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A Secular Jew Gets Baptized

Jewish novelist Andrew Klavan shares his testimony of coming to faith in Christ:

When he was 13-years-old Andrew Klavan received thousands of dollars in gifts at his bar mitzvah. But over time his pleasure in his riches soured and died and he realized the truth—he hated all that they stood for. He writes:

The majesty and profundity of the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony … and of Judaism itself—were lost on me. For the simple reason that my parents did not believe in God. ... Despite our dutiful celebration of Jewish holidays, God had no living presence in our family. We did not say grace before meals or prayers before bedtime. We did not read the Bible at home.

Andrew could not overcome the feeling that in undergoing bar mitzvah he was not being true to himself. So, one winter’s night he took all of his riches and threw them in the trash. With that gesture he hoped to leave Judaism far behind him. For the next 35 years he was a practical atheist.

Yet, as Andrew looked back over his life, he could see that Christ had beckoned to him in many circumstances. The kindness of a Christian baseball player who gave a radio interview that inspired him to keep going when he contemplated suicide. And especially in his marriage that taught him the reality of love and led him to contemplate the greater love that was its source. He writes:

But perhaps most important for a novelist who insisted that ideas should make sense, Christ came to me in stories. I was in my 40s, lying in bed with a novel. One of the characters, whom I admired, said a prayer before going to sleep, and I thought to myself, “Well, if he can pray, so can I.” I laid the book aside and whispered a three-word prayer in gratitude for the contentment I’d found, “Thank you, God.” God’s response was an act of extravagant grace.

I woke the next morning and everything had changed. There was a sudden clarity and brightness to familiar faces and objects. I called this experience “the joy of my joy.” I realized that prayer—that God—had transformed my life utterly, giving me a depth and pleasure of experience, I had never known. I asked God, “How can I thank you for what you’ve done for me? What could I possibly offer you in return?” And as clearly as if he had spoken aloud, God answered, “Now, you should be baptized.”

I was stunned. Nothing could have been further from my mind. I was a realist who believed in science and reason; a worldling who loved sex, politics, and a good single malt scotch. I feared that becoming a Christian would estrange me from my past, my parents, my culture, and from reality itself.

My bar mitzvah had been an empty ritual, devoid of God. But my baptism was the outward expression of an authentic inner conviction. The moment I rose from my knees by the baptismal font, I knew I had stepped through some invisible barrier between myself and a remarkable new journey. Within a week or so, my wife noticed it too: a new joy and easiness. My soul had found its northern star. And that star still leads me on.

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