Tuesday was my 6th birthday…

Yes, 1 July 2002 is the day I was born again.

If you don’t know what being born again means, don’t worry, I didn’t either until it happened. Growing up in a Jewish home in Israel, you don’t hear about this stuff. And even going to church – well, it varies. The churches I attended didn’t tend to talk about it, and when I heard people use this term it meant nothing to me, it was as though they were talking Chinese. But eventually, in God’s good time, after over 12 years in the church and thinking I was a Christian, it happened.

My 12 years in the wilderness started with a visit to a church in London a few months after I arrived in England. I wasn’t searching for God or anything like that – I just went along with my partner, who wanted to go to church. (Long and complicated story, not for here and now)

To my great surprise, I met God there.

My surprise was not just because a Jewish girl doesn’t expect to bump into him in a church of all places, but also because an agnostic doesn’t expect to bump into him at all.

The church where this happened wasn’t very evangelistic, but it certainly had warm and friendly people. They made me feel welcome without prying into matters of faith at all – nobody offered me a tract or tried to tell me about Jesus, nobody asked if I was saved, they just weren’t into that sort of thing. This church, for various reasons, is not somewhere I’d feel comfortable now, but at that stage of my life it was exactly the place for me – I was very rebellious, and if I had felt that someone was trying to talk me into anything, I’d have been out of there like a shot. But nobody did, so I felt ok about going there again and again, not saying the prayers or even singing the songs because I was determined not to be hypocritical, not to say anything I didn’t believe in – but I just kept going because I felt something… well, now I know it was Someone really, it was God drawing me to him, very gently but persistently. And eventually we came to the point of me deciding to read this stuff that I was hearing about from the pulpit. So I bought a Bible from the church bookstall, and started to read the Gospels. And when I finished reading, I just knew – with a 100% certainty – that what I had read was true.

Now, if this was just a nice story, I would tell you that at this point my life changed dramatically, I stopped sinning and became a saint overnight. But this isn’t a story, it’s real life, which tends to be rather messy and complex. Especially my life…

My life remained a bit of a mess for a while, though I was trying to let God in, and gradually I was letting him change me. I was getting closer to him in some ways, but in other ways – well, I think I hadn’t quite got the full message really, and when I went to the pastor in that church back in 1990 and said I wanted to be a Christian, I didn’t really understand what that meant. I think at that stage all I was doing was a bit like joining a political party: I’ve read your manifesto, I agree with what you stand for, so I want to become a member. I was agreeing with the stuff that the church was saying, I was saying, yes, this guy Jesus is a good guy and what he says is true, I want to live according to this worldview.

I had not understood at that point that living according to Jesus’ teaching is actually not humanly possible, so signing up for it without having his power in me meant I was setting myself up for failure and for a humungous amount of guilt.

I had certainly not understood what all that talk about him being the Saviour meant.

So when I thought I was “becoming a Christian”, all that was happening was that I was saying: I think Christianity is a good idea and I want to be part of it.

Over the years God patiently taught me more and more about him, and part of me was getting more and more excited about God and really wanting to do his will, really wanting to please him. But I couldn’t do it.

I was getting confused and restless. There were moments when I felt like one day somebody is going to discover that I’m a fraud, that I say I’m a Christian but look at how I live —

The more I read the Bible the more the confusion grew. The stuff that I read there about the life of Christians just didn’t match my experience. According to the Bible I was supposed to have love and joy and peace growing in me, not to mention patience! and not to mention self-control!!! Instead I was at the mercy of my temper, my urges for instant gratification, my selfishness. There was a girl I worked with who I just didn’t get on with – we constantly rubbed each other up the wrong way. Again and again I would decide to be loving towards her. And now and again, for about two seconds, I would manage it. But most of the time I failed. My will was not enough to make it happen.

Something was wrong. Something was missing. I didn’t know what.

Fast forward to end of December 2000. I’ve been living in London in a rented flat, doing the normal 9-5 office job kind of life, but also getting more and more involved in my church. Rushing around a lot means not having much time to hear God. I’ve also been getting very tired. In fact, I’ve got so tired that I don’t have the energy to go away for Christmas to stay with the friends who had kind of become my adopted family in England. So I stay in London. And my vicar and his wife ask me if I would house-sit for them when they go away between Christmas and New Year. So for about a week I’m away from my flat, and just to make sure I’ll stay put God sends lots of snow, because he knows very well that I’m too scared to walk in the snow. So I end up having some solitude, which means God can get through to me, and start showing me how I’ve been trying to control everything and how tiring that is, and of course trying to control everything doesn’t make sense when I’ve been saying I trust God…

31 December 2000 I put my hands up and said to God: I’m not going to try to drive any more. I’m not even going to try to navigate. I won’t sneak a look at the map. You drive. You know where we’re going. I don’t.

