I would like to tell you the story of my life. The story is probably not the happiest one, but unfortunately rather typical. It taught me lots of things, especially in the spiritual way. And the most important thing is that it helped me to understand all depth of His Divine Love and Care, His astonishing ability to forgive in spite all our sins and stone-like hard-heartedness…
The story happened to me last summer and became a turning point of my life. I moved to St. Petersburg from a small city where I come from. The events developed rapidly. In May I came to the so-called Northern Capital of Russia to take up professional training and already in June I quit my job. I had no doubt that I was doing something wrong. Just the other way round, everything went so smoothly that I saw His Providence in it. And there was one more thing… I fell in love with St. Petersburg at once. It seemed to me that my life has never been more colorful. This city as if gave ground to my feet, and its sky was the brightest sky I have ever seen. Well, I saw such sky and such clouds when I visited the Solovetskie Islands. And here, in St. Petersburg too. And I have never prayed that much and I have never been that happy.
In this unrestrained euphoria I could not help falling in love with the whole world, with these cobbles, this raven-black mirror of the Neva-River, these tall ships, masts and… these eyes…
I met Sergey on the third day of my staying in St. Petersburg. We walked along the embankment, narrow bridges and wide avenues. He joked a lot and I kept on laughing. And only as I came back to the hotel my feet started aching because of the numerous miles we walked. But the next day I rushed to meet him and could almost feel wings on my back. Three days of fairy-tale. I had to go back. We decided that I would take leave in June and would come to St. Petersburg again. The time flew fast. Phone calls, mgs, long chats over the internet… I told him about my spiritual life gradually and he was not against it. Soon he was invited to be a godfather and I did my best to explain to him how he should behave during the service and what he shall do next. My spiritual father prayed for me and blessed to leave for St. Petersburg.
At first I decided to take some rest and then to start looking for a job. Sergey’s birthday was coming soon and he promised to introduce me to his parents. ‘You’ll meet my mother, she’ll be happy’, he said and smiled. But it all happened another way. The next day we did not meet, and the other day too. And then there was a rather strange talk about love, trust and responsibility. To be exact, all these things were enumerated with the reserve ‘I don’t feel…’ And about all those provincial girls who are more interested in apartments in the capital and in the possibility to stay here rather than in guys they are dating with…
He did not accuse me directly but his hints were obvious. But the way Sergey said all this it felt like he did not want to say what he was saying. These words were not his words. And he kept on avoiding my eyes. That day we decided to break up. I do not remember our talk, it was like a bad dream. The only thing I remember is that strange and contradictive feeling. It felt like a huge mistake was about to be made and at the same time I felt so apathetic. And when he asked me to say something before I leave, I stood on my tiptoe and quietly sang in his ear “bless the Lord, oh my soul, blessed art thou oh Lord…”
And the next day I could not get up from my bed. And the next day too. I did not have any strength. Neither had I appetite. And only on the third day I forced myself to get up and go to the nearest church. The Valaam Monastery is only a five minute walk from the place where I lived. Sergey Valaamsky is the Sergey’s patron saint. I prayed for him, but did not ask to bring him back though.
Nonetheless he called me in a day. And it all started all over again. Still everything was different. How? I cannot explain. I knew that he kept something from me. I knew that he was leading a double-game. I knew that he told his parents that he broke up with me. But we kept on seeing each other. And it was all just because I did not want to loose him. I understood that it was inevitable though. I did not want to loose a single minute spent with him. And during all my free time I kept on reading Ivan Iljin. I clearly remember how much his thoughts influenced me. ‘The Soap Bubble’. There are moments in life, beautiful and unforgettable, just like the pearl-rainbow membrane of a soap bubble. Those short moments which make every second of our life inimitable. I shared my discoveries with Sergey and he seemed to be interested in as he called it ‘soap-bubble theory’.
