Orthodox America

  My Path to God

Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I shall give you rest.  

    My path to God, to faith, was simple and not uncommon for many who came from among the Soviet intellectual circles in the decades of the '60's and '70's.

     I was not baptized as a child, I didn't live in a religious milieu, I wasn't an atheist --to put it simply, I was nobody. And this 'nobody-ness,' this lack of individuality was an expression of a defensive fear which at that time blanketed the entire country.

     I was brought to God by Russian literature, by art, music, and by me wife, My love for the word, for verbal artistry, was born early in life, and for this reason I was especially sensitive and receptive to the literary expression of religious feelings. Dostoevsky, Leskov, Pushkin, L. Tolstoy-these all gave me rich religious nourishment. But it was not only literature which turned my attention to Christianity. Art and music, with their biblical subjects (I have in mind here classical music and art), are deeply penetrated by the spirit of Christianity, and this spirit could not but affect my soul.

    My wife and friends who were believers helped me immensely. My wife, baptized in infancy (this was essentially the extent of her Christian upbringing at the time), had just become a mother as I was taking my first steps towards God. This fundamentally transformed our life. With the full strength of maternal love, my wife turned to God. Her love for our son made her such a fervent Christian that her zeal took on hypertrophic dimensions. But for me even this was beneficial because it meant that I was daily confronted with a display of religious feelings. We argued a lot--at times drifting apart into opposing points of view, at times coming to agreement. And in this way I gradually made headway.

    Among our acquaintances there appeared newcomers--Orthodox believers, many of them had already made the long journey which lay before me. I am very grateful to them for having labored with such tact and patience in helping me to come to God. To begin with, they regularly supplied us with religious literature; they looked out for us also in church where we tried to squeeze ourselves into some corner, and in life--bearing and forgiving our failings with Christian compassion and humility. At last they conquered my luke-warmness, and in my heart there was kindled a small flame of faith. 

    But I was still troubled by many questions which had to be resolved before I could make the final step and be baptized. I was bothered, or rather I didn't understand why it was necessary for me to go to church which was controlled by an atheist government; how could I address myself to a priest and, whatís more, confess to him, if he were possibly a KGB informer? There was God and there was me, and I felt no need of any intermediaries. At that time I didn't understand that it was precisely such thoughts that testified to my spiritual infirmity, And the Lord stretched out to me a helping hand--I felt I could not exist outside the Church. Actually, my friends arranged everything so discretely that I thought it all happened of itself. I was baptized. 

    I was then 40 years old, and my faith was no bigger than a mustard seed. Whether or not it has grown since then is hard for me to judge. Through my inadequate faith and carelessness I am forever stumbling over the innumerable rocks of my sins. But I have no doubt whatever that the path I have chosen is the right one. 

Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:24) 

                  Vadim Shcheglov
Representative Abroad of the Committee for the Defense of Believersí Rights in the USSR 

The author is a founding member, together with Fr. Gleb Yakunin, of the CCDBR. Given the choice of prison or emigration, he came to this country in 1983; he/s a member of Holy Epiphany parish in Jamaica Plain, MA.

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