A Look Back At 2016

Time flies. Before January ends and we suddenly realize that it’s December once more, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last year in terms of my spiritual life. To say that it was a monumental year in my relationship with God would be an understatement. I went from practicing Judaism to becoming Christian once again, with a lot of gut-wrenching soul-searching in between, without a doubt the hardest year I’ve faced in this area of my life, including the year of my initial conversion to Judaism, and the year of my crisis of faith. The result, however, has been worth every single drop of blood, sweat, and tears, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

Well, there’s one thing I’d change: I wish I had written more. I wish I had documented the process a lot better than I did. I wish I’d been able to transmit my various thoughts to words as the year progressed so that there would be a more complete picture of what I went through, for my own benefit if nothing else. There were so many blog posts I wish I had written!

For example, I wish I had written lots more about my complex issue with my Jewish identity in terms of culture vs religion. I wish I had explored that out loud in ways that tracked how, even at my most Orthodox, I always felt partly like an outsider while still feeling fully Jewish.

I wish I had written anything at all about my search for a new synagogue once I moved back to Orlando; I ended up going to my old synagogue at Chabad out of familiarity, but I searched for something else to accommodate my new life. I wish I had written about how Conservative and Reform synagogue member fees as noted on their websites basically acted as barriers for me and my family, and how that made me feel.

I wish, I so wish, I had written about finding the Judaism Unbound podcast by “coincidence” one Saturday when I was desperately searching for something to quench my spiritual thirst. This show explores new ways to look at Judaism today, and it provided me with a lot of thought fodder on my drives to/from work for months. Listening to how people all over the country are redefining what it means to be Jewish, in terms of culture and religion, gave me hope at the time that I could find a place to belong, me the barely-practicing Jew in an interfaith relationship. The biggest disservice I did to myself was not writing at all during this period: it was extremely important to me at the moment, and was instrumental in helping me realize the honest truth of my relationship with Judaism.

I also wish I had been courageous enough to say out loud some of my secrets at the time, like the fact that I would listen to Christian radio in my car pretty much all the time. I would tell myself that I was listening to see how wrong they were, to find things to argue with; that was how I rationalized it. Or how I would accompany my girlfriend to church because I was curious about it myself, and when she couldn’t decide on one church to attend regularly, I would push her to because, secretly, I wanted to have a place to go regularly myself. Or how I struggled with going back to Christianity, with accepting Jesus again, because how could I go back to it after having been Jewish for almost 15 years, yet could not think about anything else but doing it? I had quite a few secrets, trust me.

In retrospect, unless I were to write down every single stray thought I have, there’s really no way that a coherent road map of where I was to where I am could ever emerge in this blog. But it would’ve been nice to have more of the pieces down in writing.

Last year showed me that God never gave up on me, even if at times I behaved as though I had given up on Him. The road He took me down wasn’t an easy one–it entailed a lot of fights with myself, some arguments with people around me, SO MUCH THINKING–but He always showed me He was by my side.

When I look back at 2016, what I see is a year where God, by His unending grace, held my hand through thick and thin, while I made some painful decisions about my life, all in the full trust that I was heeding His voice and His word, as I arrived at the place He had been preparing for me all along.