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July 31, 2010

Anybody familiar with the Lord Of The Rings knows the name of Treebeard. He’s the Ent, or Treeherder. His most common phrase to the Hobbits he meets is, “Not so hasty!” The hobbits he met were, of course, Merry and Pippin, the most boisterous of the four hobbits in the Fellowship. Treebeard was, by contrast, slow, methodical and thoughtful in all his words and actions. He was in fact as ancient as the forest of Fangorn itself. He even explains to the hobbits that he IS Fangorn. One of the comments that struck me about how old he must be, was when Legolas the elf (immortal) said that he felt young as he stood in the forest.

I was thinking about what it has been like entering the Orthodox Church from Protestantism. It hasn’t been unlike Merry and Pippin’s encounter with Treebeard. A recent conversation I had with a friend reminded me what a dramatic difference the Apostolic Faith has made, not only in the practices and beliefs of my Christian faith, but in my very mindset.

The person I was speaking with was describing an event they were attending some time ago. In this situation they were thankful for the blessing of being there, which is good, but additionally were wondering what the purpose of them being there was. By that they were wondering if God wanted them to be there in order to do this, that or the other. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be in the middle God’s will. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the many positive things I can acknowledge I have received from the Protestantism I was raised in. But the point I am getting at is that the understanding of “God’s will” is a bit misguided, and with that faulty understanding comes what I remember as a kind of spiritual paranoia. It’s one of the products of the Fundamentalist Evangelical mindset. It creates constant thoughts of  “Should I…?” “Am I supposed to…?” “What does God want me to be doing right now?” I never realized how exhausting it was trying to always be “in the will of God.”

Thank God for His Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church. Learning to slow down to the pace of life and “phronema” (mindset) of the Orthodox Church has been refreshing. It’s like going from the frantic chaos of escaping a battle, to stopping to take a look around at your surroundings, then soaking it all in (which is how the hobbits come to meet Treebeard). Having begun to learn that God is “everywhere present and fillest all things”, I realize that I can soak in more of life in thankfulness to my loving Creator, and know that I am already in His will at that moment. A few of the things in the prayer of Metropolitan Philaret really stood out to me, after speaking to that friend of mine. In that prayer is a request to God to help  me in everything to rely upon His holy will, and also to not forget that all things are sent by Him. What a relief to just be in God’s will, and not worry if I’m in it.

I am not yet fully received into the Church, and therefore do not yet participate in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. I look forward to that day. I have been anxious to have that done, but as my priest reminds me in “entish” fashion, “Not so hasty!” I have come to find that kind of slow, steady and patient catechesis into the Church a refreshing thing. Having said that, I am coming to realize that for an Orthodox Christian, being “in God’s will” is as simple as participation in the Holy Mysteries, obedience to what we already know the Scriptures, Traditions and such tell us we should do as Christians, and enjoy the presence of God “filling all things.” Even with all the Fasts, Feasts, Prayers, etc, there is a kind of simplicity that I can honestly say is lacking in most of Protestantism. I don’t say that to knock anybody, I’m just conveying an observation.

Just as Merry and Pippin were forever changed by their journey into Fangorn Forest, I have been forever changed by the Orthodox Church. I have found that which is fullness, ancient, deep, wide, and high. Yes there is a lot of practices to observe, and things to learn, but there is that peace the comes from relying upon God’s holy will, and not forgetting that all is sent by Him.

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