I first heard “Should I stay or should I Go” by classic punk rockers “The Clash” in my late teens, early 20’s. I was going through a period of great personal change, and wasn’t sure about my own identity. I grew my hair out (almost down to my chin), became a Buddhist, and starting listening to an eclectic mix of 80’s punk/post-punk rock, Tibetan meditation chanting, and new age hippy symphonic rock (polyphonic spree anyone?) I was an anthropology major with an interest human evolution. At the same time I started gravitating towards the writings of Thoreau, the teachings of Gandhi, and the life of Martin Luther King Jr. I had formed a new identity for myself, one that saw me as a punk rocking, pacifist loving Buddhist new age hipster. Man that’s a mouth full! I had also convinced myself that I was an atheist and that true unlimited potential lay underneath my subconscious, I just needed to unlock it. I had it all figured out, but in reality I had no clue what I was doing. This period of my life saw no stability, no forward momentum. It was as if I was trying to row my own boat with out using any paddles (BTW, the paddles are faith and trust in God)
Flash forward to the present day. I’ve gotten my life in order and things are going well. I have now been married for over ten years and been a member of the Orthodox Church for almost eight. I’ve been blessed with a good paying stable job, and have lived in the same rental for almost two and a half years. Within a few more weeks the loan process will be complete and hopefully this rental will be 100% ours. My family has been able to grow and develop into better Christians and fully fledged members of the local community. But somehow even with all the positive growth, our hearts still feel like we are being pulled in opposite directions.
Every single day we ask ourselves “should we stay or should we go?” Should we move away from our friends and family and live in a thriving community of Orthodox faithful? Should we stay and continue the lives we have with those close friends and family, but live isolated from the rest of the Orthodox World? What’s the right answer? What should we do? What does God have planned for us? How many licks does it actually take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? We understand that if we go, we will lose a big connection with family, and will miss out on the many wonderful family outings each year. Being able have these close family connections is such a wonderful thing, and has been truly beneficial for all three of us. Seriously, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of the awesome things or wonderful progress without our close family and dear friends. The love we have for these people is strong, and it’s a potential loss that’s really hard to swallow.
At the same time however, we struggle with being so far away from Church. I know an hour of driving is nothing compared to those people in war torn countries who still make it on time for service, but for some reason it’s too far for us. In my last post I talked about our desire for more. More of Him and less of us. More church, more prayer, more involvement with the Orthodox Community, and less distractions from the outside world. Try as we might to live with what we have, we have been struggling against this growing desire for us to jump fully clothed in to the deep end of orthodoxy and not look back. How can we reconcile these two worlds? Why can’t we have both? What is the way forward?
Last night in my arrogance, I told my wife that all that I had to do was sit in front of our icon corner and pray. God would surely answer my prayers and reveal his will unto me! All I have to do is ask God to show me the big picture, let me see what the entire plan is and through my prayers all will be revealed. Easy, right? Wrong.
I’ve read about how the Holy Fathers could achieve great acts through prayer, but they also fasted before hand and had years of spiritual combat under their belt. I didn’t fast, nor did I prepare myself for a true connection with God. I had greatly over estimated my stature, but thankfully I had realized the errors of my way just in time. As I lit the oil lamps and got the hand censor smoking, my mind started thinking about the will of the Father and how important obedience is within the faith. I realized my ego and lack of preparation was acting as a stumbling block, hindering my way to God. It is through humility that one finds the Lord, not arrogance.
I prostrated myself in front of the Icon corner and prayed for forgiveness. I knew now that I wouldn’t get what I wanted that night, but that was okay. No prayer, good or bad falls in the sight of the Lord. I prayed for mercy upon myself, and for my wife. I asked that the Lord would watch over my son and help him grow into a good and kind man. I asked for patience and help with my own selfish desires. I learned that night that humility and patience are some of the most important attributes for a christian to possess. I touched the icon of Christ and stared directly into his eyes. I prayed asking for his guidance. I knew my initial plan was all wrong, but now instead of demanding answers, I just asked for mercy, patience and for help to know his will. “Lord help me to understand thy will, so that like a faithful servant, I may follow it without hesitation.” I kept repeating those words over and over again in front of the icon.
I moved over to the Icon of the Theotokos, and put my hand upon the wood. “Holy Mother, pray for me that I might understand your son’s plan for us. Help me to better understand his will, and to be able to see the path he has laid out in front of us.” I don’t know if it was a flicker of candle light upon her face or maybe a trick of the eye, but for a brief moment it appeared as if her eyes had moved. I could have sworn, without swearing of course, that her eyes shifted. She was looking at me, then down at the Christ child in her arms, then slowly back at me. And then nothing. In my heart, I got the message. I might not have gotten details of the plan or what steps to take next, but I understood what she was saying. Her message for me was “He is the way.”
I still don’t know what the next step is. The loan process is ongoing and should be completed very soon. My engagement with the Orthodox community online has greatly increased, and I have been asked to participate in a few different ortho-projects. It would be nice to engage with more Orthodox people in real life, but perhaps that’s just a matter of better timing. In any circumstance, I know that when the time for decision comes, Christ will be the way forward.
Once again, I want to say thank you to my readers. I just reached over 300 likes on my facebook page and that has got me really excited. So again, thank you for all your support! Until next time my friends…