When you come into the Orthodox Faith from outside there is a kind of hope. You’ve read the material. You’ve kicked the tires a bit. In some vague sense there is an awareness of the reality that problems, struggles, challenges, and sin exists within Her yet they don’t seem to be at the front of your mind. The beauty of it all just sort of eclipses everything else.
You can run on that energy for some time, years even. Hope is a powerful force and even as you experience more of the humanity of the Faith that hope covers a multitude of things so that you can carry on even as you become more aware of not just the promises you read about in “Becoming Orthodox” but the everyday life in your everyday parish.
Somewhere along the line, though, the rose color will disappear from your glasses and you’ll discover that, well, your church, that shining city on the hill you had hoped for, is filled with people, regular people with every liability that comes with being human. You wanted something bright, beautiful, and glorious, and, while that occasionally happens, what you often get is something worn, tired, and less than the ideals that drew you to Her door.
At this point people will give up. When, as they say, the “Thrill is gone”, people do get up and leave, even the Orthodox Church. It happens all the time. Others give up while staying, marking time with lowered expectations and a kind of steady numbness that allows them to make do. Neither is particularly healthy. If you leave the Orthodox Church to “shop” a while for a new thing in time that new thing will, like your Orthodox experience, grow old as well. Count on it. If you decide to “Drop out” while still in the Orthodox Faith you’ll at least be present but it will largely be pointless, a whole bunch of Sundays spent going through the motions.
Instead, I think, the answer lies in being the kind of Orthodox Christian you’d like your parish and the larger church to be. If you want a dynamic, active, and living Faith, the kind of Faith you read about in the books, the kind that stirs your soul and challenges you to holy and good things, the only place to start is with yourself. The revival you are looking for begins with you. The grace you are looking for is the grace you receive, cultivate, and share. The holiness you desire will only be as vital as your own. The mission you want for your parish is the mission you undertake. If you want a lively parish you must have a lively faith.
Of course this is not easy. Orthodoxy is not easy because it is thorough, deep, and profound, even if some times, or most times, its collective and human forms do not live that way. If you want something better than what you see around you, don’t leave or spend your life of faith in numb despair. Resolve to be the kind of change, the kind of holiness, the kind of grace, the kind of beauty, that drew you to Orthodoxy in the first place and in saving yourself you will save others as well.