Today is the calendar anniversary of my chrismation, 27 May, which arrives before the liturgical anniversay, Pentecost (which is almost a month later this year, 15 June, or Father’s Day). Such is the way of moveable feasts.
I would never have expected to have the sort of first year as Orthodox as I have had. I fully expected to be tested and tried, but such expectations had more to do with the internal struggles that Christians face in their overcoming of sin: fighting against thoughts and desires which put one at odds with Christ, the struggle to maintain peace of heart, and so on. I did not expect to have the testing and trials to be thrust on me from without. I remember reading or hearing a godly man say that external trials come because we are not strong enough to engage actively with the internal ones. God must know that about me.
But it has not been just an endless series of unrelenting pains. There have been moments of joy and deep peace. I have written on this blog about these: My first few days after chrismation and the experience of the Holy Spirit I was given. The joy of St. Nicholas and the healing I received from his prayers and the myrrh from his relics. Most of all, the continuing experiences of God’s providence: knowing the things I need to know when I need to know them, coming into contact with the people I need to contact when I need to make that connection, the gifts of friends and family right when I need them, and so it goes.
I have settled into something of a sacramental rhythm of confession, absolution and Eucharist that is more strengthening than I ever could have imagined. It makes a very real, experiential difference when it comes to focused prayer. And that rhythm sustains me as the week unfolds and all the struggles and joys of faith and life unfold.
I will say that through the year, my daughters have become an even greater joy to me. They truly are God’s grace to me, and I am blessed every moment I am with them. I have become much more patient and understanding of them in these last several months. I seem more intuitively attuned to their needs and moods. I can better sense when misbehavior is tied to their being stressed, or a little hungry, or just tired than I ever could. I seem to intuit their thoughts and needs more correctly than I ever did. And I can truly say that my moments with them are increasingly joy filled and blessed. That’s not to say I don’t get impatient with their misbehavior, or that I’m some sort of parental saint. I’m just as normal a father as the next guy. But I can really feel in my heart a solid change. It’s very much like when they were first born, almost like another conversion. God is ministering his grace to me in them.
All of this is God’s providence. If there were a one-word theme to this past year, it would definitely be providence. I have begun to begin to learn to trust God about everything, even the pain and suffering. It all, somehow, is woven together in this offering of his grace, of himself, the threads inextricably entwined. I cannot see the pattern. My perspective is skewed and myopic. But like Bartimaeus, I know one thing. Jesus is passing this way. I cry him mercy.