When I stayed overnight with him I had a bottle of soap bubbles in my backpack. I remember the way I sat in subway that evening before we met and arms around my head I prayed to God. I asked Him to show me what to do. What answer did I expect? “Do not commit adultery” I knew that before. Still I could not understand what was wrong about the thing I was ready to do. Just the other way round. Logically everything was right. I loved this person; I wanted to know his essence up to the end. I wanted to dissolve in him. But I hardly realized that God might not want it. I knew from the very beginning that we would not get married, so God would not want it. But I realized it all later…
I had things to lose. I was a 25 years old virgin and I gave my purity to the man who could not value it… And he said it to me: ‘Why are you so worried? I don’t care whether the girl I love has had somebody else. The only thing that matters is that she’s with me now.’ These are the nowadays facts. But I will say it again, it was my own choice. I really did not understand what wrong I was doing.
And the next day I experienced the consequences of sin. I understood that the matter is not the way you treat your deed. It is the question of love and trust to God and His Commandments. And the Commandments exist not because God will automatically punish someone if they transgress them. Just the other way round, a man punishes himself every time he violates the Laws. He destroys himself. I had the feeling that my soul was broken into million pieces. Some inner pain burned me from the inside. In the church where I used to gladly listen to hours-long services it was hard for me to stay even a couple of minutes, I felt giddy and nearly lost consciousness. I had to sit on the bench next to old ladies. Endless tears ran down my cheek.
And it was then when Sergey said he did not love me. He did not want to take any responsibility for me. But not only my soul suffered and that time. My new boss left only weekend shifts for me, so I had great trouble with money. More than that I had to find a new apartment as my friends, in whose house I lived, were coming back from vacations. I understood that in such situation only God could help me. So deeply damaged by sin I could hardly pray or feel His Almighty presence. And only from the bottom of my heart I kept on calling His Name.
That was the first time I thought of His feelings when a man is affected by sin. Is He really looking down on His creature suffering from pain? My own experience proves that He is not. In spite of the fact that like I said I was in a strange state of stone-like insensibility, God started showing His Love and Care. So obviously, as if proving with my example, His words ‘I shall not leave you alone’.
I do not clearly remember the way I lived these days. I acted almost automatically. I remember that I did not care what was going to happen to me. And only thoughts about death kept on haunting me. Once I was crossing a street and a car stopped a millimeter from me. And again I was saved by God, but kept on thoughtlessly moving.
And then… I was given a job and a place to live. It was a kind of miracle. When I say ‘a miracle’ I do not exaggerate. I was looking for an apartment in St. Petersburg for 3 months. It was the hottest time of the year – summer and the beginning of autumn. I was looking for something more or less suitable through various agencies and with the help of my friends. And all this time I lived at my friends place. When they came back I still did not have anywhere to go. So they offered to stay another month with them. And of course they asked for rent for the coming month.
That evening I spent several hours on a line in a nunnery. The relics of Mary Magdalena and pieces of the True Cross were brought to St. Petersburg. It took me only about two minutes walk to get from my new work to the nunnery. When I came home it was almost midnight. There was light in all rooms, there were beverages on the table. The young owners of the apartment did not go to sleep as they wanted to talk to me. Actually, the talk was rather short. They just asked me to take the icons and get away. Of course they did not plan to give me my money back. They did not turn me out of the house that night, they gave me a chance to find an apartment for 24 hours. The next day I called every single person who could probably help me. In vain. I even forced myself to call Sergey. He sympathized me, but could not help. And when I was on the edge of despair I heard a phone call. It was a miracle.
My Lord! My Lord! You did not leave me alone! In spate of my treachery. My every minute treachery. I used to be a good Orthodox. And now… I cannot even read my regular morning and evening prayers. I want! But I cannot… I remind myself of the evangelical paralytic and I am amazed of how God makes things better! Do I deserve His mercy? And still…
He made it so I have enough money. I have a nice place to live and a good job. But I have to make this inner step to Him on my own. I have to restore my prayer and confess.
I know that I acted in a stupid way, I acted hideous. And I wish I could do it some other way. I still love Sergey, though we do not communicate for a long time. It is not ruled out that I will never see him again. And I am so scared even to imagine what a person feels when he or she commits mortal sins again and again. That is why when I force myself and pray to God I ask for him too. And I ask you too to pray for me, the handmaid of Lord Virineya.
Translated by Ekaterina Lebed