At present, my wife and I are seriously considering conversion to Orthodox Christianity. I, however, am concerned that my many past sins would prevent me from being accepted into the Church. I am genuinely sorry for these sins, and have done all I can to change—sometimes with success, sometimes not—but I fear that in confessing them, I would be seen as being “too sinful” to be accepted by the Church, or that the priest might soon give up on me. What can you say about this?
A person with a serious physical ailment should turn to a hospital and its doctors in the hope of physical healing, or at least in a genuine effort to bring about a remission in his or her ailments. It is precisely for such purposes that hospitals exist and doctors commit themselves to pursuing the “healing arts.” Only the most unreasonable of persons would say, “I would really like to go to the hospital, but I am afraid that the doctor would turn me away because I am far too ill.”
Similarly, a person with a serious spiritual ailment should turn to the “spiritual hospital”—the Church—and those who minister therein in the hope of spiritual healing, or at least in a genuine effort to bring about a remission in his or her sins. It is precisely for such purposes that the Church exists and her clergy pursue their vocation. It would be most unreasonable to say, “I would really like to go to the Church, but I am afraid that I will be turned away because I am far too sinful.” Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world precisely to heal sinners, to seek out the lost, and to restore all who would receive Him to spiritual health. As Christ reveals in Matthew 9:13, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
If you are convinced that you and your wife wish to embrace Orthodox Christianity as the fullness of Truth, then embrace it. Just as one who is physically ill should not worry that he or she is “too sick” to see a doctor, so too do not fear that you will be turned away from the Church because you are “too sinful”—and this is especially so when one is genuinely repentant and intensely desires forgiveness and reconciliation. Some of the greatest saints of the Church, such as Mary of Egypt, were quite notorious sinners, yet they repented, relied on the spiritual healing afforded by the Body and Bride of Christ—the Church—and attained holiness.
Ultimately, God does not desire the death of sinners. He rejoices when we turn from our sins and live. As Our Lord Himself plainly states in Luke 10:15, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
Hope this helps!