Brother Aidan, your post was excellent.
In my former faith, everything was black and white. A regenerated,born-again person was kind, good, didn't drink,smoke or curse; dressed modestly,gave alms and supported missions,read the Bible daily, prayed, didn't dance or own a TV. Everything "LOOKED" better.
After being taught that there will be an obvious, outward change at a certain point, it was quite difficult to accept the fact that in Orthodoxy everything isn't spelled out in such "black and white" terms,that everyone is on a different level, progressing at a different rate.
I still struggle with this. It has not been easy for me to change my mentality. I marvel at, yea, even envy, these converts who can so totally embrace their new faith without any qualms or doubts. I'm not that way at all, sadly.
George, you stated you know very few "pious" Orthodox. This surprises me. Perhaps it is because of your location? I am almost surrounded by recent and not-so recent immigrants from the former USSR and many of them (I mean the ones who attend church) are people of almost fierce piety. In fact, in many ways they appear to me to be the Orthodox equivalent of that from which I came. They read spiritual books all the time, urge others to attend church,contact the priest several times a day, fast much more zealously than I could ever hope to...