Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pouring my heart out...the bagel shop was probably not the best place to have this conversation

It's time to pour my heart out again with Shell at Things I Can't Say.

I was born and raised Jewish; however, I converted to Christianity as an adult.

Shortly after my conversion, Tim gave me a beautiful gold cross to wear on a necklace, which I promptly removed any time I was to be around my parents, out of fear that they would never understand my reasons.

When my friend Tori and I were in Vegas for an IVF cycle, my dad (who lived there at the time) picked us up at the airport and took us to breakfast.

And as luck would have it, it was the ONE time I forgot to take the necklace off.

As we were eating bagels and slurping down coffee, my dad glanced across the table at me. Something had caught his eye.

My eyes followed his eyes...he had noticed the cross on my necklace. I found myself nervously grasping at it, as it clung to my neck.

The look on Tori's face was classic, while I stumbled to find the right words. "Uh...I...uh, well, I kind of converted to Christianity. Didn't I tell you?"

My dad's eyes practically bugged out of their sockets and he exclaimed, "NO, you never told me! Why would you convert?"

Still completely tongue-tied, I said, "Are you sure I never told you?"

With his brow wrinkled and his eyes closed (a sure sign of anger), he said, "No, I most definitely would remember if you had told me that!!"

Trying to find my way out of what was sure to be a cumbersome discussion, I mumbled something about never feeling complete until I discovered Christianity and how he would probably never fully understand.

His eyes still closed, he answered, "You're right. I don't understand!"

Is this truly the conversation I wanted to have with my dad over stale bagels and cold coffee, while a good friend of mine sat next to me wondering how on earth I was going to explain this.

The look on Tori's face read, "Oh, this is gonna be good....so much better than Paradise Hotel", which is a show we were both obsessed with.

We'd spend the entire hour of the show calling each other back and forth with, "Can you believe that backstabbing bitch didn't get voted off?" and "Dude, you totally know that one couple is getting it on!" Real mature stuff but, hey, it was a welcome escape from the treacherous adventures of IVF.

"I just felt...", I began to explain. "It felt like a piece of me had been missing until I discovered Christianity. You and mom forced Judaism down my throat, giving me no choice to decide on my own what I was interested in."

He laughed, which seemed a little out of place, considering the seriousness of the topic.

Tori looked at me and silently mouthed, "Awkward".

Yeah, just a little.

My dad shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Okay. Whatever".

My friend seemed to be relieved, as I wiped a bit of sweat that had begun to bead up on my forehead. I knew my dad, though...and I knew he wasn't about to let this go without further discussion at a later time.

It wasn't until weeks later that my dad brought it up again over a phone conversation.

He said, "I don't understand how you can say we forced Judaism on you. Religion isn't a choice. Your mother and I simply exposed you to the religion you were born into."

"Well," I said. "You forced me to go to Hebrew School every week, services every Friday night, a Bat Mitzvah at 13 years old, confirmation at 15 years old...I felt like I didn't have a choice. It wasn't something enjoyable for me. I went through the motions to make you happy."

There was only silence on his end of the line. Had I gone too far? I very rarely talked to my father like this...so open, so vulnerable.

Finally, he said, "I guess I'll never understand it. But it's your life. Do what you want."

And that's how the conversation ended. We haven't discussed it since.

In the end, what was most important to me (and what I failed to convey to him) was my personal relationship with God.

Sure, I could've had a relationship with God while sitting in temple every Friday evening, while reciting prayers in Hebrew....just as easily as I could've had a relationship with Him, reading a bible in the comfort of my own bedroom.

However, it wasn't until discovering Christ that I felt whole again. I had been saved, literally.

It was almost as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders... a feeling which was so comfortable, peaceful and, most of all, not forced.

At some point, my father must have come to terms with it because he sends the kids gifts for Christmas, with no mention of Hanukkah. He no longer sends me cards wishing me a happy Rosh Hashanah or calls me to see how long I managed to fast on Yom Kippur before sneaking a cracker or two.

A small part of me is sad about that. Sad, only because I feel like it's a disappointment to him. It's one less thing that connects my father and me, as we don't have a strong bond as it is.

However, I have no regrets with who I am as a Christian. I have finally arrived, spiritually, to the place I was meant to be. Even though it may not be exactly what my parents had hoped for, ultimately, it was God's doing and that brings me peace, most of all.

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"Cottage By The Sea" said...

As long as you keep respect for your dads religion I think he'll be okay with it. Although I have to tell you, if one of my kids someday tell me they are changing the religion I brought them up in, I would have a very hard time with it. Especially if the religion was not Christian. Oh boy, I have a lot to say on this subject and really feel I should not. Way to much controversy for me and apologetics is a whole other blog. Anyway - I'm back to visit your regular blog now so that I can get my belly laugh in for the day!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, that sounds like it would be a tough subject for sure. Im sure it was hard for you and your dad.

