I was raised Reform/secular Jewish but was exposed to Conservative and Orthodox Judaism at various times. We kept the Jewish holiday traditions which meaningful to me, and inclusive of prayers, were devoid of any connection to God.
I was a child of many questions, wanting to know the why behind each thing we did, searching for meaning, relevance, connection, history, and continually frustrated with “we do what we do because that is what Jews do.” Reminds me very much of “Fiddler on the Roof” and Tevye’s song “tradition.” Post-college I married a wonderful man, my high school sweetheart, who is also Jewish.
I always had a strong belief in God although I knew very little about Him. I actually never really thought much about it and when I did, it was more just an understanding that there was something up there that was a power beyond myself. Conceptual.
Purposeless and drifting even while firmly and actively engaged in the roles I held as a daughter, student, friend, employee, wife, mom. I was defined by what I did, and how well I did it. My life from young on was a relentless cycle of trying to live up to expectations (whether others or my own; whether real or imagined) perfectionism, and the crushing agony of never being “enough”, whatever “enough” was.
Saturday March 6, 2004, it was the beginning of the end. The end of myself.
Through an invitation from a friend, I attended a women’s seminar that was based on Isaiah 64:8 Old Testament (OT), (64:7 Tanakh [Tanach, Hebrew Scriptures].) “We are the clay, and You our potter, and all we are the work of Your hand.”
Using a real potter’s wheel, working on a lump of clay, the speaker seamlessly wove the theme from the Tanach through the New Testament. It was a moment when many questions I had asked since I was a little girl snapped into sharp focus and in the days that followed, God propelled me to dig and seek, with a hunger and an ability like never before.
Yes, I was and am fully aware that many in the Jewish community believe that the New Testament is anti Semitic and is not for Jewish people at all, that only the Tanach is. However what I later realized in my personal digging is that everything in the New Testament seamlessly flows from the Tanach!
Sunday March 21, 2004, with no special impetus that morning other than with a clarity like never before, I saw, I understood, I received! As the Bible calls it, I was born again. What happened to me is also known as receiving salvation and the realization of what I am saved from AND what I have been saved to… it is some heavy duty stuff! And my friends, IT IS GOOD NEWS!!!
Sunday May 15, 2005 I was water baptized, immersed. What I found the most incredible was seeing a connection for the first time in my life between myself and God. In this I also remain connected to my Jewish heritage with a richness and fullness that is joyous and precious. December 2005 I launched my first outreach website. The current one is the blog/website you are presently reading.
However, before long, the initial excitement, joy, revelation, change in me faded and while I understood the awesomeness of where my final destination would be in the eternal sense after my life here on earth is over, I did not understand how this played out in my day to day life in this world.
I was back on that roller coaster cycle of trying to live up to expectations, trying to be perfect, even more so than ever before. I at that point had the understanding that I was expected to get better and better, more and more perfect, now that I was born again, and that if I did not, if I fell short, if I fell period into any aspect of missing the mark of the law-set of holiness, the salvation that had graciously been given to me by God, would be taken away.
I basically exchanged one set of shackles in bondage with another, and in an emotional and spiritual prison I was.
Summer 1978, interestingly at a Jewish owned sleep-away summer camp, I took part in a production of the play “Godspell.” From that time on, I was drawn to those songs.
January 2012, my husband and I saw the show on Broadway in NYC (which was fabulously performed) and on a spiritual sidebar, God was increasingly pointing out to me works versus grace.
God’s “Godspell” through the show led me to a revelation of His grace that moved me from a state of salvation that was merely existing as I kept striving to “be good” but kept struggling and failing and falling in what I thought I had to do (increasingly “be perfect”), to thriving with a fire of excitement, understanding, and passion for Jesus in me.
With a whole new depth I grasped the magnitude of Jesus as the final atonement. He is the culmination of all the sacrifices listed in the Tanakh [Old Testament] (Leviticus 4, Leviticus 16, Numbers 15:1-31) and the fulfillment of the annual day of atonement observed in the Jewish holiday tradition in Yom Kippur.
Prior, each sacrifice was a covering over the sin, an atonement. That is why the sacrifices had to be repeated. The shadow of the Tanakh/Old Testament sacrifices point to the the culmination in the final sacrifice, the final atonement which is the propitiation.
The propitiation is beyond a covering, it is the quenching of God’s wrath for us when He completely removed our sins and took them upon Himself (expiation.) Our entire body of sin was imputed onto Him and His righteousness was imputed onto us.
While saved back in 2004, that crucial understanding of the fullness of the gospel was missing in me prior to 2012. Fullness meaning that salvation is not simply a moment in time when I became bound for heaven after I die here on earth. There is more as we still have a life we are living here on earth. I then understood even more deeply the beauty of living out my new identity in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26; Ezekiel 36:26-29; Colossians 1:10-14; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Colossians 2:6-15; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 8; Philippians 2:12-13.)
In this period I learned, in a personal, deep, practical way as I had never grasped before, once God saves us, He continues to bring us deeper and deeper into His gospel, for it is the power and the motivator for our life. We walk out here on earth what God has credited to us, that new identity. That inheritance is ours positionally, and our life is God working it out through us, experientially, as we live our life here.
Of course we have choices to make but it is not about us focusing on ourselves. Just like when Peter tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:28-33), he was fine and able to do so when his eyes were on Jesus. The moment Peter moved his gaze from Jesus onto the wind and his own ability, Peter began to sink. It is no different with us!
With our focus on Jesus, the finished work on the cross, and that identity that has been given to us at the moment of salvation, our sanctification progressively flows out of that. It becomes a supernatural, natural maturation; growth. The moment our gaze shifts from Jesus onto ourselves and onto our own performance, self focused behavior modification, we begin to sink, often becoming comparative and competitive with others, prideful, sowing seeds of discord, slipping and sliding, falling. It has been coined “navel gazing” by some theologians, and it is not pretty. It also renders God’s gospel limited, salvation to a moment in time where we become saved from hell and bound for heaven, rather than the fullness of the meaning of the word salvation which scripture speaks of and God intends. As scripture and psychology both attest to, we will walk out, behave, what we in our mind believe we are.
There is nothing more exciting and beautiful! To God be the glory!