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1374Re: [LutheransLookingEast] "I will never be useful in church" --my husband's lament

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  • Christopher Orr
    Aug 31, 2009
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      There are a lot of things to worry about in Orthodoxy, as an inquirer. This
      is natural. It's like any relationship: you want to take your time and make
      sure you get to know the person so you can fall in love with them rather
      than your idea of them, how they make you feel, etc. There is no rush -
      there is also no rule that says you both have to convert together. Each of
      you should take the time you need to be sure the Orthodox Church is the
      Church, but no more than just the time you need. It's a dangerous thing to
      squelch conscience, it can become seared. Your husband will experience the
      Church as something other than what we might fear it is. We will be shocked
      at both the demands and the radical understanding and care, the lack of
      rules in an ocean of rules (really, they are simply directions, rehab,
      medicine, etc.) It take people more or less time to realize that, hey, they
      really believe this stuff and have for a long time (i.e., it isn't just
      something this preacher is coming up with himself or that it's some new
      theological or pastoral fad).

      Depression as a medical condition is serious stuff. I'm sure he's seeing a
      doctor. If he isn't, he should - though you should remember it's sometimes
      more art than science. The Church isn't the place to expect healing; it
      happens, mind you, but we shouldn't go to the Church for miracles.

      *...it just wears him out to be around too many people for too long.*

      I've always found Orthodox services to be wonderful for simply
      disappearing. There's always so much movement that it's easy to slip in and
      slip out. The services aren't regimented in the same way - partially
      because they are so long!

      *But the real issue is that where my husband has found places for him to be

      Ben is right, the choir, reading parts of the services, serving in the
      altar, serving at the candle desk, etc. are often things people do to be

      I have to admit, though, I don't like the phrase. Your husband is loved and
      valued whether he is useful in some utilitarian sense or not. The Church
      values and needs his prayers and his salvation, his patience, long
      suffering, humility, etc. as much or more than someone to run the sound
      board. In Orthodoxy, a Divine Liturgy cannot take place without a
      lay(wo)man there. There is value in simply being there. In fact, some
      theologians point to the fact that all sacraments are performed by name.
      Each person is known by the Father, by name. He is unique because he is the
      person he is, no more, no less, valued and loved. Anything else he can do
      is gravy and blessing.

      *I worry that he'll feel even more he's a failure if he has difficulty with
      the whole "discipline and obedience" thing...*

      My favorite 'discipline and obedience thing' is a common part of the
      monastic life. It is normal for a newly tonsured monk to feel rather high
      and mighty, holy, pious, arrogant and prideful even at his rule of life. At
      such times, an abbot will often make the monk eat meat (monk's don't eat
      meat at all) or break the fast, generally. The monk is often aghast, but
      the abbot is teaching him a lesson: love is more important than fasting, so,
      too, humility. Disobedience becomes obedience. The 'rules' are really
      monastic rules; they are modified for laity - this is even more so for new
      converts. When I started fasting, I gave up dairy and alcohol on Wednesdays
      and Fridays, then I added Mondays, then I took away meat those days, then I
      tried to keep the fast throughout the week during one or two of the shorter
      fasts, etc. I eased myself into it. 'Officially', i could do even more:
      only eat after Vespers, only eat dry food, etc., but I'm weak. It helps to
      humble me.

      I went to confession once all anxiety ridden and angry that I had fallen
      into a certain sin, again. My spiritual father said something to the effect
      of: "Why are you so surprised, you're sinful. Don't get all worked up.
      Getting all worked up is simply you thinking you're better than you are.
      It's arrogance: 'how could I, of all people, holy as I am, fall into such a
      sin?' This is pride. Don't be surprised you fall, simply repent of it and
      come to confession." The rules are there, I often think, to help remind us
      that we are not as we are meant to be. We aren't to despair, we're just not
      holy, yet.

      Fr. Sophrony Sakharov told a fellow monk on Mt Athos once that when he got
      too close to despair in his monastic work, he simply stepped back and had a
      cup of tea. As the son of an Englishman and an anglophile, I could not
      agree more. I think any beverage would do.

      The most important thing: pray. Pray for yourself, your son, your husband,
      the priest you are talking to. My spiritual father told me the Jesus Prayer
      should never be far from me. I try to say it as I walk, when I'm waiting in
      stores, I once said it at a party with JLo (long story). You don't have to
      figure it all out - just love everyone, worship and pray and be not afraid.


      On 8/30/09, jbuck1935
      > wrote:
      > > My son and I have been worshiping at an OCA church for about a month. My
      > > husband is having a hard time considering Orthodoxy for a number of
      > reasons.
      > > Not that he disagrees with much of the theological differences in the
      > same
      > > way my son and I do, but he's got a few worries.
      > >
      > > This is a man who came to faith in a non-denominational Bible study,
      > after
      > > having been raised by an atheist, and someone who "did what she thought
      > was
      > > right" but has no specified religion. After about a decade in the church
      > > that grew out of that study group, he joined me in my family's Lutheran
      > > church. He's always been an introvert (very much so), though he can
      > handle
      > > social stuff just fine--it just wears him out to be around too many
      > people
      > > for too long. But the real issue is that where my husband has found
      > places
      > > for him to be "useful" in the churches we've been part of, have been in
      > ways
      > > that he could serve an important function, while being apart. In other
      > > words, he was "the sound guy." He's also a good singer though, but has
      > had
      > > really rough times coordinating practice, family and work schedules.
      > >
      > > He also suffers from depression (chronic, severe, and it doesn't seem to
      > be
      > > helped much by medications he's tried), and I worry that he'll feel even
      > > more he's a failure if he has difficulty with the whole "discipline and
      > > obedience" thing (for lack of a better word). Hey, we're coming out of a
      > > church that virtually never talked about those things, and while we (in
      > > theory) approve, we're not practiced at self-discipline. In some ways,
      > our
      > > background on that comes down to getting up and going to work daily, and
      > > doing what we're supposed to be doing. As far as home, the lack of
      > > discipline shows in our home; we're trying to improve, but it's a slow
      > go.
      > >
      > > I will be speaking to a priest tomorrow after the liturgy. I'll bring
      > this
      > > up with him, but if anyone here has words that can suggest ways he might
      > > eventually find a way to belong, to be "useful," and also how anyone else
      > > who has dealt with a great deal of depression/self-loathing (not always
      > for
      > > substantial reasons, IMO) has dealt with feeling they are "never going to
      > be
      > > able to do anything right or good enough" when confronted with things
      > like
      > > fasting, and other disciplines. I mean, I understand that nobody can be
      > as
      > > fully good or perfect as they would like to be, especially when one is
      > not
      > > used to disciplines in one's life....but I think he'll be demanding
      > > perfection from himself, and hating himself more when he doesn't pull it
      > > off.
      > >
      > > Thanks for listening. I've been kind of depressed myself this week for a
      > > number of reasons, but worrying about his reaction when we talked about
      > > this, and also feeling like our family is less than unified when two of
      > us
      > > are going to one church, and my husband is still "undecided" about
      > whether
      > > he'll be joining us, or whether he'll be looking at another church that
      > has
      > > a band, or going back to our former church because it is familiar, and
      > while
      > > he feels less than appreciated, he can at least "be useful."
      > >
      > > I just needed to dump these concerns out, and maybe someone has something
      > to
      > > say that might help me have a glimpse of hope for my husband when it
      > comes
      > > to Orthodoxy.
      > >
      > > Laura
      > >
      > >

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