I grew up in upstate New York. My parents are both Jewish, and from early on, I was taught that one could not be Jewish and believe in Jesus. So, I accepted that without question.
In high school, I decided that my life would be complete if I could become the world’s greatest flute player! I studied at Wichita State University. My flute instructor seemed to have “something” that I didn’t. I knew she was a believer, but I wasn’t ready to connect that “something special” to her beliefs.
About this time, a girl in my dorm named Janice told me that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and that I needed to believe in him. I told her a few things that were far less civil. As I left her room that evening, she said, “I’m praying for you.”
“Please don’t pray for me,” I snapped back.
“I can pray for you if I want—it’s a free country,” she replied.
At that point, I didn’t want to continue interacting with her because I was frustrated with her.
I went back to my dorm room, and that very night, I asked God to show me the truth, but that I hoped it would not be Jesus. Unbeknownst to me, there really was a God in heaven who was listening and about to answer prayer.
In an English class, we were assigned term papers. The teacher had pre-assigned topics written on pieces of paper that he put in a hat. I picked my piece of paper out of the hat. It literally read, “How we got the devil.” I was shocked. I thought, “What kind of subject matter is this?” I wanted to trade with my classmates, but no one wanted to touch that subject. It reminded me of being a kid and wanting to trade my sardine sandwich for peanut butter and jelly. It wasn’t going to happen!
I began my paper and looked for a copy of the Jewish Scriptures at the store. All I could find was a Bible with both the Old & New Testaments, and I was not paying for a New Testament. I went to the library and got my paper done as quickly as I could. I tried to avoid dealing directly with this subject and did not get the best grade on my paper, but that’s another story.
Then, one day, an organization called “The Gideons” were on our campus handing out little green New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs. A Gideon offered one to me. I rejected it and said some not nice things. I did not understand why these people felt it necessary to force their beliefs on me. In actuality, they were not forcing their beliefs on me. I just wanted them to keep their beliefs to themselves. Anyone trying to share about Jesus, in my opinion, was “forcing” me to listen to something with which I disagreed.
I went to class after that. I could not stop thinking about the Bible I turned down. I decided to go to a different Gideon and get one. I took the Bible and began to read it. I was amazed at just how Jewish this book was. It was so different than what I thought it would be. And I began to question why we, as Jewish people, didn’t believe in Jesus.
Then, a speaker named Josh McDowell came to speak at the campus. A former atheist, his goal had been to disprove Christianity, and in the process he became a believer in Jesus. I decided to go hear him. As he presented evidence for the resurrection, I found myself also believing that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. It would have taken more faith for me to not believe it was true than to believe it was true.
A few nights later I asked Janice many questions about Jesus and God. Even though deep down I knew the truth, it was a struggle for me to even say the name of Jesus — I’d known it only as a swear word. After another few hours of conversation with Janice, and after a huge struggle, I prayed to receive Jesus as my Messiah.
After I prayed, I just wanted to go to sleep but couldn’t! I eventually fell asleep. I awoke about three hours later and sat at the edge of my bed. I felt different. There was love, peace and joy that had not been there the day before. I knew at that moment that God was real and that something remarkable had just happened in my life. It was as if I put on glasses for the first time and saw everything more clearly.
That morning, I walked on campus and felt like hugging people as they walked by! Clearly, I was not myself since I am not the type to hug strangers. I walked into my flute professor’s studio and had my lesson. She remarked that there was something different about me. I told her what had happened the night before. She was very excited.
Three weeks later my dad picked me up from college. I was so excited about my new faith that I probably didn’t have much tact as I announced that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Our three-hour ride back to Kansas City was a quiet one. When we got home, I told my mother. The rest of the summer was filled with tension as my parents had to grapple with my decision. I can certainly understand why they felt the way they did. I never wanted to hurt them. Yet, I knew the truth and couldn’t deny it.
During Christmas vacation, we visited my grandparents in Florida. While swimming at the beach, I was stung by a man-of-war. Being allergic to bee-stings also meant that my body was not going to react well to this. That sting nearly took my life. My parents decided they (in my father’s words), “would rather have me alive as a Christian than dead as a Jew.” However, I never stopped being Jewish. After all, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, what could be more Jewish than to believe in Him?
We have had our ups and downs since then, but today my parents and I enjoy a great, loving relationship. They had aspirations for me — I could have been a doctor, a lawyer – who knows, maybe a world famous flute player (and yes, I still play the flute, but am not world-famous). But the thing is, God also had aspirations for me. He wanted me to know him; to know the joy and peace that only a relationship with him can bring. And that relationship comes through knowing the Messiah, Yeshua.
Have you wondered if your aspirations for yourself, or maybe other people’s aspirations for you, are not really enough? God’s aspiration for you is to know His Messiah Yeshua so that you can have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy him forever.
If you aspire to know God, you’ll have to accept the relationship on his terms, whatever they may be. Whether you are Jewish or not, why not ask God to show you the truth about Jesus?
Robyn Wilk is the founder of Le’Chayim (To Life!) Ministries where she serves as a Jewish Outreach Specialist and Consultant. To learn more, visit lechayim.org