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What to do when the zeal wears off?

trevor72694

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Hey, everyone.

I tend to turn every post I make into a personal narrative, so I'll spare you all that and keep it as short as I can.  There are some n00bs on OCnet, so for them I'll share that I was chrismated in the Orthodox Church when I was 15, which was nearly 6 years ago.  It was only 6 years ago, but I was really a different person.  I was the epitome of what we'd call "convertitis".  It is rather hilarious to think about!  I'm sure I annoyed y'all a lot during my first few years in the Church.

Well, going through my late teens took its toll, but my faith helped me get through the hard times.  Starting college was a real trial.  I ended up leaving the Church, then coming back.  I am seeing a therapist who is helping me through my little identity crisis.  But I'm still here - I'm just about to get ready to go to liturgy.

When I first started going to Orthodox services, I was so moved.  The chanting, the incense, all of it was so gorgeous that I could have fallen over with delight.  What I'm struggling with now is that I find the services a bit boring.  I try to have the really palpable zeal I used to have, but I can't seem to muster it up.  I've been to other Churches since chrismation, but none seem as good and true as Orthodoxy, so I have to stay.  Being an Orthodox Christian means sacrifice and struggle ("podvig"), and I'm coming to realize just how deep that goes.  Only it's hard to carry one's cross when one doesn't feel particularly zealous.  (Now I've gone and made myself sound lazy.  I probably am!)

How do those of you who have been practicing Orthodox Christians for a long time keep the faith when you're down in the dumps, or you don't really want to struggle anymore?

As an aside - I was able to meet some new (and soon to be) converts to Orthodoxy from other parishes around my deanery.  Most of them were my age.  Lord, forgive me if I was that eager to go to Church every day and dress like a 19th century Russian peasant when I first converted!

Also - how can a young person, like me, become more spiritually mature?  I've grown a bit since I was 15, but I still have a long way to go.  Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Trevor
 

Thomas

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I find that the older I get the more mystical I become, I tend to lose my self in the service and tend to find my mind going to the Church Triumphant in Heaven, I sometimes feel the presence of the heavenly hosts as I meditate upon the Divine Liturgy. As I became more familiar with the repetitive parts of the Liturgy I listened more to the hymnology and what the chanters were teaching through the daily changeable texts and hymns.

 

eddybear

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Times of reduced zeal are quite normal in the Christian life. Not pleasant, but normal. It's at those times that habits learned in the good times - attendance at church, confession, taking the Sacrament, personal devotions, following lectionary readings, etc - are important. Just keep doing them, and the zeal will return in due course.

One thing that you won't be able to do is muster up zeal. It's easy to to think along the lines of "If I can make myself zealous, then I'll be able to pray more, read the Bible more etc". But actually it works the other way round.
 

theuerjb

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eddybear said:
Times of reduced zeal are quite normal in the Christian life. Not pleasant, but normal. It's at those times that habits learned in the good times - attendance at church, confession, taking the Sacrament, personal devotions, following lectionary readings, etc - are important. Just keep doing them, and the zeal will return in due course.

One thing that you won't be able to do is muster up zeal. It's easy to to think along the lines of "If I can make myself zealous, then I'll be able to pray more, read the Bible more etc". But actually it works the other way round.
In AA there's an aphorism that "you can't think yourself into right actions, you have to act your way into right thinking."
 

katherineofdixie

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theuerjb said:
eddybear said:
Times of reduced zeal are quite normal in the Christian life. Not pleasant, but normal. It's at those times that habits learned in the good times - attendance at church, confession, taking the Sacrament, personal devotions, following lectionary readings, etc - are important. Just keep doing them, and the zeal will return in due course.

One thing that you won't be able to do is muster up zeal. It's easy to to think along the lines of "If I can make myself zealous, then I'll be able to pray more, read the Bible more etc". But actually it works the other way round.
In AA there's an aphorism that "you can't think yourself into right actions, you have to act your way into right thinking."
And when the zeal wears off, in my experience/ observation, is when real spiritual growth and understanding occurs.
 

Thomas

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I agree, real spiritual growth occurs when the zealot ends the humble Christian life begins.
 

