Evangelizing the Neurotic

I greatly appreciate the response and questions to the article by Fr. Meletios on parish life and ego-driven needs. I am working on an article with reflections.  I will be focusing particularly on the question of how we evangelize those whose egos are the driving force in their lives. If the ego (as defined by Fr. Meletios) has no true existence – what is there to be saved?

Most of us have encountered new converts who (beyond enthusiasm and zeal) seem newly-armed and ready for battle. Few things are more formidable than a well-honed critique of the West (my very formidable critique has been the product of many years’ work) and membership in the one, true Church. I do not make light of converts – I am notoriously a convert myself. However, our salvation lies within the heart and not within the neurotic narrative of the ego. What does evangelization from and to the heart look like?

I’ll have a post ready sometime Monday.

Comments and thoughts are welcome.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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45 responses to “Evangelizing the Neurotic”

  1. […] Pick it up!☦Nothing But Orthodoxy☦ var pulltime = 'Sat, 23 Jun 2012 14:04:33 +0000';1) Evangelizing the Neurotichttps://glory2godforallthings.com/2012/06/23/evangelizing-the-neurotic/By fatherstephen on […]

  2. Steve Robinson Avatar

    I’m looking forward to your thoughts. I have a few myself. I’m sure I’ll be able to steal some of your stuff for “orthographs”. 🙂

  3. ecollage Avatar

    Why are you a notorious convert? I don’t understand that.

  4. dinoship Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    This is walking on a tight-rope for most Christians today for myriads of reasons…

    Saint Silouan’s idea of a disarmingly non-judgemental evangelisation instantly comes to mind, as well as Father Raphael Noika’s favourite saying: “Orthodoxy does not convince, it charms”.

    All this, of course, implies a “no evangelisation” evangelisation… One simply works on making oneself a vessel of the Spirit of Love and then, even their silence, or their smile speaks volumes.

    The very simple ‘command’ I have often encountered in the Holy Mountain is: “to the one who asks, you give” (implying that evangelising through the use of speech should only be done when someone is actually asking strongly for help in that particular direction -i.e.: for words- and even then it is precarious; it is a very dangerous matter to make oneself into a teacher – even if one is called to it by their position, as a lecturer or a spiritual guide).

    I am especially looking forwards to this article Father, as it is needed by all of us very badly…

  5. dinoship Avatar

    The ‘marks’ of zealous asceticism (fiery zeal for one’s own fasting, all night vigil, relentless prayer constant standing in Church etc…) combined with “no evangelising” and radiant Joy and Love, has a proven record of turning many people from atheism to faith.
    Just like we see in the unbelievable martyrdoms of the early saints which simply by their fiery faith and endurance in tortures converted effortlessly thousands of onlookers into martyrs without saying a word!!

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s a bit “tongue in cheek.” I have occasionally been “vilified” on the internet as a “convertsy,” because I’m a convert who writes and gets read a lot. Some odd souls think that calling someone a convert is a put-down. I’m simply grateful.

    Perhaps “notorious” is not the right word?

  7. fatherstephen Avatar

    Serving in a parish deep in the heartland of American Protestantism, where Orthodoxy is a very meagre and rare presence, I often tell my parishioners that our first task as a parish is to actually “be” an Orthodox Church – so that, when someone comes looking for the Orthodox Church, they’ll actually be able to find it. To “be” the Church is the whole of our salvation.

  8. leonard nugent Avatar
    leonard nugent

    My critique of the west is so well honed that the safest place for me to stay is in the west. It could easily just degenerate to hatred and bitterness if I weren’t critiquing “my own family” but someone else’s.

  9. jhe Avatar

    Thank you. Looking forward to it with much anticipation.

  10. benmarston Avatar

    To some extent we need to make ‘peace’ with the West, as Florovsky said, Catholicity requires Traditions East and West. The juridical metaphor is in Scripture, and for us (most of us) who come from a legal framework of understanding virtue, and behavior, it communicates something of value- God did something for ourselves that we could not do. Amen. However, it quickly needs to be supplemented with the other metaphors of God’s saving work in Christ to offset the potential abuses of the metaphor that have occurred in the West; chiefly, ascribing to God human retributive vengeance, and sundering sanctification from justification.
    as far as ministering to those who are ego-driven; do we simply wait till life has rendered them with a broken and contrite heart so they will listen?

