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Author Topic: Baptism Approaching: Advice on concern, doubt, etc.  (Read 1116 times) Average Rating: 0
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Cognomen
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« on: April 02, 2011, 12:38:15 AM »

After discussing the issue (again) with the clergy from my parish, we have set a date for my Baptism and reception into the Church. 

While I'm quite excited and believe it's the right decision/timing, I can't help but occasionally think: "what am I getting myself into?"  I have transitioned relatively quickly from an agnostic life, one somewhat hostile towards religion, to being a more reverent agnostic, to that of a very reverent monotheist, and finally, skipped right into the Orthodox Catechumenate. 

Part of the reason Orthodoxy seems such a compelling faith to me is the awe, devotion, fear, and love directed towards God.  The frequently referenced "fullness of the faith," including the liturgical calendar, fasting/prayer rules, and reverent worship seem appropriate, desirable, and possibly even necessary to my living a thoroughly devoted life.  The Church's teachings and theology resonated with me, almost immediately, in a way that other religions and forms of Christianity never did.

Still, I feel as if my faith in Christian doctrine is not as strong as it should be.  Additionally, orienting myself to Christianity is a revolutionary change.  I am wondering if others, particularly those who came from similarly secular, undefined or nominally religious backgrounds, as well as those empathetic to my situation, would provide advice and insight on how you approached your Baptism?  How did you overcome doubts, concerns, etc.,?  At your Baptism, did you feel as though you fully believed every line of the Creed, or that you were agreeing to continue cultivating those beliefs?  Did you feel as if perhaps you were taking on too much, what with the fasting rules and potential wedge created between yourself and non-Orthodox/Christian family and friends?   

My apologies for the length of this post and amount of questions asked.  I'm not expecting to have all of my questions answered and concerns assuaged via internet forum, but reading about similar experiences may help me better understand my situation (along with those of other inquirers/Catechumens facing comparable concerns).  I've found threads, including the one on Atheist Converts (although I'm not an Atheist), particularly helpful.

Finally, I realize that not all of my concerns, doubts, and questions can be answered through conversation, study, and research, so I will be posting a thread in the Prayer Forum as well.

Thanks very much 
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2011, 01:06:01 AM »

I think it's good to face doubts and issues now, as you are doing. I did have issues at the time of my conversion, but they weren't really serious... it's now that they are serious. I should have thought more about things, prayed more about things, etc. before making a commitment that ultimately I couldn't keep. I don't mean to scare you though, I think it's natural to struggle with things, once you start thinking about a faith. I wish you well on your journey... and don't get discouraged in your doubt... just keep in mind the Scripture passage: "I believe Lord, help my unbelief" (Mk. 9:24)
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« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2011, 01:23:09 AM »

Thank you for your insight, well wishes, and the great scriptural reference.  I appreciate your perspective, as one who deeply cares for Orthodox Christianity but struggles with similar issues.

I've put a lot of thought and prayer (admittedly not enough) into this process, and the priests feel that I could continually wrestle with some of these issues until I breath my last breath.  I respect their opinion, sometimes respect my judgment  Grin, and hopefully we are right to move forward. 

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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2011, 08:11:07 AM »

I think cold feet is normal and a bit healthy in a conversion situation.  We were raised Southern Baptist.  Becoming Lutheran was a big, big step.  Lots of second-guessing, heart wrenching, etc.  We were Lutheran for almost exactly 10 years.  Becoming Orthodox was worse, because as Lutherans we thought we had found the true Faith.  Admitting that wasn't the case was hard, and letting go of presuppositions we had held, even after we had intellectually dismissed them, was hard and still is.

Rather than (or, perhaps, in addition to) conversation, study and research, I'd recommend faithful attendance at Orthodox services and faithful adherence to a prayer and fasting rule.  If it is "in addition to," I'd further recommend that if you must do one or the other -- go to Church or say your prayer rule versus reading something or talking about the Faith -- you put the attendance and adherence first. 
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« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2011, 01:06:51 PM »

If you don't think you've thought about it long enough or that you haven't prayed about it long enough, and if your doubts are strong or you fear they will be, then I would suggest waiting to see how your feelings changed. In hindsight, I think it would have been much better if I had spent more than just one year before I converted to Roman Catholicism. I've learned a lot of things before and since my conversion, sure, but I still have doubts over whether I made the right choice by becoming Catholic and not Orthodox. I'm paying for hastiness now.

