Originally posted on April 11, 2013
Read about the “Into Orthodoxy” series here.
By Mary Evelyn Smith
I became Orthodox because my parents said so. My parents converted to Orthodoxy when I was a toddler. Up until 4th grade, I just assumed everyone was Orthodox like me. They were taken to midnight Easter services and feasted upon soy-dogs during Lent. That was the age when church seemed like a serious kind of magic. Jesus was real, and it was exciting.
For me, the real question is, Why did you stay Orthodox?
My journey out of Orthodoxy began in the halls of the Christian high school my parents had enrolled me in. It began on movie day, when my Bible teacher said, “Guys, we’re going to be viewing a film today that depicts what will happen to the human race after the rapture occurs and during the end times,” the teacher said. “Pay attention because this is serious stuff. These events will most likely occur in your lifetime…”
I shifted uneasily in my chair—no one else seemed phased by this news. What the heck is rapture? Is it like a Velocirapture from Jurassic Park?
What followed was a terrifying 1960s film version of the end times. I watched in horror as people were tattooed, guillotined, and eaten alive by scorpion-tailed horse monsters. Horse monsters! A young girl’s parents disappeared in broad daylight, leaving her to an inevitably gory death as a lost soul.
That’s when I found out what would happen to me because I didn’t have a salvation story. I had never said a prayer asking Jesus in. And because I hadn’t, I would be that 16-year-old without any parents. I would be tattooed. I would be eaten by scorpion-tailed horse monster. I was doomed.
Thus began my slow exit from the Orthodox Church. I attended evangelical services and said the required prayer with my new friends from school who, through good intentions, had scared the pants off me with rapture talk. Eventually I stopped going to the Orthodox Church altogether—there just wasn’t any certainty in it.
By the time I reached college I lived in constant fear for my soul. I couldn’t tell faith from anxiety. That girl from the video had thought she was saved, too! How could I know for sure that I was really saved myself? So I checked, and re-checked my soul the way some people do with light switches or the stove. I quizzed myself and was quizzed by others—How was my walk with God? What scripture was I reading? How was my prayer life? I never felt safe—not from the fiery pits of hell and not from myself. God was my interrogator, and I was exhausted.
That’s when an old friend offered me a ride to church—an Orthodox church. I went, more out of politeness than desire, but when I walked through the doors, it felt like a reunion – the sights, sounds, and even smells all felt like home. There were no interrogations or anxieties; not a scorpion-tailed horse monster in sight!
The church is, above all things, kind. It sees my salvation not as a definitive moment, but a journey. I can fear God with reverence instead of panic. I can draw near to him with questions instead of answers.In Orthodoxy, it is acceptable to not know, to not understand—to hesitate. And only in this freedom did I truly find faith.
Mary Evelyn Smith is an Elementary School Librarian. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, her son, and her out-of-control book collection. Read her blog about life, motherhood, and Spina Bifida here.