I work for a religious non-profit. I’ll start there, I think. You should know that I love my job, a lot. It also bears mentioning that when I saw the ad for it on Craigslist a little over a year ago, I got goosebumps on the inside as well as the out. More than that, I felt as if a giant hand was pushing me from behind, toward the screen and by extension, the job. Like, I literally felt the hand. Physically.
Maybe you’re a believer, maybe you’re not. Maybe the metaphysical/mystical/spiritual just isn’t your cup of tea, and I respect that. I’m personally more of a seeker than a follower, and I’m comfortable in that role. But there have been a handful of times in my life where something happened that went beyond my ability to explain. Times where I felt the presence of a Higher Power in a way that went past the “I felt moved in church” kind of thing. Once I even heard a Voice, and it wasn’t just coming from the inside of my head.
Believe it, or not. I’m not here to shove anything down anyone’s throat, since I’m not much of a fan of that sort of thing. Honestly, my experiences with this have been exceedingly inconsistent, so I’m far from an authority. I spend plenty of time (too much) wanting desperately to feel any kind of connection – both to people and to a Higher Power – and coming up empty. Given that background, you can hopefully grasp that these few moments I’ve had aren’t some kind of norm for me. This hand on my back was the first connection of this type I’ve felt in literally years, and it caught me by surprise. Freaked me out, moreover. The message was clear, though: This was supposed to be my job. So I did the reasonable thing – I wrote a cover letter and sent it, along with a resume. Got a call from one of my future bosses, who casually phone interviewed me. Somewhere along the way I pretty much told her I thought it was supposed to be my job. I left the Higher Power aspect out of it, though, as I’m not actually crazy.
I went on an interview, which was somewhat intimidating. It was an Orthodox rabbi and his wife, and I wasn’t sure quite what they were going to make of me. My father is Jewish, my mother is not. I was raised basically Jewish (albeit certainly not Othodox). I went to a Jewish preschool, Jewish summer camp, and shul with my grandma on Saturdays more often than not. I was probably 10 before someone told me I wasn’t Jewish because my mother wasn’t, and I wasn’t too impressed by that. After my parents’ divorce and my mom’s remarriage, we moved to rural Michigan. Not a lot of Jews there. None, actually. I was a very lonely girl who craved connection, so I joined the Methodist Church choir. Then the youth group. I ended up going to Methodist Church camp for all four years of high school. There was a whole lot of wanting to fit, desperately wanting to fit. I talked the talk, and felt something, occasionally. Nothing as startling as a hand on my back, but it was something. I felt somewhat more connected to God, but with Jesus there was always kind of a disconnect for me, which is a tough place to be if you’re trying to be Christian. I loved the people, loved my minister, and was happy to be there… but. Something was always missing.
I got sober at the end of my freshman year of college, which isn’t a story I want to rehash here. My Higher Power was certainly present and accounted for during that period, as not too many 19-year-olds get and stay sober. I felt very connected back then, which is fortunate as I certainly wouldn’t have survived otherwise (this is in no way an overstatement). I felt held up when on a very basic level I wanted very much to lie down and die, daily. I had lost a lot of important people in my life, people I wasn’t sure I could survive without. But God was there, then, perhaps because He had to be. I heard Him, felt Him, kept going because of Him. But, as happens when you stay sober long enough, eventually I found a way to want to live for me. And I got better, and life got good. Then there was college (again), new friends and a sorority (yes, I pledged sober; I’m weird like that). Then there was a semester in Paris, and relationships, and a move to California. Then other relationships, and jobs, and real life. I met “the one,” and married him. Had my babies. Sometimes life was good, often it was rough. I had a house; was forced to sell it. Wasn’t feeling much in the way of God or connectedness, but I was feeling pretty pissed at the universe in general. Went to Bible study, seeking again. Didn’t find anything except for a whole lot of judgment. Wasn’t impressed. The answers I was looking for, I couldn’t find there. (At this point I will apologize to my many beloved Christian friends. It’s not personal. In the end, I’m just more of a God girl than a Jesus girl. I tried, and couldn’t get there. Wanted to, for awhile, but couldn’t. I respect your faith, it just isn’t mine.)
So back to the hand on my back, and the interview, which included discussion of some of my mixed-up background. They (of course) do not consider me Jewish. I knew this, and remained convinced I was supposed to be there. They called me back for a computer test. I was a mess; I was shaking so hard I could hardly type. It wasn’t subtle at all – I had to crack a joke about how nervous I was because I was worried they might think I was on something, otherwise. I was terrified I wouldn’t get it, my job. But still, somehow, they hired me. My boss (the rabbi’s wife) told me that when she read my cover letter, she knew I was the one for the job. For real. They may not think I’m Jewish, but happily they do think I belong there. I know I do. There have been other moments, too. For awhile things got tough enough for us financially that I thought I’d have to give up my job. And then miracles happened, and here I am, still, right where I am supposed to be. I don’t feel the presence of my Higher Power every day, or even close, but the fact that I’m still working there is enough for me, most days.
My daughter went to camp there this summer, and I got the almost indescribable joy of getting to listen to her sing all of the Hebrew camp songs I used to sing. I get to take both my children there for the Jewish holidays and it offers me a way to teach them both about their history, which is amazing. A lot of the Jewish side of my family has passed away, and my childhood memories, while formative, aren’t as clear as they used to be. Now I’m not relegated to the Internet as my sole means of teaching them. Because of my job, Judaism is becoming a part of their lives, too. That’s incredibly meaningful, and unexpected.
Not being viewed as Jewish is, depending on my mood, either annoying or painful. I get it, to them I’m not. Their belief system is exceedingly clear-cut. I respect that, even envy it sometimes. They don’t believe that you have to be a Jew to be a good person, which is nice enough, I guess, but feels like a backhanded consolation prize. I don’t aspire to convert, so it’s not about that. Who I am and how I believe isn’t based on anything other than me, and my confusing, on-again off-again relationship with my Higher Power. I’m not Christian, so I’m not quite sure where that leaves me, by their rules. I have to accept them as they are. It’s a fascinating window into a very unusual world, which keeps me impressed and entertained, most days. My bosses are kind, warm, intelligent people and I’m happy to be working for them. It’s been an Experience with a capital E. I wouldn’t have it any other way.