When Faith and Fashion Collide

I was raised in a Jewish, Bible-believing home. Both of my Jewish parents instilled something in me since childhood: the message of Jesus as messiah. Being Messianic is as much a part of my legacy as my Jewish heritage. Deuteronomy 6:6-7, from where the Amidah is taken, commands parents to “teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, [speaking] of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

I was instructed to “honor my father and my mother,” “do unto your sister as you’d want her to do to you,” and the whole nine yards of Old and New Testament rules and regulations. My life was planned “by the book,” and as much as I fought it, Proverbs 22:6 rings true: “train up a child in the way [she] should go, And when [she] is old [she] will not depart from it.”

Although my childhood was strict, my father claims I first understood God’s grace as a toddler. I severely doubt it. However, I did understand I was disobedient to my parents and God, needing God’s forgiveness so I would go to heaven. I spent my earliest years cowering in my closet, praying to God each night that He wouldn’t revoke my celestial privileges because of the day’s sin: rather poor theology. I remember the emphasis on heaven and going there—praying that Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie all got to come with us to the afterlife.

But now that I am evaluating, why heaven? Why is heaven the main goal? Well I’ve recently realized it isn’t. Nor should it be. Nor was it.

Heaven is eternal reconciliation and connection with God. Period. It’s not about being with friends, family, or pearly gates. It’s complete fulfillment: every earthly longing satisfied. There was a chasm between me and God that I had created by acting in selfish pride.

I’m surprised I even had this misconception. My parents were always honest with me. I once accompanied my father to the dentist. I watched attentively as the dentist poked and proded with various metal tools. Soon enough, there was scarlet liquid coming out of the tools where they had touched flesh.

“Daddy, what is that red stuff in your mouth?” I queried.

“It’s paint,” the dentist offered.

“No, tell her the truth, Dr. ____. It’s blood, Ari.”

It didn’t bother me. It was truth. For some reason, heaven came across as paint when it was blood. Raising children in a biblical way is similar to a kid’s meal–simple in size and matter–compared to a 3-course dinner. Hopefully the nutrition is the same.

I had misunderstood in my eight-year-old mind, God’s plan in offering heaven to humans, but by then I had prayed that Jesus would forgive my sin, believing that He was resurrected post-crucifixion, and that He was the only was to reunite with God. Nothing I could do in my fearful state would rectify the brokenness between us. But I didn’t have to dig for the answers; nothing specifically troubled my third-grader soul. I was handed the truth. It resounded inside me, but when I began public middle school, I was wary of allowing God’s truth to radiate out to others. I didn’t understand it; I had little foundation. How could I explain it?

The challenge to find stimulation in the Bible by which I was raised was lost on me. I became numb to it. Throughout my public schooling, I would read a few chapters a day, completely unchanged. It was almost as lifeless as Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” which I had to read my junior year of high school. My eyes went over every word of the twenty-some-odd pages, and at the end of the half hour, I had nothing to show for I. I had retained nothing.

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Emmanuel • November 6, 2008

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