More Who Thought For Themselves

Jill Shannon

My parents, Mitzi and Irv Sher, were the children of Russian Jewish immigrants. They were raised as conservative Jews but after they married and began to raise children, they moved into a looser form of Jewish observance, with a large component of enlightened secular humanism. My mother was a concert pianist and writer, and my father was a biochemist, photographer and linguist. I was their first child, and they were very delighted with me.

As a bright and articulate child, I was inquisitive, contented and pleasing to all adults in my world; yet from my earliest memories, I experienced an inward sense of "unwelcome" or an unworthiness to exist on this earth. It grew into a sense of inadequacy, performance anxiety and churned into a deep melancholy as the pressures of adolescence developed.

My mother and father could not impart the spiritual foundation needed to morally anchor an insecure and restless daughter, one who was rapidly developing a gaping spiritual void they were unable to fill.

I knew from synagogue attendance and years of Hebrew school that God was the "thing" I needed to fill the hole in my constantly aching heart. Although I privately prayed in bed every night and I did believe that He heard me, I did not hear His voice in my heart, nor did I know His character or biblical requirements for His people.

God's blessings in my life were very evident, and I sensed that He loved me. Even so, it could not be said that I had a personal relationship with God, or that I understood the concepts of righteousness, holiness or sin. Why did my Hebrew school not address this need for relationship? Where was the Reality and Presence of God in our ancient religion?

My first year away at college brought the usual temptations for an eighteen-year old that had been sheltered closely till then. In addition to these distractions, I also learned that I had to work hard to attain good grades. After a lifetime of straight A's with minimal effort, this rigorous demand came as a shock to my system. After an overwhelmingly difficult chemistry course, my depression increased; I even entertained thoughts of suicide from time to time.

During the summer after my first year away, I was at home and visiting with my friend Lyn, whom I had known since Junior High. She told me she had "become a Christian." I had always learned growing up, that a person was either Jewish or Christian. Everyone who wasn't Jewish was automatically "the other." I explained to Lyn that she had always been a Christian. Then she explained to me that she had come into a "personal relationship with Jesus" that she had never known, despite her Gentile upbringing.

As the summer progressed, I asked her every ponderous question that an unfulfilled and skeptical college student would ask. Finally, I asked her something about the people in the world who had never heard of Jesus, and the potential injustice of God. Oddly, her simple answer ended my month-long interrogation. "Jill, God is just. Jesus is coming back whether you believe it or not."

I was stunned at the simplicity of this statement. His return was an absolute future reality, irrespective and independent of my subjective beliefs. Objective truth was NOT connected to our personal opinions and beliefs! I did not want to be living this way when He returned. I already sensed that this event could be a dreadful moment in history.

Interestingly, my Judaism did not seem to be at all contradictory to what I was about to embrace. I knew perfectly well that Yeshua (Jesus) was Jewish. I had learned this in eighth grade while slow-dancing with a cute Italian boy. He whispered in my ear that unlike many Catholics, he liked the Jews. Knowing nothing of anti-Semitism, I listened, naive and perplexed, as "Cherish" played romantically in the background. He continued, "Anytime my mother hears someone say, 'those dirty Jews,' my mother says, 'Our Lord was a Jew.'"

I pulled back from his overly familiar embrace and stared at him with huge eyes of astonishment and declared, "That's true! She's right!"  At age fourteen, I now had a new truth in my heart that would never be far from my thoughts until my last day on earth.

One week before returning to Tufts University, I prayed with Lyn and turned my heart toward Yeshua to receive atonement and forgiveness for my sins. My sinful nature was evident to me, and I now knew that my longstanding sense of guilt and unworthiness was accurate. I had always felt unclean, but no one could help me understand it or rectify this condition. I now realized that Yeshua's sacrifice was the only act of cleansing which could restore me to the accepting and loving relationship with God for which I was created. Our Hebrew Scriptures were full of the sacrifice of animals to restore the worshiper to God, and our father Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son; why could this sinless Man not offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf?

In 1982, my husband and I made "Aliya" to Israel, and began a new life there.

We lived in Israel for seven years, during which I gave birth to our three children, now dual citizens. These years contained many blessings, spiritual and cultural lessons, immersion into Hebrew and significant hardship. There are certain aspects of being a Jew that can only be learned in the land of Israel; the biblical holidays and the Sabbath are built into the Israeli culture and calendar.  Knowing Hebrew and learning worship music from the Hebrew Scriptures enlarges our worship vocabulary.

The Lord Yeshua is a very real and tangible friend and helper to those who love Him and put their trust in Him. Knowing that I will be with Him forever is more valuable to me than any reward or pleasure this world could offer.

 

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