A Complicated Faith

london-rain-02“It’s complicated.”

This statement sums up much of the modern experience. I do not think the world we encounter is actually complicated – but our experience is. Simplicity is the reflection of an inner world free of conflicts and undercurrents. The truth of the modern inner-world is that it is generally pulled in many directions.

Modernity is a juncture in history – a place where many rivers meet to form one raging torrent. The stream of history meets a stream that distrusts the past. The stream of religion meets the stream of science. The stream of affluence meets the stream of ever-present poverty. We live as though we are trapped in a spider’s web – not drawn to one direction – but drawn to all.

And so the world seems complicated.

Kierkegaard wrote that “purity of heart is to will one thing.” But we don’t will one thing. We will everything, regardless of the contradictions. Alasdair MacIntyre offered a work, reflecting on the competing visions of good in the modern world: Whose Justice, Which Rationality? We do not agree with one another because we don’t even agree with ourselves.

This makes faith in God very difficult. Faith is not a matter of “belief,” an act of intellectual willing. Faith is a perception of things that do not necessarily appear obvious. In the language of Scripture – “faith is the evidence of things not seen.” But the perception of faith is similar to the perception of objects beneath the surface of a lake. If the surface is disturbed, the objects disappear. The objects do not go away – but we can no longer perceive them.

In a world of manifold complication – the surface of the water is rarely still.

The journey of faith thus becomes a movement away from complication. In the Christian tradition, many have sought the stillness of the desert, the absence of distraction, as a means to spiritual perception.

The Orthodox faith has generally held to this tradition of stillness. To the seeker who wants to know the “truth” of Orthodoxy, the advice given is usually, “Come and see.” The noise of argument and the cacophony of comparison are not the place of discovery.

I have always been struck by Met. Kallistos (Timothy) Ware’s story of his first encounter with Orthodoxy. Though he is a great scholar, he did not find Orthodoxy in books. He found it in a street in London. He tells of walking in London one summer afternoon (in 1952) and going inside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. It seems to have happened rather by chance than design. In the dim light of the early evening, the hushed tones of the Cathedral choir offered the hymns of Orthodox Vespers. His initial impression, he says, was that the Church was entirely empty. But in time, he adds, he realized quite the opposite. The Church was completely full, with “invisible worshippers.” He stayed rather longer than he intended – until he stayed for his whole life.

C.S. Lewis told of his acceptance of the existence of God occurring on a bus ride in Oxford. He had engaged in long conversations and arguments with his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien (and, doubtless, even longer arguments with himself). But it was only a bus ride, an occasion where we usually lapse into a numbed silence, that the existence of God became a clear perception for him. He got on the bus an atheist and got off a believer. He had no sense of having made a decision.

Not everyone dashes into a Church at just the right moment, or gets on the right bus at the right time. But it is possible to understand that sometimes – more information is not a solution. Less noise and a quiet mind are more to the point.

Suggestions for the complicated:

1. Quit caring so much. The world does not depend on you getting the right answer to life’s questions. Answers often come when we learn to wait patiently for them.

2. Quit comparison shopping. Truth is not a commodity. You don’t want the “better” one. You want the right one.

3. Quit thinking so much. If thinking would solve the problem and make things less complicated, you’d be through by now.

4. Look for beauty. Beauty doesn’t make us think so much as it makes the heart a better listener.

5. Take some time off – from as much as you can.

6. Get some sleep.

7. Give away money. At least someone will benefit by this discipline.

8. Sing (beautiful things). The part of your brain that sings is much more closely wired to your heart than the part that thinks.

9. Ride a bus. Worked for C.S. Lewis…

10. Go inside a Church. Worked for Kallistos Ware…



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.



59 responses to “A Complicated Faith”

  1. Micah Avatar

    Brilliant post Father. In my first encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy, three priests appeared to me in a vivid dream, one of whom offered me the Eucharist, and nothing and I mean absolutely nothing (nada, zilch) has been the same since :).

  2. Rhonda Avatar

    “The journey of faith thus becomes a movement away from complication.” Yes…& thank you for the reminder! As well as the 10 suggestions 🙂 Beautiful as usual, Father.

  3. Karen Avatar

    Very wise advice. Thank you, Father.

