Out of the boat, part I

Sunday’s Gospel reading was the passage, so beautifully recounted by St. Matthew, describing St. Peter’s venture out onto the water. For some reason it really resonated with me this week, and I am quite sure it is not an exaggeration to say that I have heard this passage, this story, hundreds of times.

It struck me because that was what my conversion to Orthodoxy was–Lord, if that’s you, let me come to you on the water. I knew it was Him. There was no doubt when I talked with my friend Tmatt as we walked through the Capital Hill neighborhood in Washington D.C. the summer of 1998. I knew then, even though it would be more than five years until I would walk into the back of an Orthodox Church for the first time, awestruck by the Divine Liturgy.

I don’t know how I knew, though, while simplistic, I would guess I was hardwired to recognize the voice for which I had searched for so long. But I didn’t want to hear it for a few years, even though in the core of my soul I was convinced of the truth of it.

In the past year, and even now, as I reflect on the tumult of the breakup of my parish, I know that I had to reach a point where I was willing to hear that voice again. And, even more difficult, be willing to act on what I heard and knew to be true.

Isn’t that always the way it is? We hear, we are called, and we may even respond verbally in the beginning (Let me come to you.) But it means so much more when we swing our legs over the side of the boat and take a tenative step onto that which we had never known to carry us before.

Once you do that, you just have to remember to keep your eyes straight ahead…

"MY" space

My dear friend Tmatt has requested a lengthy update essay, but for reasons I will not enumerate here, I try to leave as much personal information off this blog as I can, with the exception of Orthodoxy. (The decision to put a picture on the site took tons of arguing with myself.) Sorry Terry, I’ll have to send you an email.

I had a wonderful conversation over wine recently my some dear Roman Catholic friends who were SO supportive of my conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. They are co-workers, so I am blessed to have wonderful Christians in the space where I spend the most of my time. We were discussing a recent venture I made to the world of Myspace. I was lamenting many things, but one thing that struck me was a number of sites (most from people I do not know) who listed “Christian” as their religion and even went so far as to cite well-known area Evangelical high schools and colleges as their educational history.

But as I scrolled through their sites, I saw pictures of teen girls in skimpy bikinis sitting on laps of equally scantily-clad boys. I saw photos of people giving others the “bird” and requests for girls to come “hook up” with them. And I was disgusted.

For purposes of full disclosure–I am prone to occasional salty language, I lose my temper and I am not in anyway the person I should be, particularly since I claim to be a part of Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church.

However, this was the point I was making to my friends, and it reminded me of an earlier post that I wrote about America’s choice fetish. We want everything. We want all options on the table and we do not want our commitment to one thing to eliminate our ability to chose another. We want to be able to say “I am a follower of Christ,” and raise our hands in worship during the Sunday morning praise chorus and we want to live like hell on Saturday nights. And I am NOT naive. I know very well that a good chunk of my brothers and sisters in line for the Eucharist are no different. I am not different, either.

But this is what I am thinking…does the American approach to Christianity, this Western, individualistic, highly-stylized take on church make this sort of behavior any easier. Right now the Orthodox Church is observing the Dormition Fast, reflecting on the life and death of the Theotokos. Fasting periods make me think about every part of my day, make me more aware of my language and how I deal with others, and gives me pause about what I take in via the television and the radio.

But there are very few such checks and balances in the Evangelical church. They speak of being saved, of living a life worthy of the calling they have received, but everything in their churches–from the preacher’s dress to the videos to the music played–bear more than a passing resemblence to the secular culture.

So why would the children of those churches find any reason whatsoever to conform their behavior to that which is different from that secular culture? What reason do they give to live differently, to set oneself apart, and to not behave as a purely sexual animal in the secular cesspool?

Any thoughts?