Ash said...

"you dont choose religion - religion chooses you"....i read that somewhere. hehehehe.

happy to know your dad is cool about your choice. :)

~ash's mum

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I loved how this came full circle. You may not have told your dad the way you had wanted to but it was meant to be this way. The great thing is that he respects your beliefs as you respect his.

Dysfunctional Mom said...

First, I love the title! (snort)
I'm glad your dad was able to accept your decision. Religion is such a personal decision.
I loved this post!

Jackie said...

Beautiful, moving piece. Thank you so much for posting it.

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

Hopefully one day your dad will understand and convert too, realizing Christ is the Messiah he is looking for.

BigSis said...

It's a hard thing as a parent to want the best for your kids and try to expose them to it. It has to be harder to be the parent of adult children and wonder what mistakes you may have made.

Donna said...

Wow! I *love* your pouryaheartout posts. Is that wrong!?! ;-)

I do not think your dad is disappointed in you. If he's sending your kids Christmas presents and no longer sending you Jewish holiday that's HUGE in my book! If he had not made peace with it, he certainly could/would be doing other things to sabotage/get his message of disaproval/disappointment across.

I grew up Catholic. And then in my 20's stopped going to church. My husband and I found our way back to church together, but it was to a *gasp* Methodist one. My parents were not pleased, but eventually were more happy that I was going to church as opposed to my "still Catholic" brothers who did not go to church!

Not that you're asking for it (advice), but maybe you could send your dad a note (if *talking* serious is difficult) and THANK him for raising you with religion. If you feel thankful that is. I don't know, you may not want to open up the discussion again, but it would be nice for you not to feel like "Dad's disappointed in YOU." kwim?

Jen said...

You have relationship with God and that is all that matters.

The Mother said...

Mirror image. I was raised Christian, converted to Judaism when I married my husband, and then deconverted and am now an atheist.

Hubby has finally joined me.

Meanwhile, his parents have been getting more religious in their old age, and are currently giving my non-religious kids some serious grief. Something we consider to be extremely inappropriate, if not downright dastardly.

There's a storm brewing in the Mother's household. Hold on to your hats.

Imjustagirl said...

Oh goodness as a girl born into a Jewish home and raised Jewish like you with the exception of having to go to services every Friday. I can only imagine how devestated my father would be. I give you credit and I am glad that you have found peace.

Crossed Fingers said...

I believe that any religion that teaches you good morals, good values and good beliefs is a great choice - no matter what it is.

Being a good person is the bottom line and whatever path you take to become that person is the correct path.

I'm glad you found yours.

Twins Squared said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your faith with us! And what a story - you're right - what a terrible place for that conversation! Life can be so funny sometimes, though sometimes not humorous at all I suppose. Glad you are at peace.

Eva Gallant said...

My husband and I were both raised Catholic, and both of us stopped attending church long before we met each other. I think a person's choice of religion is much less important than how they live their life.

Shell said...

What a difficult conversation to have to have with him.

My parents don't even understand why some of us kids go to a different denominational church than they do.

Tiffany said...

That had to be a really hard conversation to have. I couldn't possibly imagine. But, at least it's finally out there and you don't have to hide it any longer.

Sadia said...

Wow! I didn't know the first thing about this part of you. Given all the ways the conversation could have gone, I'm glad your Dad was pretty open-minded about it.

I'm a disappointment to my parents in the religion department too. In my case it wasn't shoved down my throat. Quite the opposite - my parents told me we were Muslim, and never really bothered to tell me what that meant, what they believed, or it impacted their lives. Despite attending Catholic school, I've ended up an atheist. We're raising the kids Catholic, because it matters to Lucas, and not to me.

Thanks for sharing. There are a lot of right answers out there.

Amanda said...

I have to say I love your blog. 2 sets of twins?? Oh my!

I have a friend who converted to being LDS from a Jewish family. Her parents have absolutely not accepted this and are constantly giving her hell for her decision.

It is honestly amazing of your father to accept you in his life still with your choice. And sending the kids presents... awesome!

Being a Christian is an amazing feeling, I'm glad you found that out for yourself :)

Nezzy said...

Award moment indeed! I'm so happy you have made YOUR choice and your heart is full. That's what really matters. We do so much to please our parents and others growin' up that we push our individual need aside. I'm thrilled your found your wholeness.

God bless ya and have an incredible day!!!

MiMi said...

I can't even imagine how incredibly hard that would be!!
I mean, we were recently baptized, like the full dunk, and we won't say anything to my MIL who would be insulted that we felt the need to be dunked after being sprinkled years ago.
So changing religions altogether? Oy!

KK said...

