Saturday, May 03, 2008

Advice for Orthodox Converts

Far be it from me to give advice to any, since I am the chief of sinners and, in most things, the most profitable advice would be to not do what I have done. Still, at various times, in my all-too-brief experience in chilling with Orthodox converts and other sorts, I have been on the receiving end of bits of wisdom which could appropriately be directed to myself which you may find profitable as well.
  1. Don't be so "emo". For those of you not quite familiar with the popular jargon of modern youth, call to mind those roustabouts at the mall wearing tight jeans and having long hair on top of their heads and nowhere else: those people are "emo", but it's more than a fashion statement. Relax a little.
  2. Try to get over being a convert as soon as possible. That is to say, don't ever forget where you came from, but try to get over the fact that you were once not Orthodox as soon as possible. Quit defining yourself in opposition to (viz.) the satanic delusion of Protestantism and start thinking of yourself as Orthodox. Orthodoxy stands on its own without reference to any external system. For a while, you may have to stand on the crutch of opposing yourself to your past, but, seriously, defining yourself as not Protestant is not the same as apophaticism. You should eventually get over it. There's a place for polemics. Odds are, it's not your place yet. Yes, you. I mean you. You. Don't get defensive.
  3. A good proportion of male converts want to be priests. A good proportion of all converts want to be monastics. Be realistic about it, don't be a Romantic. See #1. You may be legitimately called to either, sure. That'd be great. Don't be disappointed if you aren't, don't unrealistically think you are if you aren't. EDIT: most importantly, don't go telling everyone or alluding to it, at least not until you're sure.
  4. You have nothing to offer the Church. It has plenty to offer you.
  5. Huw had a great post where he mentioned something somebody told him when he was looking for a martial arts school:
    Are these people enjoying themselves? Are they welcoming? Is there a lot of ego on the mat? Are people trying to prove something?
    My point here is that, well, I know my ego's on the mat and I'm trying to prove something. This isn't good. Are you? Should we work on this? Knowing is half the battle.
  6. Debates are poisonous to the soul, especially if you are compelled to respond to every point and win every argument. Chill a bit, especially if you're on the Internets where the records will exist forever and ever. Somebody once likened winning an argument on the internet to winning an event in the Special Olympics, which I find entirely mean-spirited: I have found in my few days on this earth that the winners of the latter are usually marvelous people from whom I could learn a lot. Not so the former by any stretch of the imagination. Let it go.
  7. This may just be me, but I don't find my conversion story that interesting, nor do I find yours that interesting. They're all the same, even the ones that are different. In the hagiographies, the conversions of the saints usually barely occupy a paragraph. There are few notable exceptions. They are generally all alike. Usually, anything longer merely indicates you're long-winded or that you're no saint. I'd rather not hear about the latter case.
  8. The Orthodox Church will not give you what you want or like or expect, it will give you a cross. There are some things you might think God would never allow happen to a Christian. They may happen. Christianity isn't a "system" that "works". There are few guarantees, and they're not the sort you'll like.
  9. NEW ADDITION: If you find that you, a recent convert of at most a couple years, are explaining theology to someone who may have been born in the Church, or, my personal favorite, who is a priest, please look back and consider what you're doing.
Well, I wasn't completely honest. A lot of these really don't apply to me except tangentially, but they were certainly deemed wise by me when I heard them. I hope you find this post to be profitable and eagerly await correction if I am being wrong-headed about anything, only please be patient with me, since I did not exactly graduate at the top of my class, as it were.
Much love in the risen Christ,