God Speaks, Do We Really Listen?

The Early Years…

I was born into the Orthodox faith, so you might think it gave me a big advantage.  After all, being a third generation Greek American required no search on my part for a religion.  The language, the Divine Liturgy, the 10 Commandments, the 7 Sacraments, Traditions, Holy Days, Fasting, Sunday School, and Greek School were all right there along with my parents to set me on the right path of morality and faith.  Ah, so easy when you are young and live in this tiny bubble of family, friends and faith. Life was simple, non-threatening, and meant to be enjoyed to the fullest simply because everyone around made the big decisions… as it should be when you are a child.  But would this remain later in life or would I want to search for another religion?

The Teen Years to Young Adulthood…

Then I start to experience the world as a teen and young adult.  Life is changing and what was once just a “listen and obey mentality” will no longer work.  I am now experiencing the secular world that brings with it an explosion of feelings that not only question each and every decision I make, but sets the path for what type of human being I will become.  My very existence depends on the decisions (or lack of) that I make. From religion, to high school to college, relationships with family, friends and the opposite sex, along with job opportunities and eventually marriage…. these things begin to be the focus of our life and often leave our faith in limbo; Religion – It’s there, but not there.  After all, don’t we have an entire life ahead of us to put it into practice. This is the so called “think you will live forever” mentality. I can now look back and thank God that in my formative years HE gave me these precious gifts: Parents who provided me with Faith, Love, Respect, and the Tools to make the right decisions. I was fortunate to be born in a country that allowed me the freedom to pursue any path and belief of my choice and provide the safety and security to make it come true.  Last but assuredly the most important factor of all, a religion rooted from the beginning in the teaching and principles of our Lord Jesus Christ and knowing that with all that I am or what I might do, no matter what, HE died for me so that I may have life everlasting with HIM. This kept me rooted in my faith and strong in my convictions.

My Life and Walk in Faith…

As I stated before, I grew up rooted in faith, had a great family, a normal childhood, a wonderful profession, fabulous friends, met and married the man of my dreams, had a beautiful baby girl (after two miscarriages, so never underestimate the power of prayer)… everything you would want in life and more.  Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, IT DIDN’T. You see God was about to test my faith and whether or not I was a good steward of it. We found out that I had a rare form of cancer and the outcome was not only unsure but unknown. When you are faced with this kind of news you would expect to be upset, wondering “why me” and often exhibiting feelings of anger, depression and mostly fear… yet I experienced only calm and peace.  The only overwhelming question I was faced with was “Will God welcome me into the Kingdom of Heaven if I do not make it through?’ I would have no second chances. He had blessed me with so much… had I given as much in return?

Before I had read my bible daily, but during my illness it was different because I actually prayed for answers to crucial questions and decisions.  When praying before, I put limitations to what I wanted and needed, this time I just prayed and for the first time LISTENED!  Low and behold, I would turn to a random section of the Bible and there was the ANSWER.  I couldn’t believe it, He spoke to me and provided just what I NEEDED, NOT WANTED!  There is a difference because this time I didn’t hear, I LISTENED.  God provided for everything…. WHERE I was to have the operation, WHO would do the surgery, WHAT would be the outcome…. and most of all, A MIRACLE.  So much would go on during that long year in my life as well as those in my family who helped every step of the way.  Several things would pop up from questions such as, “You’re a good Christian, why would God allow this to happen to you?”  To which I would reply “Why wouldn’t it?” I live in the real world and real things happen… how you handle them is what makes the difference.  One year went by bringing with it the loss of all my hair(very traumatic for a woman but God even provided me with situations of humor and help), to constant problems with Chemotherapy and radiation, multiple emergency room visits and hospital stays to valuable answers in prayer. Just when you thought you couldn’t take any more and felt sorry for yourself, even then God showed me something or someone who was worse and for this I knew HIS LOVE IS EVERLASTING!   He even blessed me with 2 miracles, one being that I was given a second chance two be the person He knew I could be.   In the end and to this day, when talking with people I often tell them that “it was the worst year of my life and yet the best year of my life” for my walk with God was up front and personal and there were no bounds to His love except for those that I put in the way.  We are often tested with fire that like gold molds us into something very precious and priceless. Unfortunately, being human we often forget this when things are good and tend to put God on the back burner until we need Him again. There was always the Orthodox faith for me… I never searched for anything else.  With the guidance of family, priests and the teachings handed down through the centuries beginning with Jesus Christ…. How could I want for more? As a priest once told me, your religion is only as good as what you put into it. Don’t complain or be caught up in the worldly challenges, leave them to God and He will always answer prayers…. But in His time and His way, not YOURS.

            My prayer is that you may find the TRUE and NEVER ENDING LOVE OF GOD….             

                                      Perhaps in the Orthodox Faith