That must have been so hard. At least he's accepted it.

Big Momma said...

My husband is going through a similar situation with his mother and her family. He is converting to Judaism from non-denominational Christianity that he has never felt connected to and felt was forced upon him. I had thought I knew a little bit of what to expect given that my father is Christian and my mother is Jewish (nobody converted and I was raised Jewish after my parents divorced) but I was surely wrong.

His dad and family (quite honestly, shockingly) has been very supportive of his choice, despite being Southern Baptist. I don't envy his discussions or arguments with his mother, aunt, and cousins but I am glad that he's finding something that works for him. I shudder when I think of the continued conversations I keep having with my MIL about "no, we don't celebrate Christmas," and "no, the boys aren't baptized." I don't think conversions are easy on anyone.


The Ninja said...

That is so interesting! First, I did not know that you were born Jewish..which could explain why I feel a connection with you...second, you are the first person I have ever met who converted out of Judaism instead of into it. We were not and are not religious, but when I was married to the douche and we did the whole orthodox thing, I have since thought of converting to Christianity...but really just to piss him off.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post! You sometimes really surprise me in finding out more about who you are! In a good way though! LOL!

LucidLilith said...

You sound at peace with your decision. Don't give it any more thought. don't feel guilty and dear lord, stop hiding your cross. Jesus would be jealous. :)

Just Another Mom of 2 said...

What an amazing experience to go through. My family is strictly Catholic, and while I hold Christian beliefs, religion is a touchy subject for me. I have had a few awkward conversations with family members myself, but nothing so profound.

I'm glad he was understanding!

Tylaine said...

Religion is a touchy subject and its good that you finally got it out in the open. It's most important that you did what you feel is right for you.

Stacy said...

wow Helene, so interesting. I am glad your dad came around. Are you doing things differently than your parents did so your children don't feel that a specific religon was pushed on them? I wholly recommend that. Everyone has to figure out for themselves what it is they believe, while being exposed to many different religions.

Stacy said...

Oh, and your kids are in an extra wonderful position that your parents can teach them some of what Judaism is all about, though I guess you could do that also. Love reading about your life, and you crack me up!

Amy W said...

What an awesome testimony, Helene! :) Thanks for sharing it with us.

McKenzie said...

I'm glad that you were able to tell your dad, and stand by your beliefs. Thank you for sharing that with us! I really enjoyed reading it.

Buckeroomama said...

It's wonderful that he respects your decision. He really heard you, I think, about it being your choice. :) {Great testimony!}

shortmama said...

That must have been a very hard conversation to have with him. But religion can be a hard topic with anyone. I definitely believe in letting your children decide. I discuss my own personal beliefs and read Bible stories with them and ask questions to get their own understanding. I also tell them what I can about other religions so that they are exposed and know that my way isnt the only way.

Jenny said...

Oh wow, that must have been such a nerve-wracking conversation! I'm glad you Dad was able to respect your decision.

Angela said...

Thanks so much for sharing this "big" part of your life with us. Although I was brought up in a Christian home I still had to find Christ for myself and "church" looks much different now than growing up. I love the fact than you can't put God in a box! He's a little bigger than anybox we build for Him! Hugs!

Semi-Slacker Mom said...

I'm just glad you have a good relationship with the Lord. and your dad is cool with it.

Erin said...

Like Lee, I've never heard of a Jew converting to something else, but I am glad you followed your heart.

I have the opposite situation in a way--I was born Jewish but we didn't practice anything at all. I felt like something was missing. Once i left home and went to college, I found my Judaism. ANd now I am a lot more Jewish than my mom, and it makes me sad in a way...but we're different and we respect one another....so that is good.

Tonjia said...

A persons choice of religion is a very private matter. I am glad your father has an open mind and accepts your decision... And I am glad you have found yourself.

ines said...

WOW Helene! Amazing and beautiful. Your testimony about having a real and personal relationship with Christ is so fantastic. Your father is very special to give you that space.

You know, just love him and keep in touch with him...that is the love of Christ which is part of you already. As your kindness showers him with His love, you just never know how he may come to understand...afterall, nothing is too much for Jesus!

love you alwas, ines

Dianna@KennedyAdventures said...

As always, I love these personal posts - I admire your ability to put it all out there.

I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for both of you. My Catholic faith is a huge part of who I am, and I can't imagine what I would do if my children turn away from it.

As parents, I think we have a huge challenge in teaching our children our faith, but not force feeding it along the way.

Thanks again for sharing with us!

Bethany said...

I would so love to send this to my mom. I was raised Catholic but as a single young adult am exploring some other Christian faiths. Although my mother did a similar thing in her 20s, I cannot find a way or even fathom telling her. My parents are so Catholic that they would not even vaguely be okay with it. Thanks for writing this.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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