Agabus

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Re: the OP —

Keep praying.

Even when you don't feel like it.

Even when it feels silly.

Even when you don't believe anymore.

The person that is struggling to the best of his abilities, who has no desire to live a disorderly life, but who, in the course of the struggle for faith and life, falls and rises again and again, God will never abandon. And if he has the slightest will not to grieve God, he will go to Paradise with his shoes on. The benevolent God will, surprisingly, push him into Paradise. God will ensure that he take him at his best, in repentance. He may have to struggle all his life, but God will not abandon him; He will take him at his best possible time. -- Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

EDIT: The other note is, truthfully, the zeal comes back. But when it comes back, it's usually tempered by time and rooted more in reality than perhaps when it is grown out of convert pathologies.
 

Elisha

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Agabus said:
Re: the OP —

Keep praying.

Even when you don't feel like it.

Even when it feels silly.

Even when you don't believe anymore.

The person that is struggling to the best of his abilities, who has no desire to live a disorderly life, but who, in the course of the struggle for faith and life, falls and rises again and again, God will never abandon. And if he has the slightest will not to grieve God, he will go to Paradise with his shoes on. The benevolent God will, surprisingly, push him into Paradise. God will ensure that he take him at his best, in repentance. He may have to struggle all his life, but God will not abandon him; He will take him at his best possible time. -- Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

EDIT: The other note is, truthfully, the zeal comes back. But when it comes back, it's usually tempered by time and rooted more in reality than perhaps when it is grown out of convert pathologies.
This.
 

ialmisry

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Elisha said:
Agabus said:
Re: the OP —

Keep praying.

Even when you don't feel like it.

Even when it feels silly.

Even when you don't believe anymore.

The person that is struggling to the best of his abilities, who has no desire to live a disorderly life, but who, in the course of the struggle for faith and life, falls and rises again and again, God will never abandon. And if he has the slightest will not to grieve God, he will go to Paradise with his shoes on. The benevolent God will, surprisingly, push him into Paradise. God will ensure that he take him at his best, in repentance. He may have to struggle all his life, but God will not abandon him; He will take him at his best possible time. -- Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

EDIT: The other note is, truthfully, the zeal comes back. But when it comes back, it's usually tempered by time and rooted more in reality than perhaps when it is grown out of convert pathologies.
This.
and more of this.

Don't go to divorce court once the honeymoon is over.
 

Second Chance

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Thomas said:
I agree, real spiritual growth occurs when the zealot ends the humble Christian life begins.
There are also passages in the New Testament that indicate that we should be thankful for obstacles, problems and woes, as they are given to us so that we can grow in the Lord.
 

Kostya

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I'm only a few years older than you, though I am not baptized yet, and I have been attending my church since October.

I can relate to how divine liturgy drags on for you. For a while, it seemed that way to me. I have arthritis, as well as a portfolio of injuries and other health problems, and my legs are often very, very sore when I get to church bright and early for Orthros, which is a great distraction.

The only thing I can really do is tell you what works for me. You need to remind yourself why you NEED to be there, and that you NEED what is offered there.
 

LenInSebastopol

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katherineofdixie said:
Agabus said:
...convert pathologies.
I'm sorry to be so frivolous, because I know this is a serious subject but when I read this, I laughed so hard I spit coffee all over the keyboard.  ;D
Yeah, the truth does that to me too.
So I don't drink coffee over my keyboard.
;)
 

stavros_388

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It's good to hear from you, Tikhon. I appreciate your honest and candid posts. What you are going through is normal. We all endure periods of aridity. Fortunately, you've received some superb advice in this thread, so much so that I have little to add. I will only add that you should try to force yourself to commit daily to quiet and steady practice of the Jesus Prayer if you are not already doing so. I feel that this silent time of practicing the prayer helps to root prayer into you, so that Christ is always on your lips and in your heart, and the Prayer becomes something of a background and solid foundation for everything else you do. If you do so for a long period of time (years), your prayer life will bear fruit and help to carry you through all kinds of trials and dry times... and can accompany you through the longest, most drawn out Church services. ;)
 
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