I roared the highways of Maine and New Hampshire, calling on lawyers, selling, making a go at a life. I was a Jew. However, there was this also in my mind, as I hurtled along, not a Psalm but a plea: Dear Lord, I don’t know what to do. Be not so hard. I am lonely and weary and sad.
And this too: Guilt has worn me down these years; yes, guilt has kept me small.
There must be some point.
Isn’t it amazing—sometimes I’d think, pausing between product demos—isn’t it amazing that there is something instead of nothing?
I might be pulled over on some high place for a moment, and I’d notice how the peaks and the valleys fade into a distance farther away than I could see. Why is it all there? I’d wonder.
It should have been so much easier, shouldn’t it, for there to have been nothing, nothing …nothing at all?
During one such still time, at my age of fifty-nine, on one such mountaintop, after avoiding the question for years and years, and after I’d begun to realize that I can’t fix everything all by myself, here’s what entered my mind--
Who is this Jesus guy after all, and how did He get that way?
This Jesus, now…here’s what I wondered …This Jesus, now: might He be a last-resort be-friender?
I needed such a one.
My car has AC, and stereo, and a big trunk full of brochures. But it’s rough labor, day after day, propelling that contraption and lugging a bag, as you other salesmen will know. Why do we do it? Do we do it just because the road’s there, and the car’s there, and the customers are out there?
Is that all the explanation there is?
Torah teaches us no, there’s more…there’s God’s Covenant by which we chosen people shall live. There are the 613 requirements by which we honor God—His rules of the road, so to speak—His Mitzvoth.
There is Torah itself, at least figuratively by many Jews considered the actual words written, through Moses, by God Himself. But here’s what I thought as I jounced along: God impressed Moses, up there on Mount Sinai, but Moses knew us, and—I think—this is what Moses must have said to God. “Okay,” Moses must have said to God, “I’ll tell them, but they’re not going to like it.”
He was right.
We don’t like it, we Jews. Fractious, we rarely stick to our obligation. “Yes, but…” is what we say. Mostly, we give God a nod, a wink, and a nudge, and we drive on down the road. “I’ll get back to you about that tomorrow,” we call back over our shoulder.
Of course, God holds to His part of the bargain. He exalts us or punishes us according to His formula.
Still, when you consider the level of our insubordination and disdain, it’s amazing that God took the trouble to promise us something even greater than the Noah Covenant or the Mount Sinai Covenant for our future. Read around in Isaiah or Daniel; if you have eyes to see, you’ll see.
By my age of fifty-nine, I had tried every which way my pride and stubbornness could conceive to control everything about my life. None of it had worked.
I was professionally successful, but my relationships suffered for it, first my relationship with God, and second my relationships with everyone else I loved…including myself. So there I was, pulled aside in my mountain-top rest area. I stared ahead into the long, long view. I could imagine another forty years stumping along, as urgent as the last forty years had been.
What was the goal? What was the point?
My father lived to 101, bless his soul, and my grandmother to 102. Mine may be a long, long slog.
So... what about this guy Jesus?
Even a Jew must admit that He’s made quite a name for Himself. He’s made his mother proud. Turns out—I didn’t fully understand this until afterward—He’s made his Father proud, too.
But who is He? That’s the question even the Jews ask. Then they turn away from the issue and conclude that the Covenant of the forefathers is quite enough for them, thank you very much. We’ll trouble ourselves with Jesus, they say--if we are ever going to trouble ourselves with Jesus—later on.
It’s been this way since Jesus appeared in the first place.
People have been up on mountaintops wondering whether they are sufficiently compelled finally to consider something new.
Take a risk, people. That’s what I did.
And it worked.