Thursday, November 02, 2006

full steam ahead?

I worry sometimes that I'm rushing things too much. That might sound odd coming from someone who's been exploring Orthodoxy for two and a half years and just on the verge of becoming a catechumen. Nevertheless, it's how I feel. For some time I hoped that my wife and I could take this journey together. I knew I had a head-start, so I was willing to wait. I saw the wisdom in the various priests who wanted to give her more time. But it never really turned into anything productive. We talked, which mostly consisted of me trying to explain what Orthodoxy taught about a certain issue, and her disagreeing with everything. She would end up frustrated, because she didn't know how to respond to what I was saying and felt pressured to accept it; I would end up frustrated, because I never seemed to be able to communicate to her either the content of Orthodox teaching or my feelings about Evangelicalism.

Eventually we started to conclude that neither of us was going to budge, and the only solution might be to accept that something different was going on in each of us. Although mentally we both seemed to accept this idea, it was not easy to embrace emotionally. We've gone to church together for more than ten years of marriage, four years of dating, and even before that, we got to know each other in church youth group. It certainly felt to me like a "lesser evil" type of solution. Ideally, we should be on the same page with these things. We should be in agreement on how we're going to worship in the home, what we're going to teach our kids, and where we're going to go to church. Honestly, church was one of the few areas of interest that we consistently had in common. To let that go feels like it can never be anything more than settling. I think my wife takes it even harder. I don't fully understand why. I could chalk it up to her being a more emotional person, but that doesn't seem adequate. Obviously, part of the picture is that she has all the reason to feel cheated. Neither of us planned on this, but all she's contributed to the gap is staying where she was. I'm the one who has gone off and found something else.

So, I continued to wait. I didn't change much right away about my involvement and tried to give her time to adjust to the idea. But at the same time, I kept pecking away at Fr. Gregory to accept what we already had--that if I was going to do this at all, it would have to be without her. While he dragged his feet, I took my time with Orthodoxy. I visited occasional services here and there but made no real attempt to go regularly. Not that I didn't want to go more often--it was just easier that way. I had the excuses--not wanting to take too much time away from my wife, not having a car of my own. And since I couldn't find a way to solve our struggles on these issues, it seemed like the next best option was to mitigate their effects. If Orthodoxy remained a part-time occupation, we could still share what we had in our Evangelical church.

But how much do we really share? Sure, we both go there most Sundays. Our outlooks are very different, however. She chafes to do more, be more involved; I find myself wishing I were somewhere else. I've tried to explain to her that it's not about leaving the Evangelical church. I love the people there, and there are still things I value about the services. If I could do both, I would. But to a great extent, I can't. Attending Sunday morning worship there means skipping Orthodox divine liturgy. I could try to do a mixture--one week here, one week there--but how much is to be gained by not being well connected in either place? (I'm willing to do it, however. Getting to Orthodox DL every other week would be a significant improvement.) It's not healthy for me, and I'm not sure it's healthy for her either. It's just a holding pattern. We keep doing what we're in the habit of doing and try not to disturb it any more than necessary.

So when I finally got the green light from Fr. Gregory, it does feel like suddenly things went into high gear. In reality, it was a long time in coming. The buildup was quite gradual, but because I had to hold it inside, feeding off of hope that one day I could finally move forward, it has tended to come out as an explosion. And maybe I am rushing too much. If I could wait this long, why not give a few more weeks for our elders to come back with their input? Why not give my wife some time to work through her personal issues? I guess the only answer I can give is that there's always going to be something. When I thought we might be able to do this together, I was willing to give her the time she needed. When I thought it would just take time to adjust to the idea of doing things separately, I was willing to wait. But waiting hasn't seemed to change much so far. It just drags things out. And even now I have little confidence that whatever the elders come back with will make a tangible difference in our situation. I feel like it's time to move forward by whatever path is open. (And I should point out that this moving forward might be just one step in a process that's going to stretch out more years until I finally convert.) It will be painful, yes; but it's already painful where we are now, and I'm not sure that staying here will make things any better.

Still, it's hard to escape the feeling that I'm rushing things--that I'm selfishly doing what suits me best without adequate concern for my wife. I hope and pray that's not the case, but what if? Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

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