Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Lesson Found in a Case of the Wiggles

Back towards the beginning of Lent we started attending an Antiochian Orthodox Church together as a family. It's a Godly experiment on our part; we're not sure yet this is where the Lord wants us to be - although when the four of us stand together and the smell of incense fills the church, I feel more certain each week that this experimental journey may really be taking us home. But for now we're just visitors: Presbyterians in a foreign land, as it were.

Since the service takes place only once on Sunday and there is no Sunday School at that time for the kids, the boys are with us for the two hour service each week. They've never had to do that, not at either church we've attended since they were born, and it's definitely taken some getting used to. A week or two ago I had a conversation with Two about it - in particular about sitting still as much as possible and standing when we stand (at least 1/2 the service is standing - this church building is actually a bit odd in that it has pews at all). The best way I could explain it to him was that he had to accustom himself to worshipping God with his entire body. He could worship with his feet by standing. He could worship with his eyes by watching the service and looking around the church at all the icons. He could even worship with his mouth - not only by learning some of the songs and prayers but by kissing the crucifix and eating the blessed bread at the end of the service. This analogy has helped him to keep still (well, a little bit more still, anyway), but what it really did was help me even more than it helped him.

It has helped me because so far my experience with Orthodoxy has been like drinking water from a fire hose. It is overwhelming in almost every possible aspect. Not just the adjustment to an entirely different worship service (in which every single detail has pages of meaning), but all the standing, the fasting, the 2 and 3 hour services - all of this has me sometimes bewildered and overwhelmed. But when I thought of each of those things that overwhelmed me as a way that a different part of me - even a different part of my body - could worship God, it became easier to understand. It doesn't always make it easier to do - to go without butter on my toast when I really, really want some - but it helps. That and copious repetitions of the Jesus Prayer usually get me away from the butter dish before something bad happens.

I've not made the transition from Protestantism to Orthodoxy - not by a long shot. Some days I am certain I will and others I am not so much. But the journey itself - the prayer, the study, all of it - may after all be a transition into a more faithful, thoughtful follower of Christ. And wherever I worship, that would be a good thing.


Marcus and Meg Asby said...

Sounds exciting, Tari. Really exciting.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Wow. There must be something to it if your children tolerate it for that long of a period of time : )