I started looking into becoming Orthodox two years ago and was received into the Orthodox Church 18 months ago.
I am not, by any means, the model of an ideal Orthodox Christian. I am inconsistent about my prayer times; I don’t attend evening services as regularly as I might and I certainly don’t keep the “fasts” (a Lenten style of eating that is mostly vegan) very well. And as to the virtues, well I have light years to go on that….
With all that said, I have to stay I am absolutely stunned by the difference being Orthodox has made in my life. I feel like I have made more progress in my Christian life over the last two years than I did in pretty much all the time since I graduated Bible College (literally decades ago). I’m not sure that I can say that this is attributable to one single aspect of the spiritual disciples of Orthodoxy.
One big factor I think is the experiential approach to the Christian life. St. Paul wrote
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, (Titus 1:1)
The Orthodox Study Bible comments as follows.
“Acknowledgement (Gr. epignosis) is deeper than mental knowledge; it is experiential, not theoretical. Knowledge (the truth) and action (godliness) are a unity; knowledge that does not change one’s life does not save.”
When I made the decision to become Orthodox and let the Orthodox Church guide me as to doctrine and practice… when I no longer read the Bible to interpret it for myself and wonder if I was doing that well, it was a load off my shoulders.
I was never particularly good at prayer. Having brilliant prayers written for me that I could relax and put my heart into (well some of the time anyway), brought immense richness into my prayer life. I am now far more consistent about praying and especially more consistent about praying for others.
There are so many other factors — taking the Eucharist which is supposed to change me, practicing ascetic struggles (such as observing the “fasts”, which is like spiritual muscle building), participating in beautiful corporate worship, hearing the tales of the Saints that inspire us in our walks in the Lord, having the accountability of going to confession. These all play a role.
And God has been opening doors for me professionally that I did not expect but dearly longed for. This last has filled my heart with gratitude and humility.
I find myself loving God more and just so happy about being Orthodox that I will talk to anyone who will listen about it.
Wow! This is so weird. I’m still getting used to it and I love it!