  11. dee Avatar

    “To be the Church is the whole of our salvation”. That is a perfectly succinct way of putting it!
    It reminds me of a talk by Elder Aimilianos titled “I, Christ”. Just the title itself draws the attention to how becoming what we were meant to be covers everything that might ever need covering…

  12. Karen Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, re: your “vilification,” I observe popularity always has its perils, as I’m sure you are aware (both from within and without). Those who “vilify” of course, give us much more information about themselves than they do about you (or any of us “convertsky” for that matter). I hope new converts or inquirers who come across that kind of toxic triumphalism on the Internet or elsewhere will be granted the grace to know they don’t need to be ashamed, afraid, or cowed by it and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine Orthodoxy, which though uncompromisingly straightforward, completely true, and absolutely does not cater to the ego, is also without guile, exceedingly humble, empathetic, gentle and kind.

    I love this photo–very apt. I look forward to any insights the Lord may see fit to give you (speaking as a neurotic, myself!).

  13. Mark Avatar

    Dear to God Leaonard;
    I have heard that sentiment before, from many who have benefited with gratitude from the ‘eastern christian treasury’, yet out of love for their neighbours in their own (western) church tradition, they choose not to convert but to do the hard work of bringing this healing ‘orthodoxy’ to their brethren.
    I admire it, and it is not my place to judge another.
    However for myself, the reason I chose to move past this stage (as I believe it is a stage), was a recognition of my *own* poverty, my *own* needs which can best be met within the Church (of course this requires a change in the understanding of ecclesiology- but if we are not to pick and choose, spiritually, then I should trust the ecclesiology of the Church that has preserved the ‘spiritual treasure’ from which I have benefited).

    I recently attended the N.A. OPF peace conference (here in greater Vancouver). I was deeply moved by the simple, sober story of Jim Forest’s life (which he was invited to share), full of fruitful faithfulness to Christ long before he became Orthodox. When he reached the point of his conversion (from R.C. to Orthodoxy), he explained, “Nancy [his wife] and I did not conceive of this as moving from an imperfect church to a perfect church. There is brokenness in need of healing everywhere, as Christ is doing the ongoing work of preparing His Bride. However Nancy and I simply reached a point where we realized we could not go without the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.” (my paraphrase, dont take these as words from his mouth- I hope it is okay with him!).
    The point I am making, is one may convert to Orthodoxy in recognition of one’s own poverty and need of healing. In doing so we do not divide ourselves from anything or anywhere we were before but in fact become closer to all, in Christ. (for myself, conversion has meant that I cannot take communion alongside my 10 yr old son, who’s mother is protestant (we are not married). Yet in Christ I have come closer to him than I was before defined by this outward boundary).

    -Mark Basil

  14. PJ Avatar

    Perhaps this goes without saying, but if we want to learn how to evangelize, we should look to Scripture. The apostles manifested the fruit of the Spirit, and they were certainly spiritual athletes — yet they also declared plainly and explicitly the gospel of Christ. We mustn’t shy away from announcing the particulars of the good news, even if they offend modern sensibilities.

  15. dinoship Avatar

    yes, I agree, but discernment is key, it really is the sine qua non when evangelising.
    Without discernment, anything, no matter how positive, can easily become negative. Even a humble and loving believer who means extremely well can go wrong without it.

