I'd say the biggest issue for me is the veneration of the Theotokos which I am not too hasty to try and "understand" as I've read it's a mystery to be sought through real participation in the liturgical life of the Church.
Could you elaborate on what makes it an issue? I can guess based on what I hear most protestants say, but I'd like to hear your words.
I don't come from a protestant background, but I had some reservations about venerating the saints coming in. Once I came to accept the life of the Church, I suddenly didn't have those apprehensions anymore. It could be, as you suspect, that you just need more time and experience with the Church.
Due to many issues I am not yet able or willing to expose myself to the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church. I can understand and accept the Orthodox teachings about the Theotokos as sinless, ever-virgin, etc. I can also appreciate the stories I read of her presence through holy icons and on Mount Athos. However, as an active and committed member to a Protestant congregation the veneration of the Theotokos is really something "beyond the pale"
I'd say it really comes down to "romaphobia" as is often mentioned.
Would you say you hold a bit of "romaphobia"? How severe?
I don't think I hold much romaphobia anymore. I think the "Overton Window" of many Evangelicals is influenced by an understanding of themselves as holding to a Christianity that is unlike Catholicism - and unlike Catholicism for a reason they perhaps don't even fully understand anymore but hold to as part of their religious identity.
I can empathise with your situation somewhat. My wife belongs to your denomination (CRC), my in-laws are very involved, university professors at the denominational institutions so I highly respect the history and the denomination you are in.
David DeJonge, who founded Legacy Icons is also a former CRC member and I know of a few other former CRCers who have become Orthodox. Also, I know the CRC and Orthodox college chaplains in my area work very closely together.
I would respectfully say, there is only so far you can go through intellectual study of Orthodoxy. I understand that you are not ready to commit to an Orthodox parish, but perhaps you could attend a Saturday night vespers service? Or attend a Sunday liturgy on occasion? Can you talk to a priest to incorporate some Orthodox prayer to your life? Start a prayer rule, etc? I found that as I started to pray and included, "Rejoice, Virgin Thetokos, Mary full of Grace, Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb for you have borne the Savior of our souls". There is absolutely nothing that I could find wrong with that statement. And as I prayed it every day I got more and more comfortable with it, I was less afraid of accidentally worshiping Mary and at the same time, growing in love for her and for the Lord as well. As my parish priest told the children, we venerate because we love.
When I considered how high Orthodoxy considers all humanity, as really made in the image of God, we should really be bowing down and kissing each other all the time. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who stated that if we encountered a truly deified human, it would be a being we would strongly be tempted to worship, and if we he encountered a truly fallen human it would be a nightmare beyond our worst imaginations, (paraphrased).