I used to think that I was a terrible, or at best, mediocre writer. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but sitting down and writing sentences was intimidating. About four years ago, my wife began to encourage me with my writing. It started slowly, just a blog every once in a while, but I began to enjoy the writing process.
In late 2010, I compiled several of my writings into a short book on Christianity in America. I enjoyed writing about religion, but frequently told myself and others that I would never attempt fiction (aside from one short story I wrote). Not because I dislike it, but because I love it and I felt I did not have the creativity or imagination to pull together a worthwhile contribution to the world of fictional tales.
I love being taken on adventures into fantasy worlds. For that reason, books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Time Quintet (Madeline L’Engle), Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series rank amongst my favorite fictional works. Also, the charming and imaginative movies of Hayao Miyazaki are quite inspirational to me.
But I kept swearing I would not write fiction…until one day the idea for a story hit me in January 2011. Two years later, I am still at work on this fantasy/adventure novel.
Christianity in color
So, what does any of that have to do with Orthodoxy? I can’t help but answer: everything!
When stepping into an Orthodox parish, beauty surrounds me. On every wall are colorful icons depicting heroes of the faith and deeply metaphorical scenes from the life of Jesus. There is symbolic depth for everything from the position of one’s fingers on their hands to the way they stand during a service. The icons are not meant to be “photo real” images of our Savior and the saints, but rather metaphorical images that mix the spiritual and physical realms into one image (since that is the complexity of our human nature).
I call Orthodoxy: “Christianity in Color.” But it doesn’t stop in the parish. I have an “icon corner” in my home. The sweet smelling candles remind me that my prayers are a beautiful fragrance to God, the depictions of Jesus and a few saints covering the wall tell me I am never alone when I pray or at any other time of the day, the crucifix that I wear whispers that Jesus is always near to my heart…even when I feel depressed or have sinned.
Unfortunately, due to the influence of the Puritans and other groups, Western Christians tend to eye anything that is symbolic as superstitious or meaningless. We have stripped much of the color, beauty, imagination, and depth from our worship services and daily lives.
“Further up and further in”
But Orthodoxy is inviting me into the rich depth of the artistry of Christ. As I have entered into the realm of imagination with the story I am writing that takes place in a fantasy land, I find that beauty and creativity through symbolism are becoming more important and more real to me.
I am leaving the dryness of Western mindsets and entering a world enriched in imagery in which every day is filled with meaningful, colorful symbols. The movements and actions of my daily life are becoming sacraments – which is a fancy word for “an encounter with God.” It was after all bread and wine which Jesus offered to the disciples saying, “This is my body and my blood.” These would have been two of the most common elements to the ancient Jew’s daily life. Not only was Jesus establishing a sacrament, but he was showing that our whole lives are to be filled with sacraments.
I realize this may not appeal to everyone. But for those who would like to touch their inner child’s fascination with mystery, symbolism, and depth, I would invite you to embark on an adventure and exploration into the ancient Eastern Orthodox Church.