I am a non-Jew converting to Judaism.
The stages of my journey can be summed up as follows:
(1) A reluctant conversion to Jesus-faith in college throws my secure world of science and mathematics into turmoil.
(2) Instead of simply fitting in with my newfound Christian community, within two weeks of turning to faith in Jesus I am questioning why the church isn’t more Jewish.
(3) I travel to Israel less than nine months after my faith commitment, seeking answers and sources.
(4) I experience a form of Messianic Judaism that is neither robust nor particularly Jewish, but more Pentecostal.
(5) I experience philo-semitic Christianity and the movement of Christian missions to the Jews.
(6) At the time, I found something more serious and with more potential for insight in the Christian missions movement.
(7) I now learn to approach Judaism as an outsider, a critic, and yet an appreciator.
(8) I have a long phase of, “Wow, matzah ball soup and Friday night candles! Let’s win a Jew for Christ.”
(9) In a long and disappointing stint as missionary, I grow disillusioned.
(10) I begin to think that the religious Jews I meet are better off in many ways than the people we confuse at the Jewish mission by encouraging them to be Christians and to assimilate into church life (thus losing their Jewish identity or at least sacrificing their childrens’ Jewish identity).
(11) I begin to wonder why there can’t be something more holistic for Jewish followers of Yeshua.
(12) I begin appreciating Jewish life more as an insider.
(13) It seems dangerous at first, but darnit I really enjoy worshipping God from within Judaism.
(14) In near total ignorance of Jewish life and tradition, I start a small Messianic congregation.
(15) From friends in the UMJC and at Hashivenu, I begin to learn what it means to be a Jew and how the theology of the New Testament deals with Jewish and Gentile identity.
(16) I grow increasingly embarrassed by my lack of real Jewish experience and long for a knowledgeable Jewish leader to serve or take over our synagogue.
(17) Lacking a more experienced Jewish teacher, I take responsibility to learn the liturgy and traditions for myself (in my “spare” time).
(18) The rhythms of Jewish life become familiar to me, but I reach an identity crisis. I am a Gentile living as a Jew. I start thinking of wearing tzit-tzit. I do for a day or two and then guilt overwhelms me. I cannot pretend to be a Jew.
(19) I start a swing towards an Orthodox Jewish practice and annoy my congregation members with pressure to be more Orthodox. Fortunately, this period was very brief.
(20) I finally understand that conversion is a must for me and my family. I apply with the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (ourrabbis.org). I take forever to write up my paperwork and make arrangements so that, still, as of this moment, my conversion is not complete.
(21) I finally understand that Judaism is a conversation and that the Orthodox approach is not the most legitimate one.
(22) I write a blog post about strangers (sojourners, gerim) like me choosing Jewish life. I am in the middle. My odyssey is not complete.
The Dangers of Strangers
My story is not at all a paradigm. Many other sojourners have entered Messianic Jewish life for a wide variety of reasons. Common paths include:
I don’t sense any spiritual power in the church life I have experienced, so in turning away from the church, I found Messianic Judaism as the true church.
I grew up in a Sabbath-keeping Christian sect and Messianic Judaism is a whole lot more balanced than what I grew up in.
I discovered Israel as the center of the Bible and got tired of Israel being ignored in church. I wanted to keep God’s calendar and his way of life, so here I am in Messianic Judaism.
I married a Jew and had no idea what I was getting into, but in Messianic Judaism we find a sort of solution.
I heard about Messianic Judaism and had never experienced that kind of ancient-rooted tradition blended with contemporary worship. I was hooked the first time I worshipped there.
There are probably more journey stories than the ones I have listed. I would love to hear from you. What is your story?
A Free Offer!!
First Fruits of Zion recently published Messiah Journal #101. It contains an article, “One Law and the Messianic Gentile” and a new name for FFOZ’s view of Gentile relation to Torah: divine invitation.
This issue of Messiah Journal has caused people to abandon FFOZ by the bucket-load.
One Law and Ephraimite groups and many individuals are angry. They feel entitled and FFOZ’s article questions that entitlement. It exposes the dangers of strangers in Jewish life who never come to realize that the Chosen People of God are still the Chosen People of God.
I ordered a carton full of extra copies to give out to families in my synagogue. The article comes very close to my own position (not quite, I am a little less inclined to invite non-Jews to take on Torah).
I have six copies left. The first six people to share their own story in a comment on this blog using 100 words or less about how or why they came into Messianic Judaism and to request a copy, I will contact them and send a Messiah Journal 101 for free. (I have your email if you comment on this blog, so I will contact you).
So, please share whether you want a free copy or not. What is your journey story into Messianic Judaism? Please keep it to 100 words or less.
To see more about FFOZ’s Messiah Journal or get the article for a small fee online, click here.