Does he look like a lion to you?
Does he look like a lion to you?

From Snoop Lion to Saint Nonna: A Look at Spiritual Transformations

Does he look like a lion to you?

Have you heard about Snoop Dogg’s spiritual experience and resulting name change? The story goes that he went to Jamaica, studied reggae and Rastafarianism, and was told by a Rastafarian priest, “You are the light. You are the lion.” Must be a pretty tame lion, because Mr. Snoop appears to want to spread peace, harmony, and love with his new persona.

Actually, I’m happy for Snoop Dogg Lion. He’s been rejuvenated, transformed. It’s gotta feel good, to have a newfound purpose in life. Sometimes I get jealous of people who can go off and reinvent themselves. I can’t just jump on flight to Jamaica or Paris or India – I have a family and a regular job, after all.

But for those of us who are more tied down, it is possible to experience spiritual transformations. They’re just not always big and explosive and obvious. Sometimes it comes in the form of forgiveness. Sometimes it’s simply standing four feet from Jesus. Sometimes it takes a trip into spiritual coldness to bring me to a place of peace.

I changed my name once. It was a spiritual thing. When I became Orthodox, I became Nonna. The name of wife and mother. The name of a prayer warrior. Saint Nonna was the mother of three saints, the most well known being St. Gregory the Theologian. St. Gregory said of his mother, “One woman may be distinguished for frugality, and another for piety, while she, difficult as it is to combine both qualities, excelled all others in both of them. In each she attained the height of perfection, and both were combined in her. She did not permit one duty to interfere with the other, but rather each supported the other. What time and place of prayer ever eluded her? She was drawn to this each day before anything else, and she had complete faith that her prayers would be answered.”

Part of me wanted to pick a “strong” woman – one of the female saints called Equal-to-the-Apostles, maybe. A saint who wouldn’t shirk at the idea of me being a working mother. But in reality, my primary roles are wife and mom. They are the roles I care about most. I want to be like Nonna, faithful in prayer, balancing home and work and spirituality.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke sums it up well: “She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life and weaves them gracefully into a single cloth.”

So today, my saint day, I remember that spiritual transformation I went through – and am still experiencing. I wonder if I’ve come any closer to representing the woman whose name I bear in these past seven years of Orthodoxy. I hope so, but I know that I need God’s grace and help – and my Nonna’s intercessions – to continue on this path of spiritual reinvention.

 

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