    And true discernment, really is the crown at the end of the Ladder of Divine ascent…

  16. Margaret Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, I look forward to this post you speak of here (and I totally appreciate the picture accompanying this post, thank you)! I am a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy through the Anglican communion so that although I was raised in a very evangelical protestant church, I had been exposed to the beauty of liturgical worship and the rhythm of the church year. The first service I attended in our church was the Pentecost service with kneeling vespers. I felt like I was back in my grandparents’ evangelical methodist church. I had not heard the name of Jesus mentioned so many times since I was a child and when He was expressed as the “lover of mankind” I knew I was home! A very great help to my Christian life has been the book Bread, Water, Wine and Oil by Fr. Meletios Weber, mainly because he has such a great explanation/description of the mind and the heart. I believe you have referred to this. Also Metropolitan Jonah’s: Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness, available on PDF online. Also the Path to Sanity, by Dee Pennock. And even before becoming Orthodox Christian, the writings of C.S. Lewis. I reread the Great Divorce and all the Narnia stories regularly; although Til We Have Faces and the Screwtape Letters are very encouraging toward Orthodoxy in different ways. And last but not least, your blog here has helped me along the path tremendously! We have similar experiences with the horrors of death at a young age and also as you describe yourself as existential as a result (I believe I’ve got that right, please correct me) I just know in my heart that God has heard years of my prayers that I had not uttered to another soul with words. Thank you!

  17. markbasil Avatar

    dinoship, I strongly agree. And we must remember that Tradition is the living faith of the dead- which means that we must be alive as Orthodox here in NA, walking in the Spirit, breathing the Spirit, truly present to *our* neighbours, our context.
    I have known Orthodox who want to imitate some zealous apologetics they see in the Fathers- but this is not how one acquires the Mind of the Fathers. We must humble ourselves, know that our own sin is the cause of so much suffering around us. We must make ourselves fitting vesels for the same Spirit that animated the Fathers, otherwise our ‘imitation’ of them will be nothing more than fueling an inappropriate form with our own immature passions.
    If we recognize God is at work and does not need us, but our sin is the cause of the brokeness around us and I am the one in need of healing, we approach the life the Fathers had within them. Only from this transfigured place can we then rightly speak with a strong word when necessary (ala Stephen the Protomartyr), if it is necessary.
    While I have only traveled a very little ways in Faith, I have come more and more to believe Orthodoxy in *my time*, in *my context* will be marked by a posture of extreme gentleness, kindness, and humble silence. Our time and land is saturated with words about Christianity, and ears are ringing with shrill religious voices (these are often amplified maliciously by media happy to show the ugliest of religious sentiment and opinion).
    Love compels me to share in the responsibility for all that is done by those who call Jesus their Lord, here in N.A., and so I become more and more aware that I need to ask forgiveness of everyone for what “my people” have done here, in the name of my King. So much suffering at the hands of us Christians! So much damage.
    So to be Orthodox in N.A., I think, is to bear all of this- all this burden of ‘western’ distorted Christianity, as our own. My own- it is my sin that has lead to this state we are in. (Here in Vancouver Canada, it is analogous to the posture of repentance we of European descent must adopt toward the Aboriginal Peoples whom my forefathers abused and destroyed. Will I repent of this personally and beg forgiveness? Or will I say, “it was a long time ago and not me who did it- why should I take responsibility?”).

    Also, I work in the geographic heart of the ‘gay community’ in Vancouver. So much spiritual wounding exists in the people here- yes they are sinners but by no means did they find in Christianity or in Her membership wisdom, support, or compassion or healing to help them struggle with their passions and perhaps overcome, but instead only anger, disgust, accusation… In my work community they have slowly all come to know I am a Christian, and my great evangelical work is simply being pure love to them. I have never spoken a word against their lifestyles- such a word could never be heard apart from the echoes of hatred that have been shouted at them by my people in their suffering lives.
    It is one example of the deaf-creating brokenness around us here.
    Genuine love, prayer, compassion, listening without any judgement are what’s needed; we are really in the age and place where this is needed in humble silence before any right words can be heard again.
    Those who speak loudly and foolishly about the faith may draw converts outwardly, more readily than I ever will, and so justify themselves. But only a very small margin of the population will convert this way. Is only a sliver of the demographic supposed to be healed? If Christ came to save *all*, then the majority of my wounded, post-christian leery-of-religion neighbours will need a very different message, if they will ever convert (or if they might become sufficiently less and less hostile toward Christianity that perhaps the next generations might finally be ready for harvest!).

