A Tiny Dot of Pure White Paint
Moses and God had an ongoing dialogue which began at the burning bush and continued until the day Moses died. I’m no Moses, but God spoke to me when I was a young man just as clearly as in a conversation you might have with your friend over a cup of coffee. I don’t know why, and I certainly did nothing to deserve it.
Okay. I’m going to open my heart a little bit. If this guy Jesus is really who you say he is. You’re going to have to explain it to me—logically.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960. My dad was a certified public accountant and my mom a homemaker. Dad grew tired of the cold and snow and took a new job in California. My parents, brother and two sisters (I’m the youngest) moved to San Rafael in the San Francisco Bay Area. They say I retained a Brooklyn accent until I was about five years old!
At school, I was one of the very few Jewish kids in my class. Although I didn’t experience much anti-Semitism in school, there was some in my town. At my Hebrew school, the kids were pretty mean. They had been picked on at their public schools because they were Jewish. So when they came to Hebrew school, they took it out on my friends and me!
The neighborhood kids would tell me (what I assume they learned in Catholic school) that I had killed Jesus! Well, I had heard the name Jesus before, but I assured them I hadn’t done it. “I wasn’t even born then!” I told them. I didn’t hate Jesus, but I began to really dislike the people who said they followed him.
My family attended Rodef Shalom, a Reform temple in San Rafael. We went faithfully until I was eight years old and then, for whatever reason, right after my brother was bar mitzvah, we stopped. And I no longer went to Hebrew school.
We were more culturally Jewish than religious. But I remember the excitement of searching for the matzah at Passover and opening the door for Elijah. And my dad—who almost never missed a day of work—always took off Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hanukkah was also fun, but I wished we also had Christmas, like my friends.
I didn’t think about God much. I do remember when I was eight or nine, a strong fear of death came over me. When I told my grandmother, she said, “Why are you worrying about death? Look how old I am, and I’m not worrying.”
My mom had hired a gardener, a sweet Jewish man named Hylan Slobodkin. From time to time, Hylan would try to talk to me about Jesus! I must have been only eleven or twelve, but I would get angry at him. “Hylan, you’re Jewish!” I exclaimed. “You’re turning your back on us Jews. Gosh, there aren’t that many of us left. We can’t have anyone abandoning ship!”
After getting my B.A. from Golden Gate University, I enrolled in graduate school there for a master’s degree in taxation. I was dating a young woman named Eva, who was attending San Francisco State University. One of the women on her floor invited her to church, so she went. She began to bring some friends, and then invited me.
“You know I’m Jewish,” I said. “What would I go to church for?”
“Well, they’re really nice people,” she replied.
So, mainly to please her, I went. Calvary Chapel in San Francisco was a very small church at the time. But the people were really nice. In fact, when they found out I was Jewish, they said, “Oh, that is so cool!” I thought, What!? These people are the exact opposite of the people who didn’t like me when they found out I was Jewish. So I kept going and kind of put up with the teaching. One of the guys there gave me a Gospel of John, but I never read it.
Then, on a summer evening in 1984, I had my “burning bush” experience. Only mine involved a motorcycle. While at home, I suddenly sensed God “speaking” to me. It wasn’t as if I heard him and looked around and said, “Hey, who said that?” It wasn’t an audible voice like the one which called to Moses from the bush. It was more internal, but very real. It was like having a dream when you’re awake. But I was definitely alert.
God told me to grab a blanket and the Gospel of John and ride into the countryside to Big Rock, about ten miles away. You would think I would have done what he said. But, like Moses, I was reluctant. I thought, I don’t know, the sun’s starting to go down . . . And I didn’t go.
Then two weeks later while I was in the shower, God told me to do the same thing! I thought, Okay, this time I’m going to listen. I got dressed and headed out on my motorcycle. I rode past Big Rock and then began wondering where to stop. Then I heard God say, “I’ll tell you when.” I kept riding and finally he said, “Look to the left. See that pasture? Stop there.”
I stopped, put the blanket down and started reading the Gospel of John. Only I wasn’t getting anything out of it. And the sun was going down. So I packed up and headed home. I started doubting if I had heard from God. “God,” I said, “I need some sign that this was really you leading me out here.” He said, “Okay, here’s the sign. You’re going to run out of gas . . . right now!” At that moment, the engine started sputtering. I was running out of gas! Fortunately, my bike had reserve fuel, so I tapped into that.
Then I asked God, “Why did you bring me out here and then not talk to me?” He said, “Because you ignored me the first time. I wanted you to know how much I was going to share with you if you listened to me. This was a test to see if you were going to obey.”
Months passed, and I kept going to Calvary Chapel with Eva. But I felt kind of distant from God. At that time in my life, I didn’t “need” him. Everything was going well—good relationship, good business, good everything. I was doing fine on my own. Soon after, Eva suggested that we go to an evening class at the church about the foundations of a relationship with God. On December 16, 1984, we went, and the pastor said something that made me stop and think. I said to God, “Okay, I’m going to open my heart a little bit. If this guy Jesus is really who you say he is, you’re going to have to explain it to me—logically.” Suddenly, I wasn’t hearing the pastor anymore. It was just me and God. I can’t recall the conversation word for word, but it went something like this:
“Edward, are you perfect?”
“If you were to say today, ‘I’m going to be perfect from now on,’ could you?”
“Even if you answered ‘yes,’ what can you do about all the things you did in the past that were not good?”
I had no answer. I knew I couldn’t undo things of the past. God continued:
“Now would you agree that I am perfect?”
“Okay, I’ll buy that.”
“Then how can you, an imperfect person, come into my world? Take a can of pure white paint. That represents heaven and me. Now imagine you’re a white dot of paint that has a little gray in it. If you put yourself into my paint can, is it still pure white?”
“No, because I’m not perfect.”
“Then how can I allow you into my perfect world? You’re going to mess it up.”
“Wow! Then I can’t do it.”
“That’s right. That’s why I had Jesus come. He can make you a pure white dot so you can come into my paint can.”
“But I’m not pure white.”
“Jesus died for you to make you pure white. It’s a gift. You didn’t earn it.”
That night, I received that gift. God had given me the logical explanation I needed. Now the Bible made sense. I broke down in tears, understanding how much God loved me and wanted to bring me into his kingdom.
I haven’t often had those “real dream” encounters with God. But since Eva and I were married in 1989, he has led us in many big decisions. When we wanted to start a family, we looked at thirty homes, but none seemed right. Then, while we were looking at another one, God told me, “This is the house.” When we got into the car, I told Eva what God had said. She said, “He told me that, too!” And we got the house, after some seemingly impossible obstacles.
God has also guided me in my career since I started my own business at age 23. I am now the CEO of Equity Bancorp, previously, one of the leading private money lenders in California. God has spoken to me and Eva (in her case, usually through dreams), especially in tough times, like the Great Recession of 2008–2009.
Other doors have opened. Since August 2010 I have hosted a weekly radio show, “The Best of Investing” on a San Francisco station. In May 2013 I began co-hosting another weekly radio show, through Sports Byline USA, called “Sports Econ 101.” We discuss sports from a business perspective, and many stations around the country broadcast the show.
Eva and I have been married for 25 years and have two great kids.
I have tried to follow Jesus these past thirty years, though I often miss the mark. That’s why I don’t have one of those Jesus fish on my car. I feel as though I’m not always the best representative. But I know that in God’s eyes, I am still that tiny dot of pure white paint!