I believe that God lives in the space between people. But it wasn’t always that way.
Three years ago, not long after I met my wife, we went to her church for Sunday morning services. The moment I walked into the cavernous sanctuary, I felt like I’d stepped into another world. A rock band played loud Gospel music while the pastor, a charismatic ex-baseball player, walked up and down the aisle preaching about Jesus while congregants raised their hands to the sky.
I was used to hearing stories from the Bible during services. But, raised Jewish, I was more familiar with Old Testament tales of Moses and David than with Christian tales of miracles and disciples. And yet here I was, sitting in a church pew with the woman I hoped to marry. Soon, Lisa began accompanying me to synagogue, and to her, Jewish services seemed equally foreign. She couldn’t understand why so much of the service was in indecipherable Hebrew, and why the proceedings felt so dour and ritualistic.
It seemed then like a chasm separated us. For Lisa, the life of Christ provided a moral and spiritual base. But my image of God was less concrete, and Christianity felt monolithic and threatening.
Then something surprising and wonderful began to happen. After services Lisa and I would talk about our faiths and our beliefs, and slowly what had seemed like a fault-line became fertile space where we could each grow towards each other—and towards God. I learned that there was more to Christianity than late-night TV evangelists, and I began to appreciate Christ’s core message of compassion and charity. And Lisa joined my family for Passover and Hanukkah and experienced Jewish culture for the first time.
When it came time to plan our wedding, Lisa and I knew that we wanted both of our traditions to be represented. We eventually found a cowboy-hat wearing, Talmud-quoting rabbi who was steeped in Jewish tradition but who was also willing to share the stage with the pastor who had inspired Lisa for years. Our wedding went off without a hitch.
Soon Lisa and I plan to start a family. We haven’t decided if our children will go to synagogue or to church, if they’ll be bar-mitzvahed or baptized, if our living room will have a menorah or a Christmas tree—or both. Some of our friends worry that with two religions to sort out, our children will get confused. But I’m not worried. I think our kids will be blessed with twice the stories and twice the tradition, not to mention twice the holidays. They’ll have even more to draw on as they find their own spiritual paths.
Lisa and I may use different words to describe God, but we share the same values: charity and compassion, family and community, and a belief in the preciousness of life. Now when I look at the space between us, I see where God lives.