A year (almost to the day) after my first trip to New York City, I found myself alone in a hotel room, crying over the most life-changing email I had ever received.
I spent less than two days in the City the first time I visited, but from the moment I landed, I knew I was having a life-changing experience.
I roll my eyes every time I tell this story because we’ve all heard it before. You go to a new place and get a “vacation high” because everything is fresh and exciting, but having come from Salt Lake City, New York was bigger than anything I had ever seen.
I know that it can be easy to think a really cool new experience is more than just that, but having made that mistake before, I knew there was something about this trip that was different.
It felt like coming home.
And I didn’t know it at the time, but it was also the beginning of my path to serving the Church.
My father is a Greek Orthodox priest, and when I was younger I used to joke that I planned on going into the family business. I thought I was being hilarious as women can’t be presbyters, and honestly, I had no interest in doing Church work.
I grew up immersed in the Church, my sisters and I were at services every single Sunday (and plenty of weekdays) from as far back as I remember. I participated in parish activities and became very close with the wonderful people in our small Orthodox community. I saw all of the good things people do, and (as one would with any close knit group of people) I saw a lot of the bad.
Despite that, I watched my father care for his parish family, and I saw how much of his time and effort it took. He’s a great person, and this selflessness is something that he can’t turn off; it’s something he actively lives all day and every day. While I loved watching how happy it made him, I knew that I was not about that life. I was 16 years old, and I needed a plan.
But God has a sense of humor.
Before I knew it, I was 25 years old and had no direction in life. I was doing the same things in the same place with the same people. I was stuck in a repetitive, post-college rut, and nothing about it felt right. Nothing. It felt like I was waiting for a train that was never going to show up. And even if it did, I had no idea where it would take me.
We tend to think about someone’s “calling” to serve the Church as something dramatic. We often treat it like a necessarily and inevitably clarifying moment, a single and dramatic point in a person’s life that leads to a concrete decision to spend her life serving the Church. That idea of a “calling” reminds me of those moments in the Old Testament, when God speaks directly to His prophets, or those amazing experiences that lead people into seminary and the priesthood.
And while those stories are incredible and inspiring, it is not how God spoke to me. I don’t think that’s how He speaks to most people, actually.
As much as I like the dramatic calling stories, I also like the idea that a calling is something much more subtle. And much more universal.
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
I never experienced one specific moment that hit me over the head and made me realize what I was meant to do. It wasn’t something that I woke up one morning and just KNEW. My calling was much more quiet. It was a still small voice known through daily murmurs, not a great and strong wind. So much so that I didn’t even realized God was calling me until I found myself where I least expected: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
I was in the family business.
It’s easy to think that the only way people are called to serve is through dramatic voices from heaven, but most of us will never hear that. That doesn’t mean we aren’t being called. The reality is that God is calling us all to something; we’re all called to live the Faith and serve the Church, and that is ministry. And it’s just as beautiful whether that ministry contains a trip to the seminary and a future in the priesthood, or not.
There is a lot that led me to where I am today, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence that, a year after that first NYC trip, I found myself crying over a simple email inviting me to trust the Lord and move to a huge and terrifying city to work for my Church.
It may not have been a dramatic voice or sign, but that email was the most comforting moment I can remember in a long time.
I’m not unfamiliar with tears (a lot of the lead-up to my move was filled with them), but the ones I cried when I read that email were different. They were tears of joy and relief. There was the overwhelming feeling that things were right and that my life was, finally, complete. It wasn’t until that exact moment that I realized I had spent the past year on a path to finding my place in Orthodoxy, and nothing had ever felt more like coming home.
Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and studied political science at the University of Utah. She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones. Charissa currently lives in New York City.