  4. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    I love this! (I haven’t ridden on a bus in a very long time…an intriguing suggestion.)

  5. Perry Lee Avatar
    Perry Lee


  6. […] Stephen Freeman, who I haven’t channeled in a while, has an uncommonly accessible blog Monday […]

  7. dinoship Avatar

    Father Stephen,
    what an outstanding post!
    It also happens to be very ‘British’ for some reason
    Far more importantly, it is full of applicable advise to all of us here, and very, very insightful…
    Thank you Father!

  8. Henry Avatar

    Father Stephen

    How is this substantially different from Mormon stories of a “burning in the bosom” or the Buddha’s challenge to just try what he teaches then embrace what is good?

    I have found time off and sleep will almost always lead to better decisions.


  9. dinoship Avatar

    (“How is this substantially different from Mormon stories of a “burning in the bosom” or the Buddha’s challenge to just try what he teaches then embrace what is good?”)

    Quit comparison shopping. Truth is not a commodity. You don’t want the “better” one. You want the right one.

    At the risk of sounding overconfident in my faith, I would say that those who truly seek God rather than their own justification, ALWAYS (even after an adventurous period perhaps) eventually gravitate towards Christ and Christ gravitates towards them.
    There is a most significance, yet sometimes hidden from most eyes, difference in the motives for gravitating towards other ‘systems’ or properly following the Cross

  10. dinoship Avatar

    There is a most significant, yet sometimes hidden from most eyes,
    difference in the motives for gravitating towards other ‘systems’,
    or properly following the Cross

  11. fatherstephen Avatar

    I don’t know much about Buddhism but trying something and embracing what is good is not terribly bad advice. Mormonism is full of demons and delusion. Henry, you might note that I didn’t say, “Do this and you’ll find God.” Just some advice about relaxing a bit in the search and turning down the noise. Has to be at least as effective as getting bent out of shape over something.

  12. Dan Avatar

    Father, I have a concern with suggestion #1. I am an agnostic, looking for truth. I have studied with a sense of urgency for about 10 years. I am starting to develop a more quiet patience now, having found that reading and meditating has not brought me the assurance of faith I have sought. I am at a point in my life where I am waiting. I still think about spiritual things, but I do so with a anticipation that I will not find the truth in this life, unless God takes some direct action to lay it before me in a way that is clear to me. Anyway, that’s all background, but it lays the groundwork for my concern. My concern is that many world religion, including Christianity, do not really accomidate this kind of patience toward God and truth. Many Christians believe that unless you take a certain action or profess a certain belief before you die, you are destined to eternal seperation from God. Considering any one of us could die at any moment, waiting for God to reveal himself is a dangerous luxury. Those of us who do not know the truth must frantically seek it before the clock runs out. I personally have responded to this conudrum with a developing faith that salvation is available to people after death. And in fact is available for all eternity. That God will welcome those who find and choose him any time from the moment of their birth to the end of eternity. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts whether salvation requires meeting some objective in this life, and how that relates to the patient stillness you talked about in this article.

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    Very good question – and an accurate observation about many modern Christians’ anxiety over this life. These are mostly Protestant Christians who have a theological perspective that seems strange to Orthodox Christianity. They worry over meeting certain requirements and seem to believe in a God who will do bad things to you if you fail to meet those requirements in this lifetime.

    Orthodox Christianity, the oldest form of Christianity, is not so anxious. We believe that God is good and that He loves us – He has no desire whatsoever to destroy or punish us. Our “salvation” is our healing from the damage done within us by sin. We understand sin to be our alienation from God – a life-path towards death. God desires life for us – and He alone is the Lord and Giver of life.

    But because God cares more for us than we do for ourselves – we should not be so anxious – as if He were waiting for us to pass a test.

    Your own hunger and search are a gift from God. But, as I noted in the article, we find ourselves at the junction of so many rivers – so much “soul-noise” that it’s often hard to come to a knowledge of the Truth. God is patient and kind. Your thoughts:

    Those of us who do not know the truth must frantically seek it before the clock runs out. I personally have responded to this conudrum with a developing faith that salvation is available to people after death. And in fact is available for all eternity. That God will welcome those who find and choose him any time from the moment of their birth to the end of eternity. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts whether salvation requires meeting some objective in this life, and how that relates to the patient stillness you talked about in this article

    I tend to think about this in a similar manner. I cannot begin to speculate on the “mechanics” of this – that is known to God alone. But I know that He is not trying to make our salvation hard for us. In Protestant thought – I would think that an increasing number of people would be excluded from the Kingdom.

