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Spiritual confusion and not "belonging"

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by jisaiah6113, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. jisaiah6113

    jisaiah6113 New Member

    14
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    I have a question for any catechumens or others who are now Orthodox who were not originally in the Faith. I have been exploring Catholicism for about five years and after four stints in RCIA (catechumenate) I've given up on it. There's something about Catholicism that just creeps me out. It's taken me years to realize what it is. I don't see it as preserving the truth of Christ. I see it as an institution with traditions of men upon other traditions of men. I don't believe all tradition is bad, because without tradition all we have is ourselves and our arguments over Scripture. I think tradition augmenting scripture and being in harmony with it is a good thing. Originally I'm evangelical but I've grown tired of the emotional aspect of my background which includes spontaneous contemporary worship in a sort of Pentecostal way. It's emotionally exhausting. After this we have a sermon which is usually emotionally intense although powerful. I am familiar with the rudiments of Orthodoxy and it seems more like a gentle breeze blowing through with a whole undercurrent of truth that would take thousands of lifetimes to discover. Protestant faith to me advertises all that it is and has little to nothing under the surface. Christ is ultimately who we are seeking, not a tradition, but I'm looking for a deep tradition in which to encounter him.

    My question for any who came into the Church after wrestling with some things is, how did you overcome the confusion that initially clouded your mind and made you feel like you didn't belong in Orthodoxy? I really cannot critique the Orthodox Church at all. In fact, deep down, I know it is far more "true" in the sense of being "complete" than my Protestant heritage. However, the only critique I have of this tradition is that it "feels foreign" and I can't seem to latch on to it spiritually. Probably because I come from a shallow faith tradition comparatively, I am a bit overwhelmed by a 2,000 year old tradition with so many fathers and instructors in Christ when I'm used to just 500 years and maybe four main Bible teachers and no ecumenical councils that are binding. Is this sense of "foreignness" on my part something that can be overcome? And is it possible that God calls us to the faith tradition in which we "feel" most at home, regardless of what is true or what the fullness of Christian truth is? Maybe God would know that Orthodoxy is the fullness of what He has offered in Christianity, but He would look at me and say, "You know, Bob (not my name) makes a good Protestant. I think I'd like to keep him there." I heard a Protestant express this when she went from exploring Catholicism to eventually choosing Protestant faith. The priest ended up telling her, "I'd rather you become an 'on fire' Protestant than a caged Catholic." So she left. Really, it's hard for me to imagine that God would have a full program in which to experience Him more deeply, and for Him to say to those who feel a lack of compatibility at first, "just stay in your own tradition. I'll speak to you there." I think this sense of foreignness is just something I will have to push through in exploring whether or not to become a catechumen. I'm actually baptized but I don't know if Orthodoxy makes a distinction like Catholicism does. I also am not aware of any formal process to become Orthodox like exists in Catholicism. I don't view conversion as fast food spirituality (Catholicism taught me that) and I'm willing to take several years to grow into Orthodox skin.

    Any feedback from former catechumens and especially experienced Orthodox Christians would be highly appreciated.
     
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  2. Mary of Bethany

    Mary of Bethany Only one thing is needful. Supporter

    +807
    Eastern Orthodox
    Private
    Hi, and welcome to TAW!

    I was Baptist til my late 30s, then spent 10 years in a traditional Anglican parish, which definitely helped me get "over" some of the decidedly non-Baptist beliefs and practices. By the time I discovered Orthodoxy it already felt like home to me.

    My advice is - if you have an Orthodox parish even somewhat near you - just start attending Vespers (a lovely, quiet service on Saturday evenings) and/or Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings. And if you want to be sure services are in English, try an OCA (Orthodox Church in America) or Antiochian parish. Others may have English services, too and you may be able to tell from their websites.

    Most parishes have Inquirer's classes of some sort. Some are even just 1-on-1 with the priest; some are done in groups. But you can just come and start learning about the Faith.

