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A Shortcut To Mushrooms

June 20, 2010

In this chapter of the Fellowship of the Ring, we find out that Frodo and his two cousins, Merry and Pippin, were once trouble-makers in their youth. Throughout the trilogy we see these two characters have something of an impetuous nature, despite all they experience over the course of the tale. In the movie trilogy, the artistic license of the screenplay writers makes this characteristic even more pronounced. The picture to the left is, I think, the best example of that. The looks an their faces, covered in soot, is classic. Just before they are about to get into more trouble Gandalf grabs them by the ear, and sets them straight (for the moment).

Just to make sure I had chosen the correct word to describe Merry and Pippin, I looked up the definition of impetuous. It is defined as follows: impetuous |imˈpe ch oōəs|adjective – acting something or done quickly and without thought or care . While Merry and Pippin are somewhat exaggerated examples of this definition, I know I can be like that too. You have heard the term “without a second thought”. Sometimes I wonder if I do things before I’ve even had a first thought. Nowhere is this more evident in my life than in my tendency to engage a conversation where I assert my own opinion, or argue a point, because I “know” that I’m right. After going to Bible College, I had the perfect channel for that tendency… apologetics and evangelism. I should really put those two in quotes, especially the evangelism. For all my arguments, I never once brow-beat someone into the Kingdom with my convincing arguments. For all my studies, I never once convinced the pseudo-christian cult purveyors on my front doorstep to forsake their false prophets, and embrace the truth. I have to admit, I was a little more than frustrated with my inability to convince people. In the end, I chalked it up to people simply being blinded by Satan, and counted myself “lucky” to be in the Truth of Christ.

When I initially discovered Orthodoxy, and became increasingly convinced of its veracity, I brought with me my tendency for argument. A few places this was most prominent were discussions with my wife, a few of my Protestant friends who held opposing views, and pseudo-christian cult members. Orthodoxy was like a treasure chest, full of great things which I could point to in my conversations with people. I found I had a stronger position to explain why the Mormons are not the re-establishment of the True Church. I could point to the Church, Church Fathers and Tradition, to validate why I disagree with the Liberal and Emerging Church movements, that think the morals of the Church should “evolve” with the culture. (sorry for the broad generality with that last statement) I had struck the Mother Lode! I had a well which I could never exhaust the contents of. I was like Po in the Jade Palace; excited, but I had no idea what I was doing.

For the first few months I was soaking up information like a sponge. I asked a million questions, which, when answered, sparked more questions. Incidentally, my priest referred to me as a “bulldog” because of the amount of questions I ask. I don’t know how to take that… Anywho… As I was soaking up information via podcast, books, etc, I came across a 3 part series on Converts on the Our Life In Christ podcast. One of the first things they addressed was new-convert zeal. Apparently, neophyte excitement is not always a good thing. DOH! The whole series can be downloaded from Ancient Faith Radio from the Our Life In Christ series under Converts, so I won’t get into too much detail on what I heard (besides, I can’t remember all the quotes from the Church Fathers, Saints, monks, etc).

One of the main things I remember being struck by, is that zeal has always been linked to pride, in the perception of many Orthodox. This comes from Paul’s teaching to Timothy about not allowing novices to teach the flock of God. One of the great dangers of ignoring the warning of scripture, tradition and Church teaching is the sin of prelest. Essentially, prelest is a spiritual self-deception. One can think they are doing great spiritually, but really be deceived (like the parable of the publican and the pharisee). The podcast also talked about the argumentative nature of many Protestant converts to the Orthodox Church. They emphasized that again and again, the Fathers, Saints and spiritual men and women of the Church write that the true virtues are found in Galatians 5:22-23, and do not include zeal and assertive arguments. While there is a place for “earnestly contending for the faith (Jude vs 3), FIRST comes the virtues, the Fruit of the Spirit.

One of the other things they spoke about, was the impatience converts tend to bring to their initial experiences with Orthodoxy. I had noticed within myself the tendency to ask, “Just tell me what I need to start doing to become Orthodox, so we can get this show on the road! Oh ya, and how long will all this take? Let’s start making it happen!” What the podcasts addressed was the need for slow, prayerful, sober instruction, as well as patient preparation for the life within the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy is not just a group you join, an idea you subscribe to or a title you take on, but a life lived in communion with the whole of the Church. It is truly not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s more like a steady migration. It follows it’s seasons, has its joys, its perils, and it goes from glory to greater glory. I can’t remember the Saint who said it, (I think it was one of the Gregories) but essentially the quote expresses the idea that eternity will not be a static state, but one in which we continue to become more like God, without in incumbrance of sin.