    I would encourage to look at the 10 suggestions. The last one – go inside a Church – I would recommend it be an Orthodox Church. If you do, you’ll likely see why. No one will try to “convert” you – but will be glad to answer questions.


  14. Nick D Avatar
    Nick D

    The bus is a great metaphor. But I seem to recall that Lewis was riding in a motorcycle sidecar when the conversion came. Please correct me if my memory is faulty on this (I don’t have Surprised by Joy right at hand…). Thanks as always, Fr. Stephen for your posts.

  15. fatherstephen Avatar

    Don’t have it handy either – but it’s hard to imagine Lewis in sidecar.

  16. Matt Beaver Avatar
    Matt Beaver

    It was a sidecar. His brother was driving.

  17. EPG Avatar

    Fr. Stephen —

    Thank you very much for this post, which comes at an opportune moment. I especially appreciated #’s 3 and 4, as I have long tended to over-think things. It is time to learn to wait a little more patiently, and stop trying to figure everything out.

    Best wishes.

  18. Marjaana Avatar

    Lewis was on the bus when he started to believe in God. He was in the sidecar when he began to believe in Christ.

  19. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thanks! At age 59, moments when you think you remember something only to be told you’re wrong are all too common. I was sure there was a bus involved. Had not remembered the sidecar story. Thanks for restoring my sanity.

  20. Elizabeth Avatar

    Father, this reminds me somewhat of John Piper’s wonderfully spiritual “10 Resolutions for Mental Health,”
    ( http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/10-resolutions-for-mental-health–2 )

    especially these:

    “I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work. ”


    “I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the “child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder.”

  21. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dan & Fr. Stephen. I think a point of Met. Kallistos experience to remember: the church was full even though it did not appear to be at first.

    The path to God and Jesus Christ is not as lonely and barren as Protestant theology, IMO, makes it seem. We are called to God as discreet persons, but as part of that we are called to community: to share life and bear one another’s burdens; to heal and be healed. The community to which we are called is both seen and unseen, human and divine at the same time without mixture or confusion.

    Even after a personal and undeniable experience with Jesus Christ, it took me about 20 years before I walked through the doors of an Orthodox Church and found Him waiting for me. I tried quite a few other doors in the interveening years and often found something, a bit here a piece there, but not the fullness. Twenty-six years later it is still overwhelming at times walking in those doors. When I allow it to be.

    Yes, Dan, walk into an Orthodox Church for Vespers or Divine Liturgy or an Orthodox funeral (quite unlike any other you have attended) and open your mind and heart to possibility. Listen with as much quiet as you can. Just listen.

    The veil between the seen and the unseen, the human and divine can be quite diaphanous during those times especially to a receptive heart.

  22. fatherstephen Avatar

    I so much agree. Sometimes I grow weary with the thought “I believe.” First, it’s about me. Second, it’s too often about thinking. I have grown to love being in the altar and serving above everything else. I tend to hear the entrance prayers in a very allegorical manner, reminding me of where the true battle lies:

    Psalm 5
    I will enter Thy house, I will worship toward Thy holy temple in the fear of Thee. I will enter the place of the heart and turn all my attention to Thee.
    Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make my way straight before Thee. For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue. Lead me, Lord, for my thoughts (logismoi) taunt me and suggest evil and lies. But their way is an open tomb. I will not believe them.
    For Thou blessest the righteous, O Lord, Thou coverest us with good will as with a shield. God is on the side of my heart.

    Just being with God – not thinking a lot – is the greatest blessing. Worship, quite simply.

  23. Andrew C Avatar
    Andrew C

    10 excellent tips. FWIW, I was on a walk in the Hertfordshire countryside around my parental home and read: “Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears, yea thou hast given them plenteousness of tears to drink” (Ps 85) which rather summed me up at the time.

