Coming to Orthodoxy has been a slow process for me. I started reading about it several years ago a little at a time until I finally became completely convinced that it is truth. I'm not a catechumen yet. I haven't even attended an Orthodox service because the nearest church is an hour and a half away, but I nevertheless consider myself an aspiring Orthodox Christian.
Something that has been weighing heavily on my heart is that my girlfriend isn't where I'm at. It hurts a bit to think of it because, being something so important, I'd really like her to be where I am so we can move on together, especially going into our marriage. But we are at different stages.
We both come from similar evangelical backgrounds. The churches we knew best were legalistic, "Bible believing" churches that showed more judgement than love. We both left our churches because of that and developed a more "spiritual but not religious" attitude. We wanted God, but not all of the stuff that made our old churches such a bad experience. We came to associate "religion" and "ritual" with dead, meaningless things.
Since learning about Orthodoxy, my opinion has been reversed and I see so much beauty and love and truth in the Church and its practices. My girlfriend hasn't actively studied Orthodoxy, though. She only knows of it from what I tell her, but she isn't convinced or so willing to devote herself to it right now. Her old church really put her off of "systems" due to the amount of perceived failure and guilt she underwent there. She's very wary of "systems" of worship or institutional religion.
I feel a deep sadness for her and I being so far apart on the issue. I suppose I'm not in such a bad position, though, because when I bring it up to her about how worried I am and how sad it can make me, she will say, "Don't worry about that now. There's no reason. Don't you see how open I am to Orthodoxy?" And it's true. I've talked to her about visiting an Orthodox church some time, and while maybe not excited for it, she seems very glad to do it. When I talk to her about Orthodox theology and how it differs from the theology of western Christianity, she seems very refreshed, especially regarding the natures of sin and salvation.
She told me that part of the reason she doesn't like a "system" is that it forces her to do things she doesn't like. She has said she doesn't like going to church, or reading the Bible, or putting lots of thought into prayer. She is afraid that in Orthodoxy she would be forced to do those, then face the internal conflict of not wanting to but feeling obligated, and then ultimately failing and feeling guilty and judged for it. Hearing that obviously makes me sad, as I'm deeply inspired to go to services weekly, read the bible and pray constantly. Not because I have to, but because since beginning to associate myself with Orthodoxy, I've been so inspired to do so. I hope it will be the same for her.
But another bright side to the story, I asked her if she could ever overcome her aversion to church. She told me that if it depended on her will, it's unlikely, but if it depends on my will, it's likely. And she loves me so deeply I know she wants my will.
Anyway, I'm writing for support mostly. Whenever I remember this situation, I get pretty down about it. Has anyone else been here? How did it turn out?
Is there anything I might be able to teach her or say to her to help her move toward Orthodoxy?