How a turning point in religious life occurs.
It is at such a time that a turning point in religious life may occur. The previous path of life has led to a dead end. One’s inner condition seems abominable, although the young man or girl perhaps cannot yet classify is as being sinful. There is a desire to find a true and lofty meaning of life, since to live without finding such a meaning means to lead a pitiful, colorless, aimless and senseless existence.
At this fateful moment when the young life reaches a turning point, suddenly, by some unknown and mysterious means, a certain light appears in the soul, a certain fresh and joyous feeling, a certain hope that life is not meaningless.
Where does this certainty that life is not meaningless come from? What is life? Up to now the young mind had been inclined towards a mechanic view of the world - life is an aggregate of atoms and forces, and their constant movement and interaction; life is a causal collection of manifestations, whose sum total composes the entire picture of cosmic, earthly and human existence. And suddenly within this huge, boundless and soulless mechanism the young soul begins to perceive the presence of something living, great, wise and beautiful - the presence of God.
From where does this feeling arise?
Many circumstances can contribute to it; the main thing is that the young person’s faith in his own infallibility has been broken, he has deeply felt his inner bankruptcy. He no longer feels support within himself. A need has arisen for another, more powerful support.
The soul stands at a certain crossroads. It finds itself in a state of instability. Former influences and attractions have lost their power over it. New forces have not yet determined themselves within it. At this moment every jolt, no matter how insignificant, can have an extraordinary and decisive influence on one’s entire life.
The sweet religious experiences of one’s childhood, emerging from the soul’s subconscience, the ringing of church bells heard unexpectedly, a religious book coming to hand, a meeting and conversation with a profound believer, a visit to a monastery, the silent and mysterious beauty of nature and many other factors can contribute to a successful exit from the turning point of the soul. The long-forgotten childhood faith will awaken, and will sweetly burn within the soul as a brightly-shining guiding light. Life will suddenly gain meaning, there will be a desire to live and work in the name of the new ideal flaming in the soul. The old materialistic view of the world will have turned out to be insolvent. The new religious world viewpoint will warm the soul and give meaning to life.
Remembering my own youth, I find in it a confirmation that it was precisely along this path, a path of an internal drama lasting many years, that we returned to our lost religious world view and ideal. The religious feeling which awakens in the soul immediately lights up the world and life in a totally different manner. The young soul begins to perceive the beauty and the majesty of the universe, attains a belief in the lofty meaning and purpose of life, the heart opens up to an acceptance of the Gospel. One feels the desire to go to church, to attend services, to go to confession and partake of communion, even though some heretic thoughts often remain. And when these new needs and thoughts begin to manifest themselves in the young soul in place of the chaos through which it had passed, then one can boldly say that such a soul has been saved. There begins a new period of spiritual life, when, having set himself firmly upon the rock of faith acquired through bitter experience rather than reason, a person consciously begins to build his life upon such a foundation.
Protopriest Sergey Chetverikov.