On my way back to work after the Christmas break God said: Quit your job, give three months’ notice.

I did.

That was the start of the big adventure. No job means no salary and no salary means no rent, so I had to leave my flat. I went to live with friends in North Wales who run a small retreat house. From there I went to L’Arche, a community for people with mental handicaps. From there I went to work at another retreat house, this time near Oxford. But just before I started working there, God finally got through to me about going back home to Israel.

You see, the thing was that when I first came to England I went through a pretend-wedding in order to get a visa to allow me to stay here. And as I was telling a friend about this I suddenly heard myself. This was a new friend so I was telling her my story, and suddenly I heard what I was saying, and it just didn’t add up. I was telling her that I was a Christian, and that I had been living in England for years with a visa that I had got through lying.

I had to let go of that visa. I had to go back to Israel. Suddenly it was very simple, very clear.

Also very very very scary. I didn’t want to go back. I had settled in nicely in England, I liked it here, I had made a life for myself here, I had built friendships, I was comfortable here.

And the other thing that I had managed not to think about most of the time was the debts I had left behind. You see, that’s why I came to England in the first place. I had run into huge debts, so huge that I couldn’t see myself ever managing to pay them, and I panicked and ran.

My conscience had tried to prick me about it. In fact at some point I remember going to see my vicar about it, and he – oh, how angry I am just thinking about it now – he gave me absolution!!! (For those who don’t know what that means, it’s when a priest hears someone’s confession and tells them that God has forgiven them.) He told me I was forgiven. He didn’t mention the need for restitution – for paying back what I owed.

But God hadn’t forgotten about it.

So, April 2002 I head back home to Israel. I start the archaeological dig – my attempts to find my old creditors and pay them. And – oh yes, to find my ex-boss from whom I’d stolen money just before leaving. It wasn’t easy, finding him. The company had gone into liquidation, but I did eventually manage to find the name and address of the director. I tried ringing him at home but twice I rang and he wasn’t in, and what sort of message could I leave? So I wrote him a letter, and explained that nearly 13 years previously I had worked for him and stolen a cheque from his company and that God had shown me the error of my ways and I wanted to repay him. (Not just the amount I’d taken – I found a biblical principle that talked about paying four or five times what you’d stolen.) He phoned me back, very intrigued as to why I was doing this after all this time. He wasn’t particularly interested in the money, as he was a millionaire and the amount I’d taken was a drop in the ocean for him. But he did understand my need to repay. And he really wanted to know why I was doing this, so we met and sat in a posh café in Herzlia Pituach and I told him about Jesus.

But going back to that evening when I had posted my letter to this guy – 1 July 2002. I felt that sending that letter was a huge thing to do, it was a risk as I had put it all on paper and if this guy wanted to go to the police with it, he could. I didn’t really know what he was like – I hadn’t known him personally, he was the director of this company and I was just a bookkeeper’s assistant. So this was a big thing for me to do, a scary step but something I knew was absolutely necessary. So I sat there in my bedroom in my mum’s flat and I said to Jesus: Okay, I’ve done it. And he said: There’s one thing you haven’t done yet. And I said: What? And he said: You haven’t given your life to me yet.

Now, I had heard people use this terminology but it had never meant anything to me. They might as well have spoken fluent Mandarin. I just didn’t know what they meant. It wasn’t an expression that was used in any of the churches I’d been part of along the way. The Anglican tradition says you become part of the church when you are baptised, which normally happens when you’re a baby, and you make your own commitment through what they call Confirmation. I had gone through Baptism in the Lutheran church in 1990, and Confirmation in the Anglican church a few years later, and I can tell you from my experience that it is entirely possible to go through these rituals as an adult without really giving your life to Jesus, without realising what it means that he is the Saviour, without accepting and receiving his amazing gift of Salvation, forgiveness of sins and a new start.

On 1 July 2002 I sat there in my bedroom, no rituals, no ceremonies, just me and Jesus in my room. He said: You haven’t given your life to me yet. And at that moment I knew. I knew it was true, I knew what it meant.

He had been preparing me. I’d been going to a Messianic fellowship and getting excellent teaching. And at that moment I was ready. I rummaged around for one of those paperbacks that tell you about people coming to faith and at the end they invite you to pray what some people call the sinner’s prayer – repenting of your sins, accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and asking him to come into your life and take over. I had seen those prayers so many times and never took them very seriously. But this was the moment when everything came together, it all suddenly made perfect sense.

