I have this story about me and the Eastern Orthodox church. It's a story about impatience and eagerness and rebellion and love. It's a story about Mary, and icons and mercy. It's a beautiful story - hard to tell in some places, but good. And I felt a pull for the first time over the weekend back towards Orthodoxy. I don't know what it means. I'm scared of returning but I want to run forward. I want to become the right thing. I want to understand if this is what I'm supposed to do, if this is what God is calling me to do. But I don't want to mess it up again and rush in and out or think I know what I'm doing when I don't. What should I do, Hilary?
A sort of catechumen
Dear Sort Of Catechumen,
Some day I want you to write a book about your story. It sounds like what Dear Sugar calls your second beating heart - the thing inside you that calls out and demands to be recognized. The thing you cannot escape, however much you try. Orthodoxy entered your life; it changed you. It's okay to let the change be a beautiful and real part of your story. It is right that your story about Mary and eagerness and impatience and mercy and rebellion and icons and love is the story you're longing to tell us. And, sweet girl, that is the story I want you to tell us.
But you aren't really writing to ask permission to tell the world the aching and beautiful story of your journey with Orthodoxy. You're asking what to do if a journey you thought was over isn't. You're asking, "What happens if I was done, but God was not?" The pull back towards Orthodoxy is the collision of your spirit with a beckoning from Him. And you want to know how to move forward.
Resist the chaos.
I hope that doesn't sound too harsh, love. I don't mean it to. But I do mean to speak freely and fully here, and I do mean what I say. Now is the time to be still. Now is the time to resist that delicious internal chaos we all love to make when a new possibility presents itself to us. That chaos will make it impossible for any real movement.
I'm willing to guess that a part of what happened in the first part of your journey with Orthodoxy is that you were not quiet. You let that delicious internal chaos run rampant over your decisions, your eagerness first toward and then away, over your conversations and longings and prayers. And that is the story you must tell yourself now, as a reminder that sometimes the only way forward is to stand still and let something else move inside you.
You do not need to worry about making it clear all on your own. Your anxious questions about "messing it up" or wanting to "become the right thing" are trying to take over the clarifying work that God already is doing and is capable of doing. He doesn't need you to tell Him if it's clear enough that you should be Orthodox. He doesn't need you to decide if you should be. He doesn't need you to hesitate because of your story. He doesn't want a chaotic heart.
He just needs you to keep still.
The "right thing" to become is one of Christ's sheep. The "right thing" to be running towards is the Son of God. The real pull behind every smaller one is a pull towards God. He loves you, Catechumen. That's the beginning and end and middle of the story.
In the Orthodox Church they pray for the catechumens during liturgy. Among the prayers they offer to God, they say: Save them, have mercy upon them, preserve them, and protect them, O God, by Thy grace.
Let His grace pull you forward. Let His voice be still, and small, and clear.
Resist that delicious chaos, Catechumen, and again and again in peace keep praying.