Cleanliness and confession

My truck is absolutely filthy!

Looking at it, you would think I’ve never had it washed. In all actuality however, it hasn’t been that long since I last had it cleaned. Winter driving conditions in the Pacific Northwest will do that though. All the dirt and wintery sludge coming off the road makes keeping your equipment in spotless condition, quite difficult.

Some spots are worse than others, and some areas I have to keep clean out of necessity. I usually have to wash my mirrors and windows on a daily basis in order to see properly, but I’ll leave the rest of the truck for a while, not really do anything about it until I can’t stand site of how dirty my truck is. It’s at this point when I can’t stand the filth, that I’ll go and get a truck wash.

Sure I could take some time out of my weekend and get it all scrubbed up at the terminal, but with it being winter, the outside water has been shut off for the season. Even if it hadn’t been turned off, the guys over at the truck wash know what they’re doing and can have my truck looking brand new in less than 30 minutes. That saves me a lot of time. It’s nice having people who know what they’re doing, and who have the right equipment in order to get the job done quickly and properly. They’re also very thorough. They open up the hood of my engine and spray it down making sure that it stays clean and also manage to get my undercarriage. they go over every nook and cranny so as to not leave a single speck of dirt behind.

Rolling home in a nice shiny rig feels really good. Everyone turns their head to admire the polished chrome, and it just feels good representing the company in a positive light. But as I drive back to my company terminal, I suddenly realize something. What good is being clean on the outside, if my soul is covered in filth?

It’s been roughly six… maybe seven years since I last went to confession. Since then my son was born and has had five birthdays. I’ve moved from the east side of Washington state to the west side and then back to the east side, and now back once more to the western end. Also in that time I’ve traveled to 47 out of 48 continental States and gone into Canada. I’ve had quite a few moments to be proud of, but I’ve also had my moments of shame. I haven’t been able to win every spiritual battle and have said and done things that I’m not proud of. I’ve struggled against my passions and fell into countless pitfalls and thorny briar patches. Being able to attend Divine Liturgy once or twice as week like I used to, became a thing of the past. Without a direct connection to the Divine Liturgy, I ended up living my orthodox faith from the side lines. And when I got bored of participating from the outside, I started engaging in the faith in other ways. This blog and my friends at Ancient Faith were a direct response to desire to do more with Orthodoxy. But even with that, I was still missing one giant piece of the puzzle… I needed the sacrament of confession. Without it, I couldn’t receive the eucharist. And without the eucharist, I wasn’t in full communion with Orthodoxy.

I knew it was time for a change, and I also knew the guys over at Blue Beacon Truck Wash wouldn’t be able to help me this time. Our biggest struggle, once my wife and I left our home church in North Idaho, was finding and going to an Orthodox church near us. It wasn’t until we moved back to Vancouver, and started attending Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Portland on a regular basis that I finally realized, now was the time to rejoin the faith… fully.

I had gotten use to doing Orthodoxy on my own. I even celebrated Pascha alone and in my truck earlier this year. And as for my sins? I’ve cried over them time and time again, and offered them up over and over again to God asking for his forgiveness. But the shame of my sins never went away, even when I cried my heart out and begged from my own steering wheel for forgiveness. With “On your Own Orthodoxy”, when you stay away from the car wash, or refuse to receive the sacraments, just like my truck getting covered in road grime our lives too get covered in dirt and gossip and sin and will get filthier the more we stay away. If you don’t run your rig through the wash every and then, eventually it’ll be unrecognizable. If you don’t shower often enough, you’ll soon notice your circle of friends start to dwindle. And if you don’t seek treatment from a Doctor in regards to a disease you have, how will you ever get better?

I got a hold of Father George, and set up a time this morning for both my wife and I to receive the sacrament of confession. I’ll be honest, I was nervous as all get out. I had years of spiritual grime to work through and how was I going to remember everything that I’ve done wrong since then? I haven’t had many orthodox confessions, but had plenty of catholic ones growing up. I guess in my head, I still subconsciously thought that sin was to be treated like a state of guilt. I had read and understood that in Orthodoxy, sin was nothing more than a terminal spiritual sickness. Yet in my absence from that real orthodox connection, I allowed myself to stay away from real communion in Christ. I allowed myself to think I could confess my sins without a priest. I told myself that I could get communion without confession, because it would provide “the remission of my sins, and life everlasting”. I did these things because I was too scared to confess my life of sin to another person. What would they think of me, and how could I ever look upon them again once they knew my sins?

It was through reading the life of Saint Moses the Ethiopian, that I realized there was no other option but to seek the sacrament. St Moses was a former criminal who murdered and robbed people as he lead a massive criminal gang. But at one point he realized he need to change his ways and thus he became a monk. Eventually a hieromonk even. There is one scene from his life that stuck out at me. As Saint Moses is giving his confession to the priest, an angel appeared next to them with a stone tablet in it’s hand with all of Moses’s sins listed. One by one however as Moses continued with his confession, the sins on the stone slab disappeared. I realized, this was the only way. No half measures, no devout prayer from the truck would do it. I had to follow though and see a priest. I had already made the commitment to not commit those sins again and to live an even fuller life in Christ, but I was still nervous. But even so, I had set up an appointment with Father George now was the time to rejoin the church. I started to get tense once the session started. I had so much to work through and to go over. “Relax my brother” Father George said in his Syrian accent. “I’m not here to judge you or to punish you. I love you and I pray for you and want to help you.” I started to tear up and began to tell him my story.

He stopped be before I could even get to the real meat and potatoes. He said, I can see the problem and I know how to fix it. When you are away from church and away from the communion of Christ, you are like a lost sheep, and you fall into danger. You need to pray, everyday. Say the Jesus prayer everyday, Ask the theotokos to intercede for you everyday. Confess the faith, everyday with your morning and evening prayers, and through your prayers, your life in Christ will change and you yourself will become a new person. He didn’t ask to hear the rest of my sins. He simply started the prayers of confession and blessed me. I broke down into tears as I felt almost seven years of sin and spiritual dirt wash away. Just like that, all the guilt I’ve been holding onto was gone. For the first time in a very long time, I felt clean. I thanked Father George profusely, and smiled as he said “Im am so glad you joined us and I am praying for you and your family.” And thus, Father George became my new spiritual father.

Being able to go up and receive communion as a family was an extra special moment today. I had tears once more as I approached the chalice. Glory to God for all things, and thanks be to him for his mercy and love.

And now just like that, after almost seven years, my family is in 100% communion with the Orthodox Faith. We have a church. I no longer feel the shame and guilt of my past mistakes and am ready to forge a new path forward. We have a wonderful spiritual Father. And we have each other.

The end.

Thanks for reading my friends. Today was truly a great day for me and my family, and I hope it is the start to a much better life. I hope you all are doing well and are staying safe in these uncertain times. My heart goes out to all the people in Washington DC, and to those who lost their lives last week. I am praying for this nation and for those who are impacted by or are suffering from the Coronavirus. May God have mercy on us and protect us all.

Until next time…

– Orthodox Trucker (for reals now)

Sometimes, you just need someone to help make you clean again.