And afterwards – things did start to happen, all those things I’d read about in the Bible and wondered about, I started to see these things happen in my own life. Not just love and patience, but even self-control, which I never dreamt I could have! I discovered that it is real, all that stuff I’d read about, it’s just that you can’t make it happen just by wanting it to, it’s only when Jesus lives in you that these things can happen. You can’t get your car to move just by sitting at the wheel and wanting to get to, say, Bournemouth. You need the engine running. Jesus is my engine. Without him I can do nothing that’s any good. With him – I can get a lot further than Bournemouth.

P.S. Some loose ends I should tidy up since I opened them here:
I’m back in England now and married for real. I’ve got a new visa which I got by totally honest means this time – I even told them at the Consulate about the previous one. God is faithful.

P.P.S. Another thing I don’t remember being taught in that first church I attended back in 1990, was that being a Christian doesn’t mean you stop being Jewish, it’s not about joining a different religion. Jesus didn’t come to found a new religion, he came as the promised Messiah of Israel – though he is also, as promised, a light to the Gentiles.

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31 thoughts on “Tuesday was my 6th birthday…

  1. thank you for sharing that – it was good to read! What a journey :)I think L'Arche communities are great I have read Community and Growth by Jean Vanier and it was really good. I wanted to get my mentally retarded cousin into one when his dad died, but it wasn't possible :(

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  2. A very merry re-birthday to you!You certainly did manage to answer quite a few questions in one fell swoop.Meirav saidmost of the time I failed. My will was not enough to make it happen. … I'm not going to try to drive anymore. I'm not even going to try to navigate. I won't sneak a look at the map. You drive. You know where we're going. I don't. … Without him I can do nothing that's any good. With him – I can get a lot further than Bournemouth.I don't even know where Bournemouth is, but I felt this was worth repeating — for me.

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  3. Yes, after writing this I realised that I was answering more than one question here – they are kind of connected. Why did I come to England? Why did I go back to Israel? It's all connected with what God has been doing in my life.In fact, I find that there aren't many questions about me that I can answer without referring to God :-)

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  4. I think they are very good places for those who are mentally handicapped, where they are loved and supported in a really positive way.Sadly my own experience as a house assistant there was far from positive, I had gone there with very high expectations having read stuff about L'Arche but what I found was not what I was hoping for. It was a very painful experience for me.My hope is that my experience in that particular house was an exception. And again I repeat: for those who are mentally handicapped I think it's an excellent environment.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Belated happy re-birthday! i will be sharing my conversion too. See how I've stumbled on your site and were blessed. This is not an accident. Can we be friends? :)p/s How did you get to visit me at my site?

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  6. Hi Gracy, nice to meet you! I got to your site through a post in a group – don't remember which now, but anyway I was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow believer. Let me know when you post about your own journey to faith – I'll be interested to hear all about it!

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  7. What a beautiful story!!!! As i said, my journey really began AFTER my rebirth, and it hasn't stopped yet. To this day i don't know where I'm going, except, eventually, Heaven. I always had faith from a little child. It's been His working in me ever since that is the real story.

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  8. I found this through the link you posted on Kira's blog. I love this story. There is so much truth to what you say. Though the circumstance are different I had to come to the same truths. It was quite a journey. But as you said, God is faithful.

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  9. Now you're making me cry!Meirav, you were very brave to go back to Israel, and chase down those debts, especially the stolen check. You must have been terrified, when you had to do that, but the Holy Spirit was putting you through a cleansing process, which I think, is so beautiful.I feel like shouting "Amen"… sorry, it's the Baptist in me! >>bows head meekly<<

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  10. thank you for the amens, debby and michael.and yes, debby, I had some very scary moments at the time, my human nature very much did not want to go through with it… but I knew it was utterly necessary. and the freedom I gained through it – wow! there's nothing like it!

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  11. that's fascinating and I congratulate you on having found the meaning of your life…call it whatever you like; the important thing is that you are content and confident and your concept of your god has helped you get there.It is also nice to see the intelligence of your last paragraph…Jesus was a prophet (maybe the Messiah) there is no reason for conflict between Christianity and Judaism – the one is a breakaway sect from the other that's all. I think that is why I find the recent behavior of Mr. Ratzinger (I refuse to call him by an assumed and artificial name) all the more objectionable. Using the furore over the denier is just a ruse to hide the reinstating of some of the catholic church's ugliest dogma – the prayer for the conversion of those who don't share its beliefs (specifically the Jews)

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  12. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It takes a lot of courage to open up the way you have. We've all done things we're not proud of, but most people refuse to talk about them. I admire you for your honesty, and I am glad you have found the path that you needed to find.