  24. Micah Avatar

    Dan, if you can learn to correctly divide the sacred from the profane, the kingdom will open wide its narrow door, when you least expect it.

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Micah, the point is that with God there is no profane. Their is darkness and death but in His presence everything and everyone can be transfigured so that it or us is sacred. “Thine own of thine own we offer unto Thee…..”

  26. Micah Avatar

    “Micah, the point is that with God there is no profane. There is darkness and death but in His presence everything and everyone can be transfigured so that it or us is sacred.”

    In the Parousia, absolutely!

    One cannot help but note that this conversation is being shaped by secular terminology (as opposed to Eucharistic) and that therefore, necessary distinctions must be made, lest truth be mixed with untruth. Forgive me if this causes offence. None is intended.

  27. Chocolatesa Avatar

    ROFL! “ride a bus… worked for C.S. Lewis…”

  28. dinoship Avatar

    Dan’s words reminded me of the advise of Elder Paisios to similar words:
    Adopt trust in God’s (the God you might not yet know) providence for you – but, trust is not expectation… (A subtle yet, key point)
    “If God allows something to befall us – (even our “freely chosen falls” are part of this paradoxically) – He has foreseen that something good for us will come out of this. Otherwise He would not have allowed it. This is obviously beyond secular, time-bound Man’s rational understanding. Therefore, the trusting person becomes fearless in his positivity concerning the eventual outcome of any situation – no matter how difficult; concerning himself or others…

  29. Micah Avatar

    Chocolatesa says:

    January 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    ROFL! “ride a bus… worked for C.S. Lewis…”

    No need to reinvent the wheel. Christ is present in the Eucharist, the “medicine of immortality” — St Ignatius.

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Micah, I am very hard to offend and you certainly did not, but since I often state things unequivocably, I can offend others. I trust that was not the case with you.

    The problem in all this is words and ideas since no two experiences of God are ever the same and our ability to express those experiences quite limited. Even the same word in a slightly different context can have radically different meanings and that is just within English. Add in the difficulties of electronic media and charity becomes an absolutely necessary discipline.

  31. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, and yet belief is a necessary ingredient. Perhaps we need to simplify our beliefs and rely on God’s grace more: “I believe, help thou mine unbelief”?

    Two events really struck me this week. A marvellous sermon from my priest on Sunday on acquiring a heart of mercy followed by a funeral last night which, to me, was a perfect example of the sermon and a wonderful demonstration of the life and fullness of our community.

    I am so reassured and challenged by our funerals. I still remember the antinomical experience of my late wife’s funeral: utter sadness and grief combined with utter certainty of the resurrection and the peace of God. There are times when I still weep, 7 years later, with the same combined sadness and joy.

    The intense presence at last night’s funeral was just the most recent example of how full the church can be even when not very many people seem to be present.

    Psalm 118, esp the last verse: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be rejoice and be glad in it” has become quite important to me.

  32. fatherstephen Avatar

    The phrase from the fathers, “Joyful Sorrow,” comes to mind. The same irony is found in the icon of the Crucifixion, in which the sign affixed to the Cross says, “The King of Glory.”

    Yet even at the grave we make our funeral dirge the song, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

  33. Micah Avatar

    Michael, thank you for making the points you did. This caused me to reevaluate my own deeply held convictions on matters raised by other commentators. I am in full agreement with the points you raised.

    It is in continuous self-emptying that we find peace and as you suggest, true charity.

    You cannot even begin to imagine how helpful Fr. Stephen’s work has been to me these past 5 years.

    If I may also add, thanks for pointing to Ps 118. It’s quite the Psalm for all seasons. May you and your loved ones be comforted!

  34. Margaret Avatar

    When I was 9 years old and very terrible, tragic (death, insanity) things happened in our family, my mother drove me to school each morning and before I got out of the car she would say “This is the day that the Lord has made” and I would respond “I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

    There were several weeks and months that I was reluctant to say those words, but she prevailed in loving insistance as only a mother can do and — what can I say — the repetition of truth, of God’s word, to the broken hearted: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (From 40 years out) 🙂

  35. Micah Avatar

    A full Psalm indeed! 🙂

  36. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Dan & others,

    You may already be familiar with this prayer by Thomas Merton (RC monk not Orthodox) but I have often found it quite helpful when I am aware that I don’t know what I’m doing or feel unsure about what I believe. (Even if you are not sure that you believe in God, it’s a nice prayer to say to the God who might be…We don’t have to wait until we are sure there is a God to pray.)