    I suppose it is always true, but I feel it should be our very manifesto as Orthodox Christians to live as St Seraphim invites us here:

    “You cannot be too gentle,
    too kind.
    Shun even to appear harsh
    in your treatment
    of each other.

    Joy, radiant joy,
    streams from the face
    of him who gives
    and kindles joy in the heart
    of him who receives.

    All condemnation
    is from the devil.
    Never condemn each other.

    Instead of condemning others,
    strive to reach inner peace.

    Keep silent,
    refrain from judgement.
    This will raise you
    above the deadly arrows
    of slander, insult, and outrage
    and will shield your glowing hearts
    against all evil.”
    -St Seraphim of Sarov

    In the irresistible love of Jesus Christ;
    -Mark Basil

  18. markbasil Avatar

    ****Dear Father Stephen;
    I have tried posting a comment and it’s probably caught in your spam filter– if you would kindly only ‘set free’ the latest version; I had time to edit it. It is the longest one. The others can be deleted.
    -Mark Basil******

  19. leonard nugent Avatar
    leonard nugent

    Mark I’m not attempting to help make the Roman church into the Orthodox church. My prayer is that the Roman church will become what it is. In other words complementary to the Orthodox church. To give a marital image to the reunion of the two church’s I don’t believe that it should be a same sex marriage. Perhaps that statement won’t be understood or if it is understood will be regarded as wrong. I do agree with you that to live a life with out the Orthodox divine liturgy would be a heavy cross to bear for sure.

  20. leonard nugent Avatar
    leonard nugent

    Mark, I suppose the question I need to ask myself is why should I continue to be disgusted with this wretched food when I could have quail until it comes out my nostrils!

  21. markbasil Avatar

    Hi Leonard, I see your situation is different than what I had in mind.
    I have not found only fine foods in the Orthodox Church, but more hardship than I ever had before. I”m sure you understand. “The corruption of the best is the worst,” and our enemy loves to corrupt.

    I believe I understand the implications of your image (we orthodox are bride to papal christianity). It’s dangerous to use marital imagery like that because of course Christ is the Bridegroom, his Church is the Bride. Christ is the Head, his Church the Body.
    Orthodox will recognize no head but Christ- this is part of the problem with the R.C. concept of the papacy, imo.
    We doubtless disagree.
    Asking your prayers!
    -Mark Basil

  22. jamesthethickheaded Avatar

    One issue for us neurotics in the evangelizing of our own hearts is that the “Just do it” accentuation of the ego over the last 30 years increasingly makes it difficult to find much less recognize the heart… because we’re not really sure what this inner self really is and what to do with it if we find it.

    That said, I am a big fan of Fr. Mel’s… and found the article a treat. Fits in well with Plekon’s “Living Icons” on Meyendorf and his love for place, for all christian truth in real ecumenism, and discussion of St. Basil’s recovery of the christian “strays” on the other side of the Council of Nicea in authentic love. And while I’m aware that our becoming Orthodox cannot mean simple adoption of a new set of blinders; that Metropolitan Anthony Bloom notes the repentance of his father was due to a sense that there was much that was reprehensible in what had transpired in church life in Russia before the Revolution… I don’t know how to process all that. As a convert, one often feels it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind barefoot in a glass house after a rock fight: You don’t know what it was all about; some folks claim to and tell you with “certainty”, but all you know is that you’re sorry for the state of things, and mostly… it just hurts your feet.

  23. dinoship Avatar

    Mother Gavrilia, one of the greatest orthodox missionaries of late, has some beautiful sayings on this subject.
    She loved everyone, she made everyone feel comfortable. She did not have a critical eye, nor was she always thinking, “You are wrong.” She never did that.
    She evangelised only by her presence. She was not a preacher, she was a loving person who gave the greatest lesson of all – an example, a paradigm.
    Before speaking about her faith, she waited, like a true disciple of Christ Who said, “Give to him that asketh thee”. She never just handed out Gospels, she waited to be asked.

