Who Said I Had a Choice
I read an article a few years ago. A journalist was interviewing a successful author who made his living on writing horror. Many of his books were made into movies, TV Teleplays and TV shows. One of the questions the journalist asked, “why did you choose horror as a genre?” I can envision the author staring right through this journalist as he answered, “who said I had a choice?” He didn’t expound on his answer neither did the journalist ask a follow-up question.
“Who said I had a choice” as though some unseen force was on his shoulder whispering words as his hand worked furiously putting pen to paper trying not to miss a word. Whether his answer was meant to be literal or metaphorical it had quite an effect on me non the less.
A question I have been asked over the course of my christian life. Why did you choose to become a christian. That question confused me but I had my stock answer at the ready. “When I was 22….and I went on like a kookaburra”. This was a gray area for many years. I never gave serious thought to the answer.
Growing up in the Jewish faith I was sheltered from the knowledge of Jesus and Christianity. I had no idea what the the Christmas hype was all about or the billboard signs that read, repent or perish. As I got older the name of Jesus was quite popular in bars and pool halls and I could never figure why this guy Jesus was so popular with some of my girlfriends when they shouted out his name with delight.
I travelled across America from the east coast to the west coast when I 21. Stopping in Los Angeles to visit my sister I felt like I was transported into a strange new world. Charles Manson was on trial for his gruesome murders. Girls walked around in flowing dresses that almost touched the ground. Young people my age wore jeans with patches and rips in them, not the kind that the young people get in shops today. Hippies I believe they were called. To top it off I was walking down the street in short sleeves in January. Not at all like my eastern seaboard upbringing.
Meandering down Hollywood Blvd I could see two lone figures up ahead seemingly engrossed in conversation. As I walked past I heard these words. “Jesus was Jewish”. I thought, Huh, so Jesus was a real person. I continued on without breaking stride.
Some time later as my friends and I were leaving California heading back to New Jersey I was sitting in the back seat watching the sun set over the pacific ocean. I had this peacefulness that came over me. The seed was planted.
Eight months later I was hitching across Canada with my dog Sunfish. A beautiful Shetland Sheepdog that some hippies gave me while camping in the Blue Ridge mountains in New Jersey just a few months prior. She was my best friend and greatest travel companion. No problems getting rides.
Pitching our tent at a free campground I borrowed a bicycle from a fellow camper. Peddling down the country road with Sunfish jogging behind I heard a thud. Jumping off my bike and turning to see where the sound came from I saw Sunfish lying on the ground lifeless. She was hit by a car. My first and only dog was killed. I carried her back to the campgrounds and buried her in the woods. That would become the saddest day in my life.
Numb from my loss I packed up my belongings and headed towards the highway. I took a ride as far as the driver could take me. Dropping me off virtually in the middle of nowhere I walked aimlessly and took the first dirt path that lead off the highway. Open fields on both sides with cattle or sheep far in the distance grazing on the lush flat land. Up ahead a loan oak tree standing with its heavy branching almost touching the ground. Beyond the tree was nothing as far as the eye could see until rolling hills met with the skyline.
Dropping my pack at the base of the tree I slumped to the ground my back leaning up against the oaks trunk. My mind dull with the thoughts of not having my new best friend by my side. The last thing I remember was tears sliding down the sides of my face as I fell asleep.
Waking the next morning the sun breaking through the boughs of the old oak I realized I hadn’t moved my position. Something was noticeably different. The sadness was gone, replaced by a sensation I had never experienced before in my 22 years of living. I was overwhelmed with the an unmistakable feeling of happiness. I recognized this feeling as love and it was so overwhelming I thought I would explode.
Grabbing my pack, with a smile that was starting to hurt, I hurried down the path to the highway to catch a ride to God knows where. All I understood at the time that I had this great feeling of joy, happiness and love that I somehow had to share it with others. To this day I cannot explain what happened to me during that night as I slept under that oak tree. What I do know is this, it changed my life forever and I knew right away it was Jesus.
Much later I learned that my experience was a phenomenon known as being born again.
Now if I am asked why I chose Jesus being a Jew I can say with complete confidence, “who said I had a choice”.