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.