    At one point when she was working in India at the dispensary of the ashram of Sivananda, his disciple, Chichananda, became angry in a public lecture and lost his calm. He was very sorry for this, and later said to her, “Did you hear what happened to me? Is there any book you can give me?” He was looking at her as a person who had a kind of asceticism and spirituality. He did not know this kind of Christianity. He knew the other – the active, the social, the missionary schools of other denominations. So she gave him the Philokalia. He was quite impressed, and the next thing he did was to visit Mount Athos. A Hindu monk, can you imagine?

    “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”

  24. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mark Basil,
    Your words are truly a gift. Your neighbors are blessed to know you.

  25. ecollage Avatar

    No Blessed Father, if people have ragged on you for being a convert like the Metropolitan, then I could see your point. It’s funny but those of us born into the Orthodox faith are often ragged on by converts that ours is not as true a faith as theirs. So I can understand your comment more than you realize.

  26. fatherstephen Avatar

    You’ve hit on the real truth – ego’s assault you no matter what you do. In the immortal words of the Bard (Bob Dylan):

    They’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good
    They’ll stone you just like they said they would
    They’ll stone you when you’re trying to go home
    They’ll stone you when you’re there all alone
    But I would not feel so all alone… 🙂

  27. Lovie Bearer Avatar
    Lovie Bearer

    Wow, what a photo. Never seen the grim reaper in white before!

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s from the Woody Allen film, Love and Death

  29. Karen Avatar

    Mark Basil and Dinoship, great conversation there. Your words really resonate with me.

    Thanks, Dinoship for sharing the wonderful words of St. Seraphim. I read Mother Gavrilia’s biography, too, and she is indeed a fantastic example of this.

  30. dee Avatar

    Mark Basil,
    that is the only way indeed…

  31. Martin Avatar

    “Love compels me to share in the responsibility for all that is done by those who call Jesus their Lord, here in N.A., and so I become more and more aware that I need to ask forgiveness of everyone for what “my people” have done here, in the name of my King. So much suffering at the hands of us Christians! So much damage.”

    As a former evangelical myself I am struggling with anger when I think about “So much suffering at the hands of us Christians!“ and to be honest it is very difficult for me to be loving and compassionate towards my evangelical brothers and sisters, especially those within my extended family. And I guess it is partly my ego that wants to see myself as being “right” and them as being “wrong” and to overcome this anger I will have to find my heart. But maybe those of you who converted from Protestantism could help me to avoid some mistakes, wrong attitudes towards evangelicals (and especially the charismatics) and deal with my anger in a less sinful way. I know that this is a very delicate issue, but any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Martin

  32. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Many treasures here in the comment section. I want to add one thing.

    While it is quite true that much evangelism comes from acquiring your own inner peace and simply being the church, it’s important that we not craft our lives too carefully. Perhaps you know what I mean: plan our route, choose our neighborhood, pick our associations, etc. so that there will be as little conflict as possible. On the other hand, we should not be overly steering toward conflict either.

    In fact, steering our lives at all becomes questionable – beyond what is reasonable. Proverbs 16:9 says that a man plans his way but the Lord guides his steps. If we live according to God to the best of our ability, we will inevitably be brought into situations where with our lives we are called to “answer for the hope that lives within us”, whether that include speaking or not.

    And thus it is that we need not DO anything intentional to evangelize. I guess my point here is that we not change to the other side of the road so we don’t have to deal with the broken among us, but rather imitate the good Samaritan by humbly accepting whatever God puts in our path.

    In this way God can direct us where He wills and it will be His work that we’re doing and not an agenda of our own, which is bound to fail.

  33. PJ Avatar


    I understand your frustration toward a certain segment of the evangelical world. I can endure all kinds of insults, but my blood boils when I am dismissed as an idolater. There is nothing so aggravating as being dismissed as a pseudo-Christian subject of the “Whore of Babylon.”

