My faith story is certainly not unique, but it’s also not the norm. I’ve always been a spiritual person and have felt God’s presence in my life, but I never felt that I belonged to an organized religion. My mom was Catholic and my father is Jewish. Shortly before I was born, my mom converted to Judaism. Then, when I was four, the foundation of my world cracked and crumbled as my parents separated, divorced and my father remarried. Mom continued to raise me and my sisters in the Jewish faith. Her family and my father’s family were there for us, especially as we navigated through the hardest years. We went to synagogue and Hebrew school, we all had Bat Mitzvahs and we observed all the Jewish holidays. Plus, we got to celebrate Christmas with mom’s side of the family and that seemed like the best of both worlds to a kid in my situation. I could never quite harmonize the different beliefs, and so I just put them in two different compartments in my life that didn’t mix.
Eventually, I went away to college and while I was finishing up grad school, I met Gary. He’s absolutely the person that God designed for me and He allowed our paths to cross at precisely the right time. I’ll share that story sometime, but for now, let’s fast forward to a time, about 8 years into our marriage. Our oldest, was in pre-K and had lost a tooth. She wakes up in the morning and comes to us and says “All I got was a dollar! My friends get toys and other things when the tooth fairy visits them!” This already tired and stressed working mom almost flipped her lid at the ungrateful words coming out of her adorable little girl. It was at that moment that we realized that we needed more in our life. More community, more awareness about the world around us, more help because something was missing from our otherwise good and full life.
I said to Gary, “We need to find a church.” He probably thought this was a little crazy coming from his Jewish wife, but I had already started researching. We live in the South, so you can pretty much find a church everywhere you look. I wanted to find a place with a heart for children and their future that wouldn’t judge us for being an inter-racial, inter-faith family. I wasn’t even sure where to start. That very same evening, our sweet friends, Holly and Sean invited us to visit their church and we accepted.
We attended our first service in October of 2010 and the pastor spoke about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I had never heard anything like this and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Up to this point, I really didn’t know anything about Jesus or his ministry. Seriously, thirty-five plus years and I didn’t know the first thing about Him. I had heard about the Holy Trinity and saw my family members make the sign of the cross when they took communion at mass, but I never understood the meaning. It’s hard to explain this, but my exposure to the bible was only Old Testament stories taught in Hebrew School and an occasional Catholic mass. In my uninformed head, I thought that Jesus was a prophet, similar those I read about in Jewish scriptures. I had no earthly clue that He was God crammed into human flesh. Wow. That blew my mind. It’s one of those things that you just can’t un-know.
I needed to know more about this God-man and so I began studying and reading both the Old and New Testament daily. I read books from contemporary authors that helped me to understand the teaching better. I was all in and I was absorbing information like a sponge. My sweet husband has been a Christian all of his life and he patiently let me come to believe when I was ready. I love him for so many reasons and not pushing me to follow his faith is certainly one of them.
I don’t feel like I have converted from Judaism to Christianity. For me, it’s more like a progression along the same path that always leads to the one true God. Jesus and his disciples were Jews as well. They continued to observe the traditions and laws of their faith while simultaneously learning a brand new way to love God and to love people as demonstrated by Jesus in his parables and in his actions. There are 66 books that make up the bible as we know it and with my eyes opened, I could finally see that they all point to God’s spectacular plan to send a Savior for us all.
I am forever grateful that we accepted the invitation to visit our friend’s church which has now become our church. I’m in awe of our God and how He put the people, events and places in our life that have led us to a closer relationship with Him through his son, Jesus. Five years after we first stepped into our local church, my oldest and I were baptized together. Having her follow into the pool after me made that day so special considering she is the reason we started our search for a church in the first place. It was so freeing to be able to proclaim that not only is Jesus is my Lord and Savior, but he’s also the Messiah we have been waiting for all along! My two faith compartments from childhood have become one and there’s a peace and spiritual wellness within my soul.
Our family continues to grow in our faith and we do our best to show our girls how to be light and love in the world.
With peace and love,