I used to be an evangelical, Protestant Christian. Now, though I can still say with complete integrity that I am “saved by grace through faith in Christ,” there is nevertheless much more to “salvation” than juridical pardon in the eternal courtroom of heaven. This is one important reason Eastern Orthodoxy appealed to me nearly 20 years ago.
As I studied the life and work of John Wesley, the mothers and fathers of the Church, as well as Medieval saints and mystics, it dawned on me then that the modern/post-modern, conservative, evangelical expression(s) of the Christian faith is spiritually and intellectually distorted and woefully inadequate in practical, day-to-day value… And so began my journey.
I used to be an unashamed, unapologetic, political conservative. Now, however, I am moderately progressive. Yes, I still believe in business and the right to profit. No, I have no desire to trample on free enterprise and economics. But, yes, I have come to believe that society as a whole has an obligation to its poorest, disenfranchised members.
As I met people from different parts of our country and the world, listened to them and became acquainted with their personal narratives; as I saw with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, and to an extent personally experienced the plight of the masses of people struggling day-to-day and week-to-week, the reality of unjust inequities became impossible to ignore.
I used to be a man who wanted to be “the man.” Now, though, I am someone who is thankful to be the unique person God created, with unique gifts and abilities and perspectives, and my own special contribution to make in this life in this world. I am not ashamed to say I’m not “the man;” rather, I am a whole person – mind, body and soul – and worthy of love and respect.
As I struggled with loneliness following my divorce, and sometimes painful efforts to cultivate new relationships, it became increasingly apparent that for most of my life I’ve waged a war on who and what I am, fighting to fit into what might appropriately be called the contemporary, Hollywood-American stereotype of masculinity. I am not this man. I cannot be this man.
I used to be overly concerned with the opinions of others and, consequently, hyper-sensitive. I desperately needed the approbation of others, and allowed my own self-worth to hinge upon some perceived notion of acceptance and approval. Now I am free to love people and value their opinions without falling apart just because I don’t happen to have their admiration.
As I began to see with eyes wide open just how imperfect and so often confused and insecure most people really are, I began to understand that others need my love, encouragement and support as much as I need theirs. This important fact alone puts me on equal footing with every other flesh-and-blood human being.
I used to be dogmatic about almost everything, it seems. Now, however, I hold my opinions and beliefs openhandedly, realizing that, after all, I may be wrong and that if I am, it’s far easier to let go when I’m not tenaciously clinging to what has been proven to be erroneous as if it’s some sort of life-preserver saving me from drowning.
As I learned more about various valid approaches to understanding life and the world, it also became ever more evident that the dogmatist may be the most fearful, self-doubting person of all; that dogmatism may be little more than an attempt to make mystery sensible and give seemingly certain answers to often very frightening and ultimately unanswerable questions.
I have changed. I am changing. What I used to be is very much part of who I am today, but who I am today is quite different in significant ways from who I used to be. And this can be alarming and, yes, it scares me sometimes… But life really is a journey – a journey marked by pivotal moments and transformations – so I think I’ll continue the trek and pray, hope and believe for the best; after all, I used to believe the best is yet to come… I still do!