    “MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

  37. Micah Avatar

    A truly delightful prayer Mary. It is the nature of the God Who Truly Is, to accept whatever is laid up before Him:

    I have picked a handful of wheat out of a field of tares, accept even a single kernel of wheat out of my handful and You will make me happy. From a single kernel You can bake bread, enough for nations. Accept my mite, O Son Who Resurrects, accept and do not reject the mite of a pauper.
    St. Nicolai of Zicha

    From a single kernel He can bake bread, enough for nations.

  38. David Brent Avatar
    David Brent

    Father Stephen,

    Sometimes when I read your posts I get the feeling that you are talking directly to me. I have been reading a plethora of blogs pertaining to the Orthodox life, reading the Church Fathers, listening to Ancient Faith Radio, reading books about Orthodoxy, reading, reading, studying, studying, comparing, and comparing, . . . and wearing my mind out thinking and thinking and thinking about what to do. “Should I stay where I am . . . or do I let go and walk with the Orthodox?” It seems complicated. But maybe it’s not. I was told to take it slow, so I have. But in the meantime, I’ve worn myself out. I’m tired of thinking and comparing.

    I welcome your advice. I will try the 10 points as a way to find simplicity so I can see more clearly . . . except I’m not quite sure about riding a bus. I don’t have opportunities to ride buses in my normal life routine. Something else will present itself.

    I have to admit that I have been afraid to “come and see.” I already know that when I do walk into an Orthodox church that I will be at home. I think this fear is driven by my wanting a prepared fool proof action plan on how to go about transitioning my family to Orthodoxy with me before I ever do “go and see.” Do I sound like an accountant? There is a reason.

    While writing all this, it has just occurred to me that I am not going to have a prepared fool proof action plan before I come and see. I was hoping to spare myself the anxiety of what to do by having it all figured out ahead of time . . . but all I have ended up with is anxiety. Lots of it.

  39. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have far more sympathy for your situation than you might imagine. I “knew” the truth of Orthodoxy for over twenty years before converting. For many of those years, I had misunderstandings about its “ethnic” issues and thought there would be no place for me (and thus I continued as an Anglican priest). But about 7 years before I converted it became obvious that conversion was the only option.

    But before that, I recall being in Washington, DC one weekend with my wife. We drove past St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral on Saturday afternoon. The windows were open and you could hear the music of Great Vespers inside (it was before the Cathedral was air-conditioned). My wife said, “Oh, there’s a service going on, let’s stop and go inside.” I said to her, “I’m afraid that if I go in, I will never come out.” It was a very honest statement.

    The first time I set foot in the Cathedral was in about 5 or 6 years ago, well after I was an Orthodox priest. I concelebrated the liturgy and preached. I related the story of my first “non-visit” to the Cathedral in my sermon, and said, “Thank God. Now I never have to leave.”

    The feelings you describe are the intimations of your heart. The struggle, I suspect, is two-fold. First is to increasingly allow yourself to pay attention to your heart – to listen to it – it comes without judging, comparing, etc. It is a point of stillness – not thinking about past or future. It’s not always very easy to do this. The second, is to trust God. You are entirely correct that there will be no fool-proof action plan. There are no such plans for anything. But there is God. He is the fool-proof action plan. Things will appear to go “wrong” and some things will appear to go “right” but the truth is that “all things work together for good…”

    There were miracles that followed my family’s conversion – financial assistance that I could never have imagined or planned (for example). Many such things. Even small things that were “signs” that we were doing the right thing. Things that made us laugh.

    There were also many, many hard things. None of which were problems I would have imagined. For several years I was quite resentful about some of these. In this last year, particularly, I have come to see that the very things I resented were for my salvation. They revealed problems deep within me that I would not have known had these things not happened. Knowing those things, and being given the spiritual means to address them has brought me greater joy and peace than I have ever known. There really is a God and He’s working this stuff out.

