The Ancient Way: My discovery of Orthodox Christianity

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Foundations

For all intensive purposes, I have been a Christian all my life. God was a mainstay in the home of my youth, propagated by the faith and good intentions of my mother. My childhood was full of church attendance, a home full of music, and fellowship with friends. We were a military family, my father having served for over twenty years in the United States Army. No matter where we were, the US or overseas, there was always church to attend and new friends to be made. We were Protestant, in the way that only Evangelical, Non-denominational  folks can appreciate. No tradition per say, but lots of love, music, and service in the community and abroad.

I am thankful for that. It set the stage for my life, the good and the bad. It made me who I am.

In my youth, I was active in church, mostly with youth programs. My parents encouraged my zeal, which is pretty amazing considering my father is an agnostic. They were always forking out money to fund my forays into missions in Romania or around the corner, youth camping trips, donation drives and the like. We had no expendable income back then, so it is evident that God blessed my family greatly in response to their generosity.  I made a lot of friends, traveled extensively, and learned more about the world than any young person could hope for. I also saw the power of faith in Christ, and what it means to people from all walks of life. I witnessed things I still do not understand. It was life forming.

When I left home, things changed immensely, as they always do during the coming of age in a man’s life. I had one issue after another, but my faith was not shaken until I had some terrible relationships with some church folk. Failed relationships, a failed marriage, a half hearted attempt at a career in law enforcement, an empty search for my roots via my biological father, and financial ruin. In my “independence”, I ignored advice given in love from my family.

I was heart broken, lost…and I went rouge.

I spent most of my adult life studying philosophy and other religions, including the “absence of faith”. None of it held water, and none of it healed the hole in my heart. I didn’t give up entirely, but I was certainly dormant for many, many years.

Fortunately, about two years ago, I began rekindling that light in my life. During the work of reclaiming my faith, I received the news that my second wife, Lynde, was with child. Wow, talk about a paradigm shift! I knew from that moment that my kids deserved something more from me. A real foundation  that connected them back with the creator of life and love, centered in God, family, and tribe. Just going through the motions and being a good person was not enough. I had to do a better job. It was a stern and pure motivation…but how? I didn’t even know how to find God myself…

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A Search Renewed

I found a place to talk to other men like me on the vast world of the internet forum universe. I had also begun to take protecting my family very seriously and had started training in firearms and self defense for that purpose. Not just training, but rather, living a different way…with vigilance and dedication (hence the name of this blog…my moniker on the forum). The place is called Warrior Talk. I chose it first because the quality of training and information to be found there, as well as the people. Their research into interpersonal conflict, violence, and combatives is unrivaled anywhere else. During my initial fact finding sessions, I can across a sub-forum there called “Christian Warrior”.  Imagine my surprise! Here are hardened men from all walks discussing God, Christianity, and everything else related to life. Special forces, clandestine operations, police officers, corrections officers, teachers, pastors, accountants, attorneys, and Average Joe’s like me.

Finally. A place where serious, hard, and dangerous men talk about Christ. We need more of these. The Christian community does its poorest work with men like those I found there, and it is unfortunate. They answer a call that few do, in service of others, and the church doesn’t work hard enough to understand them or how to help them in their walk…again a subject for another time. My purpose for bringing this up is simply to give you the catalyst for my new search. I needed to find a way to service my spirituality and ALL of my roles as a husband and father. Warrior Talk made the connections possible and helped me figure out the seeds God planted in me with my personality, strengths, and weaknesses. God saved my life with Warrior Talk, both physically and spiritually. It is there that I was exposed to The Ancient Church for the first time.

Pastors, laymen, and good advice

On WT (the affectionate term for Warrior Talk), I met a few pastors. One in particular, named Steve, took the extra time to discuss matters of faith off line with me, and has become a good friend. Steve is a Lutheran minister, but his honesty and genuine love for brothers in faith encouraged my desire to try Catholicism, since I had not done so all ready, and had many friends and family who were members of the Roman Catholic Church. In short, I did just that, and found some things that I had been missing in my personal walk with God. I was attracted to the structure and tradition, as well as the uniformity in how everyone worshiped. It is a very foreign idea to someone with my background in non-denominational congregations.

I began attending classes at my local parish and generally enjoyed the learning process. But, I still found it “wanting” for lack of a better term. Steve counseled me along the way, and encouraged me to post about my experiences in Christian Warrior. In those threads, I met Al. Al’s posts were dripping with a certain wisdom and point of view that matched my own, and I found myself searching through his posts looking for tidbits to feed my hunger. I discovered, to my surprise, that Al is Eastern Orthodox, a faith I knew nothing about. In my decade of research, I had never so much as cracked a book pertaining to Christian Orthodoxy, likely from a predisposed bias, or just plain ignorance. I really didn’t know what it was, and assumed it was some sort of Judaism, a cult, or some or incarnation of Christianity that held nothing new for me.

I was way off.

Father Rade

I began reading in earnest, anything I could find on the Eastern Orthodox Church. Books, articles, websites, podcasts, you name it. I reveled in what I found. The history. The connection to the Apostles. The survival for millennia. The lack of change during such a long period of time, and its resilience in oppression from Islam, empires, and Communism. Then there was the fact that all Christianity has its root there.

Quite impressive.

I made a decision that if there was an Orthodox church nearby, I would try it out. I live in a town of 26,000 people, mind you, so it was a pretty safe bet that I wouldn’t have to leave my comfort zone. So I hit Google without much hope or resignation. Well, I’ll be…there is one 5 minutes from my house…in this tiny rural community. Divine providence. No other way to put it.

“OK,” I told myself. I will call this priest guy and see what he has to say. Again my skepticism rooting for the fulfillment of all my doubts. No dice. Father Rade, was unexpected to say the least. More than vestments and doctrine, the guy was, well, a guy. Humorous, understanding, wise, and generous with his time. A man’s man to boot. Our conversations were very candid, and there were several.

“Come,” he told me, “you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

I quickly imparted that I wasn’t ready for that. Refusing to give up, Father Rade invited me to Bible study on Tuesday nights. We had found what I likened to a level playing field. A place where I could ask my questions and he could teach. Man to man across the table from one another. Little did I know it would fundamentally change my life.

Father Rade knew.

The truth is inescapable. And the truth was there in spades. I was overcome with emotion at the simple discoveries I made those first few weeks. What is salvation? What is our relationship with the Trinity really about? How is it healed? How does God want us to worship Him? What is the Church? What is its role? On and on.

After the first few Bible studies, I knew something about this church was different and I decided to go to a service the following Sunday. The rest of the story can be summed up in one sentence…

I simply could not stop going.

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2 Responses to “The Ancient Way: My discovery of Orthodox Christianity”

  1. Thank you for this Eric.

  2. girlsings Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your journey Eric.

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