Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | December 5, 2012

Dashed Off to Orthodoxy

Anastasia has a bit on becoming Orthodox that had me… shall I say wanting to dash off a response… a sort of resistance in detail hardly worth a bother, and so rather than clutter up her combox, I’ve posted here instead. Let me begin by saying that as I recall… thinking of ol’ Dash, Dash Rip Rock was Ellie Mae’s heart throb on The Beverly Hillbillies… at least that’s my memory. Seem to recall he had files on everyone he’d ever dated, what they wore, where they went to dinner, what she ordered, how they danced, ….the whole business. What he understood was that every girl was different, and every girl wanted to be remembered for the special evening she spent with him.

Fact is, it’s probably fair to say we think the same of ourselves no matter where the romance is… whether it’s finding our true love in the flesh or our true faith. We’re individuals, and everyone of us is as different as the sunrises and sunsets we find wherever we go… and even if we go no place at all…. each is a fascinating remembrance…. each different even as each may in so many ways also have much of the same. But the idea that there is only one way or one conversion or one reason to become Orthodox is… well, it’s not wrong… though perhaps it’s off-putting and a partial understanding… and it’s not that I’m better at more than partials, but that I see things with a different twist… like the one I did last summer.

Conversion is much more like a sunset you never tire of watching. Only with the Church, we come for a million reasons. And we will stay for a million reasons… sequentially converting through each one of them the same way we fall in love with our spouses through the series of their years, and the wonder of their ever changing and ever the same lives. This is life together… and if it were lived only one way, there’d be room for exactly one person and that’d be it. But the Church is so much greater than that… it’s a community that loves each other with an intensity … that sometimes the stand-offishness of our visible selves… well… doesn’t always iconograph as well as it might… not because there isn’t love, but because more often than not, we have yet to completely comprehend how our love for each other can offer the freedom to recognize and embrace each other exactly as we need, want and should. This is how we start… and we start as with so many things in so many places… paused to reflect on the wonder how this moment captures all the others that have passed together with the present and all those moments yet to come.

And so each conversion is perfectly different from each other, and yet exactly the same as it continues to unfold through the conversion of each day into the fullness of our lives… as though captured through each of these simultaneously. There is no one I think who completely understands his or her conversion of their heart. This is God’s work… we’re simply witnesses standing at one point and place in one time, and our comprehension incomplete. Ultimately, ours will become a type of conversion no other can match, and its depth, its breath, it height and width will be without peer or without measure… and yet it will be paired with so many others along these lines that the wonder is how we can possibly say it’s different…. and yet it is so incredibly different. It will not be captured in words, but in the flesh, will live through you as you live through others, and the wonder of Christ’s life is revealed in yours and through yours, revealed to others – or at least that’s how He would have it. Our life is here, in this Church, and is to become part of Life itself… and that’s why we come. It may have been something else initially, and that’s well and good. It brought us here… and it may be many, many other things next week, or the week after… and that’s fine if it keeps us coming back – which it does. And then as we progress from one to another, we ultimately discover… there was far more in this than we might ever have imagined, and this work of conversion is Christ’s work and not our own. We’ve participated… surely, but not alone.

Could we have proceeded directly here on this basis initially? Probably not. We’d have been put off. But gently in this way of sequential discovery, we find the wonder extends and expands gradually from a small point to the whole of Creation. Both are infinite. Don’t be sold for less. But come as you are, however you are, and for whatever…. it’s all fine. We’re all small as we start. But if we open ourselves to Christ, bigger things lie ahead. May God speed us on our ways towards His way.


  1. Beautifully expressed as usual.

  2. No disagreement from me, and I regret having made it sound that way. I was first drawn by the music. Still, when we ultimatelyh convert, it had better not be just for the music. It had better be for the one reason, and that is, for our salvation in Christ. Not for any externals.

  3. P.S. Those I know who did convert for the wrong reasons have since departed from the Church, which is what prompted me to write that post.

    • Anastasias:

      Thank you! But of course as well, let me apologize: I didn’t really wish to disagree with you per se… so much as try to spell out what I think you meant… or at least how your thoughts triggered my own. My “resistance in detail” is meant to be more of a clarification, or perhaps a “yeah that’s right… but” explication in the usual Orthodox “not either-or, but both plus”. And if I didn’t do that very well, I’m remiss, and beg your forgiveness.

      Just seemed to me the trouble is the external articulations of why we convert don’t necessarily capture all of what’s going on, but simplify in ways that I guess are intended for public consumption. Perhaps its the station break moment… “I’m working on this… and no, it might not be a great line, but it works for me for now… while I’m still confused.” And yes, I’ve seen some very vocal types here in bloggerdom even who’ve posted themselves as the end-all and be-all authorities on who is and who ain’t Orthodox… only to run off quick enough to do virtually the same elsewhere. But thankfully in my experience, those types are rare.

      As for me, all I can say is that my own conversion on the outside wasn’t all that wonderful. Orthodoxy was taking me someplace new, someplace threatening, someplace hard in many ways, and in some ways… to a place far away from where I’d been. And not just figuratively, but quite literally… as in down next to the housing projects. And it involved separating my church-going from my family… something that was incredibly hard on all of us …and I’m not proud of that….nor am I sure I’d be able to do today if I had to. But at that point, I was led… or felt I was… and it was almost as if by the bridle. And for the longest time, I remember each week that some of the hardest steps I ever walked were those into the church on Sundays. But I kept at it because I knew (somehow… don’t ask!) or felt I knew that without the medicine of this place (words I didn’t know at the time), I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep looking the guy in the mirror… eye to eye. So I’m not particularly proud of how I got here. On the other hand, I’ve found the only thing more difficult than describing how we came here is trying to explain what I’ve found. Maybe it’s as simple as finding my own life again… and discovering the love of those around me… maybe it’s discovering that life and even death have wonders to them unimagined, and that even suffering – not that it’s ever desired – but when it comes, can be sweet rather than bitter. Dunno. Maybe it’s what every one finds… something different, but something they need… even if they don’t know they need it.

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