We visited St. Augustine this week. We were completely broke but it was Spring break and the city had been calling to me for a while so we reached deep into our lint-filled pockets and spent one night in the ancient city.
I love St. Augustine. Few places in America will you find so much history, so much richness. There’s a peace about the city, pockets of quiet and holiness.
Right smack in the middle of the downtown hustle and bustle there is this amazing little Greek Orthodox Shrine. It’s nestled in so well you might miss it in the line of establishments trying to sell you hats, t-shirts, and ice cream.
We’ve been there before but that doesn’t stop us from drinking in every bit of Byzantine. And the candles, oh the candles. More than ever on this visit I wanted to light one. But the self-conscious Baptist inside of me won the battle and I refrained.
There’s something so downright . . . sensory about all that is orthodox. The paintings, incense, candles, music. I see the appeal. Even this calloused, struggling evangelical can feel the pull of the holiness in these places.
Down the road from the Eastern Orthodox Shrine is a Catholic one. Our Lady of La Leche. Again, I am overwhelmed by the peace that satiates the gardens, the icons, the chapel.
And I wonder, why do I never feel this in an evangelical church? Why do Baptist churches lack this holiness? Why do they not stir my soul?
When I think of evangelical traditions I feel legalism, shallowness, harshness, coldness, blindness, obligation without understanding.
When I brush up against orthodoxy I feel warmth, depth, holiness. There’s an inherent . . . thoughtfulness. Reverence. Openness. Peace.
The fact that I bother to process and voice these feelings is one of the many reason that I am occasionally shunned.
In the Catholic shrine again I was drawn to the candles. But this time I gave in. I dug a dozen quarters out of my car and claimed one for my own.
Six days it’s supposed to burn. It is my #SouthAsia2015 prayer. My longing to fulfill this calling, to see it to fruition.
It’s an icon and I welcome it. It reminds me that God has good things in store for us. That he hasn’t forgotten us. That he’s with us on this journey. That he is the light in the darkness.
And, also, that He isn’t Baptist. Or Catholic. Or Greek Orthodox.