It was very hard for me to leave my old denomination, and even harder for my wife. I was raised a Lutheran. My father (with me tagging along helping) helped build the LCMS church building in Mineral Wells, Texas, and his name is on the corner stone. He gave up his career flying helicopters when he was in his 30’s, and we all moved to the ghetto in Springfield, Illinois were he went to the seminary. I attended Lutheran schools throughout my Junior High School years. I was married in the Lutheran Church by my father, and my unchurched wife converted to the Lutheran Church when we married. My three children were baptized by my father, and two of the three were at least partially educated in Lutheran schools. I was an elder in the WELS and studying to become a Lay Minister when I converted to the Orthodox Church. I was excommunicated from the WELS, and we lost nearly every friend that we had, not to mention the tension that this caused in my family.
What came next was worse. My family and I were Chrismated into the Antiochian Archdiocese. The priest’s wife was our sponsor. There were a bunch of us Chrismated at the same time, and I really liked the people in that parish. However, I could not come to grips that nearly everything that I learned about Orthodoxy on my path to conversion was missing, and convenient excuses were offered as reasons for this. I became so depressed that I began to study Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Taoism and other religions wondering if perhaps I made a mistake. However, I could not give up Jesus Christ. The calendar issue was settled for me by the Theotokos herself, and I was told in a dream that I would find my Salvation with the Russians (particularly interesting since there were no Russians within 500 miles that I knew of). I don’t even remember how I came into contact with the ROCOR Church in St. Louis, but after months of speaking with the priest via telephone, and even a couple of conversations with then Bishop Hilarion and later the assistant to Archbishop Alypie, I was Baptized into the ROCOR by a priest who was himself the son of a Lutheran Theologian and of German heritage. Needless to say, this did not go over very well with the Antiochians, and the pain started all over again. In fact, things were so bad that during a time that I was very ill and was given permission by the Russians to return to the Antiochians since they were closer, I was told that I could not return unless I renounced my Baptism. At this point, I went home and told God that I would prefer to choke to death (I would wake up at nights and could not breath and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong) than to renounce my Baptism, and I prepared to die. About a week later, the wife of a Hindu friend of mine (the wife is a doctor) figured out what was wrong with me and I was healed.
It has been a long hard process, but I was able to eventually reconcile with the Antiochians (without renouncing my Baptism), and my wife attends there. She always had friends there, and they have accepted her back as though she never left. I attend a local Serbian Orthodox Church, and still battle with my internal demons. I miss the ROCOR, but I like being able to attend services every week rather than only periodically. I also miss the organization, music and culture of the Lutheran Church. I probably will never fit in completely with the Eastern European ways of doing things, and I certainly will not fit in with the Middle Eastern culture. Thankfully, I am older and not in the best of health. That helps me keep my mind on my own salvation a bit better than when I was younger. There are things about Orthodoxy that I wholeheartedly accept. There are others that I just push the “I believe” button and ask God to help my unbelief. It has not been easy, but the Scriptures tell us that the Kingdom of God is taken by force, and the comparison of our path to Salvation is often compared to war. It has been, and continues to be. One day it will end.