A journey home
The young child looked into the mirror and studied her reflection while wondering: “how she came to be, who or what was God, how she could know Him, and what would her life be like?” She had lots of questions, but they remained unanswered for many years.
I was born into a Jewish family, the youngest of three children. My family celebrated all the holidays, attended the local synagogue, and followed many Jewish customs and traditions, but never gave much thought to God. My mother was the driving force in our family and her main goal for me was to grow up and marry a nice Jewish boy--hopefully, one with lots of money! My parents were first generation Americans born to Russian immigrants who were poor and uneducated. Their lives were hard and neither of my parents had the kind of love and nurturing that children need; consequently, they did not know how to give it.
My mother was a strict disciplinarian and there was little to no affirmation or encouragement. By the time I was twelve, I was already rebelling against my family and my religion since there was so much hypocrisy. I looked up to my big brother who was into the Hippie Life-style of the 60’s. I wanted to be just like him so I began experimenting with drugs and became sexually active by the age of sixteen. I was a very angry teenager searching desperately for belonging and identity. However, my yearning to know God never left me and so I continued to search for spiritual answers about life. This led to various encounters with such things as Metaphysics and some occult practices, all of which left me with an uneasy feeling. Somehow I knew that I had embarked on a spiritual journey that was not of God.
I had many close calls during my teen years—with drugs of all kinds, casual sex, wild parties, and a near fatal car wreck. I walked away from the accident with a sense that it was God who saved my life, even though I had no idea who he was.
About this time I left the LA area in order to go with a boyfriend to Boulder Colorado where he would attend University. We lived together for a while and then, to please my parents, we married. He was a nice Jewish boy, though he was not rich and used drugs, he cared about me. We were dumb, emotionally needy--clueless about real love. The marriage came to an end almost before the ink dried on the marriage certificate. This left me alone, and feeling hopeless, so I tried to commit suicide. I couldn’t even do that right!
A year later I ended up in South Dakota where I met a caring sweet woman who listened to my stories and all I had tried in order to find peace. Viki said to me, “Yolanda, you have tried everything to find peace and nothing has worked. Why don’t you try Jesus?”
Try Jesus? She has got to be kidding! I said to her, “I’m Jewish and Jews don’t believe in Jesus.” This was the standard reply when a Jewish person is invited to “try” Jesus.
Jewish children learn from an early age that Jesus is only for Gentiles. His name is frequently used as a curse word—it was in my home—and Christians are to be avoided, never to be trusted. Jews are taught that Christians are responsible for burning down Jewish homes and synagogues, murdering Jewish families, including children, all in the name of Jesus. In the Jewish mind, Christians are responsible for the Holocaust, Russian Pogroms, Crusades, and the Inquisition and believe that “Christian” is synonymous with Gentile.
Viki lovingly proceeded to tell me that Jesus was not responsible for the ungodly, evil acts that have been done in His Name. She told me that according to the Jewish Scriptures, He is the promised Jewish Messiah who came for the Jewish people and the world. When she asked me why Jews have not believed in Him, I could not answer her--which bugged me--and said, “I don’t know.” Viki challenged me to buy a Bible and begin reading in order to find answers for myself, so I did!
Several months later, a friend invited me to a church service. I had never been in a church and was not interested in exchanging religions; I just wanted to know God. However, with a little bit of fear and a lot of curiosity, I went.
It was April 15, 1979 on Easter Sunday. The Pastor of the church invited people to come down to the altar, row by row, to receive Communion. Did I know what Communion was? No, but for some unexplainable reason, I felt drawn to go. I asked my friend if she was going, and she said that the church she was raised in would not permit her to take Communion. So, I went down alone and knelt at the altar. I carefully watched everyone so I would do it right! Suddenly, I was overcome with tears and began sobbing as the events of my life flashed before me--all the things of which I was so ashamed, but especially a recent abortion. I prayed silently and asked God’s forgiveness and quite unexpectedly, I heard a voice in my head say, “Jesus is YOUR Messiah. It’s really true.” In an instant I knew that it was God speaking to me. I left the church that day, changed. I had no idea what had happened to me, but I was not the same person who had walked into the church a few hours earlier.
God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He had His hand on me from the moment I was born, directing my life to Him, even as I was free to choose, even in the bad choices. He has used everything in my journey to bring me to the foot of the cross. Through the death of His Son, God has given me life, belonging, and a new identity. Daily I experience an intimate relationship with Him. It has been 34 years since that Easter Sunday, and I have found Him to be the answer to all difficult questions. He has given me everything for which my heart yearned. How I love Him!
“Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will abundantly pardon. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:6-10)
Yolanda Cohen Stith