They say that faith is not renounced overnight. Renunciation can happen bit by bit every day, and then a straw will be enough to break a camel’s back. Sometimes it is enough to remain silent so as not to stand out and be “like everyone else”, finding convincing excuses for your cowardice—and this will be a small step away from faith. It may be a millimeter long and barely perceptible step, but “a Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step”, as the Chinese say. It’s very important for a Christian to discern in time the moment when the soul makes a choice. This is what the stories—published below with their heroes’ permission— are about.
Luckily, the traffic cop who stopped me was kind; I moved him to pity. He let me go without a fine, and I gave him my word of honor that right away I would go and renew my driver’s license which had expired a month before. And I kept my word almost to the dot, going to the doctor to get a medical certificate.
From the first seconds of our conversation, the psychiatrist seemed extremely odd to me. As I listened to his monotonous voice, I struggled to figure out whether he was a healthy person who was testing me in this way or a sick person in search of a like-minded man. I needed a certificate, so I just smiled sweetly and nodded, occasionally making minor remarks. Our dialogue was amusing in the Chekhovian style, but I will only retell its “finale”.
“You shouldn’t be sure of anything,” the psychiatrist said. “The world is changing, you are changing, and your body is undergoing internal changes.”
“Okay…” I replied.
“In fact, you are nothing, Marina. Your personality doesn’t exist—you’re just a vessel...” he went on.
Then some “safety fuse” clicked inside me, and without hesitation I blurted out:
“I’m Orthodox, and I have an immortal soul.”
There was an awkward pause. The doctor froze. I could picture my driving license just floating away.
“But I don’t mind if you consider yourself a vessel,” I tried to make amends for the situation.
(“Ending up in a mental hospital1 now would be the most absurd suffering for the faith in history. Nobody asked you! Why are you interfering?” the thought flashed through my head).
“This delusion will pass soon,” the psychiatrist came to his senses.
“I don’t think so.” I decided there was nothing more to lose. “What do you believe in? Do you believe God exists?”
“I don’t know, maybe… but it’s very personal!”
We sat in silence for a while, looking at each other.
“Go this way, please!” The psychiatrist stood up and went towards the door.
I dragged myself after him, imagining how I would call my family from a mental hospital and explain how I got there. The license was already of little interest. We reached the window where a young nurse was writing out certificates.
“The young lady is fine!” my doctor said and retreated, winking at me.
At last I received my paper and proceeded to take the license with my immortal soul sunk into my boots.
Children’s books have been my love since childhood. After graduating from the institute, I decided that the best job was the one that I would want to do even in my free time. So, I began to look for work in a publishing house—any that published children’s books. I sent out my resume and sometimes even went to interviews, but all in vain. This door was closed to me.
Years passed. I worked at another job—not a bad one, but the position of an editor in a publishing house remained my dream. One day some friends introduced me to a woman who was the head of a sub-department in a fairly well-known publishing house. I told her how I had unsuccessfully tried to find a job in the department of children’s literature. Natalia Vasilievna (let’s call her that) immediately expressed her willingness to help me.
“Send me your resume and I’ll take it to the recruiters. Then it certainly won’t be ignored.”
Encouraged, I sent her my resume the same day and waited for an invitation for an interview. But days went by, and no one called me. About a week later I met Natalia Vasilievna again, while visiting friends. She pulled me aside and said something like this:
“You see, our specialists examine the pages on social media of each candidate applying for a job. And your ‘Religion’ column says ‘Orthodox Christian.’ Remove it from there! No one is forcing you to stop going to church. Just don’t tell everyone about it—it’s personal. Remove it and you’ll be invited for an interview.”
“I won’t,” I replied.
That day I understood why the Lord had been so persistent in pulling me away from what seemed to be my dream job. I would have come to the publishing house with my moral principles, and they would have given me a text that contained attacks on Christianity. And what would I have done? Would I have prepared it for release, justifying myself with the fact that I “couldn’t starve”? Or would I have tried to explain to the administration that it was unacceptable to publish such texts? I think the recruiters understood that too. And since the main principle of such publishing houses is to release what sells well (so I was told at interviews), moral guidelines didn’t fit into this principle.
Acting is not the best occupation for a Christian. But what should you do if you have become a churchgoer at a mature age, having worked as an actor all your life, and have no idea how to do anything else? Try to combine one and the other. Moreover, history knows mimes who became martyrs for their faith: Sts. Porphyrius, Gelasius and Ardalion... You can be saved anywhere.
A performance is always preceded by the first reading. The actors, the director and the playwright meet and read the play by roles. Sometimes the actors read through, and sometimes the author of the play reads it himself. So it was then. We met in the rehearsal room, and the playwright sat down on a chair in front of us and began to read his new work. As he read, we frowned: about a third of the text consisted of obscene words. I had talked a lot with monks and heard from them a completely unambiguous statement that swearing is the language of demons. Therefore, nowhere and under no circumstances should one use obscene words. While the rest of the audience grimaced because it was simply disgusting, I winced from the awareness that demonic language was sounding out next to us.
The first reading was over. Everyone was silent. The actors understood that objections were fraught with the loss of their roles in the play, which was to be staged by a very good director at a very good theater. Although it was they who were to utter those foul words from the stage, everyone was silent. I felt disgusted and said:
“Such language is unacceptable.”
And an argument broke out! The director sided with the playwright. They both argued that only such words could accompany the events of the play. The actors also began to express their opinions cautiously, but I was the instigator. And the director remembered that: I didn’t get my part.
The story took an absolutely unexpected turn: The dispute that had arisen reached the ears of the theater’s artistic director, and he announced that there would be no obscenities on his stage. The entire text was rewritten in human language, the performance came out and is still going on—but without me. And the director (a very good one) never again invited me to his project, a fact which I deplore and try to make out whether it was possible to get out of the situation in a different way... And I can’t find an answer to this question.