    I have said any number of times that the hardest thing about becoming Orthodox was believing that there really was a God. Apart from theology, etc., the plain and simple question was whether I actually believed there was a God and that any of this mattered to Him. I could have remained quite comfortable in my former position, dancing around the question and deluding myself with God-talk.

    My conversion to Orthodoxy was, in a very deep way, my conversion to a belief in a true and living God. I am deeply grateful that such an opportunity was available for me in my life. It doesn’t have to be like this for everyone – our issues are all very different. But the issue of a true and living God, a God who knows the number of the hairs on our head (and cares about it), is universal.

    I will say prayers for you – and am glad to be of any help to a fellow pilgrim.

    Oh, and on the anxiety thing – mine went into full-blown panic attacks. God can take care of those, too.

  40. Rhonda Avatar

    “…fool-proof action plan…accountant…” LOL! My undergrad degree is Bus. Admin in Finance & Accounting, so I fully understand 😉

    Also as one whose family has still not “transitioned” to Orthodoxy after 10 years, I can only say this: work out your own salvation & let God work out that of your family members.

  41. Anonymous Avatar

    David and Father, thank you for sharing your journeys.

    David, five plus years into being Orthodox (and almost double that when God jump-started that journey), my family is still not Orthodox. There has been incredible personal and marital growth and grace at work in my family that I know would not be the case if I had not gently persisted in asking my husband if I could become Orthodox. He, having more your temperament as you describe it in your comment (anxiety around the desire for planning/order), a background in which there was some serious spiritual abuse, and zero interest in Orthodoxy (he and our kids are still quite happy in the Evangelical church I left), was terrified that my Orthodoxy would drive us apart and I would end up leaving him. That fear is absurd if you know me, but it was a powerful thing. Thank God it was overcome.

    Now, down the road we have found a great Orthodox parish where we all feel welcomed and loved (wonderful Priests), and we have a rhythm of attending one another’s churches every other Sunday (or so). Our kids have adjusted well. I would never want to give the impression that it was easy. The transition for the few years coming up to my being received into the Church and for over a year and a half afterwards was an INTENSE trial and struggle (not without joys, but with lots of pain as well). I think I know from where and why those struggles came–in fact, I took it as a sign I had, indeed, found the fullness of the truth and grace and “somebody” wasn’t liking that a whole lot! 🙂 Some of what happened, as with Fr. Stephen, was so painful and difficult it nearly undid me completely, but I also recognize it was for my salvation and healing in that it exposed some things in me that needed healing. God is good. He is faithful. I’ll pray, too, for you and your family, and that you’ll be able to relax a little following Fr. Stephen’s advice.

  42. PJ Avatar


    I can relate to the marital anxiety. My wife grew up in a secular household, and so Catholicism and Christianity are synonymous to her. As our shared faith in Christ is the foundation of our marriage, she naturally views my exploration of Orthodoxy with great trepidation, and perhaps a hint of betrayal.

  43. […] A Complicated Faith – Glory to God For All Things (OX) […]

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    PJ, in my experience, there’s no substitute for patience and love with the others in our lives (and God can help us with both). God grant both you and your wife peace!

  45. TLO Avatar


    Father, I have a concern with suggestion #1.

    1. Quit caring so much. The world does not depend on you getting the right answer to life’s questions. Answers often come when we learn to wait patiently for them.

    I am an agnostic, looking for truth. I have studied with a sense of urgency for about 10 years.

    I am agnostic as well but not quite so urgent as you in studying.

    When I think on this, two things spring to mind.

    The first is that when I was in school, not much about algebra made sense to me at first. Yet my teacher instructed me to do things a certain way. It was not until much later that I began to see a fuller picture of things and those things that perplexed me at first suddenly made sense once I understood the context.

    I think much of what you and I seek is not the sort of thing that can be found by looking for it in books. Rather, like those earlier equations, we know that there are certain things we should do in our lives and certain things that we should not. I suspect that in time doing the right thing will lead to understanding a broader context and that the Truth we seek will be revealed in a quiet moment of “Oh.” I don’t think that truth ever announces itself with “Eureka!” The depth of the silent realization seems to me the most likely outcome.

