3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to September 2003 (Part B)
Although she refrained from any critical remarks about my worshipping at the Orthodox Church for nearly a month, by the first of July 2002 Anna vigorously voiced her frustration and opposition. My continuing to worship at a Church she could not see fit to worship at was just like if I were taking a knife right through the midst of our family and dividing it in half. I had two weeks to decide what I was to do: continue to go to the Orthodox Church and wreak havoc on our home; or find a parish where we both could worship together as a family.
Needless to say, I was sat back hard on my heels. Anna had clearly, honestly, and tearfully expressed her deepfelt belief that my worshipping in an Orthodox Church was spiritually divisive, that it deeply wounded her that I would seem so callously to set aside her particular worship and church life needs, and that I should seriously consider what it was I was doing.
These deep feelings and hurt had been growing in Anna for some time. She could hardly be blamed. I had been adamant in my desire to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church some six years before. She had been against it, citing all the reasons of heresy and immorality for which I would eventually leave the Episcopal Church (though of course neither of us could have foreseen some of the particulars). I at that time had defended my stance, saying that God would bless my decision to be confirmed, that I was doing it for our family, and so forth. Though we reconciled enough that she gave her blessing four years later for me to seek ordination, she had sacrificed potential career opportunities in the narrowing of her employment choices so that I could go to seminary. Now here I was, having left the church I was so certain was going to be good for our family, having left the ordination process I was so certain God had called me to explore, and now I wanted to jump the fence and explore yet another greener ecclesiastical pasture.
No, clearly Anna had strong and legitimate reasons to be upset and resistant to my journey into Orthodoxy.
At first, her reaction both scared and angered me. I was concerned that perhaps this issue would test our marriage beyond the breaking point, and that I would do some boneheaded thing to put the finishing touches on nearly a decade of matrimony. And I was angry that my intent to investigate Orthodoxy as a specific fulfillment of the Holy Spirit’s convicting me of my failure to be the husband I was called by God to be was being criticized in a way contrary to my intentions.
But I also had a sense that the either/or condition with which I had been presented was a false choice because it was no real choice. It pretty much came down to: choose Orthodoxy and my lifelong pursuit of the New Testament Church or choose my wife and our marriage. But after two weeks of prayerful reflection I finally decided to offer a different set of choices: we would together worship at a church with which she was comfortable, and I would from time to time (say once or twice a month) go to the Orthodox Church.
I knew that neither of us considered this compromise as ideal, still it served to reduce the tension and provide some breathing space. We ended up going to a Disciples of Christ congregation that had the sort of contemporary style of worship my wife enjoyed and felt best enabled her to worship in spirit and truth. Though I wanted her also to go to All Saints with me, she chose not to and so on those Sundays I went to Divine Liturgy, she stayed home.
Such a stopgap state of affairs could not go on indefinitely. I knew that if I were to have any hope of seeing the fulfillment of the promise I sensed I had been given, I would have to found my convictions about Orthodoxy on something other than my experience and purported preferences, on something other than reliance on “authorities” in books, and on something other than my reaction to the Episcopal Church.
It was my own heritage that pointed toward the beginning of a way forward. I would go back to the New Testament to find there the foundation of my transfigured belief and would support that biblical interpretation by the testimony of the early Christian witnesses, the Apostlic Fathers and their successors.
[Next:3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to the Present (Part C)]