I was at an interview last week and one of the questions I was asked was: what sort of things stress you out?
The next day I got a good example of that by email. I’ve been accepted to go on this course, the first session is a whole day on a Saturday (I already knew that) and we’re asked to “please bring pre-prepared food that we can all share for lunch” – result: a very stressed meirav.
Why? Isn’t it a nice idea, that we all bring food and share it? Isn’t it a lovely way of breaking the ice?
It would be, if we all had the same nutritional needs and dietary requirements.
How would a vegetarian cope with such an arrangement? Or someone who is lactose intolerant, for example?
How am I supposed to cope with it, when there is stuff I don’t eat because I’m Jewish but I live amongst the Brits, who eat tons of this stuff and seem to regard it as one of the most basic ingredients of lunch? (ham sandwich, anyone?)
This means I’m going to have to bring stuff that I can eat, and not count on being able to accept stuff from other people. Which means I’m in danger of appearing antisocial, and I hate being made to look antisocial – this is a sore point for me, because as an introvert who is also shy and socially awkward, I already get mistaken often enough for a stuck-up cow without any extra help.
The other sore point is to do with being part of the often-misunderstood and very-often-forgotten-about Jewish minority within the church. (Yes, it’s a Christian thing, this course.) My experience up to now has been varied enough so that I know I can’t count on always getting positive and understanding reactions when this issue comes up, I’ve had some unpleasant and judgemental reactions sometimes from Christians when they heard me mention that I don’t eat ham. I’ve had people quote Galatians out of context at me – in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, which is to do with our status before God, it’s about our origin not counting for our salvation, it is not about losing your identity! The same verse goes on to say that in Christ there is neither male nor female, but I haven’t heard anyone preach that women should adopt male behaviour patterns and stop wearing skirts. I’ve also had people tell me off because we’re under grace, not under the law (by which they mean Torah) but surely that same grace allows me to refrain from eating ham if it’s important to me? Or do they want to place their own man-made law on me that says “thou shalt eat ham”? I get angry when I hear this stuff from people who have not walked in my shoes and have not had to wrestle with the questions I’ve had to wrestle with. When you’re English and you become a Christian, you may experience some head shaking and eyerolls from those who think you’ve gone a bit loopy, but you won’t get people telling you that you are a traitor to your nation and that you are no longer English. Being Jewish and coming to faith in Jesus means that I get these accusations hurled at me and it is crucial to me to show in a tangible way that I have not turned my back on my people. We each have to work out how we live out our faith in our own situation, and for me the decision to refrain from eating pig is important – not because I hope to get brownie points from God, not because I believe I would lose my salvation if I ate a ham sandwich, but because God made me Jewish and my Jewish identity is important to me, and there is nothing in the Bible to say I should stop behaving like a Jew – why would there be, when it’s the Jewish Messiah that I’m following?
But this rant is exactly the one I don’t want to have to go into in the middle of lunch break. :-(