An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Somebody (probably God The Holy Spirit) flew a couple of airplanes into the twin towers of my heart recently. Not an act of terrorism though...but one of mercy and love. A waking call to help me to see that there is a whole other world out there (not geographically, but spiritually and not in the sense of like outside my house, but outside my heart).
"Other"....thinking about that word...do you suppose it existed - in any sense - prior to the fall?
I want to take the time to start looking into the eyes of my children and see more than a troublesome responsibility or "mess-making" machine, but rather the image and likeness of God. I have made no secret of the fact that I struggle with my role as a father...it has stripped my falsehoods to the bone and left my selfishness fully exposed to the elements. I embrace that, truly I do...well at least I say I embrace that. It is saving me, so they say. How could it not, since I cannot pretend to be a saint anymore...there are too many witnesses!
The faults I see in my kids...are mine. I see them acting toward one another as I often act toward them and should I be surprised? The sins of the father are visited upon the son...no doubt. Frightening. The first tower to collapse is my need to address what I perceive to be my failings as a father and husband.
The second tower collapsed and it was therein that I began to see the spiritual wasteland of my heart. A vast desert with no life...a void. I have such a precious gift in the Orthodox Church and yet I have been (as of late) leaving it on a shelf to get dusty...virtually unwrapped. And it is more than saying the prayers and going to services (though surely that is part of it)...it is embracing the WHOLE LIFE of the Church...traversing that ancient, tried and true pathway.
The ill-fated "Donner Party" ended up stuck in the Sierra Mountains because they decided to take a shortcut offered by some "guide" as opposed to the old traditional trail. No doubt there is a spiritual lesson to be learned there...but I have not followed an alternate trail - thankfully, but have instead avoided the trail altogether and have stayed encamped...going nowhere.
Well, it's time to saddle up, winter is coming.
As to the real Spetmber 11th (notice the lack of superscript and it's not even 1972!) we went to an open house at our local firehouse with the kids. It was a wonderful experience to meet some of the firemen and to see such simple hometown sorts of things like women bringing the firemen cookies. Warmed the heart.
Now, if that guy ain't the quintessential fireman, who is?
for what it's worth, I've been reading the Song of Solomon lately a lot. It has been one of the most important revelations in my life thus far.....When the Shulamite woman (The CHurch corporately and you personally) gets brought into the King's chamber, she realizes two things: 1)She's dark 2) She is lovely.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men's sins against them.
Remember this James: You were born into a world at war, and the battle is for your heart. The enemy of your soul wants you to define yourself as James the selfish, or James the proud, or James the (insert sin here). But that is not who you really are. In Christ you have been given the key to your destiny and that is who you really are.
I think that the sacrament of confession is great "identity theft protection". When I sin, I willingly give a small part of my heart, or my true identity to the Enemy. Confession is the battle to get it back, to re establish my whole-hearted vulnerability and innocence before God and His Bride.....Well, enough rambling on my part. You are in my prayers!
Thanks for posting this. I share your struggles, and as many times we men don't let others know we're stuggling in this area (esp the wives), its good to know I'm not alone. I appreciate your transparency here. Thx.
Oh Pa...you mean Charisa isn't your little half pint anymore???
Seriously, stop scaring me out of having more then 2 kids!
BTW, saw Fr. James yesterday and conversed with him for about 10 minutes. Great to see him, but it made me miss you guys and everything that is Washington...especially as i grapple with the fact that it seems Washington may never be a reality for us. Pray for us as we pray for you.
James, I'm not sure that, for a man, there is anything that helps put things in perspective for his spiritual life as does becoming a father. I remember the day when our oldest daughter, still very young at the time, struck her knee and swore in exactly the same fashion as was my habit. I knew in that moment that I was responsible for her, and had to change my ways. Additional reflection also revealed that my children will know God as their Father through their experience of *me* as their father -- and if that don't hit you upside the head with a 2x4, nothing will!
I'm not sure I'd have used the imagery of 9-11 with regard to a change of heart; but there's no denying it is a powerful depiction. Thanks for "baring your soul" and sharing your struggles with us. May God bless you and help you to grow in His image and likeness, for the glory of His name, the benefit of your family, and the salvation of your soul!
I appreciate your post, James. I suspect that I will be facing these same issues with my children as the day of fatherhood dawns on the horizon. I have, as of late, found myself constantly being "guided" off that traditional path.
But, by the grace of God, He continually leads me back. I keep having a profound sense of renewal(or the possibility thereof) whenever I step inside the Nave. I keep seeing in my "mind's eye", the ideal Jared. How to get there? As you say, I believe partaking of the "whole life" of the Church will help me to arriver there. I have been reading "The Spiritual Life" by St. Theophan and, although hard to read or accept, it has really been a help.
You are in my prayers, Godfather. Keep me in yours.
The use of the 9/11 analogy was simply comparing the wake-up call given our nation and the wake-up call given to me recently (the details of which I have left generally unsaid and of course cannot compare).