When people ask me if I had any idea that my husband would be ordained a priest, I chuckle and say something along the lines of “kind of.” I had an inkling his heart was completely immersed in service. When I met him in college I found out that he would spend his summer and winter breaks at monasteries. Our first Valentine’s date was spent driving a priest to an out-of-town service, then having a slice of pizza in a shady pizzeria that was also a liquor store, not your typical first Valentine’s date, but definitely memorable. Oh, and when he proposed, it was in church, because that was the most special place to him.
When I entered college I had this new and deep connection with God; it was kind of like the “first love” Archimandrite Zacharias writes about in Remember Thy First Love. During that time I had an admiration for Hannah’s story in the Bible (a reason why we named our daughter Hannah). I couldn’t wrap my mind around how she deeply longed for a child, pleaded with God for one, only to give him back to the Lord. Her audacity and tenacity left me in awe, and a small part of me wanted to have that kind of crazy faith and faithfulness. I started to pray to God for a husband who was Godly, and for a lack of a better word, righteous. I even said something like, “and God if you ever want him back to serve in you in any shape, then okay.” I honestly had no idea of the magnitude of what I was praying for, but there I was nonetheless, uttering those words. I should also mention that I was never the girl who wanted to become a priest’s wife. There are those who have that desire, and God bless them, but that was never me. I thought that the priesthood was the most difficult thing in the world, and couldn’t understand why anyone would sign up for such a challenging life. Oh the irony.
Fast forward a few years later, 5 years ago to be exact, on the feast of St. Antony, my husband put on the black cassock for the first time as a full deacon. See how giddy and full of smiles we were? Little did we know that we were signing up to be refined like never before, and to be refined by nothing other than fire.
“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)
When we started our life together we knew we always wanted to say “yes” to God. Whatever He called us to do and wherever ever He called us to go. If you’ve ever read Fr. Anthony Messeh’s book “Whatever, God” you know the kind of mentality I’m talking about. In the past 6 years of marriage, we have gone through many changes, and it would be an understatement to say that each transition was simply “difficult”. Moving 4 times (one was almost to Australia, but that’s a story for another time), 4 different jobs for me, 2 kids, and 2 ordinations. For the first couple of years, I just wanted normalcy, whatever that looked like. I wanted to settle down and find a place to call home in order to escape the many difficulties we found ourselves facing. Despite the fact that we now own our home, I still feel like home is not a location but a state of peace. The kind of peace that surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts (Philippians 4:7).
What is God calling you to? It doesn’t have to be as drastic as ordination. He could be calling you to feed His sheep in a million different ways. Maybe He’s calling you to take a leap of faith. Maybe He wants you to take on a service project that is out of your comfort zone. Maybe He wants you to say yes to a career path that will help you directly or indirectly serve others. Maybe He wants you to walk down a hard road that will prove that His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Maybe He wants you to make a move across the country, or the world, knowing that He has abundant blessings waiting on the other side. No matter what the call is, know that saying yes only means you get another opportunity to glorify His name.
No one, not even God, said it would be easy, but if you get tired and weary along the way remember that He will take your burden and give you rest. Also, remember what St. Paul says about laboring for the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
During our three-hour car ride to Rhode Island from New Jersey (before moving there), we’d often listen to the Hillsong United song “Oceans.” The lyrics reminded us of St. Peter’s leap of faith in walking on water. And how God may call us to do crazy things (like walk on water or serve in a foreign place), but knowing that He will always be there by our side gave us incredible peace.
“You call me out upon the waters...
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now
So I will call upon Your name.”
But before you start walking on your own water, you first have to decipher God’s calling and will in your life. That sometimes may seem harder than actually saying yes to the call. Make no mistake, God’s call is always clear, it’s our ears that are sometimes not sharp enough to hear His voice. Hearing His voice means that you shut out the loud noise in your life and spend time with Him in quietness frequently. Saying a big yes to God means that you’ve been saying multiple small yeses along the way.
Although God’s ultimate will is our sanctification, the path to get there might look different for everyone. If you want to hear a beautiful discussion about God’s will, check out this podcast episode.
Mama Maggie (a.k.a Mother Teresa of Egypt) said something simple yet profound in her book that I’ll never forget.
“We don’t choose where or when to be born. We don’t choose when or where to die. But we can choose either to help others or turn away. We can choose to do nothing or be a hero. If you want to be a hero, do what God wants you to do. He will let you know what that is, as long as you are open to finding out.”
Are we willing to be heroes for God? Are we open to finding out what He wants us to do, then actually saying “yes”?
I pray that we are like the sheep that know His voice and answer when He calls.
“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10: 2-4)