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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Drifting Or Drawing?

I was a drifter from an early age. No, I did not drift from faith in God nor of the unshakable drive that the whole of my life and soul was in pursuit of knowing my creator and of doing His will. I was only a drifter in the sense that my perceptions of certain elements of faith and practiced were being refined. Such refining put me out of compliance with the religious structure in which I was raised. Where I knew I was intentionally pursuing, those around me not so inclined, perceived that I was drifting. To them there was something wrong with me. I was drifting, off base, being led astray, in rebellion, in sin, leaving the faith, in fear of eternal damnation, misguided, confused, ignorant, unlearned, immature, in need of understanding, stubborn, independent, wrong, deceived, lost, compromising, had gotten off the "straight path or narrow road", lacked wisdom, full of the devil, heretical, wrongly influenced and/or [add your word or phrase here...].

I was a drifter not because of any of the before mentioned items, but because my pursuit of God had required that I step outside of a doctrine, practice, belief, standard, method, church tenant that those around me held. I was a drifter. There was something wrong with me that those around me, sincere in their love, would by compulsion, come to my aide to throw a rope and dive into the water if they had to. They were determined to rescue me. A good rule in point is to make sure a person is drowning before you yell, "man overboard". If he isn't going under, he's still talking, his arms aren't flailing, and there is a smile on his face, maybe the water he is in doesn't present an immanent danger. All I knew was that there was more and that, until I found it, I was just a sketch of what I was to be.

When I had drifted enough for my father to have exhausted all means to "save" me, except one, I found myself at a Christian Counselor's Office. I was not dragged there kicking and screaming, in fact the meeting was my idea. Parent's love runs deep and religious faith is too often so intertwined that the two cannot be separated. It is too easy for parents to base their acceptance and opinion of their drifting child on a tainted love. Allowing for the possibility that the religious system in which they were raised, no matter how many positive elements it contains, is not the original, unchanged, Faith of our Fathers, that which was given by Christ, taught by the Apostles and preserved by the Church, parents act on what they know-and God bless them. This being said, they can still make the process of becoming Orthodox quite trying. But if Orthodoxy is the faith and God wills that all should be a part, then someone in each non-Orthodox family must be the first. Someone must be Adam.

I requested to meet with my father and the counselor of his choice. My father's conclusion that I was out of compliance had evolved to such an extent that he saw the destruction of my soul as a great possibility. He could not understand why I reacted so strongly to his intrusion into both my spiritual and personal adult life and why he couldn't "help me." The fact is, I was a college graduate-religion/pastoral ministries- from his Alma Mater, I was a licensed and ordained minister, had never been in trouble with the law, had never tried drugs of any kind, was a virgin when I married, was happily married, had served on several church staffs, was raising my children in the faith and respect of God, and had devoted my entire life and being, not to greed or avarice, but to the sacrifice of holy living and the service of God. However, there was one thing I lacked, one that made me a drifter in his eyes- I was leaving my Baptist roots.

I sat in that meeting for an hour without one question ever being addressed to me, for the counselor was focused on my father. My father had chosen a Baptist friend of his who read the matter well. The context of the conversation was the fact that my father's son, who sat there next to him, was an adult and was not being treated or perceived as such. The son of my father (me) had a heavenly father also who loved him and was able to do what needed to be done in the life of that son. My father's somewhat self-appointed patriarchal view was an intertwined combination of his self-image and his religious convictions. Even though my pastor father had served the Heavenly Father well all of his life, the matter of correctly aligning his earthly role was skewed.


Do we raise our children in the fear and admonition of the
Lord or in the fear and admonition of the fact that we raised
them in the fear and admonition of the Lord?
In other words: Now that they are adults,
Who do you want them to fear, you or God?

 
I have had five children with my wife of 28 years. There have been times when I have had to be concerned for their souls because their drifting was rooted in the very fabric of what constitutes a holy life. Those times differ greatly from the question of whether or not they are in line with my religious tradition. Make no mistake: I believe that the Orthodox Faith is the original Christian faith with no adulteration of doctrine. I hope and pray daily for my children, who are not yet Orthodox, to come all the way home to the Church, however, I do not doubt their salvation nor the ability of God to be a better parent to them than I ever could. My children are no longer children. They are adults and I must have faith in the God I say I serve that He is totally capable of taking it from here! He can complete the work he has begun.

Anything else is self-serving, faithless, manipulation for selfish fulfillment.

The odds are not high that you will readily accept the possibility that God has heard your prayers and those of your parents, concerning your own spiritual walk and faithfulness and that His answer is coming through your own children who now Journey To Orthodoxy. How is it that so many in America now find themselves returning to the Faith of our Fathers- The Apostolic Faith-The Orthodox Faith? The sovereign hand of God is drawing.


Yes, God is drawing, they are not drifting and you too are being drawn.

As I was writing this article, my 18 year old, newly graduated daughter, came and asked for my blessing for her to go out with a friend. It seems it was dark, kind of late and her mother had concerns. Well, so did I. Much of our parenting has involved keeping our children safe and one of the ways to do that was to not allow our children to be in situations where things could happen. But, this was my eighteen year old standing in front of me. Next week I will take her to college in a different town. A State University, a big campus, night life, a college town and all that goes with it. So, she asked me for my blessing to go out. I looked at my new adult and said, "You will be spending many nights out. You will have many decisions to make. Be wise and be careful." I reached out and kissed her hand. She responded by embracing me with, "I love you daddy." To which I responded, "May the grace and protection of the Lord go with you." And that prayer is sufficient for the future.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:24 AM

    Two questions: If your children are not Orthodox, what are they? And have you shared with/discussed Orthodoxy with your parents, siblings, cousins, etc.?

    ReplyDelete
  2. ANON,
    We came into Orthodoxy after three of our children were grown and out of the house. Our other two, one in college and one in high school came into the faith with us. Two of our adult children are married and their husbands have the role of spiritual head in their lives, not me. They watch our journey, read this blog, but we are careful not to give answers to questions that aren't asked. One of my son-in-laws recently was chrismated into the Orthodox Church through his own study,prayers and decision, along with my two grandchildren. His wife, my daughter, was not but continues to seek. I have written extensively on this blog of the response of my Baptist father and siblings. They are not open to conversation and consider any such an affront to them. Why was this element of my journey interesting to you ANON?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous1:50 AM

    I supppose I was curious of the phenomenon of conversion and how it affects families.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The ending to my family dynamic is yet to be written. Anon, thank you so much for your contribution to this blog. Please come back often. It is therapy to open my life as a book. I hope to learn from you as well. I need all well-meaning brothers and sisters to keep me in check.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Update: My daughter, the wife of my Orthodox son-in-law, was recently chrismated. Our new grand-baby was also baptized Orthodox. They are faithful in their Orthodox church.

    ReplyDelete

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