Ok, this is my first post here, so we'll see if it actually works or not..LOL!
I was baptized in the catholic church when I was an infant, but never stepped foot inside a church for another 20 years until a friend of mine got married. (he was a protestant)
So I wasn't raised in any church. My mom is catholic but hadn't been to church since high school. My dad is 'protestant' but NEVER went ot church his entire life basically, because "the church is full of hypocrites"...of course his only expeirence with church people are southern baptists and nominal catholics so he's probably right...lol!
Growing up I knew NOTHING about the bible. I never even had one to read until I was like 19 years old. I knew about the "baby Jesus" at Christmas, and something about the Cross at Easter, but I had NO IDEA what these things meant to me.
Of course going through public school in the U.S. and "learning" from secular "scholars" like the Jesus Seminar types at one point I thought Jesus was just a good guy.
When I was about 21 or so I had a friend who was a Christian (the guy who got married) and he lived the life at least as best a protestant can I suppose. It had a big influence on me. So I got a bible began reading it...and started watching TBN. (I know I know..yikes..lol!)
I later "got saved"...maybe about 5 years ago. Then I "got saved" like 3000 more times...LOL! I siad that prayer EVERY time I would sin...(make that 30,000 times...:'g')
I went from charismatic/pentecostal beliefs, to almost officially becoming a baptist, but just before checking out the local baptist church, I was in a chatroom with an atheist (maybe just agnostic) who said something about the "coptic bible"...I then did a search on the net, and found all of this stuff out about something called the Orthodox Church. THinking it was just a Catholic Church for ethnic people, I began trying to disprove it. One doctrine at a time. I'd start with say Icons, or the Virgin Mary etc...the problem was after a week or two of studying I'd realize what I had thought the bible taught was all wrong, and the actual meaning of passages were COMPLETELY Orthodox. (for intance Mary said "all generations shall call me blessed" well I KNEW protestant don't do that, and think catholics go too far, yet Orthodoxy was "just right" so to speak.)
Next was the Eucharist, what sealed that for me was Paul saying people had DIED from eating and drinking unworthily. Pretty hard to do if its just bread and grape juice..LOL!
After about 5 months of online study, I contacted a local Orthodox priest. (Greek Orthodox) My first visit we talked (or should I say HE talked..LOL!) for like 4 hours....
Ok I did my share of talking to...
Anyways later that afternoon I attended my FIRST Orthodox service, a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. The beauty of it was just awesome. I began attending services, and experiencing the WORSHIP of God. I had never worshipped the Lord before. It was truly amazing. I soon learned the responses of the people which made the worship that much more profund.
But the one that sealed the deal to use a secular term, was PASCHA!!! My first Resurrection service. I had NEVER felt the presence of God like I did that night. It left me literally speachless. I flet like I had seen the Risen Lord for the VERY first time. I could now understand how the saints would so willingly go to their death for the LIVING Lord Jesus. I never felt that as a protestant...it was simply ineffable.
But really, Pascha was the last aspect of my "conversion"...I was already converted in heart, soul and mind. I had logically accepted the teachings of Orthodoxy ever before stepping foot inside a Church. My first 5 months of study lead me to logically know Orthodoxy was True. But the Pascha, converted my spirit.
I was Chrismated into the Greek Orthodox Church one week later on May 4th of this year. My given name is Charles (everyone including my mom call me Chuck) but I took the name Thomas because I felt a connection to him as all I could say after pascha was "My Lord, and my God!"
oh one other thing...my first visit to an Orthodox Church 2 things struck me..first the priest (who is now my priest of course) just seemed so comforting. I could feel something different about his presence. A sense of holiness. Like I could feel the Aposotolic Sucession.
Two, I felt God present in the Church. I could feel for the first time He was truly and literally REAL. As a protestant so many things seemed like they were just not tangible. But in Orthodoxy it all seemed tangible if not materially then spiritually.
Anyways thats my long drawn out story...
In Christ, Thomas