Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | March 15, 2008

The Inefficacy of Words

Frequent references to “evangelism without words” tugged strongly on my sleeve as I first seriously considered Orthodoxy. I remember the kick I got on reading the admonition, “Evangelize everywhere; sometimes even use words,” and Fr. Stephen Freeman’s note that we are in fact icons… and need the transparency that would make us truly windows into heaven.

And yet I am old enough to have the scars of griefs lived, the joys and sorrows of children now grown, and the wonder of both what has come to pass, as well as the hope for that which is yet to be. There is plenty I could have done or done better, and plenty I am thankful to have missed. These are the skid marks of life… and yet there is gratitude that somehow it has brought me of all people… to here of all places, and to this Church at this time, and especially to this vision of God… and here I can re-start what remains to me in all the richness of the saints. It is a gift beyond measure.

I would rather not have come alone… but in truth, I’m lucky to be here at all. Perhaps indeed, it is my barely managed portion to control little and offer less – and yet somehow to oddly see this meagerness as my “best”. A life lived leanly in need of more iron, passion, and light may yet….

…yet God knows me better, and is entitled to wonder at what it is that this truly confused, professing christian and thickheaded individual would amount to… having missed and continuing to miss the mark in so many ways… and whether this repentance is sincere or just another passion for a specific place and time.. due to wane with whatever phase comes next. Lord have mercy!

And yet since my chrismation last year, my experience has been that there is a peace that expands with time. Yet equally, there is realization of the limits of self-knowledge before the breadth of God in Trinity now before me. In a sense my former self reliance and distrust of God is yielding to distrust of myself and increased reliance on God… at least these are my intentions. And the vastness between this experience of God and myself and the “old man” is really beyond words.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Rather I think in many ways we keep reading books, keep yakking in the parish hall, and keep blogging because we simply cannot fathom the whole fullness of God. Instead we talk around the immensity of a God who is not confined to paper, ideas and speculations, but remains the True and Living God – who demands to be in our hearts and our everyday lives and with our every breath.

And so it is that I marvel at the passage in Archimandrite Zacharias’s “The Englargement of the Heart”… and the wonder of a priest who was able to get our life’s first great calling “done” before all others… in sharing his everyday love of God with his children:

“I will tell you a story. I know a priest who had three sons. He never taught them, and all of them are in the Church now, and one of them is a clergyman. What he did was the following: he waited until they went to bed, and when they were asleep, he went and knelt by their bed and prayed for some time, and, in this way, the spirit of the prayer of the father was imparted to his sons. He never instructed them, but he spoke to God, and God spoke to their hearts. Now one son is a deacon and the other two are his chanters in his parish. Sometimes we think that with words we can accomplish something, and it is the same when we try to help people. If we speak to God, on many occasions it will be more effective, and He will find ways of speaking to them.”

The insight, the trust in God, and the faith in his children implicit in this story speaks volumes, and speaks of a love measured by more than words. May God have mercy on those blessed along this way… that we might be with them as He is with us.


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