Monday, May 28, 2012
When the children of Israel were finally ready to enter the promised land, it required a step of faith. Moses was gone, having died within sight of the land of Canaan, and the tribe was under the guidance and leadership of Joshua. When they escaped Egypt, God had parted the yam suph and the peoples crossed through on dry land. But, the entrance into Canaan would be different. God told Joshua that the priests were enter into the Jordan River – while it was still running high from the rains. . . it was only as the priests were obedient, and stepped out into the flowing river on faith, that God held back the river, which enabled the people to pass through on dry ground.
It has been almost a year since I felt the pull of Judaism was too strong to ignore and I reached out to a friend and a local Rabbi for advice. I attended a class required for conversion, “Pathways to a deeper Judaism”, and began to attend the synagogue whenever my schedule would allow. As a part time graduate student and full-time department manager- that meant that I haven’t been able to make every Shabbat service. In addition, I have found it completely overwhelming at times to sit alone in an unfamiliar place, fumbling through the prayer book sometimes completely lost. Sometimes what you know is easier – even when your heart is really someplace else – and thus I still found it much easier to attend church – all the while wishing I had the courage and self-assurance to attend Shabbat on my own.
When my partner agreed to attend some Friday evenings with me it was a God-send – it was a chance for me to gain a foothold without being completely alone. On the other hand, it revealed an essential truth to me: I had to transfer my spiritual loyalties from the church to the synagogue, regardless of my comfort level. Almost everyone that I knew in the church had already expressed support for my decision and had wished me well. I just hadn’t taken the next step because – I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was simply waiting until I felt more a part of the synagogue. But, then I realized that as long as I clung to the church, I had no need to really cling to the synagogue and work toward becoming a contributing member of “the tribe.” I had to formally end my church membership in order to move toward the “Promised Land.”
It sounded pretty cut and dry, and the process was a simple one But I found it was far more emotional than I anticipated. I began to feel really lost – untethered from any spiritual anchor, unaffiliated with any religious organization. That didn’t matter when I was in the midst of my angst about being gay, hating fundamentalism and denying the existence of God. But once those things regained importance – and I was able to reconcile sexual orientation with faith – the need for a spiritual home was important again. This lack of attachment was disconcerting, but taught (is teaching) me a valuable lesson about that old story from Joshua: the importance of actions and deeds in relation to faith. When the letter from the church arrived, it stated, tersely, that as per my request, and by recommendation of the diaconate and vote of the church members, I had been removed the rolls, it was difficult to take in. It had all been at my instigation, but it really marked a death, a finality that was undeniable. That was it, I was no longer a church member.
So a new journey begins – I have crossed – not my Rubicon – but my Jordan River. Now the work begins to create a new spiritual home, a new loyalty to the Torah, Judaism and the the Synagogue . . .