"How could you?" my mother's enraged voice resonated through the cassette
recorder. "I would have rather seen you on drugs or heard you were a
prostitute. We could have gotten help for you. But to give up your heritage and
become a Christian, there is no help. Janis, the only Jew I knew of who
converted to Christianity ended up in a mental institution!"
Those words, in reaction to my conversion more than 20 years ago, still echo
in my mind. Through a miracle, the prayers and guidance of my husband,
God-given friends and a solid Christian church, the Lord helped transform my
life from a self-centered agnostic to a dependent, thankful Christian. I was
about to embark on the biggest decision of my life, keeping in mind that I had
the monumental task of telling my parents.
Months and months of reflection helped me to painstakingly write of my
decision to my parents. I tried putting myself into their perspective. Growing
up in a distinctly Christian neighborhood, I recalled the anti-Semitic remarks
that frequented our ears. "Christ killer," my classmates would sneer. "I'll Jew
you down in price," a local merchant would candidly remark. "Where is your
Christmas tree?" a neighbor would question. To ease the pain, my mother and
father reminded me of my heritage: persecution, perils and the pride of the
Jewish people made us a distinguished race.
My convictions were so strong after my miracle conversion that I
rationalized they would have to understand. I believed any parent of a
30-year-old woman might disagree, but would continue to love her as his or her
My parents saw how God saved my life. I was feverishly ill in my ninth month
of pregnancy, then finally hospitalized with a bizarre sickness.
"Don't let my daughter leave that hospital until my baby is born," my mother
would sternly jest with the doctor by phone. Their love and concern surrounded
me despite their 900-mile distance.
After 10 days in the hospital I still had no diagnosis ... then premature
labor. I wasn't prepared for this, physically or mentally. Then the drama
unfolded as my doctor walked into the waiting room with a somber look of
concern. "Due to the seriousness of Janis' illness, it has become progressively
harder for her to deliver this child. We can't perform a Caesarean section
because she is too weak. Her blood pressure is much too high, and her life is
at stake. There's more," he continued. "The baby's heart has stopped longer
than normal during the stress of labor. There is an uncertainty of the baby's
survival as well."
If there was a time I needed God, it was then. Many times in my youth I had
candidly remarked, "Prove to me there is a God, then I will believe He exists."
What was about to unfold must have been God revealing, "Okay you stubborn
woman, here I am!"
Hours passed when I was finally able to gaze at my doctor's figure before
me. Looking with compassion, he began to elaborate about the dramatic story of
my son's birth. "You have been through a lot, young lady. All signs and tests
show your son to be perfectly normal. You have recovered markedly as well." His
next statement astonished me: "I don't have any sound medical explanation for
your recoveries. God was with you all the way. Jesus really loves you. Your
recoveries were true miracles."
My parents saw this miracle and its impact on me. I had days to ponder what
had happened and to concede that there must be a God after all. I was never
taught to seek a personal relationship with God, to pray, praise or read the
Bible. I was told countless stories of persecution, struggles and pride of the
Jewish people, so my heritage was strong. But my religious beliefs were weak at
Through the divine pull of the Holy Spirit, the name of Jesus Christ no
longer made me flinch. My family and I had never perceived Jesus as a Jew. Now
I was being shown that the terms that had been so distinctively Christian in
color to me before, suddenly had a great new Jewish tint to them. The
celebrated Last Supper was indeed the Jewish ceremony of Passover. The
declaring of the New Covenant, the First Communion, would have never taken
place if Jesus hadn't been obedient to God's commanded observance of the
Passover. The Lord honored the Jewishness of Jesus by concealing His body in
Joseph of Arimathea's burial cave. This too was a Jewish observance of the
Sabbath and gave opportunity for His being raised from the dead. If my parents
could only receive what I had been able to grasp.
Reality rarely hits until you are slapped in the face with it, and my
parents' response hit hard! "Until you get rid of this foolishness, you will be
out of our will and out of our lives." They were going to disown me for the
sake of 'their' God ... the same God I loved. My only solace was recalling the
many oppressions of Jesus, the most devout Jew there ever was. The scriptures
helped me to mourn the response of my parents yet to sense their reaction. Paul
said: The longing of my heart ... is that the Jewish people might be saved.
I know the enthusiasm they have for the honor of God, but it is misdirected
zeal. For they don't understand that Christ has died to make them right with
God (Romans 10:1-3, TLB).
There was no turning back. I cried and longed for acceptance from my mother
and father, still being comforted by the Holy Spirit. I was growing up.
First, I had to accept the actuality of becoming a part of the body of
Christ while possibly losing ties with my family. Jesus declared to me in
Matthew 10:34-38: Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth!
No, rather, a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a
daughter against her mother... a man's worst enemies will be right in his own
home! If you love your father and mother more than you love me, you are not
worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you
are not worthy of being mine (TLB).
Then I willingly accepted His blessings: And everyone who has left
houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land, for my
name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life (Matthew
19:29, RSV). This came to be quickly a comfort and help for me to
Ultimately I had to seek ways to reach my parents. God's intervention was
clear in the midst of my storm. There was one occasion, while waiting to go to
a movie, I passed time browsing in a bookstore. Out of all the rows of shelves
and hundreds of books, I was drawn to one particular book. It had a large
menorah on its cover and its title impelled me to pick it up-Betrayed!
by Stan Telchin. The story was similar to mine: Jewish girl finds Christ ...
furious parents reject her. The difference between our two stories was that, in
order to prove their daughter wrong, the parents searched the scriptures. The
more they tried to disprove Christ as the Messiah, the closer they fell into
His loving arms, and--voil!--they became saved.
I was so excited and hopeful. Send the book, a still, small voice
said to me. I prayed, and my church prayed. Finally, I sent the book and a
simple note: "Please read with an open heart and pray to the God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob." All that I asked or prayed for was a seed to be planted. I
know unquestionably this has been done.
The hardest time came in picking up the phone to call, knowing the possible
rejection I would face. It was difficult to remain patient over the years. The
limited communication with my parents was taking its toll. My outward self said
to preach. My inner spirit said to love. Show them the change in your heart
through this love. Their responses were stone cold, but progress, they
I have been taught forgiveness through the sacrifice of losing a
relationship with my parents. Jesus has become my loving father and mother,
hugging me in the truest sense of the word, when I cry in despair over my aging
parents. He has filled the gap as the missing link between my earthly family
and my God-given friends. And He has become my Messiah Who died for me, so I
can release my hurts, repent of my sins and cherish my heritage.
I have grown, experienced untold blessings and reached heights that I never
could have imagined. There is no resentment in having been born and reared a
Jew. Instead, I am blessed to be part of the root of Christianity. The
understanding of my heritage, traditions and the Old Testament have become much
more meaningful as a Christian than I ever understood growing up as a Jew. I
pray that realization comes for my parents too.
In this not so perfect world that might not go my way, or in my time, I have
had to let go. Twenty years ago, the possibility of losing my parents had been
a real risk, but I have been shown: What a wonderful God we have ... the
source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens
us in our hardships and trials ... when others are troubled, needing our
sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort
God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, TLB).For we have a new life.
It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will
fade away. This new one will last forever (1 Peter 1:23, TLB).
My challenge is to live these verses.
Jan Dorward lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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