But I'm starting to think that my biggest mistake was that I was exploring pretty much only doctrines. I should have tried to acquire Orthodox worldview and piety instead of trying to transform myself as an armchair theologian.
Ditto. As many of you have seen me post, I came from the Reformed tradition (Presbyterian) and was very satisified with scholastic, systematic theology. When inquiring into Orthodoxy, theology is what concerned me most, and what always occupied my mind. I wrestled with "high theology" for months, and never really got anywhere. It wasn't until I was instructed in a prayer rule and introduced to piety by our parish priest that things really came into focus.
That sounds like terrific advice.
Yes, and it was so counter-intuitive to me, coming from that theological background. I would have never done it on my own, and would have eventually given up trying to understand Orthodoxy. When the praxis began, I didn't know what I was doing...or what most of it meant. The prayers were weird, chanting was odd, and candles? The only times we used candles growing up is when the power went out or my Mom decided the house needed refreshing and bought a bunch of aromatic candles.
But, it was the best thing I ever did. I finally stopped thinking about God like He was some abstract concept and began realizing Him as a person
. I mean, Protestants talk about having a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" but what they mean and what theosis means are not
the same thing. Then, I just fell in love with the Church, her saints, the Theotokos etc. In practicing Faith, I gained faith, my questions were answered and my doubts faded.
And so, the best advice this former scholastic has is, stop worrying about knowing about it, and just know it. Pray (individually and with the Church in your local parish), fast, read the Scriptures and the Fathers, keep the commandments, abstain from sin. The Holy Spirit will make things clear in time.
Not to say that I'm now some perfect ascetic. Lord, have mercy. I wasn't good at any of those things starting out, and I still continue to fail in them each and every day (not to mention that I'm still just a catechumen!) But, as the monk answered when he was asked about what is done in the monasteries, "We fall down, and we get back up. Then we fall down again, and get back up again."