Don't ya just love it when random conversations pop out of nowhere and surprise you with their depth and inspiration? Like when you sit next to someone on the bus, expecting to stare out the window all the way home, and instead you find yourself engaged in a mind-blowing conversation about kids and doubts and homosexuality and church and sin? Or when you sit next to another mother at the soccer field, and before you know it you're both admitting how much it scares the shit out of you to be a parent?
I had one of those conversations last night. After the kids were in bed, I escaped to the bookstore for some inspiration. That's my favourite place to go for inspiration - but usually I get it from books, not people. I've been struggling with this major writing project at work, and it just WASN'T coming together, so I went looking for a bit of comfort or solace or whatever. I was trying to write something about "breaking bread" (for a magazine I'm producing) - how, by sharing our resources and getting involved in people's lives, we can extend our community beyond our borders and "break bread" with the global community.
I curled up in one of the big comfy chairs with a stack of books on my lap. Unfortunately, none of them offered me what I was looking for. Little did I know that inspiration was waiting for me - not between the pages of a book, but in the conversation with a stranger.
A young woman in the chair next to me saw that I'd been perusing through the religion/spirituality section. Her opening comment was "What I want to know is what's the difference between Judaism and Christianity?" Normally, in a bookstore, with limited time for my most precious pastime - perusing books, I don't welcome conversation. But this time, since the books weren't giving me what I was looking for, I put them down, and turned my full attention to her. "Well," I said, "I'm not an expert in religions, but I think the essential difference is that Christianity, though based in Judaism, accepted Jesus as their messiah."
It turns out she's a young Jewish woman who feels torn between her old traditions and an attraction to the freedom that she sees in the New Testament - the grace that overcomes the law. She's marrying an orthodox Jew with a long list of "Thou shalt nots" and she's struggling with how much of it she accepts. She thinks the Messiah can offer her freedom from that. At the same time, she's seen too many Christians who think they're better than everyone else because their religion is "superior".
What an interesting conversation we had! What a wise young woman! She had some unique insights into the New Testament, because she'd read it in Hebrew and in English and had tried to understand the differences she found between the two languages. Like the interpretation of the passage that refers to us being called to be perfect (Matthew 5:48 - "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect")... she said that in Hebrew it means something more like called to growth.
At the end of the conversation, when the bookstore closed, I slipped her my business card. I'm not sure why, or whether she'll contact me, but it just seemed like such a pleasant moment I didn't want to end it without the possibility we could continue the conversation. I think I'd like to hear more about this young woman's journey. Her approach to faith was refreshing and hopeful. She said that, though her mother had raised her in the Jewish tradition, she felt that in some ways, she'd been paving the way for her to come to the Messiah.
At the end of my last post I asked for wise questions. I got some last night. And though we didn't "break bread" last night, it helped inspire me this morning as I wrote (and FINISHED! YAY!) my project. After all, breaking bread is about breaking down the barriers, isn't it?