I know if I were to convert to Orthodoxy, I'd take my time and make sure this is the right step for me. If I wasn't comfortable being Orthodox until my dying breath and even after, if I wasn't comfortable raising any/all of my children Orthodox and defending Orthodoxy and being proud to be Orthodox (not the sinful kind of pride, mind you! Smiley ) then I would not convert until I had those issues worked out. If you know your doubts are just an attack by Satan to make you hesitate, or if you know that ultimately these doubts will not be a barrier to you living life as an Orthodox Christian, then dive right in, my friend. Smiley It's fantastic that you want to convert to Orthodoxy, and I highly encourage you and pray for you. Just make sure you can drink with confidence the cup that Christ drinks, as it's set down in front of you. Don't feel constrained by the date that you and your priest have agreed upon; this conversion is about you and when you're ready.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 01:07:41 PM by Wandering Sheep » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2011, 01:36:36 PM »

Cognomen, if I may ask what made you jump from an agnostic to a very reverent monotheist? How did that change occur in your life?
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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2011, 05:01:41 PM »

Thanks very much for the responses. I should add that I regularly attend worship services (when I'm not traveling) and I've been keeping the fast and my prayer rule.

There is an interesting scene in A Place of Healing for the Soulby Peter France, where the author describes the time leading up to his own Baptism.  He approaches Met. Kallistos, who will be performing the sacrament, and expresses his concerns about not fully believing.  I'm paraphrasing, as I don't have the book with me, but Met. Kallistos says something to the effect of, "is it enough for you that I believe?"  While perhaps not ideal, I do think that this makes sense.  I've met and read the works of so many wonderful people that do have that full belief.  I hope that makes sense.

Cognomen, if I may ask what made you jump from an agnostic to a very reverent monotheist? How did that change occur in your life?
Certainly, although I usually refrain from bringing it up too often or to those who don't know me personally, so as not to sound overly wacky and have it dismissed.  Grin

During a particularly dark period, I faced some significant trials, and it seemed necessary to turn to God for strength.  I felt cheap about doing this, as I had neglected my relationship with Him so thoroughly until that point.  I started a type of prayer rule.  It began as a very casual "talking to God" and developed into a more formal practice.  Having kept this prayer rule for some time, I became overwhelmed by doubt and began to think that my prayers were simply a psychological form of dealing with problems and wanting to believe in something.  I somehow persisted though and continued to pray, communicating my doubts and lack of faith.

Not long after, a series of odd and inexplicable "coincidences" occurred.  They were so over-the-top, that their timing and statistical probability seems virtually impossible to have been a matter of chance.  Still, no message or meaning.  Finally, however, this changed, and the messages culminated in an explanation.  There was no "Go Here!" "Do This!" "Join This Church!" "Sacrifice This Iguana," nothing of that sort, just a very clear and perfectly timed message of reassurance that helped me understand that God is here and intimately involved in our lives.  Following this, I believe, He fought off my arising doubts with more "reminders." 

The communication was truly remarkable, and I felt a thorough sense of awe towards His power and wisdom.  I can't stress enough the perfection of the message in its simultaneous complexity and simplicity.  I still feel utterly blessed to have received it, and I know that it was His grace alone (not my worthiness) that allowed it to happen.  While others who are aware of the details may be amazed at the more tangible and documented happenings, I understand that the entirety of this was tailored for me (I don't mean that in a prideful way, but that its full meaning, timing, in context with a response to my prayer was meant to be understood by me, and that it loses much of its power, intentionally, when translated to others).  After spending a lot of time in contemplation, somewhat bewildered at His Magnificence, I began to find clues pointing me in the direction of Christianity.  So, here I am!  Smiley  Long story... well... still long, but a lot shorter than it could've been.

I know that Orthodoxy can be skeptical of experiences such as this, and rightfully so.  That said, I believe that the baddies are currently trying to use this skepticism to cultivate doubt.  I don't claim to be spiritually attuned or wise--I've never encountered anything remotely similar--but I certainly don't think that demons would be willing to partake in or be capable of revealing a sliver of the Majesty of God.

 
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« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2011, 10:55:08 PM »


Cognomen,

You just wrote a wonderfully inspiring snippet of your "road to Orthodoxy".  You seem to have received guidance...and you seem to affirm, without a doubt, that God exists and is "with you", and has led you to Orthodoxy.

It seems your response, has answered your own questions.

Don't let the "doubts" stand in your way.  The most devout person, will at times have doubts.  It's part of being human.  When one doubts, just take a step back and look at your life...and realize how God is working in it and through it...and all your doubts will vanish.  You cannot deny His existence.

Be strong.


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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2011, 11:27:43 PM »

I think cold feet is normal and a bit healthy in a conversion situation.  We were raised Southern Baptist.  Becoming Lutheran was a big, big step.  Lots of second-guessing, heart wrenching, etc.  We were Lutheran for almost exactly 10 years.  Becoming Orthodox was worse, because as Lutherans we thought we had found the true Faith.  Admitting that wasn't the case was hard, and letting go of presuppositions we had held, even after we had intellectually dismissed them, was hard and still is.

