I've been musing, lately, between chasing my children and using up yards of packing tape, on what I've learned while my husband has been in seminary. How am I different now that we've had this experience? Was it worth it for all of us to come here as a family and for me to devote my time to staying here with the children, rather than getting a full-time job, in part so that I could be more a part of the seminary experience?
I have a few thoughts about this, but I also realize that, in some ways, I'll never realize how much I've changed in the time that I've been here. In others, I may not realize how my perspective has shifted until we get back into the "real world" again for awhile. But I do have a few tidbits I've gleaned along the way that I can think of now.
One: as a pastor, or any type of leader, it doesn't matter if what you're doing is correct, or even if it is the best thing in the world, if you don't have your people on board with you.
Two: and this is related, in general, people need you to teach them simple things and repeat them often. Perhaps this sounds to you like being with my children all the time has gone to my brain, but I take this from my own experience of what I need in a pastor. If my confessor were to say the same thing to me five or even seven times in a row after each confession, I would still have to admit that I needed to hear it again. We easily forget simple truths that are really the key to our salvation.
Three: there are so many people out there who bear the name of "Orthodox" who are so different from you. You have to love them and share the church with them anyway.
Four: as a Christian, the only right you have is to put the rights of others before your own desires. Fighting for our own rights is unbecoming of us as followers of Christ.
Five: it is essential that we always view the externals of our Christianity as gifts. The moment we see them as ends in and of themselves or as rules we wish we didn't have to follow, we've lost. This goes back to number two. We need the externals (prayer rules, fasting, liturgical rubrics, Sunday "sabbath," head coverings (for me), etc.) to reinforce the simple truths we need to hear over and over. If I spend my Sunday trying to figure out what I can and cannot do on this self-imposed day of rest, I miss the great gift of an opportunity to consciously develop my spiritual awareness and relationship with Christ in a way that should spill over into the rest of my week. If I criticize others because they don't appropriate the externals "correctly," I am missing the point entirely.
As I say, I'm sure there are more things I'm not thinking of. By the way, just because I didn't give something a long explanation above doesn't mean I think it is less important than the ones I did expand on. Some were just more self-explanatory than others, I guess.
If you are so inclined, please continue to pray for us. My husband is in Guatemala at the Orthodox orphanage and monastery helping out and serving there this week. When he returns, we'll head out for parts south on a round-the-south trip from New York to Kentucky to Texas to Florida, where the real work will begin!
Blessed feast of Pentecost to you all!