    There is in parts of the evangelical scene a religious temperament that is rigid, aggressive, humorless, and self-confident to an unhealthy degree. It produces legions of internet apologists whose blogs are concerned largely with bashing the faith of others. There is little to no emphasis put in love, forgiveness, mercy, and asceticism.

    I sometimes suspect that many people’s religiosity is fed almost entirely by their sense of self-righteousness. I know, because I struggle with this temptation.

    Probably, in fact, I am guilty of much of the accusations I have just lobbed … Ah well. God help me, a sinner.

  34. leonard nugent Avatar
    leonard nugent

    Markbasil, I agree with you completely, the corruption of the best IS the worst. That’s the reason that it’s vitally important for the Orthodox church to remain true to itself.

  35. markbasil Avatar

    Hi Martin;
    I struggle with this myself, as a convert. With God’s help I have made progress (though in some contexts I am still very reactive and sensitive and judgmental (like with my parents!)- realizing these thorns in the flesh humble us is helpful when I fail).
    It is very important to realize God makes no mistakes- these people who ‘bother us’ are in our life for a reason- and the reason is not for us to fix them. They are here to fix us! To humble us, teach us silence, teach us how immature we still are. They are Christ coming to us and showing we cannot see him or love him properly yet.

    I can tell you some of what helps me:
    I take very seriously my repeated statement, I am first among sinners.
    I work hard to identify with every sinner I know- realizing that it is only God’s grace that separates that man from me. (St Paul tells us even our faith is a gift from God! So what have I to boast in?)
    I also take very seriously the Orthodox understanding that sin is an illness. When I see the morally depraved- I mean really evil people- I am increasingly able to respond to these people with profound compassion. I see these giant men of violence as nothing but sick little cancerous babies. I want to hold and sooth the ailing infants. I want to find whatever I can to ease their pain and heal their festering wounds.
    Likewise, with people who “think wrongly”. This, too, I believe is an illness.
    We are a deeply moralistic culture, and that disposition is profoundly unhelpful I believe. When I encounter someone who staunchly holds to wrong belief, I do not think of him as stupid or blame him for making bad choices (though stupidity and bad choices likely play their role). Instead, I think, “I wonder what sort of internal suffering, what distortions of soul has given this person this kind of blindness?”
    Because, he is sick, not evil. Or he is evil because he is sick, to put it better.

    I think of it this way:
    Our natural state- totally natural human state- is sinless communion with the living God. We are in His image and only find satisfaction in Him. So that means every distortion- evil deeds or erroneous thoughts- are part of a brokenness and sick departure from the natural state.
    My spiritual father always taught me to worry little about my sins. He would say sins are like mushrooms- you can pluck the fungus all you like but unless you sterilize the soil they will just come back.
    Sin- and wrong belief- are symptoms of spiritual brokenness.
    With this understanding, I do the hard work of cultivating compassion for the sick and broken un-Orthodox Christians.
    (one final thing: Every distortion of faith found outside Orthodoxy is also possible- and likely even to be found- within some members who are Orthodox. The same wrong beliefs, wrong attitudes, and evil sins afflict us all. We are in the hospital, but not yet entirely transfigured into little christs.)

    I can actually share more- as this is a major part of my work as an Orthodox (how to love every neighbour). But this comment is getting long. 🙂

    All of humanity is one- my brother is my life. I must enter into his suffering and know reality from his vantage point, if I can hope to offer the right prayer, or right medicine for him.

    Please pray for me and I will do likewise.
    -Mark Basil

  36. kimfrank Avatar

    Thank you for your comments, Mark Basil. They always touch my heart online and in person. As Fr. Stephen says, we in Vancouver are blessed to have you as our neighbour.

  37. Martin Avatar

    Thank you Mark Basil. Your comments are very helpful.

  38. Karen Avatar

    Mark Basil, lovely reminders there for us all. Yes, thanks!

