Six years ago this past October, my husband and I began visiting an Orthodox church in Shreveport, LA. It was the beginning of a new beginning for us as Christians. We both grew up in the protestant church tradition, had begun following Christ as children, and wanted to dedicate our lives to serving God. In the first years of our marriage, we searched all over for “true Christianity”. We swung all the way from possibly attending a very “progressive” Christian seminary in Seattle to actually attending a traditional Christian seminary near Boston. In our minds, I think we were always asking this question, “Will the real Church please stand up!?!”
Serving in churches for about two years or less at a time, always eventually moved by circumstances or church dogma, we were constantly finding a “brick wall” in our paths. The churches seemed to say to us, “This is all that there is. You have now reached the end. You can go this far, but there is nowhere further to go.” After many years of searching and faithfully serving in churches, we had finally hit the last “wall” in August of 2014. Broken, hurt, and ready to give up on church but not on God, my husband began to think outside the box. He reached out to a man from his church past to be a spiritual listener. My husband shared frustrations, asked taboo questions, and poured out his heart to this man. He did not tell my husband what to do, he just listened and gave wisdom. Out of gratitude for this man’s kindness in our difficult time, my husband told me that he wanted to visit the place where this man was a priest. A token of gratitude, nothing more. “Why?”, I asked, “It’s not like we’re ever going to go there. It’s a waste of our time.”
Thankfully, I listened and acquiesced to my husband’s request, (Yes ladies, submission in action.) We visited Holy Nativity Church. It was held in a very small, cramped, ugly building that was a credit union during the week. There were icons, candles, and a censer smoking incense. It was all extremely weird to me, foreign, TOTALLY unrelatable. And then someone handed us a Liturgy book and everyone started to sing. My heart was in my throat! It was not because of the beauty of the music, the singers, the icons, or the incense. My was heart was captivated by the beauty of the CHURCH. I began to see a whole picture instead of just a part of the bride of Christ, and I was in love with it.
There were two main questions that drew me towards the Orthodox Church. They were questions that I had held most of my life without always being able to articulate them. In a nutshell, they were these: “Where is the “church victorious” that it talks about in the scriptures?” and “If communion is our only true common ground with all believers, why isn’t it celebrated every week and held as the principle practice of churches?”
When I participated in my first Orthodox Church service, my questions were immediately answered with a resounding beautiful finality. Here She stood in front of me, the Church victorious! The saints, the angels, the people, and Christ Himself, all victors in the oldest battle. Here I watched as the readings, prayers, and hymns all led up to and diminished away from one central element, communion! I had finally found what my heart had been searching for so long. (Cue “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel)
We began to meet with the priest and his family in the following weeks after our first visit, and we never looked at another church again. We had found our one true love, Christ in His Church , and we were NEVER going back to anything less! Over the years, we have moved closer towards Christ and drifted further away from Him in cycles, but always there is the CHURCH, a deep ocean with currents drawing me deeper and deeper into Christ, and there is no “brick wall”. There is NO END to the beauty that I seek, and I can have as much or as little as I choose to take.
Glory to God for all things!