My husband is a convert to Orthodoxy, and I am jealous of that fact. He and our other convert friends like to say: “Oh, you don’t know what a gem you’ve had!”

And they’re right. I didn’t.

I don’t like not knowing about my faith. A faith that people are flocking to for both its traditions and its complete uniqueness in the sea of ever ebbing Western Christianity. And it’s not as though I don’t understand how wonderful that is, but most of the time, I fail to appreciate it.

Maybe it stems from how I grew up. My father immigrated from Romania. His parents took him to church, but religious education was not their main concern. My mother was a Catholic, taken to church by her very devout grandmother, and she converted after marrying my father. Shortly after my middle sister was born, we moved away from our home church, and into a county with four Orthodox churches. All of which were within 20 minutes of our house.

Compared to most places, I grew up in an Orthodox oasis. I knew all the priests in the area. There weren’t many Orthodox Christians at school, but I was fortunate enough to know some. And all my teachers knew about Pascha, and that it usually fell on a different day than western Easter. When they asked me why, I just told them it depended on the moon and Passover.

That’s what they knew about Orthodoxy from me. Because that’s all I ever knew. I never thought to delve much further in regards to my faith. And no one ever told me to do so. Church was something that happened on Sundays, and communion was taken regularly by all, no matter how often you went to confession. Sunday school always turned in to a bland, secular lecture on morality. We talked more about how to be “good people” in the eyes of a society to which we did not conform more than we ever talked about what we believe and why we believe it. This led to me misrepresenting our faith and, in doing so, I began to take it for granted.

On the other hand, my husband grew up in a Baptist church. His church experience was more concerned with the cerebral aspect of religion. My husband can pull Bible verses out of thin air. My father-in-law knows biblical Greek. When we started dating, I felt at a loss when his family asked me questions about Orthodoxy. Every deviation from their experiences in their faith was met with a flood of biblical support and quotes from Protestant theologians. How could I expect him to want to convert if I had no knowledge of my faith, while he knew so much about his?

Fortunately, he still wanted to come to church with me. Being a protestant, he was raised to seek truth. And he wanted to learn the truth about Orthodoxy. His Baptist background, which initially drove me from him, turned out to be the biggest blessing.

When we got engaged, my husband decided that he wanted to convert to Orthodoxy. The church we attend hosted “metanoia” classes. “Metanoia”, meaning “a change of heart”, was a course that spanned twelve weeks (six spring classes/six fall classes) and was designed for catechumens. My husband wanted to learn, and I was determined to learn alongside him.  

The experience was eye-opening. Each sacrament, tradition, and common prayer was explained. Those attending asked questions that I didn’t even know I had. And they were answered. Sometimes, questions about Orthodoxy can be answered with a simple “we don’t know”, which I believe is beautiful and redirects our train of thought, from matters that have no bearing upon our salvation to our journey through theosis. But the majority of the questions asked during metanoia were answered in full, and with biblical references. What I had spent twenty-two years not knowing, I was able to begin to process in those twelve weeks.

My husband was able to receive the sacraments the Palm Sunday after our wedding. It was beautiful to witness. While I am a firm believer in infant baptism, there is a moment of clarity that hits me whenever I watch someone receiving communion for the first time, fully aware that they are now partaking in the body and blood of Christ. I envy their awareness of spiritual things that I had grown numb to.

This experience was truly humbling. A faith that I have held dear all my life, I had known nothing about. It felt as though I had cheated myself out of so much growth and knowledge by being complacent in my faith. I am fortunate enough to have a husband who is so dedicated to his faith that he was able to get me to learn more about Orthodoxy, a faith that he was not yet a part of. Truly, God knows what is most beneficial for our souls.

St. Paul calls metanoia “putting on the mind of Christ,”. This act of reformation and recalibration is what my husband and all my other catechumen friends have been able to experience. Being born with the faith, I never sought out a “change of heart” when it came to Orthodoxy. It was always a part of me but, like an arm unbroken, I never realized how much I needed it until it was necessary to lean upon it. That being said, I have only been able to receive a fraction of the grace that they have been privy to. But I suppose that is what motivates me to do better. To strengthen my prayer rules. To read more books about the faith. To steel myself against temptation.

Initially, I was jealous of converts. But their experiences serve as a reminder of what I must strive towards. St. John of Kronstadt says: “Afflictions and misfortunes are very, very advantageous to us, for they reveal to us the wounds of our heart, which we had not seen nor felt before.” I may be wounded by my former lack of knowledge and devotion. I may have suffered because of it. However, had I never met my husband, had I never been stricken with envy at the sight of him experiencing Orthodoxy for the first time, I would have never known how miraculous our faith could truly be. I would be stuck in my old, ignorant ways; stagnating in a pool of apathy that can form when you’re cradle-born. But now I have an opportunity to improve myself, draw closer to God, and educate my future children, so that they are better able to understand and appreciate the gem that is the Orthodox Church.

My husband is a convert. And, yes, I’m jealous of that fact. But I am far more grateful that the Lord placed him in my life to open my eyes, and show me the fullness of the faith.