Yesterday I went to Sears to purchase an elliptical machine. This was, of course, after
my husband’s thorough research in Consumer Reports, where he found this Nordic Track AudioStrider 990 (on sale at Sears for 2 more days: $899!) Although I was pretty sure this was the machine I wanted, I took my time, trying out several other floor models, and feeling good about the fact that the one rated so highly by CR was the one I liked the best—it had a nice long stride not a very high step, like the stair-masters have. (I’ve got bad knees.) As I went round and round on the machine, eager to have one delivered at home so I can try (again) to get back in shape (and yes, my 40th high school reunion is in one month!) I imagined the TV shows I could watch at home to help the boredom. But I also imagined the time it would allow for thinking. Round and round the wheel goes…. Round and round my mind goes.
Back home, I picked up my July/August copy of Writers Digest Magazine (which has a great interview—first in years—with Anne Tyler) and was curious to see Contest #19’s writing prompt: (750 words by July 10)
“A women is given the ability to go back in time and change one event in her life.”
What would I write?
Would I write about my spiritual journey, the insane years I spent in a cult-like group en route to finding my home in the Orthodox Church? Sometimes I think about that song, “Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,” and that’s how I feel about religion—that I gave it all the best years of my life. (Actually, this might be a better video.) And now my church is in trouble and there’s talk of removing a bishop (which I agree needs to happen). If I could, would I go back and live differently for the first 17 years of my marriage, when we were on a crazy search for a church home, or even for the past 20 years in the Orthodox Church that we finally joined in 1987? Some of my friends who shared this tumultuous journey with me have said, “I’d do it again” or “It was worth it” because we finally found our spiritual home. I agree that it was worth it, but would I do it again? What would I do if I could go back to 1970 and decide whether to leave the conservative Presbyterian Church and easy lifestyle of my upbringing to hang out with a rag-tag band of radical Jesus Freaks?
I know one thing I would change. I would stand up to the narcissist leaders who cropped up along the way. But wait—could I really have done that? By their very nature, narcissists get a grip of control on their followers that’s really hard to shake. They build fear and a sick kind of commitment that often prevents good people from speaking up. Even now dozens of Orthodox priests are living in fear of their metropolitan’s power-hungry ways. And these are some smart, strong, godly men. Some of them have already stepped up and risked their futures. It's going to get messy before it's all over, but I can only hope and pray that none of them will look back at their actions this summer and wish they had done something different.
You know, I probably won’t enter the WD writing contest. Just thinking about it stirs me up too much. Why think about “what might have been”? It’s such a waste of emotional energy, for one thing. And we can’t change the past. We can only learn from it and move forward with courage and humility.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, two amazing pillars of the Church. Tonight we’ll pray Great Vespers at St . John Orthodox Church here in Memphis, and tomorrow the feast will be celebrated at St. Paul Skete, and countless other monasteries and churches all over the world. If you can't make it to a church service, or if you aren't Orthodox but would like to join us in prayer for the health and unity of the Church, you might try these words from the Akathist to Saints Peter and Paul:
O most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, who laid down your lives for Christ and beautified His pasture with your blood! Hearken unto the prayers and sighs of your children which are now offered up with contrite heart. For, lo! we have darkened ourselves with iniquities, and for this cause have we been covered with misfortunes as with showers; and we have become exceeding poor in the oil of a good life, and we cannot fend off the ravening wolves which boldly strive to lay hands on the inheritance of God. O ye mighty ones! bear ye our infirmities and separate yourselves not from us in spirit, that we not depart utterly from the love of God; but with your mighty assistance defend us, that the Lord have mercy on us all for the sake of your prayers, that He rend asunder the handwriting of our countless sins, and that He vouchsafe us with all the saints the blessed kingdom and the wedding feast of His Lamb, to Whom be honor and glory, thanksgiving and worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen.