap yet. It was still much too different from what I had previously experienced in my worship life.
Soon I started dating this amazing woman. We would talk for hours about everything under the sun. She too was unsure about her faith, but she knew she wanted more. We got engaged, and soon found ourselves back at the Catholic church. It was what I knew best, and it was much more than her previous church experience. She went to catachumen class, and I went with her for support and to relearn my old faith.
Eventually my issues with Roman Catholicism reappeared. Our new priest was struggling as well. He wouldn’t say why, but we could tell he felt the way we did. The church was lacking something, and it was the authenticity from being the one and only church of Christ. I was really torn between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. By this time my parents had fully converted to the Orthodox Church, and our immersion was underway. Finally one night while reading “Becoming Orthodox” by Father Peter Gillquist, I decided I was ready. I wanted to be Orthodox. I started class with my spiritual father, with my wife joining us after the first two classes. Soon she too was convinced. We joined the church just after Pascha in 2012.
That is the story of my spiritual journey. It is personal to me, but I have found that everyone is searching for something. Everyone struggles with their own river of dreams. From our old catholic priest Father Brian, to my own wife. We all have different paths ahead of us, with no idea which way to go.
This brings me to the second part of my story. Working outside this weekend, doing yard clean up and getting ready for a dump run, I started up a conversation with my next door neighbor. My neighbor really loves Christ, yet she admits to not knowing where her true church is. She goes to the local Methodist Church only because it’s convenient for her. She had a big smile on her face as she walked up to me.
“Ian I am so excited. I just found this lost bible and it has new gospels not found in the original bible! It’s based on the dead sea scrolls and oh it’s just so fascinating!”
She handed me a copy of the Gnostic Bible. I flipped through the pages and did a bit of skimming. I told her, “you know I don’t think this will actually help you. It seems to be full of misleading info and other inaccurate biblical facts.” She then seemed a little discouraged. So I said “I’m glad you’re searching though! Keep reading. Keep praying”
I then told my neighbor about my spiritual journey and about how I struggled. I told her why I chose orthodoxy and how I had finally found what I was looking for. She wanted to know more. I ran inside and grabbed my copy of Becoming Orthodox and said here you go! Read it as many times as you like. She said she would and was very thankful.
As she walked away with my special book in tow, I wondered if I had just planted in her, the same seeds of faith that were planted in me so long ago.
If you are searching, and want more from your spiritual life… come home to the Orthodox Church. It is the original church that was started the day of pentecost. It is the church spoken about in Acts.
Thanks for reading. Comment your thoughts down below. What did you think? What was your journey like? Are you still struggling? Lord have mercy and as always you’re in my prayers.
– Orthodox Trucker
Searching for meaning in the spiritual wilderness is a lot like going over a rickety foot bridge. It takes patience and perseverance. Eventually if you keep trying, you’ll reach the other side.