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  13. interesting comments, hilly. I wonder if it will shock you to hear that that prayer is something I pray too, except that I wouldn't use the term "conversion" in the context of Jewish people, as we do not convert, in the sense that we do not stop being Jewish when we come to faith in Jesus.you call it an ugly dogma – what's ugly about wanting the best for everyone? I believe that Jesus is the way to life in all its fullness – of course I pray that everyone else will come to share in this!

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  14. p.s. just seen your comment at kira's, hilly, and I think this helps me understand what you meant.you said there: "To me the greatest arrogance in the world is to proselytize and seek to convert anyone. Teach them your knowledge and your ideas but let them decide for themselves."As a Christian I do not believe any human being can "convert" another to the Christian faith. My aim is to share my experience and my understanding, in the hope and prayer that it will help others to find the treasure which I have found. Praying for others to come to faith is exactly that – a prayer for others to discover this wonderful thing which I found.I am of course very much aware of the baggage that comes with term "conversion" for us Jews, as there were those who, mistakenly, sought to force people to become Christians. That is one of the most horrible errors that were done supposedly in the name of Jesus. It definitely is not what he taught.

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  15. Why is it the best for everybody…why not say that believing in Ganesh is the best for everybody. Your comment came up as I was writing this one Meirav! And I see that you actually agree with me – even if we put it differently.(at least I think you do….)what I object to: There is no proof that Christianity is the best for everybody – or that it isn't for that matter. To me wanting to convert someone is arrogant…I respect your belief as a Christian and I wouldn't dream of diverting or undermining it by telling you that you are wrong and that what I find a spiritual comfort is right. So although I am sure that you have found happiness (along with millions of others) there are also millions of us out here who have found our meaning to life without Christianity.Does that make sense? I'm multitasking here like a madwoman (pause to let you giggle) so maybe I'm not putting things as clearly as they are in my head.

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  16. I think I understand your question, hilly, and whilst we agree on some things obviously there are some where we don't – no great surprises there as I'm a Christian and you aren't.You talk of finding happiness – if that's all it was about, then of course there would be no sense in wanting others to follow the same way. If it was just a question of whatever makes you happy, then sure, it's like me preferring choc chip whilst someone else likes cherry flavour. No big deal.But my faith in Jesus isn't about happiness. I'm sure you know very well that the Bible tells us that Jesus came so that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life. I believe that human beings are on the road to hell and destruction, and that faith in the sacrifice of Jesus is the only way to escape that. So of course I want everyone else to escape too! I do not want to sail happily into the sunset (as it were) when Jesus returns, watching a whole load of my friends and family heading for hell. I take no pleasure in that thought.And at the same time I fully respect each person's right to choose. I believe this is the way God made us – with free will. He doesn't force his love onto anyone.I hope this helps you to understand a bit more about where I'm coming from.

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  17. i was just wondering earlier this morning what your story was and lo and behold you post a link. :-)thanks for that and for what you've written hear. i'd love to hear more but i'll save it for when we get together in real life some time (another thing i've been thinking about… a multiply love fest in florida perhaps?).

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  18. and there was me thinking you were planning a visit to the UK…do feel free to ask anything in the meantime, and that goes for anyone reading this – the worst that can happen is I might say "not telling" :-)

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  19. are you kidding? every summer rob is all, "let's go to ireland." or "let's go to scotland" and i'm all, "that's expensive. just to get over there for all of us would be several thousands of dollars. and you're on my case about saving money." and he's all, "oh. right." and i'm all, "let's wait till the kids are older and will appreciate it better." and he's all, "ok." ;-)

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  20. I'm a bit late to your post but I wish to thank you for sharing your incredible journey. It takes great inner strength to have accomplished and lived the life that you have so far and as I have learned in my life, the journey never ends. God bless.

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  21. Reblogged this on Meirav's Blog and commented:
    1 July is a special date in my diary.

    This is an old post from my archives. It is long, because my journey from Jewish Agnostic to Jewish Follower of Jesus was a long one, and not all that straightforward.

    I’m resisting the urge to edit… but if I was writing it now, I’d have included my baptism in the story – no, I don’t mean that time when I stood in a church and somseone sprinkled me with water and told me I was now a Christian… In the summer of 2002, after I finally finally got the point about needing Jesus as my saviour, I was baptised for real, by immersion, having repented for my sins and chosen to die to my old life and start a new life with Jesus as my Lord. So really it’s 15 August that’s my real re-birthday.

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  22. Pingback: The Old Map | Meirav's Blog Archive

  23. Pingback: The Old Map | Meirav's Blog

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