For my Valentine’s Day post, I’d like to begin by telling you about my sweethearts.
Those are my nieces Aida Elizabeth and Sophia Jane, shortly after greeting the world. In some ways, they haven’t changed much: they are still beautiful; still sweet; they still love each other instinctively. In some ways, though, the girls have changed quite a bit.
They have gone from making little gurgly noises to chatting up a storm. They are no longer content to lay in a crib and sleep; they like to run and hop, swing and twirl. Each of the girls are starting to make her own choices; each of them has her own likes and dislikes: each one is taking hold of her own personality more and more by the day. And they are both growing fast, shooting skyward like little spring flowers, in what seems like no time at all.
Along with my mom and stepdad, tomorrow marks the one-year-anniversary of my becoming an Orthodox Christian. I have been giving a lot of thought over the past few days to this post, and discovered that my nieces offer the perfect allegory.
When it comes to my “experience” treading the path of Orthodoxy, I am only a year old. Let’s put that in human terms. How many theologically articulate infants do you know?
In most ways, I still know next-to-nothing about this way of expressing my faith. I cannot begin to explain to you the complexities of our philosophy, the layers of meanings behind each and every tradition and practice, the lessons that are meant to be taught us by the colors in the icons. To this day, I have no idea how to correctly sing a single tone in the hymnody.
More than a few times over the past year, I have looked an inquisitive friend in the face and politely implied (s)he “will just have to come with me to church sometime” and that (s)he “may want to ask a priest” instead of me, when it comes to questions about the Faith.
But there are two sides to every coin. Unless it’s a trick coin. And the one in this metaphor isn’t.”]
While I feel like I have a long way to go, I am profoundly grateful for how far myself and my family has come. Not unlike my nieces, who seem to look more like little girls and less like little babies every time I see them, I am blessed to have seen my faith and my perspective grow and develop into something entirely different than it was a year ago [by Grace alone]!
It is not an easy task to completely redefine your faith. But it has been a labor of love, and I have so much to be thankful for in hindsight.
I am grateful for the sense of community in the Church, both earthly and heavenly. I am grateful that beauty is not only encouraged in our worship, but embraced, and somehow reveled in. I am thankful to learn prayers and hymns that have been celebrated across the centuries. I am grateful for how accessible and how mysterious being a Christian can be, in the same moment.
Because of how different the perspective can be from one expression of faith to the next, the past year in some ways feels like a lifetime. When you are thrust into the unknown, you never know where you might end up, and just how far you may go.
The changes brought on by this year have felt intimidating, frightening, exhilarating, humbling, confusing, joyous. . .I can’t keep track. Just in thinking about what to write in this post, and processing the moments in the past few days of my life, I have run the emotional gamut.
But then I remember my nieces and their example. And I remember I do have a long way to go, but I have grown and will continue to do so.
In the meantime, all I can do is approach G*d with an honest and open heart, like the children before me who ran to Him for his blessing.