Monday, June 22, 2009
The Hales' Journey, part 17 - Debbie's Perspective (1)
During the time that Clint was writing his story about his and Debbie's journey to Orthodoxy, several folks expressed a desire (either publicly or privately) to hear Debbie's side of the story. Debbie has graciously agreed to write a few posts giving us "the other side of the story!" Enjoy!
When Fr. James asked me to write my thoughts about our conversion to Orthodoxy, I was not sure what I would say. Clint had already shared how the events unfolded for us, so what could I add? But then I realized that, for the most part, my thoughts and feelings were not shown. The events may have unfolded in the same manner, but my feelings were much different than Clint’s. So now I get the chance to tell my side of things. Here we go.
I was born into a Christian family. From my earliest memories, we were always at church. My father, who is Polish, was raised Roman Catholic, but as he grew into adulthood he did not agree with some of the teachings of the church, so he eventually, with the help of my mother, converted to Protestantism – namely, the Church of Christ.
He took his new faith very seriously. He studied his Bible most nights before going to bed, and we attended church every time the doors to the building were opened. My parents were also very active in the church – teaching Bible classes, doing outreach, preparing communion, etc. Because of this I was often at church helping them when no one else was there. Seeing how they actively lived out their faith instilled in me a deep love for God, and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to spend my life serving God and loving him.
As I grew, this commitment never waned—I took it very seriously. I attended church regularly, studied my Bible, helped out where I could, and I prayed. By about the 5th grade, I prayed every night that I would one day marry a man who wanted to be a minister or a missionary. I wanted someone who loved God as much as I did, and nothing less would be good enough.
During my teen years this became a lot harder, but I stuck to my commitment. When boys at school would ask me out, I was even more determined that I was not going to date someone that I could not potentially marry. I knew that my mother had fallen in love with my dad during High School, so I wasn’t going to risk falling for someone who didn’t believe the same things I did. Needless to say, I didn’t date much.
Throughout High School and college, I faithfully attended services, hung out with the Youth Group, and tried to find ways to serve - but this was a sticking point for me. I was born with an amazing aptitude for art and music. I could sing in church with everyone else, but art was not something I could use, not really. I was not good at (and did not enjoy) the things all the other girls liked to do – like taking care of the babies, and teaching Bible Classes. To me, it seemed like God had given me a gift that I couldn’t use in the church, and this made me very angry.
God had also chosen to make me extremely shy and introverted, which many people see as being stuck up, snobby, or cold. When friends would get angry at me for not being a certain way, or not doing things a certain way, I would get angry with God. I distinctly remember one night in particular where I found myself pleading with God to change me—make me more like everyone else. I also asked that he give me a gift that I could use to serve him better. He did neither. Eventually I just stuffed my feelings of inadequacy down, and blindly trusted that God had a plan for me.
When I fell in love with Clint, and he told me that he wanted to be a minister, I knew that he was the one for me. He was the answer to my prayers. I had finally found someone who shared my love for God, and for the first time in a long time, I was excited about the future. When we eventually ended up as missionaries in Estonia, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew God had put us there for a reason. Of course, I never would have guessed what the reason really was.