Posts tagged " religious growth "

Obstacles in religious growth

May 13th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 60 comments

Hi there!

I know this will seem a ridiculous question, and I feel ridiculous asking.

I was raised Pentecostal Christian.  I did drugs and was very lost. I was married at 18, and had my first child, then divorced after 1 year due to drug abuse and violence.  I then shacked up with my current husband and had six more kids before finally getting married to him.  He’s a good husband and father.  We’ve been attending a Baptist church for a few years now.

I am trying to figure out how to honor God, and not just assume that I can dismiss everything I am, or do wrong, as excused by grace.

I am no scholar, I have only just recently started reading the bible, and I don’t feel like I’m even doing that correctly… On top of that, my husband is totally disinterested in what I’m trying to do.  He thinks I’m trying to “be a Jew,” which isn’t true, I just want to honor, and obey God. 

What research I have done recently, has felt discouraging, people in the forums argue, and are all sure they know the real truth, but there can only be one real truth.

Last week, I convinced my family to do Sabbath with me.  Even though I tried, I still failed and didn’t have everything prepped.  My husband works odd hours, so we’re used to eating dinner fairly late.  So I was working serving dinner, when the sun had gone down.  I did succeed at taking everyone’s phones away, and keeping the tv off.  We didn’t even play music.  The next morning, Saturday, we slept in.  We ate toast and eggs, again I failed to prepare food for the day. Went hiking into our woods, started a fire, and hung out until it was almost dark.  Everyone said it was a good day, but in my heart I felt lacking.

I know you can’t hear my voice, or feel the depth of what I’m trying to say.  But I often weep over my inadequacies.  I feel incredibly overwhelmed, floating between the Law, and the Grace.  I’m a Christian, so I believe in Jesus, but He said that He came to fulfill the Law.  I don’t even really know the Law. 

I’m afraid that my children will suffer because of me.  Perhaps I am suffering because of my parents, and they from theirs…the blame can go all the way back to Adam and Eve.  What should I do?

I don’t want to insult the Lord with my pitiful attempts, but at the same time, I love the Lord.

Thank you for your time, and all you do.

Blessings,

Jessica

I love your podcasts.

Dear Jessica,

You sound like you have traveled far in your personal and emotional growth. Women, in particular, sometimes have a tendency not to give themselves credit for things they do and instead fixate on their flaws and what they must yet accomplish. Before we discuss your question we’d like you to take a moment to recognize the huge steps you’ve made. You got off drugs, left a violent marriage, and stayed with and married a man who, like you, is committed to the children you are raising. You are connected to a church and working hard to be the best wife, mother and Christian you can be. Whew! You have accomplished a lot.

What is more, we want you to know that if one had to choose between a life that started well but then went off the tracks and ended horribly or, one like yours that started with painful turbulence but ends in harmony and happiness, this is by far the preferred path.  It’s a big thing you’ve done in changing your trajectory and you are fortunate enough to have a “good husband and father” as a partner. Be grateful. 

At this point, you are a spiritual striver and trying best to understand God’s directions for your life. As Jews trying to follow ancient Jewish wisdom, we can explain that God assigns different roles, challenges and tasks to different people. These include  men and women; mothers and fathers, children and siblings, doctors and plumbers, those living in the land of Israel and those outside the land; those descended from Aaron the High Priest or the tribe of Levi and those descended from the other tribes. It is all about which religious responsibilities, restrictions, rules and regulations we adopt, not about being better or worse. In this scenario,  Jews are supposed to shoulder more responsibilities, restrictions and obligations than everyone else. 

While we know that there is much value for all people in many of the commandments with which the Jewish people are obligated, such as the Sabbath or Passover observance, God does not require those who are not Jewish to  keep the details of these observances. The idea of having one day each week, a Sabbath, different from all the others and devoted to family, friends and God is one that everyone can benefit from and, indeed, was taken for granted until relatively recently in most Christian-founded countries. Jews have an added level that details what should, can and cannot be done by them on that day.

While we know some Christians who are trying to recover the connection to Judaism that they feel was  lost over the years, we urge you not to make that your  overriding path. Why do we say so? For the same reason, when a Jewish person who has been ignorant of the Torah approaches us wanting  to learn and connect more with God’s word, we make sure that he does so in a slow and limited way that does not turn his marriage and family world upside down. Your movement towards a closer relationship with God and Scripture should bring joy and peace to everyone in your family and circle, not just you. Certainly, there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but the overall feeling should be one of gaining what in Hebrew is called ‘shleimut’ – completion as all the different and separate  parts of one’s life blend together under the Scriptural umbrella. (‘Shleimut’ comes from the same root word as ‘shalom,’ one of the 29 words we analyze in depth in our book Buried Treasure.)

You, as a wife and mother, should not act only as an individual. That’s not how our Boss in Heaven sees you and you shouldn’t see yourself that way either. You cannot be upset at your husband or children for not being in exactly the same place you are.  That path wasn’t laid out to your husband when you married and your children were not provided with this road map during their formative years.  Any spiritual or behavioral changes you make for yourself and certainly any you impose on your family, should be very slow and deliberate.  Each change should allow ample time for everyone to understand, adapt and come on board. If there is resistance, that is a sure sign that you are asking too much or going too fast.

Please stop trying to force your family into your own spiritual vision of what you think they ought to be doing. We understand that you are trying your hardest to distance yourself from earlier mistakes but you are already doing that by being the best wife and mother you can be.

Jessica, we urge you to relax and enjoy your husband, children and church. We are humans and we all make some good decisions and we hope not too many bad ones. Obsessing about trying to act perfectly is not healthy or productive.

One thing we want to clarify is that although, of course, your children benefit from those good decisions and actions you and your husband take, and yes, they do suffer from what we hope are only a few bad ones, it is never a case of blame or recrimination.   You are not the conduit of a curse from Adam down to your children. They, like you, are human with all that entails and they, like you, will need to take responsibility for their own choices. There is no cloud of doom over you or them.

You’ve just started to read the Bible? Great!  Read your way through it all without feeling that you are called to act in accordance with whatever you read. That would lead to huge misunderstanding.  Does that make sense? After all, we wouldn’t want you to start building an Ark or killing some Amalekites. Just reading it all for now will bring you deep understanding and spiritual tranquility. You will reach a point where you realize that there are very, very few ridiculous questions and that you should be proud of yourself for asking deep and meaningful ones.

Allow yourself to enjoy your voyage through life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin 

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