    Martin, I can’t really add to what Mark Basil said, but I can confirm it. This is something I still struggle to do as a convert in an Evangelical family. The key, it seems to me, is to focus on finding the place of the heart (and healing) for your own wounds–prayer of the heart. Then you won’t be so easily bothered by what others think and say because you will feel that sense of being held secure in the love of Christ. From that place of peace and security in Christ, you can reach out to love your brothers and sisters who may be doing and saying some unlovely things, and hopefully begin to see them as Mark Basil describes.

  39. Bruce Avatar

    Mark Basil…your comments reminded me of this poem I love:

    You Too Must Weep

    Let me not live a life that’s free
    From the things that draw me close to Thee—
    For how can I ever hope to heal
    The wounds of others I do not feel—
    If my eyes are dry and I never weep,
    How do I know when the hurt is deep—
    If my heart is cold and it never bleeds,
    How can I tell what my brother needs—
    When ears are deaf to the beggar’s plea
    And we close our eyes and refuse to see,
    And we steel our hearts and harden our mind,
    And we count it a weakness whenever we’re kind,
    We are no longer following The Father’s Way
    Or seeking His guidance from day to day…
    For, without “crosses to carry” and “burdens to bear,”
    We dance through a life that is frothy and fair,
    And “chasing the rainbow” we have no desire
    For “roads that are rough” and “realms that are higher”—
    So spare me no heartache or sorrow, dear Lord,
    For the heart that is hurt reaps the richest reward,
    And God enters the heart that is broken with sorrow
    As he opens the door to a Brighter Tomorrow,
    For only through tears can we recognize
    The suffering that lies in another’s eyes.

    – Author Unknown

  40. markbasil Avatar

    I like it.
    Thanks Bruce.

  41. Ileana Avatar

    Dear Father,
    in your experience as a convert, what do you think would be the best book to give to a person in order to charm her/him into the faith? I have a German friend who is a great musician, but considers himself an atheist. I want to make a gift for him, and thought of including a CD with monks from Mount Athos – music would speak for him, I am sure. I have not yet decided on a book that could act as a hook, without being too explicitly cathehetic. I don’t want to be intrusive.

    I would greatly appreciate your opinion, Father. (PLease forgive my English)

  42. fatherstephen Avatar

    My mind first races to questions of beauty. Beauty is certainly a gateway to knowledge of God and the instinct for beauty (as in a great musician) is an indication of a good heart. What God might use in drawing a soul to Him is always a mystery. These are some things that come to mind.

    A possible candidate for a book is Vigen Guroian’s The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key

    He is always a good read, and very reflective. I suspect your friend doesn’t need arguments, but simply to see some of the beauty that comes with the inner life of an Orthodox Christian.

  43. Ileana Avatar

    Beauty – an invaluable clue! Thank you, Father.

  44. Sophia Avatar

    Hello Fr. Stephen,

    I am a newcomer to your blog, as well as new to the Orthodox faith after years of study of theology. I’m also a student of psychoanalysis and so I find your reflections about neuroses and ego etc interesting.

    I am wondering, if there is a ‘true self’, then even when someone is living an ego-driven, neurotic (split), false self or ‘character disorder’ existence, then it seems to me that there is going to be suffering in this person’s life due to the discrepancy between how they are created and how they are living. Could a way to ‘evangelization’ be the work of uncovering this suffering, addressing it, and thus beginning to show what true life looks and feels (and lives) like….thus slowly removing the need for the ‘false self’ constructs? I always fall back to the letter of John ‘We love because first we were loved’. I know it is hard to love ego/false self in another, but surely the true self is showing through somewhere, even in the form of a symptom(s)?

    I am just thinking out loud and glad at a place to read and learn more.


  45. fatherstephen Avatar

    There is probably no other way than as you’ve described. Even in our disordered state (neurotic) the true self remains. I think it is often this that brings us to Christ (though we have no words for it). But we always have to take what we get – which is in pretty sad shape, often (sadder than we know sometimes). Oftimes when I’m talking with someone exploring the faith – there is something they cannot quite put their finger on – an unspeakable sense. I pay attention to this (close attention) knowing that it may indeed be a clue to their true self. Regardless, we should respect even each other’s neuroses, just not letting it take over the whole of our salvation.

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