life of shock

IMG_0193During the winter of 2011, I worked an extra three hours each week at my job for a nonprofit pregnancy center. I was filling in Thursdays at their downtown Eugene location as a receptionist/sometimes counselor. Mostly the task involved waiting for clients to walk in, and so I read, checked emails, or jotted things in my writing notebook. A mid February notebook entry involved original words of wisdom I wished to express to others: “The life of faith is the life of surprise. It’s finding out the thing you always thought is something else. Wisdom is investing in the possibility of the different.” When I wrote those words I was thinking of anything but the Orthodox Christian church.

The next Thursday I awoke early. Not as early as Tim, whose movements I heard out in the living room as he laid the fire in our woodstove. I remained warm in bed as long as possible. Mornings are the time my mind is most alert, and a lot of ideas circle, sometimes landing and connecting with others.

It’s possible I won’t ever be able to express just what happened in my thoughts as I lay there that morning. Not because it’s at all vague to me. It’s simply that it was a moment that struck to my very center. I thought coherent thoughts; I recognized a deep ungratefulness in my response to an episode I’d had lately with, of all things, sore feet and sports shoes. My episode had worked out fine — after months of sore feet and aching legs, I’d been able to get the proper shoes and had been able to give away one pair of not-good for me shoes to someone who could use them — all had ended well. Yet a light (I’m only describing illumination of my thoughts, not a bulb coming on somewhere) shown directly on my ungratefulness due to the physical suffering I had experienced. Why, I wondered, did so many things have to come via pain? The pain made it seem (and this is the telling moment in my thinking) — it made me feel that having reached my good experience now was not worth it. As though something were wrong with reality.

Again I’ll say this is very difficult to express. It’s just that I knew, as soon as I thought my thought, that I was the one out of line with reality, rather than reality somehow being wrong for me. And I remembered that I really do want what reality wants (this is understood, by me, as I want what God wants). I want reality, I thought, whatever that might mean in the course of my existence.

The next nanosecond a thought appeared (“spoke”, whatever) inside my head, saying, “You need to seriously consider Orthodoxy.”

Just as fast, I replied, “Oh, no, I don’t.”

I was cut to the quick.

Elsewhere I've written (somewhat differently, in my writing cadence at that time, in the only way I could articulate it then) about this moment and what followed. I lay a short while longer, taking in what had just happened. A little scene played out for me of Tim on a steamship to Serbia and me waving goodbye from the dock and then sort of waking up to the fact that I couldn’t let him do this without me!

I got out of bed, went to Tim’s side by the woodstove, and asked if, were I to “set sail” into Orthodoxy with him, would he consider that a good or a bad thing. Without hesitation, bless him, Tim said that would be a very good thing. I burst into tears.

The unusual and amazing events of the day didn’t end there. There were little things, mostly, that were meaningful to me, such as conversations I had with both my mom and mother-in-law, running past them this news of my nascent decision, and receiving their wholehearted approval. Our Protestant born and bred parents all wished me and Tim well. I couldn’t believe it. My son, for whom the news meant I would likely break fellowship with our current non-Churchy church, also expressed understanding and support. (He had visited the St. John group several more times than I had, and he enjoyed the people.)

Somehow later on I made it to work. I began to recognize the numbness of being in shock. I got that, if I were only toying inside my thoughts with making this giant move in my faith, my experience would show me at some point that nothing really real had happened. There was always the possibility that I was having some kind of imaginary revelry, and I would snap out of it when I needed to.

IMG_0192Experience as a human being and a wannabe writer had delivered the message, plenty of times, that I can convince myself something I think ought to happen is truly happening (such as the best idea for a book since the Bible), when nothing of the sort is actually going on. In these circumstances there has always come a day (usually preceded by hints that it’s coming) when I surrender to the fact that I’ve tried to force something that was never meant to be.

My impression that morning -- my nudge, as I would come to call it -- had arrived, from my perspective, out of the blue. Yet that didn’t prove anything. I needed to let the next things, if there were to be next things, unfold in whatever form they might choose to. I couldn’t begin to imagine implications, actions, scenarios, and so on. Sitting behind the pregnancy center welcome desk, I could only crack open my writing notebook and jot bits of my morning. After doing so, I glanced at the previous entry, where I’d blithely scribbled, “The life of faith is the life of surprise. It’s finding out the thing you always thought is something else. Wisdom is investing in the possibility of the different.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream.

Comments

Dee Ready said…
Dear Deanna, I've been away from reading and commenting on blogs for six weeks and every day this past week, I've been reading a few blogs in my attempt to begin again. So today--Saturday, January 26--I come to yours and discover a whole new look. A new type face and size. Just so different. It's very inviting.

Then I read your intriguing and inspiring story of how you came to become a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. Reading your posting, I felt I needed to take off my shoes as Moses did before the Burning Bush. He did so because he stood in the midst of Holiness. He stood on Holy Ground.

And that's what I felt as I read your words. That I, too, was captured within Holiness. For me reality is the Holy Oneness of All Creation. I frequently use the word "Universe" to say that. But my belief is strong that we are all One and that you with your words have helped me become even more One with all humankind and with all animals who inhabit our world, past, present, and future.

Thank you for your fierce honesty.

And if you have any postings from the last six weeks that you'd especially like me to read, please e-mail me the URLs or insert them in the comment box on my blog. Thank you. Peace.
Deanna said…
Dee, I so appreciate your comments. I'm glad you like the new look here - I just have to change every so often, like rearranging furniture, I guess. Your words about Holiness and Oneness moved me a lot. Thank you.
[…] I knew was something had happened at the core of me (as I’ve recently recounted in another post). Because of this, today I needed to inspect, to partake, and to hold nothing back. At the end of […]