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By Sheila Mullican
I became Orthodox because God hurled me into it. Arms flailing. Guts wrenching.
My whole life has been a chasing after God. I first knew Him in a tiny church in Appalachia. My earliest memories include flannel-graphs, brush arbors, and foot washings. As an adult, I followed Him to a mega church in the city where I played in a rock and roll band (my daddy’s words) and offered the love of Christ to those far from God.
In all of those places, God was. And I had meaningful encounters. But I craved an intimacy with Him that eluded me. Though I would have told you my hope rested entirely in the grace of God, I frantically tried to prove myself worthy of His love. I volunteered for everything, certain that if I did just a little more He would be happy with me and want to be with me.
Until I crashed and burned.
Exhausted, empty, spent, I made some awful choices and hurt people I loved. And I had the audacity to blame God for that. I told Him if He had let me know Him the way I wanted to, none of this would have happened. And I told Him I was done chasing Him.
My counselor occasionally mentioned something about some saint he was reading about. I didn’t know anyone who talked about saints, so I was intrigued. I asked some questions, began to read some books. A friend invited me to an Orthodox women’s study group. Then, I attended my first liturgy. God was beginning to stitch up broken places in me and lead me along a path that led directly to Him, though I didn’t know it yet.
My heart began to be wed to Orthodoxy by…
- Beauty. Candles, icons, incense, bells…and words; songs and prayers distilled over centuries to yield a language poetic, precise, and potent.
- Sacrament. There is a keen reverence for the Holy; in the way we move in the temple, in the way we touch things that are sacred. But reverence also for the sacrament of the everyday. The trisagion prayer says that God is “everywhere present, filling all things”. I am learning to see the image of God in all places and in all people.
- A Way of Being. Mostly, I find a way of just being with God. Nothing to prove. Before, I needed to understand to do. Now, I do to understand. Fasting teaches me about fasting, for instance. Prostrations make me humble. And in this being with, this obedience, I am coming to know God. Intimately. With joy.
Orthodox worship is like nothing else in my life. During the liturgy, we believe we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It tastes like Heaven. It sounds like Heaven. The first time I left a liturgy, I noticed the fragrance of incense in my hair. I thought to myself, “I smell like God.”
God be praised.
Sheila Mullican is a runner and romancer of God, nature, and beauty. Read her blog Anam Cara.