    You're also very welcome to ask questions here!
     
  3. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

    +8,435
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    US-Republican
    yes, you can. it felt weird initially to me, but I overcame my initial reservations, and now I can't see myself as anything else.
     
  4. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian

    +734
    Eastern Orthodox
    Single
    I think what you will find what it means to do as best as you can to keep the Lord’s commands in faith, to works within that commitment ( Acts of the Apostles 26:19-20 ), & the meaning of salvation by grace ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ) that is a life process ( Philippians 2:12).

    I would begin by reading an an ancient church manual called: The Didache & the Sermon on the Mount alongside it.

    See Didache
     
  5. nutroll

    nutroll Veteran

    +658
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    I am about as white bread as they come, and don't ethnically belong to any Orthodox Church. I am, however, cradle Orthodox because my father was a convert. I can say that Orthodoxy has never felt foreign or weird to me, despite having spent time among Russians, Greeks, Syrians and Lebanese in various parishes. It doesn't feel weird or foreign because it is my Church. Yes, I find it strange to hear a Russian ask me why I'm Orthodox. They feel like they had no choice to a certain degree, and they wonder why someone like me who presumably had a choice would choose Russian Orthodoxy. In a way I had no choice, because I was an infant at my baptism, but I also have had years to either accept or reject the faith I was "born into." What I would recommend is make Orthodoxy your faith. Set your mind and your heart on it to such an extent that you belong in Church. Then when you feel out of place, remember that it is not belonging to an ethnic or social group that you are seeking, but belonging in the Kingdom of Heaven. In that there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female. Be Orthodox and don't worry about whether you stick out like a sore thumb.
     
  6. MariaJLM

    MariaJLM Crazy Cat Lady

    363
    +401
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    Eastern Orthodox
    Celibate
    CA-Others
    It can be tricky, especially in North America where Orthodoxy is seen as an immigrant faith. While I "fit" the heritage(my background is a mix of Eastern European; Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian) I was raised pretty disconnected from it all, thus am just as much a convert as many others in North America. That said, I think for me it was less culture shock than it was trying to grasp new theological concepts that had gone way over my head as an atheist. However, I had to convert because deep down I felt it was the truth.

    That being said, follow your heart. If your heart truly wants you in the Orthodox church then you will find a way to fit in. It's not always easy, but being a Christian has never been easy period. Remember the words of our Lord: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you."(John 15:18)

    Lastly, delving more into Orthodox material can also help a person to connect. Try to learn as much as you can about the church history, the saints, etc. and your heart will begin to warm up to it all.
     
  7. Shoetoyou

    Shoetoyou Sinner Supporter

    +2,630
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    This is what has led me to Orthodoxy (I am currently a catechumen) - a search for depth and fullness that I was not finding in my previous faith tradition.

    I am still experiencing that strangeness and not yet entirely comfortable, but it is coming...and underneath it, I have found a deep sense of “rightness” and fullness that keeps me coming back.

    (But what do I know? I am just a newbie catechumen still finding my way around - but wanted you to know you’re not alone.)
     
  8. archer75

    archer75 Well-Known Member Supporter

    +2,132
    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    Don't worry too much about it. Life is uncomfortable. But I think you will be comfortable once you get used to certain external things. I was in your shoes and was afraid I would do the wrong thing or speak to someone wrong. Exactly no one cared. Like in any non-cultish church. Just ask questions and learn.
     
  9. jisaiah6113

    jisaiah6113 New Member

    14
    +8
    United States
    Protestant
    Single
    This is great advice. Thank you all. I just read the Didache and I really needed to hear about the need to worship in an Orthodox parish without regard to ethnicity (there is neither Jew nor Greek). I'm currently in a Coptic Church and not being Egyptian, I feel a little awkward but it is self imposed, as no one has made me feel that way, rather the opposite. There are a few others here, such as Ethiopian Orthodox and it's all good. I'm interested in Orthodoxy and no matter who the priest and parishioners are, it is about Christ and segregation and classism is not allowed (James 2:1).
     
