I went to my first real experience of the Eastern Orthodox church with a very tight-squeezed mind. I guess what I mean by that is I had a mind chock full of wondermental ideas. The best of what I enjoyed about belief was jammed in there, and so it ought to have been a very joyful space. To some degree it was.

I had spent minutes upon hours upon days, weeks, and years reviewing what I learned in my experience of being a Protestant Christian to the max. Waking at night, I would “meditate on” the things I read and studied in the Bible and on their implications for everything in my life (and in everyone else’s life). I loved doing this, don’t get me wrong. I read, wrote, and blogged about my view of God. I aspired to be a philosopher of the Bible.

This aspiration came from a good place. I don’t wish to sound ungrateful for the amazing teaching I received during my final Protestant years, or for the friends in the community I studied with. More than ever, I thank God for their contribution to my education, for all the hard work of the teachers there. Thanks to my time spent along life’s road with them, I was in quite an interesting position that Saturday evening when I attended my first Vigil, with a nascent interest and my tight-squeezed mind.

Until that night, my steps inside the doors of Orthodoxy had been reluctant at best. At worst they were nearly footfalls of rage. I didn’t understand why my daughter, Victoria, and my husband, Timothy, kept returning here, doing whatever it was they did on “Nativity”, “Theophany”, and “Pascha”. I had stood through a sampling of the weekly services. I had spent an afternoon talking with Victoria’s “spiritual father”. (He obviously didn’t get where I was coming from, but he had been direct and nonthreatening; I felt he was a kindly sort, though theologically muddled.) I had endured Victoria’s receiving of the Orthodox name “Nina” and her baptism — and I should say that although the latter felt endure-ful due to its length and the repetition of some phrases, it had looked like a joyful time for the people participating; I had visualized some glimmers in Nina’s baptismal liturgy of what could be called gospel truth.

But, oh my gosh, these Orthodox liked to go on forever. As the Vigil service got underway, I could see tonight would be no exception. The only, slightest difference wasn’t to be found in the chanting choir, the incense wafting, or the faces looking out from candle-lit icons.

The difference was inside me. I had been told to be here.