When I first was asked to write for Family Life Ministry, one of the first thoughts I had was “I don’t know enough to do that.” I felt very inadequate. I am not an expert at anything by any means. I don’t say that in a false humility kind of way; it’s just a fact.
I was only chrismated a little over two years ago. I have so much learning and growth ahead of me within the Church, which is beautiful and exciting, but still: I’m really at the start of my journey. I graduated in May with my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. After completing my first year seeing therapy clients, I can say very confidently I have more learning ahead of me than behind me there as well.
There is wisdom in knowing how much you don’t know, but quite often when I feel inadequate, it is not wisdom or humility that is at the root of things. It’s mainly my pride being sneaky, manifesting itself by leading me to focus too much on my own role instead of just faithfully following where God is leading. That sense of inadequacy, though, is something to approach with gratitude, because it shows me areas of my heart that need to be healed and transformed. It helps me know more of what I need to be taking to prayer and confession.
The first time I went to an Orthodox service, I saw people venerating the icons and then turning around and bowing to each other as others bowed back to them. I thought “How sweet. The Orthodox have their own little bow greeting.” A couple months later, after I had spent more time immersing myself in Orthodox thought, I was standing in the back observing as a young girl around my age came in and began venerating the icons. I watched her closely, wondering to myself “Could I ever be Orthodox too?” I saw as she then bowed to the people around me, who bowed back, and for the first time it struck me what they were doing: they weren’t silently saying “Hello.”; they were venerating the living icons of Christ that surrounded them in each other. I felt suddenly shaken as the weight of that thought washed over me, and I asked myself “What if I actually believed that? Who would I be if I allowed myself to be transformed by the reality that each person I meet is a revelation of God Himself?” I remember knowing then that planting myself within Orthodoxy was the best hope I had of becoming that person.
It is not wisdom or humility to forget or fail to acknowledge that I am also a living icon of Christ. There is so much healing and wonder in that reality, but it’s something that until recently I have barely let myself ponder. When I began dating my now fiancé, I noticed that often after he crosses himself, he gently kisses the 3 fingers that press together to represent the Trinity and make the form of the Cross, showing a deep gratitude that his fingers could be part of such a holy and significant action. It is so beautiful to me every time I see him do this. I want to cultivate deep gratitude for the ways I get to participate in the divine.
There’s a Rumi quote that says: “When someone is counting out gold for you, don’t look at your hands or the gold; look at the giver.” I think that’s what humility is: to know I have gold in my hands but that the gold is about the Giver, not about my hands or the amount or quality of the gold placed in them.
Earlier this year, I heard Bishop John of Worcester speak. He talked about how it is not humility to deny that you have things to offer others, God-given strengths and roles to fulfill. In the parable of the servants and the talents in Matthew 25, the servant with the least was called wicked for hiding his one talent, and the master tells the servant he could have taken his talent to the bankers to help him know how to invest it. The Orthodox Study Bible notes that the bankers represent the Church. She is full of people who can help us use our gifts wisely. It is so important to have people who are investing in us and with us.
I don’t know much, but I am on a journey with many wonderful fellow journeyers. I have learned so much from those who have shared their journeys with me. That’s what I hope for my writing in this space, to share my journey with others in the hope of experiencing more of God through each other.