Kevin Basil (signature)

To Havdala

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Written by Basil on 08/19/2004 7:34 PM. Filed under:

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I do not know whether you read my blog or not, but I do not have a Blogger account, and I do not really want one. I do, however, have my own blog.

I resonate with your doubting. When I attended an evangelical Protestant college, my friends were all the outcasts. They were all on their way out of Christianity, or at least to a not-so-conservative brand of it. In retrospect, this is ironic because my direction theologically and philosophically was somewhat opposite, with some resonating harmonies. You can see, if you read this blog, that my journey has taken me into the high-country of the most conservative of Christianities — though I have far more liberty now than ever before.

I found fellowship with the pagans because they were more interesting. They were real. If they had doubts, they didn’t hide them. (And they had better taste than the praise-chorus–lapping majority of the student body.)

That is why the struggle with doubt is something that I associate with real, honest people. I have a nagging distrust of people who have never struggled. It seems to me that some form of struggle in this arena is necessary for strength. And my own life has not been without its own struggle.

I always find it sad when I learn that someone stops struggling and decides to let the waves overwhelm them. The lack of struggle is death. I do not mean only that they become pagans; it is equally sad, perhaps more so, when the struggle chokes their spirit and they become mummified, trapped inside a religious sarcophagus — smiling, happy, and dead.

I am weeping for you, Havdala, not because you are struggling, but because the tone of your post is so desperate. I recognize that despair; I can touch my own scars and remember the pain of despair. I’ve heard that sound before, and it bodes ill. It sounds like you are about to give up. It sounds like death.

I am praying for you, that you will get enough fresh air to continue fighting. Speaking of fresh air, perhaps you should consider taking a break from all things religious, to catch your breath. Return to the struggle when you have the strength to fight.

It looks like this: any doubts, any contradictions, any wounds you have received over the course of your life — you shelve them and distract yourself instead of dealing with them. Personally, I would distract myself with beauty: walks in the woods, visits to art museums, tours of gardens and such. Beauty is very spiritual for me. The important thing is that the distraction be meaningful to you and truly distracting.

Superficially this sounds dishonest; it sounds like running from the fight. In fact, the fight continues unconsciously while you regain your strength. When you return to the struggle — because you cannot escape the struggle indefinitely — you will find issues are clearer, and you will have the strength to take on the Hydra once again.

This is ideally done in the midst of a community that is praying for you; you attend prayers as you are able, without any expectations being made of you. However, sometimes even this is too much. It also helps if you have someone with whom you can talk about these issues — a nun, a priest, or a matushka can sometimes be especially sensitive to the needs of those who struggle.

Whatever you do, I am praying for you.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

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5 Responses to “To Havdala”

  1. pete Says:

    that was really neat to read. thanks for writing it.

  2. Karl Thienes Says:

    Nicely said. I hope she finds her way…

  3. Erich Says:

    I’ve personally seen the same thing happen, and I’m not saying this condescendingly. I think there is something about coming to Orthodoxy from the West that eventually forces one to question Orthodoxy very strongly as well. Perhaps the thought processes that take you away from Protestantism can’t call it quits once you “find” Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is culturally quite different from Western religious expressions and it is difficult to “land” easily in it. From cradles, their process involves coming to terms with something with which they are often too familiar. With converts, though, it’s a radical break. It’s even a reorientation of one’s entire vocabulary. It can be difficult to stop reorienting…

  4. Dawn Says:

    I feel like I am almost exactly where she is…. I love Basil’s loving response. Very true, I think.

  5. Marguerite (Havdala) Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, Basil, I just haven’t been checking out blogs much lately. I think you are right about taking a break, I live and work largely alone and have a tendency to live inside my head which is never a good thing. I think one of the disadvantages of being ‘cradle’ Orthodox which I am is that there can come a point where one is forced to think seriously about all the things that have been taken for granted for decades and it’s very frightening, especially when it happens all at once. I’ve been here before and I think what I’m dealing with now is a kind of flashback and you’re absolutely right – if I don’t overdo thinking about it, it will be easier. My priest (and our bishop) are very good to me but the problem is they want me to talk 🙂 and I would rather think and not talk and so it perpetuates itself. Thank you again.