Reflecting on the year that was and the year that will be…
What a year it has been! I think for many people it’s been a sort of maddening time of waiting and recession. For many this year went as well as any year ending in “13” could go and for others it’s exceeded expectations. For me, it’s been a rather steady incline spiritually and a steep curve upward in purpose, as I found my voice suddenly at the end of this year.
Prior to 2013, the past couple of years were a period of growth for me and my family. My son was born in 2011 and around the same time I started doubting the existence of God. It was a rough time for my wife (with two little ones to take care of while I was at work) who had some trouble understanding what I was going through at the time, but she supported me in continuing to try and find what I truly believed. There were many tearful nights and frustrated silences throughout 2012, but she stood by me the entire time and she still does now, even though we still see things a bit differently when it comes to faith.
What I’ve learned
I learned to embrace the idea of God again and find peace with Christianity. I found many of the answers to my questions through the Eastern Orthodox church, although I do know that when it comes to questions of faith and existence, there never truly are “answers”. For some, this is absolutely frustrating, but for me it’s existentially comforting. I started going to some liturgical services off and on at an Antiochian church towards the spring, during Lent. It was truly beautiful to me and really showed me how to experience worship in a deeper way.
I am learning to die to myself in my marriage and that although it’s always nice to get a “thank you”, I serve my wife for the virtue that it gives me and my family, not for some payment of gratitude. When I wash the dishes, sweep the floors, put the kids to bed, take out the trash, etcetera – I do it all as an offering to Jesus Christ and as a part of dying to my flesh. I’m naturally lazy and I see even the most difficult tasks as part of my ascetic struggle and therefore part of my daily offering to God.
I learned that I know what I can know and I recognize what I am unable to know. I rest in knowing I can be humble enough in my intellect to realize my mind and my heart are both flawed. I can continue to seek the truth, but also know that I am limited in the spaces I can be intellectually confident in. This doesn’t mean that I want to remain ignorant in any area of rational thought, but I must see the chink in my own armor, lest I fall into pride and error.
Expectations for the year to come
I feel comfortable and at peace with where God is going to take me in 2014. I have a lot of knowledge about being Orthodox and that’s fine, but I have yet to experience the Orthodox Christian life consistently, mostly because I’m not yet a catechumen. However, I realize that’s not really an excuse. This coming year, I will look to the fast days and to the prayer rule to help me grow in my becoming like Christ. I will continue to spend time in the holy scriptures and question what I already know. I will never stop asking questions. Maybe in 2014 I’ll find myself in a different spot, but I do know that it won’t look anything like the spot I’ve already been in.
I’ll spend more time with my family and learn to take time to breathe. I’ll laugh more, play more, run around and dance more. I’ll have a crawling baby boy getting into stuff around the house. I need to get in shape so I don’t lose my breathe when chasing my kids. I’m starting to look like John Candy with a goatee.
I’ll try and be more patient. God knows that because I have three kids between the ages of 0 and 4, I need lots of it and my wife needs quadruple the dosage as a stay at home mom. I know I should be especially patient with her as we’re in different places doctrinally, but we still have much more in common than we don’t.
In conclusion, I hope that 2014 is filled with more hope and light for everyone. The economy has still been wavering in the United States and our government can’t seem to get it’s act together. There’s a collective feeling of anxiety and weariness. It’s beginning to color everything and everyone with cynicism, so maybe we need a dose of success, mythos and majesty to rouse us in the next year. Here’s to hoping your 2014 will be filled to the brim with pleasant surprises and wonder.