Needless to say, I was floored by the things being communicated. I realized that I had been proud, impatient, and ignorant. I felt like I had a kind of epiphany, where I not only had an insight into myself, but I knew what I had to do about it. I realized that I needed to humble myself before God, and ask for mercy. I needed to submit myself to the instruction of my priest, as one who has been given authority by the Church to lead and feed the flock, and administer the sacraments. I needed to be patient. Not only with the glacier-slow pace of things within the Orthodox Church, but with myself. Changes within myself will come slowly, steadily, and when they do, by God’s grace, they will be of a more permanent nature than the fleeting “changes” I had experienced throughout my life as a Protestant. I need to be prepared to enter into the communion and life of the Church, not just learn how to become a member of it.

As a result of being confronted with the truths I encountered, I have begun to step back and simply learn to let the teachings, hymns, canons, iconography, prayers, celebrations, commemorations and ritual (in a word: Traditions) of the Church grasp me, and do their work in me. I try to see through the eyes of wonder and hear with the ears faith. I may not be able to participate sacramentally (having not been fully “received” into the Church), but I can be present, and participate to the extent that I can. Strangely, (maybe that’s not the right word to use) I find a comfort and peace in simply being present and participate as I am able. Not only has it given me fresh eyes with which to read the Scriptures, but it has opened my mind to a whole new (old really, I guess) understanding of salvation itself. It’s hard to try and find words to describe what is really indescribable.

And most importantly, I have noticed some changes within myself. I have mentioned some of those changes in other posts, so I won’t bore you with them here. My own perception of how I’ve changed in not as important as how my wife thinks I’ve changed. She says that I am kinder, gentler and more apt to pray. She says that other people have noticed some changes, but they can’t put their finger on it. Thanks be to God for these changes. My prayer, and the prayer I ask of all who may remember me in their prayers, is that I continue in the grace of God, so these changes remain. I also pray that these changes will lead to my whole family and I being able to commune together within the life of the Orthodox Church.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 8:18 am

    Great points. Once one realizes that this slow pace is not based out of skepticism that one is sincere, the tempo of the Eastern Churches is a blessing. We realize how many decisions and transitions have been made in haste, and thank God for the brakes that are placed upon our 21st century mindset.

    It reminds me of something else in the Lord of the Rings. In contrast to Pippin and Merry, this quote comes to mind:

    “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”

    Thank God for His wizards. 🙂

  2. Sean permalink
    June 22, 2010 8:12 am

    “…it has opened my mind to a whole new (old really, I guess) understanding of salvation itself”
    It’s new really.. It says so in the Scripture, that Christ came to renew the World, to give the New Testament. The whole divine Liturgy is filled with the word “new”. We are new: we get started in our effort towards theosis after each fall (at least we should, something I know for sure I am not doing at all).

    As for the argumentative nature of converts, I can assure you it’s not just the converts who are susceptible. As I have written on previous occasion I was born in the Orthodox Church and still I am full of arguments (if you need evidence of that just reread the first paragraph of this comment!). I have been told by many men wiser than me and holy, that the one argument that will prevail in the end is unconditional love as a way of life. Living our lives according to our faith is the only example that can win debates (and still I fail to do so in every possible way, every single day).

    • June 22, 2010 10:35 am

      Right you are Sean. I guess one has only to read a bit of Church history, or the ethnic Church divisions to see that that is true, besides the point you made.
      I agree with your opening statement about the New Covenant. I’m sure you get what I was trying to say. I was speaking from a 21st century perspective. From my perspective, I’m making a new discovery. But it’s been around for 20 centuries. That’s all I was saying. But yes, Christ does indeed make all things new, including us, daily. So in that sense, it is new. I always appreciate your input. I attend an entirely convert parish, so it is nice to get some perspective from a cradle Orthodox from an Orthodox country.
      Jonathan, thank God for His wizards indeed. As many great Orthodox minds point out, the pace of the Church is more like a true human pace. Meaning that we change slowly, and the Church, recognizing that, ensures that we slow ourselves down and have realistic expectations, rules of prayer, goals, etc.

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