A friend of mine was talking to me the other day and complaining about something that bugged her. She has been Orthodox for a few years now, but she did not come into liturgical practice and seriousness about prayer and so forth only when she became Orthodox. Although she was in a Protestant church, it was a highly liturgical church, and she had done a lot of reading and studying and had a lot of experience with deep forms of prayer and with great mystics and spiritual writers of the western church of Europe. This was not new to her.
So she was in a discussion with some other Orthodox people and one of them said, “Oh, those coverts to Orthodoxy, they don’t know anything. They think ‘Once saved, always saved.’ Those Protestants they just don’t have any concept of growing in the spirit.” And it irritated her to hear that, for obvious reasons.
Somebody who has actually experienced living in the Protestant world, has very little grasp I think, of how extreme the variation can be. They just totally cover the range from one end to another. Some are very liturgical, some very anti — liturgical, and some have a very, actually a very, quite a deep grasp of spiritual growth. St. Julian of Norwich, is one that I would recommend. A woman who is an anchoress, in, when did she live, the late thirteen hundreds I think. Well, there are many beautiful writers in western Christian spirituality. So, she had a valid point.
But what I actually thought at that moment was, this is an opportunity to grow in humility. Instead of getting irritated, if you could notice that your, your pride is stunned, your vanity is stunned, that someone is thinking less of you than you really are, and it’s important to you that they know, you know, that you really are someone whose wise and experienced in spirituality. You could turn that around, and instead of getting angry about it, just allow that, allow them to think little of you, and let that be an opportunity to grow in humility.
Most of our spiritual lives we struggle, you know, right, that’s the term, “He’s a struggler.” As we struggle to grow in Christ, we struggle to climb that mountain, and it’s, it’s not easy.
Every once in a while, though, there’s an escalator. You come to an escalator where you can actually go up a pretty good distance, by just allowing it to happen, and not fighting it.
So when events come around like this, where you find that someone has little respect for you, or little respect for what you represent, as it was in this case, it wasn’t personal it was just a statement about what this person thought of Protestants. You should look at that as an opportunity that you can grab, and you can discipline yourself to accept that and to not need to correct their impression of you, and not need to complain about it later to somebody else. And that’s like an escalator that God has suddenly put in your path, where you don’t actually have to struggle up the mountain here, you can just let it happen, and there will be spiritual growth there.
So that was my thought. I think it’s maybe not all that difficult to notice these escalators in other people’s lives, but in our own lives it’s like, “This is injustice, you know, this is wrong, this is just objectively wrong, that they would think this way.” If you notice yourself getting irritated, that’s probably a sign that there’s an escalator nearby. I think it manifests objectively as annoyance or indignation even.
There are cases in which people should be corrected, just because they ought to know, you know, they just expand their range of knowledge there. And we struggle with this thing of loving our enemies and accepting injustice but at the same time knowing that the one who perpetrates injustice is damaging his or her soul that way, and that it is love in fact to correct them, so that they can find wholeness and healing in Christ, rather than perpetuating in a sin. So you do have to weigh that you know, sometimes it is correct to correct other people and the things that they say if they are saying something unjust. But if the only one that’s being hurt is you, I would really encourage you to think of it as an escalator you can take and go up another floor or two, by just allowing it to happen.
Well, I sure that I will notice these opportunities in other people’s lives much more frequently than I do in mine, but I pray that the Lord will give me more opportunities to die to self and to just allow people to think less of me.