I still feel like a fraud going to West Town Community Church, as a Jew. But, I am in transition and it is very difficult to determine if I want to be a Jew for Jesus or actually convert to Christianity. I’m leaning towards the former because I am still Jewish and will always embrace my heritage. I am very confused and envy the devout people who attend that Church who are so very sure of their faith. As usual, things are not so clear for me. One thing I know is that I am slowly but surely heading towards God. Believe it or not, I am actually taking the Pastor’s advice to just at least start reading the bible; something I’ve never done before. I grew up in a very non-religious household, never went to Hebrew school, or studied anything at all about religion. The only exposure I had was on the holidays—Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur—where I either got gifts, went to Synagogue, or fasted dutifully, but I never knew any of the background stories behind why I did these things. Consequently, I ended up marrying out of my faith. But, even the men I married were not religious and I again continued my ignorance about God, the Bible, and faith. My journey has been very slow and fledgling but I truly believe that I will eventually arrive at a place where I belong. Just like a road race, my “pace” is my own and I will arrive at my destination in my own time. This is my “race”—just like a PR in running where you strive for a “personal record”—I must not compare my “race time” with anyone else’s or feel that I am less than the other person because I am so slow. I must just keep walking forward, not looking back, and moving towards the light.
Faith and coincidence can go hand in hand. Many people believe that there ARE no coincidences in God’s world. Sometimes when you look back at how your life has changed for the better, you see a pattern of “coincidences” often extending years back. I suppose that if you look back far enough, you can say everything that you did in your life has lead you to where you are now—even if where you are is not a good place. It’s kind of like a “preexisting condition” in the insurance world; everything is preexisting except for accidents. You don’t just suddenly wake up one day with high cholesterol, or heart disease—no, your body has been secretly sabotaging you for years based on your habits and heredity. It is the same thing in a way with where we are in life. I have recently been exploring religion. Although I am Jewish by birth and heritage, believe in God and pray, I have not really formally practiced anything for years. I had all but lost my faith in God during my nightmarish medical issues and problems with my boy. But, as is often said, “Don’t quit until the miracle happens”, so I did not give up and, continued to have faith and pray, although I had no idea if my prayers were even being heard. Joel Osteen always says that when you are ready, the right person (or circumstances) will appear in your life if you have faith. Yet faith is sometimes hard to have when your life seems like it is a slow slide into the abyss of hopelessness because it is a belief and trust in something intangible. I believe that there were so many events going back to 2002, when I worked in the WTC that has brought me to where I am now. In 2003 I moved to Augusta (where my friend Janet lived)—I do not believe that I would’ve reconnected to faith if I still lived up North. Then, 3 years ago, my son moved in with me, soon after suffering a psychotic break. This sorrow led me to NAMI, where I met Joyce and Bill, who invited me to their Church. Although I did not go back for a long time I just kept praying and praying to God that I would at least find a doctor who could figure out what was wrong with my body. My prayers were answered and to me, it was a miracle. I sometimes wonder if that horrific experience was God’s way of bringing me to faith, for I do not believe that this was a coincidence at all. Although I had no intention of going back to Church, I met Dwayne in Starbucks of all places, who I had seen playing the guitar at the church that one time I went. We struck up a friendship of sorts and he “invited” and challenged me to go back to the church, even bribing me, by offering to buy me a latte if I agreed to go—I could not turn that down. So I have been attending this Church every Sunday, which gives me a sense of peace and tranquility that I almost never feel, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems. While there I try to channel my boy, envisioning him sitting beside me, enjoying the music and sermon each week, which is a way for me to feel close to him even if it is not physically possible. I try to believe that God has him in his loving arms and, by having faith I can more easily gain acceptance. At the very least I have begun to enjoy Sundays—something I never did before. I am not saying that my life is perfect, or that I can always practice acceptance, and I am not planning on denying my Jewish heritage, but I feel that through a series of events beginning years ago I have been lead into a belief in God again. Will I take the next step, I do not know yet, but I believe that I am on a good path—that anything that helps me quiet the racing thoughts and worry that engulfs me each day—for ONE day—has to be good.
Prejudice—it is such a damning word and so many of us in the civilized world find the idea of “prejudging people” based on their race, sex, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation, reprehensible. It is, after all, not PC to show prejudice and we all want to be politically correct don’t we? Humans wear many different masks; the one they show in public, the one they show in private, and the one they show when angry. It is easy to fool everyone and even yourself into believing that you are not a bigot, but given the right circumstances, the very thoughts that we portend to abhor will come to mind without hesitation. I believe that prejudice in some form does lurk in the dark recesses (or sometimes surfaces) of our psyche and is based on FEAR—fear of a culture different than ours. People who claim to be free of any prejudice must have been sent from some another Planet or had their minds magically cleansed. We are the products of our environments and, as children, we form opinions based on what we hear in our home or see on the news each night. Our brain is like a sponge and when you grow up with certain preconceived ideas of what black people, Asians, gays, women, or Jews are like it is very hard to shed these notions, although we try. Most of the time, people know that racism or gay bashing is not acceptable, but in times of anger, one’s true thoughts pop out and we sometimes show our real colors. Often, people don’t even know what they say is a slur such as the expression, “Jewing” someone down or saying that someone had a “Jewish” nose. Even people that I would never consider having a prejudiced bone in their body will surprise me with a remark such as “Black people never tip” (from a massage therapist friend of mine). Prejudice is really just a generalization about a group of people, and a “one size fits all” mentality. With that being said, last Monday morning, I was shocked to discover a bullet hole and bullet in my computer room. I noticed plaster dust all over and finally saw that there was a hole in the wall. The woman next door is a tenant who is black. Her 15-year old son was the culprit and apparently fired the gun from his bedroom, which went through their garage and entered my room. I called the owner who is black as well and she was appalled—she has now started eviction proceedings. I say their races to show how there are good, troubled, bad, smart, evil, (in short, it runs the gamut) people in any race. There are classy, “trashy”, criminals, and amazing people everywhere and, knowing this, I tried very, very, hard to avoid stereotyping this neighbor and saying this happened because she is black. Yet it was hard and I had to literally “talk” out-loud to myself saying, “Now, I do NOT want you to blame this terrible incident on him being black. Maybe, being black in the environment he came from and friends who he runs with is most likely the cause of this kid going in a bad direction. But, the landlord is an accomplished individual, and my other black neighbors in the area are respectful, lovely people. So, being black does not equal criminality.” You have to look at people on an individual basis and not lump groups of people into ONE person. Everyone is different and there are no cookie-cutter human beings—that is how I stopped myself from that line of thinking. I think that when those feelings of anger at a certain race, religion, or ethnicity come up, even for just a moment (and they all do, even if we don’t want to admit it), we have to take a step back and analyze if what we are feeling is rational. More often than not, we are just falling back into old patterns of thinking (often fear-based) where we blame an entire race or culture for actions perpetrated by a few. I think it is just a human condition to be suspicious or critical of another culture, but being aware and knowing it is wrong will go a long way.