    The second is this. I have been thinking of a passage in the book “Robert Falconer”by George Macdonald:

    What is this will of God of which Jesus speaks?…

    In trying to understand the words of Jesus by searching back, as it were, for such thoughts and feelings in him as would account for the words he spoke, the perception awoke that at least he could not have meant by the will of God any such theological utterances as those which troubled him. Next it grew plain that what he (Christ) came to do, was just to lead his life. That he should do the work, such as recorded, and much besides, that the Father gave him to do—this was the will of God concerning him. With this perception arose the conviction that unto every man whom God had sent into the world, he had given a work to do in that world. He had to lead the life God meant him to lead. The will of God was to be found and done in the world. In seeking a true relation to the world, would he find his relation to God?

    I don’t know the answer to that question but I think we cannot be too disappointed if we do what it is that is in our hearts to do even if we never come to know god.

  46. David Brent Avatar
    David Brent

    Father Stephen,

    You are a great blessing in my life. I suspect that one day I will be a part of an Orthodox parish. I hope the priest who serves there will be the priest God wants to shepherd me and my family.

    But until then . . . I sense that you are the one shepherding me. Not the elders at my current church. No . . . it’s you. I have had this sense for about a year. Your words have given me more direction than I have ever received from a man. Your excellent posts and the replies to my posts are priceless. As far as shepherds go, you are all I have. And I consider myself blessed. I am in your debt. I will never be able to repay you for what you have done for me. I’m singing today. Can you hear me singing?

  47. David Brent Avatar
    David Brent

    Thank you Anonymous. I appreciate your prayers.

  48. Suzy Avatar

    There is a beautiful sense of simple clarity in this post.

  49. davidp Avatar

    The journey of faith…recently I came across AFR podcast and the speaker talked abit about the “Deutronomistic” history. The bible is the history of salvation and faith in God. The bible is truthful about the human condition and it does not skim on the sins of the people…the murder, rape, lust, etc.. The roller coaster ride of the ancient Hebrew people going from belief in God and then, at times, idolatry. Up and down in their history.

    Then, Christ came! I believe that is a thin line from Adam to Christ(the Second Adam) who completed what Adam failed to do. I.E., the ancients saw this up and downs of the human condition and longed for a better man to come along.

  50. TLO Avatar

    the ancients saw these ups and downs of the human condition and longed for a better man to come along.

    And has man become any better?

  51. Micah Avatar

    TLO says:

    And has man become any better?

    If I may John, this is entirely the wrong question (a) because it is sounds presumptious (who are we to ask this) and (b) because it leads precisely nowhere. The question we may ask is this:

    Am I truly alive?

    No offence is meant.

  52. Brian Avatar


    One Man has – only one, the One to whom we hitch our wretched selves in hope.

  53. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    John you question follows naturally from Davidp’s statement but I think he has it wrong. It is about life and being able to have it abundantly. The fact that few choose life does not negate its existence.

  54. Karen Avatar

    Michael, I like that clarification–thanks. Good questions, TLO.

  55. davidp Avatar

    Perhaps I should have written…God/man.

  56. Mary Holste Avatar

    Insightful and beautifully written. Thank you.

  57. Rachel Avatar

    “Beauty doesn’t make us think so much as it makes the heart a better listener.”

    Yes. Just yes. And thank you 🙂

  58. David Brent Avatar
    David Brent

    Fr. Stephen —

    I did it. My family was out of town, and a window of opportunity was granted to me. I made my first visit to attend the services of the local Antiochian Orthodox Church. This church is new. A priest has not yet been assigned, so priests and deacons from Austin are stepping in. They don’t have their own building yet. I would have preferred an church within the OCA, but there is not one in my area. Dallas is an hour and a half away.

    I hated it when the service ended. I would have stayed all night. I knew the next window of opportunity might be far off.

    I arrived late but not on purpose. It took me a while to figure out what building they were in. The group was small so I stood out. I am so glad I went. They were having a meal afterwards, and I was invited to stay. I was so warmly greeted and gentley treated. The reader and his wife, the deacon from Austin and another gentleman ate with me. I felt welcomed and at home. It was a blessing.

    I can’t wait to go back. I’m hoping a window will present itself soon.

    That you for helping me be acquainted with life lived as an
    Orthodox Christian and for your prayers.

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