I am terrified by my rash promise to write an article for For A Change. What can I tell you about myself? In scientific terms, I would call myself a 'negative result'. You can't use me to prove any hypothesis - but even a negative result is a result. And as long as I live, the result is not final. Maybe someone will find it useful to read about a human being whose life is full of doubts and who seeks and strives for new ways.
I have a rebellious nature, which wasn't so bad in the days of dissent and defiance against the communist ideology. But the same independence of opinion can be a negative factor in one's relations with God.
It took me years to come to God and to the Church. Before I would accept any doctrine, I wanted to test it and prove it right through my own experience. For a long time I was in a state of conflict between religious experience and materialistic thinking. I would take a step towards spiritual development only to take two steps back later. Although I received indisputable proofs of my Lord's attention and help, I would forget them and start all over again.
Here's an example. I was expecting a baby. My health was not at all good: high blood pressure, nose bleeds, fainting fits, anaemia. My doctor's advice was categorical: I must have an abortion, there was no chance of childbirth.
I went to another doctor, a well-known specialist and a friend of mine. His advice was just as threatening: 'The best you can expect is a stroke during labour. But I think that both you and the baby will die.'
After hearing this, I went to my priest and told him everything. He prayed for me. Then he said, 'Abortion is a great sin. Let your abortion be my sin. But I cannot take responsibility for your life, for the life of the unborn baby and for the two children that you already have. But I advise you to go and revisit the chapel with the relic of Sergiy Radonejsky (the greatest Russian saint). Pray to him and then listen to what comes to your mind.'
I followed his advice, although I could not believe that I would think of abortion when I saw the relic - that would be blasphemous from the Christian point of view. Yet after I had prayed in the St Sergiy Chapel the thought that came to my mind was to have an abortion. It was a clear, definite and infinitely sad decision.
It takes three hours to get home from the chapel in Sergiyev Posad - this ancient name was changed to Zagorsk after the revolution, but it is now restored. During the journey my decision was shaken by doubts. Finally I prayed to God: 'My Lord, you gave me the mind which now interferes with my decision. Please give me a sign as to what I should do. Let it allow no further doubts, so that I can't misinterpret my decision. Let the same doctor confirm whether or not I am able to give birth to my baby.'
Several days later I went back to the doctor. I could not go alone, so one of my friends accompanied me. 'I cannot understand what has happened to you,' said the doctor. 'Your blood pressure is ideal now. Your blood itself is as good as a blood donor's. Everything is ideal!'
My friend told me that I shouldn't rely on these results. Anything can happen in the Soviet health service, she said - the gauge might be faulty, the results might not be mine but someone else's. And she could have been right. After all, when my second child was born they wrote the wrong Rhesus-factor result on the certificate.
But I did not listen to my friend's argument. I had not asked God to give me health. I had asked for an incontrovertible sign and that was exactly what I had received.
Interestingly enough I got health as well. From that day on, everything was fine. And I was sure that both I and my child were in God's hands.
I have a wonderful daughter, Anastasia - she is God's gift to me. As before, I have not yet made a definite decision. I still take a step forward and then recede. I daren't risk a serious rebellion, I am afraid for Anastasia's safety - she is a pledge between God and me. But I still revolt. And I am still on my way.
by TATIANA LEBEDYEVA-POPKOVA