Rather than (or, perhaps, in addition to) conversation, study and research, I'd recommend faithful attendance at Orthodox services and faithful adherence to a prayer and fasting rule.  If it is "in addition to," I'd further recommend that if you must do one or the other -- go to Church or say your prayer rule versus reading something or talking about the Faith -- you put the attendance and adherence first. 

You are so right David.  I converted about a year ago (Baptized last Holy Saturday) and I still sometimes question things.  I read Orthodox books daily, as well as fast and follow a prayer rule, but there is no substitute for actual attendance at services.  Sometimes when I am feeling particularly discouraged spiritually, attending the Divine Liturgy, especially on the week day feasts completely recharges me.

Regular attendance is essential to grow and to strengthen one's Orthodox walk. 
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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2011, 11:46:51 PM »

I'm Orthodox and I don't always totally believe everything. Just have a healthy sense of humor and an appreciation for your own finite limitations. God meets us where we are at and works with us. Also, you might be interested to know that many baptized "cultural" Russian Orthodox also consider themselves to be ATHEISTS! A weird cocktail of soviet communism and Russian religious identity. And this is a LOT of them. So if they can get to the Mysteries, no reason why you shouldn't be able to since you probably believe in God at least most of the time.  Wink
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2011, 12:03:17 AM »

I'm right there with you. I was an agnostic, too, when I became Orthodox. (The first time I crossed myself, I felt like I was watching someone else, and when I sang 'heavenly holy Jesus Christ' during the liturgy, I felt faintly ridiculous--for months; it reminded me of some fundamentalist morons on my mother's side of the family whom I had long held in contempt. Even saying the word "Jeeee-Zuzz"--it sounded like I was channeling a third-rate evangelist.) Also, I had--like everyone else in America--been brainwashed into the secularist point of view. In some social groups referring to anything remotely Christian lowered one's IQ: it just wasn't cool. But, 'Hey, what's your sign'? (Aries, Virgo Rising)--that was somehow rational.

I studied comparative religion for years in a quest to find something into which I could throw my aching soul--Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism--and when I finally found Orthodox Christianity, I knew in my gut it was true. (Christianity was one of the first religions I'd excluded from consideration because of the way in which it's practiced in America; however, I'd always felt that if the practice of Christianity even remotely resembled the thoughts expressed in the red words in the New Testament--Christ's words--it would be the most true and beautiful religion in the world.) Most of the variations of Christianity I'd experienced hadn't resembled His words at all. To finally discover a form of Christianity that actually practiced what Christ preached stunned me, and the die was cast.

The only thing I can say to you is that you'd be surpised what God can do in your life once you turn to Him. It will astound you. Don't despair.

As for doubt, it's a natural thing; it means you have free will--exactly as God intended. Every day I have doubts, and every day I re-affirm to myself that Christ is truth. Doubt gives me an opportunity to reconsider my beliefs and then to re-affirm them. He does not compel us to follow Him--that's how much He loves us. The question itself leads to re-affirmation.

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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2011, 12:25:45 AM »

Congrats!

Advice....hm...Wear a snorkle?!?
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2011, 10:05:38 PM »

Thanks again for all of the thoughtful and encouraging replies.

I feel a bit more at ease over the decision, and that my concerns aren't unique.

Now buying a white post-baptismal suit?  That's quite a different story.  Undecided  I hope a light grey or British Khaki will suffice for conveying the message.   Smiley angel  and a 4th and random emoticon thrown in for good measure:  police 
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« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2011, 12:24:03 PM »

I was Baptized last year.

I still have questions for my priest.

I had been taking some private catechumin classes with my priest but had to stop due to my priest having a period of bad health (he is good now and having a healthy recovery after some corrective surgery).  Our priest had said that we needed to be married inside the orthodox church, so we planned to have the church wedding in my wife's old country so that her mother could attend.  The foreign priest agreed to marry us only if I was baptized (my wife is cradle orthodox).   We had a big language barrier so finishing catechumin classes with this foreign priest would never happen in the limited time we had and my local priest still had not responded to my emails that I had already sent him.  So yes I had some doubts at that point.

I was baptized and we were married the next Sunday.  I still had that nagging feeling, but when we came home my priest was the first person to congratulate me on the baptism and wedding.  He never mentioned continuing the classes and he was busy with some new inquirers.  Another 6 months and we had enough catechumin to start formal catechumin classes, one of the inquirers told me about the classes so I decided to attend, our priest seemed slightly surprised that I was there.   Now that the classes are finished I still have questions but I am not going any where, I am sure they will be answered in time.

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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2011, 12:27:35 PM »

Cognomen,

Remember, "Lord, I believe! Help Thou my unbelief"?

That's where we all are, more or less, if we're honest with ourselves.

Blessings!
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