I have happy childhood memories of Jewish family traditions such as Friday-night Sabbath dinners, Jewish festivals, celebrations, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs (for males, on reaching the age of 13) – with all the prayers prayed in Hebrew, which no one really understood! There was always an amusing flow of banter affectionately mocking our Jewish observances. Connecting with my identity as a Jewish person was important, but when life’s dilemmas and challenges hit, this limited understanding of Judaism and lack of spirituality did not seem to help . . . (continue inside)
I don’t remember ever doubting the existence of a Higher Power, but my understanding was limited. As difficult family circumstances began to arise, I started to experience a growing inner restlessness and need for real answers.
My childhood had not been particularly stable. At the age of 13 my parents separated and later divorced, and a new stepfather became part of our lives. My father died unexpectedly when I was 17. He had lived alone; we rang him on several nights, but no one answered. My brother went to check on him and found him in the kitchen, lying on the floor, having collapsed. He had been lying there for at least two days. We were later told that he had suffered a stroke and had gone into a coma. After a few more days, he died in hospital. I needed someone or something who would never leave me, never die. I thought I would find the answers I needed in spirituality.
On completing A levels, without the demands of school life I found I was drawn to the idea of meditation and its promises of inner peace. It made sense to me that I could ultimately find wholeness and peace by accessing a power within through connecting with an inner god consciousness. I believed that I just needed the right meditation practice, perhaps that special crystal to activate the energy or a connection with an enlightened soul or spirit guide . . . then enlightenment and personal transformation would result.
I practised a range of spiritual techniques, including guided visualisation and trance mediumship. I joined a psychic training circle, working on opening the chakras. I experienced altered states of consciousness and found there was a level of comfort and peace that meditation practices seemed to bring. Over the years an almost addictive reliance on meditation developed. I did not realise that these practices had a cumulative and negative effect upon my mental sharpness and focus. I was slowly becoming detached and disassociated from the world.
I began to experience a range of spiritual phenomena. I saw people's auras, rainbow-like colours emanating from their heads and bodies. I saw spirit guides, and occasionally received psychic messages for people. My interest in meditation led me to attempt to develop both psychic and healing powers through regular disciplined practice. I never questioned what I was experiencing. I assumed this was a connection with God: the transcendent, impersonal, universal life force. I was confident that I was making spiritual progress and felt I was in control.
One Sunday morning, as I headed off to a psychic show, I met some neighbours on their way to church. I found I got to know them over the next weeks as I kept meeting them, quite by chance! One day I called round to borrow some milk and unexpectedly I found I was enabled to see a spiritual dimension that surprised me. As the door opened I sensed a powerful radiant light all around them; light that seemed to burst out of their flat. I concluded that they were involved in something spiritually powerful and was impressed. Shortly afterwards they invited me to go to church, so without hesitation I went.
The church was located in a hotel room in London. There were no religious icons or artefacts, simply a projector, a lectern and a preacher. I was struck by the warm welcome, the vibrant atmosphere of the meeting and felt uplifted for the rest of the day. On my second visit, the pastor offered an opportunity for people to pray a prayer to Jesus, calling him Messiah and Lord. I found myself responding; some part of me deep within began to stir. I had no intention of subscribing to a mainstream faith system. I had no conscious desire to make a life-changing commitment and was unprepared for what followed. The most beautiful loving, spiritual presence surrounded me; it was so kind, but authoritative and completely pure. I felt compelled to respond. As I prayed, this incredible spiritual presence became stronger and stronger, and somehow I knew I was in the presence of God.
This first-ever prayer to Jesus resulted in something incredible: a connection with the presence of God. I knew that this was very different from all the spiritual experiences I had ever had. This was not an experience that I could have foreseen or controlled. That one prayer I prayed changed the course of my entire life. An incredible love poured into a place of aching emptiness, loneliness and rejection. I knew God loved and understood me personally. I was given a gift of revelation, which I could never have reached through any of the techniques or rituals I practised . . . (continued on back)
Alongside the experience of tremendous love, I became aware of my own impurity. I felt aware of a darkness inside me – the darkness of negativity, shame, regret, wrong decisions, rebellion and pain. I asked God's forgiveness for all that I sensed had contributed to and created that darkness within my soul, and for anything that my conscience reminded me of. My heart was open and sincere; Jesus lovingly and freely forgave. It was wonderful – I felt so cleansed and released – life became re-energised, fresh, new. I had been spiritually reborn.
I then discovered that there were spirit guides and entities within me who began to reveal their hostility to the love of God and Jesus I had encountered. I was thrown into confusion! If I had accessed higher powers that were ‘good’, why did they not rejoice in my discovery of Jesus?
This disturbing inner conflict was distressing. In time, after re-evaluating my beliefs against wisdom from the ancient Scriptures, I prayed and let go of any of the practices, beliefs and philosophies I could no long embrace. At that point my belief system had led me to consider Jesus to be an enlightened soul who had reincarnated throughout history in the forms of Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, Krishna and others. I then started to see Jesus as the uniquely transcendent one who rose from the dead after a terrible execution on the cross. He was resurrected, not reincarnated!
Those early prayers were life-transforming. It was as though an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I knew that Jesus was in my life, I was not alone and that finally I had found the one who would never leave, never die.
Perhaps you might want to pray and ask Jesus to touch you in a special way, in that empty place within; that restless area where there is still pain. Ask for a revelation of the light of Jesus the Messiah and the love of God.
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