My mother shaped my Jewish upbringing more than anyone else. She diligently ensured that our family celebrated Shabbat and went to our synagogue on Chicago’s North Shore for the High Holidays, as well as faithfully sending my two sisters and me there for Sunday school each week. However, by the time I was a teenager my attentiveness to being Jewish was waning. In fact, most of my boyfriends in high school were Gentiles, much to my mother’s chagrin.
I majored in pre-law and economics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. During my junior year my sister Donna began talking to me about how she had accepted Jesus into her life. As you can imagine, our Jewish parents were not thrilled with Donna’s faith! During a visit to California I attended a messianic congregation with her, but I found it threatening. I was more interested in my fun and crazy life back in Boulder and I continued trying to fill the gaps in my life with everything but God.
I met Wade in Chicago at the investment office where I landed a job after graduation. Though he had accepted the Lord into his life earlier, when we met he was not walking very closely with Him. I fell in love with him even though I knew that my parents would certainly disown me: Wade is an African American. Around this time Donna once again pursued conversations with me about Jesus. I visited her at her home in San Antonio, met some of her believing friends and read many of the books and materials she had around her house. My heart became more and more open to the possibility that Yeshua is the promised Jewish Messiah. Shortly after, I prayed with her over the phone to receive Him. Around this time, Wade also re-committed his life to the Lord.
As my relationship with Wade deepened, I realized that I, too, struggled with racism. I didn’t know any black people in our suburban neighborhood or in the schools where I grew up. But because I loved Wade, I knew I had to work through these issues. I knew that my parents’ racism ran deep and they found his race more difficult to accept than our faith. Yet I came to see that in God’s eyes, Wade was right for me.
During our engagement, I felt a little fuzzy, not entirely 100% like myself. I had never envisioned planning a wedding without my parents’ involvement or support. Yet our wedding turned out like one in a storybook. We were married on a 65-foot-long boat and everyone we knew and loved were there—except my parents. We spent the early years of our marriage apart from them. One day I found a lump in my breast (which turned out to be benign) and somehow” my mother heard about it (from my sister) and called me. I was pregnant with our first son Aaron at the time. My parents and I met for lunch soon after and they told me although they’d like to have a relationship with me again, we could only be a normal family without Wade. Our relationship continued this way for about six months and then on Mother’s Day, my mother suddenly called and asked us both to come over. Wade was so completely full of love for my parents that it astounded everyone who witnessed it, but my unbelieving friends questioned how we could be reconciled to them because of the way he had been treated.
When Aaron was born, it was as if there had never NOT been life with my parents. They instantly became adoring grandparents. Recently, when we were in Florida with my parents, Wade asked my dad while golfing, “Mr. Zarbin, if I asked you right now if I could marry your daughter, what would you say?” My dad replied, “That would be okay.”
As fiercely as my parents had once opposed Wade, they now adore him. My mother takes him around to meet all her friends, proudly showing off her “son-in-law, the wealth advisor.” She is a wonderful, doting Jewish grandmother. Our family is together again, perhaps more deeply than anyone ever thought possible. Wade and I pray often with our sons for my parents’ salvation, and I look forward to the day when we can share that joy as well. Though I have had to literally forgive and forget, perhaps a hundred times a day, I am thankful that God has given me the ability to do this, and it is only possible with Him. What a story to His nature, the Great Reconciler.