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My Spiritual Journey

I was raised in a Conservative Jewish home. We ‘kept kosher,' and for 5 years I went to Hebrew School, followed by a Bar Mitzvah. From an early age, though, I considered myself an agnostic.

As a young lad, I asked an uncle who was highly respected in the synagogue why we did something a certain way. His response was, "We've always done it that way - it's tradition. Now stop asking so many questions!" I found this answer wholly unsatisfying.

I've always liked to ask questions... If something can't be explained or rationally defended, why should I believe in it? More and more, I came to see modern-day Judaism as a set of man-made rules to be followed. My father, for example, began each day by dovening (reading from a Hebrew prayer book) for an hour. I later learned, though, that because the prayers were all in Hebrew and my father couldn't speak Hebrew, he was mouthing the words without understanding what they meant!

My father and I came to an understanding about the matter. While I lived in his house, I would follow all the rules (whether I believed them or not). When I left for college, I was free to do as I pleased.

I met my wife at college, and shortly prior to graduating, Marilyn and I became engaged. Marilyn was also from a Jewish family, but hers had been very liberal and imposed virtually no rules. She considered herself Jewish and had a general belief in God, but it didn't affect her day-to-day life.

After we were married, Marilyn gave up smoking cigarettes. They say that former smokers are the worst around people who smoke, and Marilyn developed an aversion for cigarette smoke. After a while, she began to get headaches whenever she was around smoke. Otherwise, things were going well for us... I had started my first company, and Marilyn was finishing her law degree at University of Connecticut.

We moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1984 so I could begin the joint MBA/JD program at University of Virginia. We found there was a lot more smoke in Virgina, and Marilyn got much worse. Headaches were a daily ordeal, and their intensity was becoming alarming. We visited doctor after doctor, and she endured some truly horrific tests, but no one could give her any answers, just medications to dull the pain.

I met my best friend the very first day of Law School. Though we came from very different backgrounds, there was an instant rapport between us. Jim was from an Irish Catholic family, and a marvelous conversationalist. He was also the first ‘born again' Christian I had ever met.

We often met for lunch after classes, and invariably the subject of God would come up. Instead of belittling my ideas on religion, Jim helped me to rationally explore them. I had, for example, blamed ‘God and religion' for all the atrocities, persecutions and wars they had caused throughout history. Over time, though, I came to see that evil men had done evil things, and used religion as their justification. God wasn't to blame for these misdeeds... man was.

Jim encouraged me to start reading the bible, and to decide about God for myself. He also lent me the miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth", and for the first time in our lives, Marilyn and I heard a full presentation of the gospel. We were both deeply moved, and began to earnestly search for the type of relationship with God that Jim said was possible.

We also began watching "The Hour of Power" on Sunday mornings. The very first time we tuned in, Dr. Schuller said, "The most important thing in life is to have your priorities straight, God first, family second and work third." Marilyn said she felt like he was talking "right to her." Occasionally, guests would come on the show and tell of great healing miracles God had done in their lives.

As the next year passed, Marilyn's health went from poor to critical. Her migraine-intensity headaches started the moment she woke up in the morning, and lasted until she went to bed at night. She lost her job, and eventually, it got so bad that she couldn't tolerate sunlight (too bright) or even listen to music (too loud). Her facial muscles were spasming from the constant pain and her weight had dropped to a skeletal 92 pounds. We had gone to every doctor, and tried every medication... Marilyn was dying.

My second year of law school had finished, and it was time for me to clerk for a law firm in Orlando. Marilyn was too sick to go, so for 6 weeks, I came to Orlando by myself. We made arrangements for Marilyn's mom to take a train down to Charlottesville to help care for Marilyn. But for a brief time, Marilyn was, for the first time in her life, all alone.

If you've ever heard the term ‘hitting rock bottom', this was it for Marilyn. Her life had completely fallen apart, she was in horrible unrelenting pain, with no prospect of ever getting better. One morning she began to sob, and couldn't stop. Her life had so much promise, and now, at 27, it was over.

At that moment, she remembered the words she had heard on The Hour of Power, about getting your priorities in life straight. Marilyn knew that God had never been first in her life, and she was finally ready to change that. She got down on her knees and prayed a simple, but heartfelt prayer: "God, I put you first in my life, whatever that means."

In that instant, Marilyn was healed! It took a moment for her to realize what had happened, and then she began to dance around the apartment. It felt so good to be pain-free after all that time in agony!

When a stranger on TV tells you God healed them, it's easy to be skeptical. But when it happens to you, or someone you love, it can't help but change your life. It means that there is a God, and that He does care about us. My days as an agnostic were over, forever.

Through that experience, Marilyn and I both came to be born-again Christians. Anyone can call themselves a Christian, a Catholic, a Protestant.... based on the family they were born into. But Jesus said, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven." (John 3:3). In other words, a person can be born into any circumstance, any family, any religion. It doesn't matter. What matters is whether you've been born again - accepting God on His terms, and trusting in Christ's atoning sacrifice as the payment for your sins.

Many of my songs are the result of my struggle to understand an aspect of my faith. "Chosen" deals with the subject of God's chosen people. "Even This" was a prayer written for my parents after ten years of my sharing with them, with no outward results (today they are both in heaven, thank God, but that's another story). My newest song, "Now Is the Time" is about the most important choice one can ever make.

If you are on a spiritual journey of your own, I'd love to talk to you about where you are, and where you're going.

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