I never would have imagined that I would be Eastern Orthodox. Like many Christians in America, I didn’t know much about Eastern Orthodoxy for most of my life. Even as a history major, Orthodoxy was taught in a very limited fashion. I knew there were Catholics—I was baptized in that church, and grew up Catholic for about 7 years. And I knew there were Protestants and that there were thousands of types of them. I knew I struggled with the lack of unity in the Church, and all the denominations, and everyone saying they based their doctrines on the Bible—“I stand alone on the Word of God” …and yet there were so many different interpretations and understandings of the Good Book. But I didn’t really know what to do about it, except pray for unity, and try to follow the Bible and be a part of a church that was doing the same.
In college, I felt a calling to occupational ministry, so I worked as a youth minister and worship director for a number of years—with lots of Young Life and Navigators affiliation and involvement. And then my parents royally surprised us (their kids)—after years as a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor and wife, they were going to join the Eastern Orthodox church. I was shocked, and weirded out, and confused. But, because I knew and trusted my parents’ love for God and grounded ness in Him, I decided it was worth it to look into Orthodoxy more myself. So began an 8-year journey towards Orthodoxy.
My first encounter with Orthodox worship, with my wife Patti (we were dating at the time), was a very positive one—I was awed by the reverence, the sense of God’s hugeness and holiness. The service was all about Him—they didn’t bend over backwards to make sure I was welcomed, happy, singing my favorite songs, comfy in my pew or chair (we stood the whole time). Immediately, there was chanting and prayer and Word, all to and for God. And yet, in all that, I felt like I was very important—very loved and valued by this huge God that was being worshipped. It was strikingly beautiful, refreshing, deep, and challenging.
And yet, I loved my Protestant world, and was very safe there. Besides, it was what I did for a living.
So, for years, I flirted with, and dated, and drew attached to Orthodoxy—but I resented the fact that I even knew about it, because I started to sense it was inevitable that I was going to end up Orthodox. But, I didn’t want to leave my world, my livelihood, my comfort zone… I think that’s why God called my family to Nashville last year, away from my Texas security blankets, and called me to NOT be a church worker for a while. After extreme struggle and wrestling with God, I finally took the plunge and we became Catechumens (that’s like getting engaged to the Orthodox Church), and, last June, my family became Orthodox.
I have no regrets. Orthodoxy is beautiful, incredibly rich and deep—at once so full of amazing God-grace and at the same time so holistically demanding on my life and my will—wanting abundant, full, and free life for me—the life God desires for me to have as His child. All the tools and resources and fullness are there. But, I still love the Protestant, and the Catholic world, and see much beauty and truth there as well. I continue to work in full-time ministry at Glen Eyrie Conference Center External Link, home of the Navigators, and am so thankful for it. As a song writer, I hope to put some of the ancient writings of church fathers and mothers to music—using their thoughts and prayers to instruct or be my lyric.
Again, I’m thankful for Orthodoxy—thankful for what I’m experiencing, and for what I’m seeing and learning about the amazing love and enormousness of our Most Holy Trinity.