Normalization vs. Acceptance

As a Jewish woman now in the Messianic Jewish world, an important distinction has been made regarding how I state our goals vis-à-vis our mainstream Jewish brothers and sisters. What we seek is normalization, that is, that Messianic Judaism would be perceived as a normal part of Judaism, a view which we Messianic Jews see clearly. After all, Yeshua is the cornerstone of our faith, the greatest Jew who ever lived, divine no less. Yet that view is as far from reality to a mainstream Jew as one can get. Members of the Jewish community often see Yeshua as having started a new religion, i.e., Christianity! Thus, with normalization comes the ability for me and other Messianic Jews to have constructive dialogue with our mainstream Jewish brothers and sisters who feel comfortable discussing Yeshua with us as part of the same family, an in-house dialogue. The thought is that as our fellow Jews learn more about Yeshua in this non-threatening way, the emotional barrier of fear of assimilation is broken down leaving softer hearts and spirits now more able to hear from HaShem about the truth of Yeshua.

A necessary backdrop to this week’s experience. . .

Sid and I were invited to meet up with my daughter-in-law’s parents who were cruising up the Maine coast in their boat all the way from Annapolis. They are very wonderful Jewish people whom we’d love to get to know better. At one point as we were disembarking from their glorious yacht and heading to dinner in town, I mentioned our upcoming trip to the Messianic Jewish Camp Or L’Dor which prompted questions about our faith. I was disappointed in myself for how guardedly I answered, feeling the pull toward acceptance by them. When I didn’t feel at that moment prompted to go into detail, Peter even assured me how non judgmental he was. And yet the evening passed and I had managed to share very little about our faith . . .

This morning I was mentally reviewing the whole episode. What was with me??!! Why was I not on fire to share when that is so in my heart? Was acceptance by these friends more important than sharing the truth of Yeshua?

As I prayed for forgiveness, I believe HaShem gave me an insight even deeper than I had realized before. . .

I believe as a Jewish follower of Yeshua vis-à-vis productive communication with our people, the cycle is acceptance, normalization, acceptance. But it’s not acceptance in the negative way we think of it, i.e., seeking acceptance of us as Messianic Jews by hiding our faith which is what I feared I had done. Rather, the acceptance that we seek is for a relationship. There is no doubt that my most effective sharing has been after I have been in a “normal” relationship with the person. I share Yeshua with those with whom I am close, with those who have accepted me into a relationship, when the topic of religious beliefs is a natural outgrowth of wanting to get to know each other better.

In other words, we need to be part of our people first. I, as a Jewish woman, was talking to Peter about what our Jewish services are like, how we study Torah, in ways he could relate to. He was able to share with me his frustrations with his Jewish upbringing and studies with rabbis, the politics, and definitely opened a door seeking something more meaningful. But then the Uber arrived and we were off to dinner in a car with the radio playing very loudly. None of us could talk then.

Peter barely knows me, this being only the second time we had gotten together since our children married two years ago. Launching into the merits at dinner, artificially bringing up the subject again, would have been premature. Rather, by the end of the evening, the four of us really clicked and are making plans for our next get together hopefully as soon as later this week. The acceptance I am seeking is not one which hides our faith, but rather, the forming of a relationship. Each person has his or her style of sharing Yeshua with others, but for me, it has been based on relationship. As Peter and Paula get to know Sid and me better, I have a strong feeling we will go to the next level and be able to talk about Yeshua in a way that demonstrates its rightful place in Judaism, its normalization. It just takes time, and patience, as do all good things worth waiting for.

It was so interesting how quickly the emotional baggage we carry on this topic went right for the jugular to make me feel bad about my being so guarded in our first conversation on Messianic Judaism. But the truth revealed to me this morning was that the self recrimination was the result of confusion over the years about this sensitive nuance. The affirmation was follow my heart and instincts, share as the time is right, as the relationship is ready. And there is no doubt with HaShem as our managing partner in this process, the time will soon be at hand.

Shabbat shalom.

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