  10. gurneyhalleck1

    gurneyhalleck1 Has the Kavorka

    +4,231
    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    US-Others
    I was able to overcome my Festivus upbringing and embrace the true faith...
     
  11. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

    +13,449
    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    Married
    I love the way you describe this. And I find it accurate to my experience too, especially as contrasted with that form of Protestantism and Catholicism.

    There is a definite shift in thinking associated with becoming Orthodox. Some parts are an east vs west thing, and some may be otherwise. Often there is a cultural aspect, but frankly that's not really important in regards to the faith (though it can be in community life).

    As to becoming comfortable in the faith itself, and adjusting the mindset, it comes with time. Asking questions here and having folks kindly correct me ("that isn't even the kind of question Orthodoxy asks ... we look at if this way instead") was helpful. Reading books about Orthodoxy, lives of the Saints especially, and spiritual counsels formed me. Going to Church and paying attention, praying the prayers of the Church does as well. This all helps to form us. And it does come. Now the other kinds of ways others approach God seem deeply foreign to me.

    And my background theologically spans everything from Baptist to Pentecostal of various kinds, to Methodist, and dipping my toes into more mainline denominations and studying Catholicism. My ethnic background is nothing Orthodox - a mix of Native American, French, Scotts-Irish.

    The community life can be a little foreign, but I've been embraced. I finally know the names of most of the foods we tend to cook at Church and how to make a lot of them. I could offer basic comments and greetings in Greek, though I don't usually do so but prefer to study Biblical Greek. I know a lot of the history of the folks in my parish, quite a bit about their country, and their ethos, but ... while I love and respect all of that, I don't have to "be Greek" lol. There may always be a slight sense of foreignness there, but it's there for the younger generations in our parish as well who were born into it, so I'm not alone. And that's not what Orthodoxy is about anyway.
     
  12. E.C.

    E.C. Well-Known Member

    +443
    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    Engaged
    So, I was raised Roman Catholic in a very Irish-American church with school. So much so that St Patrick's day was bigger than Easter and when I was a kid they needed a new priest with a condition that they be Irish or from Ireland. I became Orthodox at the age of sixteen after reading "The Orthodox Church" by Timothy Ware and year after my dad converted.

    One thing that hit home with me is that the Divine Liturgy has been used since the time of St John Chrysostom, 5th century, which was an abridgment of St Basil's Liturgy which was a shortened version of the six hour Liturgy of St James (yes, one of the Twelve).
    Now, on the Roman side, the current Novus Ordo was created in 1969, before that it was from the Council of Trent, 16th century. One thing that irked me was the fact that before Trent there were various liturgical rites throughout Europe and the Tridentine Mass consolidated them all into one that was all in Latin. To me, the Orthodox Liturgy is much more in line with how the original Christians worshipped

    Once I got over that, it didn't feel too foreign. I thought it better to worship how the Apostles did. Plus, Orthodoxy is family. I've been to parishes on both US coasts, the Deep South, and Okinawa. I found stronger friendships there than I ever did the Roman Catholic parish I was raised in.
     
  13. Markie Boy

    Markie Boy Looking East, Moving Slow

    351
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    I am really struggling to stay in the RCC. I don't feel very Catholic. The more I learn it is getting harder not easier. Orthodoxy, as I have said before, makes my head hurt less - what I know of it anyway.

    Where I am it seems so institutional and so not spiritual it makes me nuts. I'm not going into any doctrine - but it's massive omission of much substance is an annoying vacuum.
     
  14. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

    +8,435
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    I think a lot of us know that feeling.

    prayers!
     
  15. Markie Boy

    Markie Boy Looking East, Moving Slow

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    I have read the Didache, and you do not find Protestantism in there, but I missed the part where they opened with "Gather Us In" too...…...so maybe I should read it again.

    And thank you Army Matt
     
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