Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Thy Name, O Most High; to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2
I once read a book entitled “Men Are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti” by Bill and Pam Farrel. It’s a relationship book written to help husbands and wives understand one another better. The basic premise of the book is that men are like waffles. Waffles have separate and defined squares. And men, according to the book anyway, set up their lives like separate and defined squares. So there is a “work square,” a “TV square,” etc. Men can only be in one square at a time, again, this is according to the book. Men are not good multi-taskers.
Women, according to the book, are like spaghetti. Their lives are not compartments, but are more like spaghetti on a plate, where the noodles are all intertwined. According to the book, women are better at multi-tasking than men.
Our faith should more closely resemble spaghetti than waffles. And the truth is, for many people, faith is more like waffles than spaghetti. We put God and our faith in a box. God and faith are what we do on Sunday mornings from 10-12. For many people, when we are outside of 10-12 on Sunday mornings, we are out of the God-box. This is how many people can go to church on Sundays, and even sincerely worship, and then act totally un-Christian on a Monday. Because faith is put into a compartment, rather than being something that intertwines with every aspect of life.
Ideally, our faith is like spaghetti. It becomes part of who we are at all times, and in all the roles that we play. Psalm 92 begins by telling us that “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Thy Name, O Most High; to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night.” (Psalm 92: 1-2) In other words, praise of God, thankfulness to God, and faithfulness to God are not things we should limit to Sunday mornings. They are things that we should be doing in church, and outside of church, at home and at work, when we are busy and when we are at leisure.
A husband once joked with me how when he sat down to watch a movie on TV, his wife came to watch with him. In her hands was the laundry basket. She said “Can we watch the movie while we fold laundry and discuss our travel plans for summer?” To which he answered, “I’m in the TV box right now.”
We can’t be in the “God/Faith box” only on Sundays. And we can’t be so engrossed in whatever we are doing during the week that God and faith can’t fit into whatever box we are in at the moment. I fear that many people look at belonging to a church as something they do, which makes Christianity something they do, rather than something they are. I “do” yardwork once or twice a week. It’s not who I am, because I do it and then I’m done doing it. Who we are (who I am) are the roles we always have. I am a husband and I am a father. I always have these roles. There isn’t a moment that I’m not one of these roles. Even when I’m at work away from family, if there is a family emergency, then work becomes second to whatever emergency has happened.
I “do” sports—It is not a part of every minute of every day. I may go for a few weeks without watching sports. During the early months of the pandemic, there was no sports to watch. Just like there was no work for many people, and no extracurricular activities for our children. There was still Christianity. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t pray, and I hope it was the same for you. That’s because Christianity is something that we are, not something we do. The things, like the pandemic, strong economy, our jobs, our friends, etc., in other words, the things we do come and go. The things we are remain the same at all times.
Just like the squares on a waffle are defined and designed to be the same way all the time, while strands of spaghetti have no particular designed. They are designed to go everywhere. Our faith is the same way. We are supposed to be Orthodox Christians at all times and in all places. Which means we are supposed to love God at all times, not merely love Him inside a certain defined box. And we are supposed to love and serve our neighbor at all times, not only when it is convenient. We are supposed to behave in a Christian way at all times and in all circumstances, so this includes our conversations, and whether we gossip or use foul language.
Is your Christianity excluded from any areas of your life? If your Christian life was similar to the book I described, would your Christianity be more like a waffle or spaghetti?
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Thy name, o Most High; to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For Thou, O Lord, has made me glad by Thy work; at the works of Thy hands I sing for joy. How great are Thy works, O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep! The dull man cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this: that, though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever, but Thou, O Lord, are on high forever. For lo, thy enemies, O Lord, for lo, Thy enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered. But Thou hast exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; Thou hast poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies, my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. The righteous flourish like a palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green, to show that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 92
We are supposed to be more like spaghetti and less like waffles with our Christian identity and practice!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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