We got new tires on our front end last night. Having a front-wheel drive lets you add new tires 1 or 2 at a time, which is nice for your checkbook. We looked at the back tires and they actually have quite a bit of life left in them; thanks be to God, because it was wicked expensive! I cannot believe how different the car drove when we left the tire store. It was actually amazing. I did not realize how much we’d been slip-sliding through town. There were times in downtown Seattle (it is SOOOO hilly there – like San Francisco!!) when I had to slide up or down a hill because of the damp streets, and bad tires! A week before Christmas we had a night of snowfall. The next morning, I got down the hill, sliding sideways, but could not get home again until the late afternoon, after the sun had melted our snow. The forecast is calling for snow in the month of January, so we opted to get some new front tires, just in case. I did not realize how badly worn those front tires were…no coin, no matter how tiny, could have stood in those grooves! It was almost completely without tread. Wow. I am glad we did that. It is amazing how much a difference two tires can make to your sense of safety, your confidence in driving, and the pleasure driving a car that is running correctly.
I received a late Christmas book last night from my brother-in-law and it is a book about one of my all-time favorite saints, St. John of Kronstadt, Russia. I love his words of wisdom and quote him quite often. It was incredible to read about his life and his struggles. As a child, he had such a difficult time reading and learning. He prayed constantly for intercession from God and one morning, after a long night in fervent prayer, he awoke with the ability to read, and to understand, his lessons. He was thereafter first in his class, exceeding the expectations of his parents and teachers alike. He was a very poor man, and very humble, too. He is credited with many, many miracles during his lifetime, as well as since his death. He was present when the Tsar, Alexander III, died. He was holding the Tsar’s head in his hands. The Tsar said to him, “When you place your hands on my head, I find such relief. But when you take them away, I suffer much – don’t take them away” and he held them until the old Tsar passed from this life to the next. That was in 1894. St. John was so popular, and so many people wanted to have him pray for them or to hear his sermons, or to hear him pray during Divine Liturgy, that quite often Liturgy would take 4 hours or more, because so many came to receive Communion. He once held a Divine Liturgy outside for 60,000 people on July 20, 1890 in Kharkov. He built a combination of school church, workshops, and orphanage in Kronstadt called the “House of Work.” He also founded in his own village of Sur in the province of Archanfesk, a convent and a large stone Church. St. John was was buried with great honor in the convent he founded in Karpovka, an area within St. Petersburg, but the communists, whom he had predicted were coming to power, were so afraid of him and his legacy of faith, they blocked off the area and no one knows for certain where his relics are now. Faithful still come to the site to pray for the intercession of St. John and many swear to feel his sanctity nearby, and so many believe his remains are still in Karpovka, but just kept out of sight of the people.
In the brief story of St. John’s life, he talks about keeping the faith handed down by our ancestors and relying on faith, rather than men, for our present lives, and for our salvation. He said of his nation, before his death, “We are in need of a general moral purification, a deep national repentance, a change from pagan to Christian morals; let us purify ourselves, let us wash ourselves with the tears of repentance, make peace with God and He will be reconciled to us.” He died in 1908 on December 20th, after having foretold the date of his death.
What do new tires and St. John have in common? Well, the tires are a concrete, tangible example of a thing showing us what it takes to feel safe and confident. St. John, on the other hand, was living witness to what it takes to feel safe and confident in our spirituality. And reading the lives of the Saints, and for me, of St. John of Krondstadt, has given me a renewed confidence of faith. St. John never demanded of anyone, what he did not practice himself. His diocese once suspended his pay because as soon as he was given any money, he gave it all to the poor. Once, a merchant handed him an envelope and he immediately, without opening it, handed it to a beggar. The merchant said, “Batushka! That contains a thousand ruples!” And St. John replied, “His good fortune!” He was not concerned with temporal needs and often only slept 3 hours a night; and quite often no sleep was in his schedule. He is a living example of one who gave all he had, and all he was, to his people. He did not concern himself with money or material wealth and considered it a hindrance. He did keep clothing given to him, because he realized he needed winter coats and good boots to walk among the Russian people in the winters. But he kept no money for himself. He was married to the daughter, Elizabeth, of the local Archpriest of the Kronstadt Cathedral, where he later became the priest. He and Elizabeth lived their entire marriage as brother and sister. He said to her, ” Lisa, there are many happy families, even without us. Come, you and I, let us devote ourselves to the service of God.” He was a remarkable man, a role model, and a saint.
My tires help me feel secure as I wander the roads of the Pacific Northwest. I now know I can face the trials of inclement weather and come out victorious! I can make it up the hills by my home, and I may even survive the hills in Seattle this January! But my faith in God, my life as the wife of a deacon, they give me the foundations of security that enable me to drive out on the streets of Washington. I take my faith wherever I go. And now, I can feel more secure in the mode of travel with which I share my life with others. St. John reminds me and helps to keep me grounded with so many of his wonderful writings and I hope someone will be urged to read about him. Les Schwab provided me with some awesome tires and service, that keep me safe on the roadways.
I leave you with this quote from St. John of Kronstadt:
“We must love every man, both sinful and shameful. There is no need to confuse the man, who is in the image of God, with the evil that is in him.”