by Zachary (Zecchaeus) Jensen
As a child I lived in four states and moved from one side of the country to the other. The high school that I graduated from was a small Christian school in Illinois. The church connected to it was becoming more and more “reformed Protestant” as time went on, which affected my path a great deal.
I pursued the “reformed” tradition mostly out of rebellion to the “charismatic” Protestant evangelicalism that my parents had embraced and which I could very easily see the flaws in.
After graduating high school I attended a year long program which my church at that time participated in, known as Masters Commission.
It was a “discipleship training” program which involved theology classes, many service opportunities, and living with a family from the church who volunteered to house students. We were sent as employee/volunteers all over the country to help with registration and set up/tear down for Microsoft’s employee conventions.
I didn’t know what to do with myself after high school was I was a perfect candidate to be recruited into the Masters Commission program. The family of my roommate, while I was in the program, welcomed me into their home after we graduated from it.
Then when, I was invited to move to another state (again) with my family and go live with them, my friend (whose parents I was living with after graduating Masters Commission) was invited to come as well to live with my parents. So, first I lived with his family and then he lived with mine.
A few years latter I chose a college for no other reason other than it was a “reformed” Protestant school and I had been listening to podcasts by R.C. Sproul (who is a representative of Reformed doctrine) while I worked overnights at a department store and during this time I had become convinced of Calvinism. Looking back on it, I think that my calvinism stage was an attempt to rebel against the shallowness of the Christianity that I grew up in. It seemed to have more credibility because there was an awareness of history that goes farther back than the “Azusa street revival” in the California, which was about all that “Pentecostals” had.
While I was attending college and becoming immersed in reformed doctrine a friend invited me to come to church with him. I was interested in exploring different traditions at the time, and had even gone to an Anglican services shortly before that so I thought to myself, “Why not?”
This one was very different though. This time I stepped into an Orthodox Christian parish. It was very new and foreign to me, even though i had been to more churches than I can count.
What I experienced was unlike anything that I had experienced before and the emphasis was not on learning something new, which was a big reason that I went toward Calvinism in the first place, since I felt that there was nothing new that preachers could teach me anymore within the traditions that I was exposed to.
But here, in this Orthodox Church, there was something different. Instead of the same old environment and the same staleness in all the churches that I had been to previously, there were mostly questions and a fear of it all being just a different form of the Roman Catholicism that I was raised to oppose. Ironically, I found something new and free in this liturgical church which has the same basic structure every Sunday, rather than the free form “charismatic” church I grew up in which was all about spontaneity but somehow still felt stale. Probably because, my Protestant background also felt “man made” and even mostly just made up on the spot.
What ever it was, something kept drawing me back for more. I think I spent almost my entire last year of college attending this parish, except for a few occasional visits to other churches to visit with friends.
During the summer right after graduating, my best friend was married. This is the friend who’s family I had lived with right after graduating high school. Shortly before graduating from college I was able to read a few books on Church history which affirmed Orthodoxy’s claim to be the “original” Church, and I even did a presentation on icons in one of my classes. After being exposed to the Orthodox Church, the Protestant services that I attended began to bore me. I began searching for an Orthodox parish in my area that I could attend.
I mentioned to my girlfriend that I was looking for an Orthodox Church and the told here which one I planned to try, since it was close to where I lived.
When I told her, she became excited because she actually knew the priest and most of the congregants already!
In her teenage years, she had been a part of an Anglican community that fell apart. Half of the community became Roman “Catholic” and half became the Orthodox who started the parish that I wanted to go investigate.
This took me by surprise, what a coincidence that my girlfriend actually knew the people in the parish I wanted to attend.
After a period of catechism at this parish, she and I were chrismated on the same day. My family was invited and their attendance made my younger brother curious about the Church, because he had never been exposed to anything like it before. He did some searching, and prior to this, was about to lose his faith completely. He decided to look more into the Orthodox Church, and it rescued him from becoming an atheist. Today he is a catechumen who will be chrismated very soon himself.
A few months after my chrismation, I had a terrible accident, where I was sent down a zip line and then, before I could unharness myself, another person was sent down the line as well and we ended up colliding with each other. He was a bigger football player and he hit my head with his elbow.
I was in a coma for a month and at some point during that time I believe that I had an experience where I was asked by Christ why, I should return.
The best answer that came to me was to mary my girlfriend and put my teaching degree to use so that I could help others by teaching. I guess God accepted my answer by His grace and mercy because, after about about a year of recovery and therapy, I returned to full functionality.
My girlfriend of the time and I are now married and have a daughter that just turned one year old in May.
I am now in progress to become an altar server at my parish. It is my prayer that the Lord’s will be done with the life that was returned to me by His grace!