I have a dear friend who has been in varying degrees of a deep spiritual funk for most of the time I have known him/her. We’ve had a number of long talks about how it manifests, what brings it on, what’s exacerbating it now, etc. On Saturday this person called me, sounding like their soul was about 250lbs. lighter, and when I asked how they were I got the response, “I’m great! How long has it been since you heard me say that?” It seems that perhaps, just perhaps, my friend has found at least a first step out of the morass that doesn’t involve loss of faith.
This friend was very much on my mind when I read this posting from Fr. Joseph Huneycutt:
The following reply was sent, a few years back, to a frustrated Orthodox Christian who had written me with thoughts of leaving the Orthodox Church. I found this while looking through some old files. I post it here for the sake of others who may find themselves in a spiritual funk. Forgive me.
First off, please forgive the delay in my reply. I have nothing but excuses, save fear of failing you in my answer.
I was once in a similar state as you now find yourself. I got to the point where, though I found comfort in praying the services and serving as pastor, I hated everything “Orthodox”. A magazine would arrive with a picture of a priest in vestments — a service, baptism, or some such — and I would look at the picture with loathing and cast it aside in anger. It usually found its way to the back of the bathroom toilet. Then I’d have a visceral reaction every time I saw it.
I hated all things that looked and smacked of “Orthodoxy” — all the while trying to lead a small community. It was awful.
I won’t go into the details of how I got to that point, but (forgive me here, please) I remember walking into the church early one morning and cursing myself before all the saints portrayed on the icons. It was a horrible two years.
That said, it was years ago, here I am … still.
Back in 2006, I was hearing confessions at St George, Houston, during one of the Presanctified Liturgies. The church was dark and full, lots of confessions, the choir was singing beautifully. I wept.
It occurred to me that that very moment, when I felt close to God and heaven, would not have been possible if I had not held on during those terrible years. You might not be able to hear this in your current state but, really, it’s all — ALL OF IT — worth it.
During those years of struggle I tried everything — confession, counseling, crying, cussing, prostrations, Jesus Prayer, gossip — everything! What can I say? I’m a poor priest and a great sinner. But, like you, I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the fullness of Christ in the world. Honestly, in hindsight, I thank God that I was ordained; else, in my weakness, I might surely have left the Church.
Now, years later, things are drastically different. Oh I’m still worthless if you scratch me hard enough. But I look back on those bad years in awe. My life, ministry and outlook are so much — so vastly — different now, through no feat of my own, save hanging in there.
Oh sure, there was God’s mercy, etc, yada, yada, yada. But, spoiled that I am, I expected that. Besides, some things sound trite when you’re in a funk. God is, after all, God; of that I had no doubt. Though unconscious of it, I had plenty of doubts about me.
What is remarkable is that I stayed. And that has made all the difference. The problem wasn’t the Church, Orthodoxy, or Mercy, you see. It was me.
I needed the Church.
I have added you to my poor prayers; I covet yours. (You’re welcome to vent this way if needed.)
With love in Christ,
Two weeks down of Lent. We all have a funk ahead of us between now and beholding the empty tomb. Perspective can be everything, sometimes.