When I was quite young, my mother abandoned my younger sister, kid brother and I for a life of Drug Addiction, and just a few years later my father began his new life with his second wife and her children. Being so young, I could understand very little of what was transpiring, but I did know that I was living in a broken home. The burden of three little ones was thrusted upon my grandparents, and out of the goodness of their hearts, they took it upon themselves to raise us. Although the situation I grew up in may not seem ideal to some, I thank God every single day that I was raised by an older generation. The values that they taught me throughout my younger years helped to me to surpass the mistakes of my parents, and it is because of them I am even a Christian at all.
The emotional baggage I carried with me dictated my young adulthood, but my grandparents were very patient and helped me through it all. The parenting style they exhibited was one of “think for yourself.” So long as I could prove my point like a rational adult, and defend it with five logical points, it was allowed. We would spend our evenings discussing the news, life, and how I felt about various topics; my opinions on all matters were appreciated. On my days off, our mornings would begin with a Bible study, and during the summer vacations we would focus nominally on a theological topics and scripture memorization.
In my mid teens I began to struggle with Christianity (Protestant Christianity that is), due to the actual application of the revolutionary teaching of Christ. However, I found resolve in political and revolutionary ideals, and intermingled them with Christianity. My thought was that politics should act as the catalyst for stimulating a change amongst Christians, and would act as a support system to recreate the Church found in Acts. So at 14 I proclaimed myself a communist, and spent much of my time debating my classmates on various topics, and it goes without saying that most of my school projects contained some sort of Marxist agenda. The simplicity of living and the minimalization of material possessions was what really appealed to me, and the root of my angst was nothing more than a yearning for the Truth of Orthodoxy before I knew it.
After being exposed to Punk Rock, my politics evolved later into anarchism, and so did my Christianity. Disappointment after disappointment with my mother and my father, led me to the conclusion that the only true way to honor Christ would be to live a life free of any influence of an outside force. Freedom from society and a disconnection from the system was the only way to rise above this fog of confusion. When asked by others what I wanted to pursue when I graduated high school I would tell them, “Homelessness and detachment from life.” I wanted to be the Pied Piper of my generation, leading the slaves of the world’s systems towards dispossession. Providence however diverted my path.
In my senior year of high school, some acquaintances of mine had converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. At first, my antiestablishment predispositions were prone to skepticism, but after a long night of discussions and debates with a good friend, my mental prejudice was no longer a Berlin Wall. My friend left me with a copy of issue #2 of Death to the World, and from that moment I was captivated. I had never heard of such dedicated Christians with such an attention to detail in the application of the Christian Life. After two months of inquiring, I decided to make a trip up to the previous home of Fr. Seraphim Rose: Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery. It was singlehandedly one of the longest weeks of my life. I had never experienced liturgical worship, robes, beards, prayer ropes, prostrations, 8 hours services, etc. Most importantly I had never encountered such a profound theology. I spent hours with the monks, asking them questions upon questions about all the little details that stood out to me.
When I returned, I was a changed human being and I longed to join the Church. Everything I had been searching for in all the radicalism of my youth all along was to be found in Orthodoxy: the denial of the commercial world and the endless acquisition of goods, the theologically promoted philanthropy, denial of the self not justification of the self—essentially being Dead to the World.4