one time or another, especially if things are bumpy in their own jurisdiction. They look over the fence, see the greener grass and wonder, “What’s it like to be with __________?” It’s what sometimes happens when you’re a kid and mad at your parents. You think “Boy I wish I was that family’s kid they have it so nice over there.”
Well, not really.
Most of the time when you see someone else’s family they’re on their best behavior, the house is cleaned, the meal is good, and everything looks, well, polished. If you were to drop in a few days later, who knows? Dad in his underwear. Toys all over the floor. House smells like yesterday’s supper. When we don’t need to put on our best face we’re more like who we really are.
It’s the same with Orthodox jurisdictions. When things are challenging in ours we see the other “family” down the block and envy their supposed peace and stability. Tired of whatever is challenging us the grass on the other side does look greener. A Priest thinks “Boy, if I was just part of that jurisdiction everything would be better.” Compared to our mess the family down the street looks real good sometimes.
It’s understandable. To be in ministry requires a certain amount of idealism. The long hours and lower salaries would make no sense if there wasn’t some vision out there, some shining light to make up for the routines. You have to keep your eyes higher and your soul on better things to make it as a Priest. Nothing is worse than a tired, cynical, Priest. Nothing is more pitiful.
So we always look for silver linings in every cloud. It’s a survival thing. Sometimes those silver linings look like another jurisdiction, another Bishop, a point on a distant but not too clear horizon. Who wants to stay and work through pain and troubles when they could be avoided? Who wants to endure the slog of bearing each others burdens when a lighter yoke seems close by? It is a sweet illusion.
Yet that’s what it is, a dream. The Church is full of people, made up of human beings. Sometimes we’re really great to hang around with and other times we’re just a pain in the rear. All of us have our own dads in their underwear and toys all over the floor. Moving down the street doesn’t make that go away. After the honeymoon is done you’re pretty much back where you were before. It shouldn’t be, but crazy stuff is part of the reality of the Orthodox Church, from day one until now, and there will be no escape until angelic trumpets sound. Get used to it.
Now this doesn’t mean that we can’t seek the best, the most holy, the most good and work to implement it in our life. The ideal is important and we should always strive for it. People forget, though, that the Church is about human beings in training to be saints and the majority of us will never get most of it in this life. That shouldn’t excuse our sins and struggles but it should put them in perspective. Sometimes people in the Church can be cruel, vindictive, selfish, arrogant, and dark, myself included. Sometimes the consequences of their actions can be grim. Yet it’s that way with all of us. There may be a temporary respite somewhere but the same human failings are present no matter where the Church is, and so, by the way are its glories.
Moving to a new town? The only close Orthodox parish may be in another jurisdiction. Go and enjoy. Involved in a new ministry? Jurisdictions swap clergy for a variety of reasons all the time. Go with a blessing. Ticked off at someone or some group in your own jurisdiction and looking for an escape? Might as well stay and work it out because the chances are you’re just going to be with a new group of fallible humans struggling to live up to the high calling and dropping the ball. In other words the real world.