By far the best thing to ever happen to me was my marriage. In my wonderful wife, I had the mother of my children, wife, and my very best friend. Together we could, and have, get through anything.
One of the most meaningful events in our early marriage was living in Germany. Neither of us had any of our usual friends, so we had to make new friends. But more than that we had to figure out problems on our own. This was long before the internet, texting etc. Phone calls and snail mail were the only options and calls were very expensive. So things we would have normally gone to our parents for advice, we had to figure out by ourselves.
The first such big issue was childbirth. When my wife got pregnant, we started reading up on all of the issues and options. For a number of reasons that are beyond this story, we decided to have a home birth. Of course, this meant we had to learn even more. But I think the biggest thing here was that we were willing to examine the evidence and make a decision, even when it was very much against how we were raised, or what most did. That was a big step for two introverts making it on their own.
Shortly after our first child was born, we were back in the States and trying to find a church that we liked. This seemed impossible. Part of it was our spirit of independence, we felt we had just as much right to read the Bible and conclude what it meant as anyone, including our pastor.
We would commonly find a church that seemed to fit, but it would never last. We would settle in and sooner or later something would happen. The church would change its direction or we would learn something new that led us to desire a different experience.
This free-thinking culminated in our decision to convert to Orthodox Judaism, another story unto itself. This took several years and lots of learning. It was especially complicated because by this time we had a large family and all of the kids had to convert too.
One of the key elements that drew us to Judaism was the way they looked at the Torah and study. Unlike the churches we had been to where you are told to just listen to the pastor and follow, Judaism expected spectator participation. We were expected to, within our means, dig into the Torah and analyze it. It wasn’t good enough to just read a passage, and follow the leader. The other amazing thing we gained from Judaism is the idea that there can be multiple valid answers to a given question. It was simply a matter of analysis. One would ask a number of questions and eventually, the path to go down was clear.
During this whole period of my life nothing much changed with that part of me I kept hidden. Most orthodox Jews have the same attitude that our church had, but in ways, it was worse. Since the Christian attitude was this unwritten code, I could ignore it to a degree. But the Jewish attitude was very clear in the black-and-white text of the sages throughout the centuries. Now when I occasionally let it slip out, I would be even more ashamed. I was always left with guilt and frustration. But even at this time, I didn’t want to get it fixed but I didn’t want anyone to find out about it. I just got more determined to bury it deeper.