My Journey to the Way-Part 3-Hope

Hope – “This day you shall be with me in paradise.”  The grace of God is obviously not limited to those who have taken the Orthodox way of Chrismation, Baptism and the Eucharist.  The thief on the cross experienced none of these and yet Christ made this statement to him.  Christ looks on the heart. I suspect there are many hearts outside of Orthodoxy that belong to Christ.  He is a God of mercy and grace and He loves mankind. I believe that “He will keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

Father Timothy said there is disagreement within Orthodoxy on some of the issues.  They seem to be pretty laid back on many things, but strict on others.  I hope as I become more familiar with Orthodoxy that I can discern which ones are which.

Human nature is the same across the board in whatever church one belongs, and it takes a miracle to change human nature.  I am grateful to have observed the change that God can make in a person’s life.  I saw it  in my mother first of all.  She was not perfect, but instead of displaying bitterness and hate which she had many reasons to do so, instead, I remember hearing the sound of her voice  praying in her room. I knew that is how she survived.  I had great reason to follow her example many years later.

I see the difference in my thinking of my children when they choose the way of darkness over the way of light; the way of Christ over the way of self.  I see the struggle in them, and I hope I can always say of them, “at least they struggle.”

I see the wisdom of those in my life who have followed God and the difference they have made in the lives of others.  I know there is light in some, and darkness in others.  Some despair. Some have hope. Some live by the dictates of self. Some live by the dictates of God. And it is obvious. There is also a difference between those that are good, and those who are good because of the light of God in their lives. The difference is the reason, the motive, their philosophy of life. The light of God shines from their eyes.  They are happy, and they have peace.

One of the greatest disappointments I encountered as a teenager, was finding out that there were those in the church who did not truly follow Christ.  I define it as “the end of childhood.”  It is a transition that is more severe for some than for others.  However, one of the greatest joys I encountered as a teenager was finding out that there were those in the church who truly loved Christ and showed this by loving others. For instance, I was the oldest of 6 children, and we did not have much money, to say the least.  There were a couple of women from church who would take me shopping for shoes, or invite me along to see a play; take time  out of their day to notice me and take an interest in me. How great was the difference I saw back then between those who loved Christ by loving “the least of these,” and those who were more interested in image.

I believe with all my  heart that there are those in other denominations who have been regenerated by the life of Christ within them.  God meets us where we are.  He met the thief on the cross while He was on the Cross, so He meets us in our  pain, our place of misery and aloneness, because He has suffered as a man and sees fit to lift us up to dwell in Him.

What in the world would I have done as a child, with all I went through, had I not known Him?

So I am comforted.

“I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

 

Touching the Real

5/16/14
It has been at least 2 years, maybe more, since I have been to my daughter’s grave. Today, I felt the need to get in touch with something real, something true. Death is real; death is true. Thirty-four years ago, I said good-bye to a precious 2 year old little girl named Susie. And I cried today as if it was today. As I stooped down and brushed away the few strands of grass that had grown over the flat engraved stone, I wept. I wept because life is bigger than me. Accumulated pain is drowning me. It never gets any better.

Now at 57 years of age, I have more questions than I do answers. Where is the wisdom that is supposed to come with age?

Another cruel stone thrown with a vengeance on my life’s pile of painful stones has made them all come crashing down upon me again. It is a cascade of evil leading to destruction if it has its way, leaving nothing but questions in its path.
I thought if I prayed and lived a clean life, God would honor that. I thought if I was faithful to tithe and serve Him in the church, He would reciprocate. I thought if I put all my heart and soul into being a good parent, learning as much as I could about it, and putting it into practice with prayer, it would reap good things. I depended on His protection for my children. And yet, there was something I did not see that was happening to my children.

There is plenty of blame to be placed, but I blame myself for my blindness. Why did I not see what was happening? Why did I think that staying with their dad was better than leaving him? Why did I think the virtue of having a dad outweighed the detrimental influence of his emotional sickness and the evil in him? Why did the church teach that divorce was wrong across the board? How long will my children continue to pay for my stupidity, for the behavior of their father, and the negligence of the church?

More and more I find that I do not know what is real and what is unreal, what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. The lines between the sacred and the secular have become more and more blurred as time goes on. We live in such an imperfect world that it seems ludicrous to suggest that there can be any values built upon it. If the foundation is wrong, there is no logic to anything rising from it. Anyone can justify and rationalize any behavior or way of thinking by only slightly tweaking the schematic. And who is to say they are wrong? Maybe they are right in their logic. Maybe I am the one who has hang ups.

But you know what? I have to get up out of bed every morning and make myself go to work and survive. Every breath I let out cries to be brought back in, and so I breathe again, wondering when that final breath might be, and how painful it will happen.
Life goes on and life finds a way. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do with the irreconcilable differences between the holy and the unholy (if I can even tell the difference). Thank God this world is not my home. It is a veritable hell at times. I look for a better country and I seek the fellowship of a God Who loved me so much that He gave His Son to die for me. His Son has been born in me, and that is what keeps me going. Because He lives in me, I can face tomorrow.

In this confusing painful life, I know I have one steady thing on which I can always count and on which can always cling. That one Rock that is faithful, steady, and true. I had to feel something real today, so I knelt beside death. What is more real than death? Death means there is something real and true. Death is something to be reckoned with because it is real. It is going to happen to every one of us. And since death is real, it stands to reason there are other things that might be real. Life is real. Life and death. And Who has the words of eternal life?
And so once again, He is my strong habitation whereunto I continually resort. More than that, He is my Redeemer. No one else can take a bad situation and bring beauty from it. No one else can make beauty from ashes.

I need Him now more than I ever have. I feel the darkness of evil rising up to devour me and my children and grandchildren. I fall in desperation at the foot of His Cross. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. In the cesspool of my sin, blindness, and mistakes, because I am helpless, I have only one recourse: to cry out from my slough of despond for Help.

We are fighting a spiritual battle with the demons of hell and the father of lies and the distorter of truth. I do not know how to fight, but I know I can pray to the One who promised He would hear me when I call.