Co-authored by Shelby Spear & Lisa Leshaw
“You know I’m Jewish, right?”
I couldn’t believe my ears as I heard my friend, Lisa, ask me this question. This after months of her reading the manuscript for my Christian memoir.
“You are? Wait . . . what? So, you mean to tell me you agreed to read my manuscript that talks all about my love for Jesus, and you aren’t even Christian?”
“Of course! Listen to me, I’m very fond of Jesus, too. And plus, why wouldn’t I read your words? This is your story, and I’m honored to read it.”
I was floored. And moved. I mean, Lisa and I barely knew each other, having only met virtually through the online writers’ world. But here she was taking an interest in the deepest part of my life, reading chapter after chapter about a faith tradition she doesn’t even follow.
She always talked about God in her articles and online posts, so I just assumed she was Christian. Now I was even more enamored with this newfound friend. I couldn’t wait to learn more about her.
It startled Shelby that I was Jewish, and it startled me that I startled her.
She couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that an ultra-liberal, non-Christian woman would show an interest in reading her memoir. I had to work my magic to convince her that Jesus was on the adoring end of my beliefs.
In fact, my childhood dream had always been to have a coffee klatch with Moses and Jesus. Despite their differences, I see them as beloved brothers.
I see Shelby as a beloved sister—and knew we would become lifelong friends.
It’s been my mission to connect with Shelby’s beautiful spirit, and Shelby made it her mission to teach me the eloquence and beauty of Christianity.
The journey is now woven into the daily fabric of my life. I have miles to go in the learning process. And I have the best teacher to guide me.
Despite having different faiths, different backgrounds, and contrasting perspectives and political views, Lisa and I forged a beautiful friendship. Sadly, our relationship isn’t exactly the norm these days. Our nation is so deeply divided that we’ve stopped listening to each other. It’s hard to imagine a peaceful future when we get along with people who are different than us. But if we create space to listen to one another’s stories, our care and compassion become the bridge to finding unity.
Listening to someone’s story helps us focus on our shared humanity rather than being distracted by our differences. This is exactly why Lisa and I are friends to this day. Our friendship began over a beautiful and captivating story she wrote in Guideposts about the death of her father. Her heartfelt journey about the joy and suffering of loving and losing a father was moving, inspiring, and relatable. I connected with her at the heart level, a place that has depth and meaning. Lisa connected with me at the heart level when reading my memoir.
Neither of us knew who we voted for, what causes we supported, or what side we were on related to hot-button issues. None of that mattered.
What does matter if we want to have peace and harmony is seeing each other as fellow companions on the journey rather than writing each other off as adversaries simply because we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
We aren’t supposed to see life the same way. This is why God created every one of us UNIQUE. I think He was pretty clear about encouraging us to love and accept each other, as is, regardless of our political stance, how we worship, or what we believe.
It’s also amazing how much we can learn from others if we see past what we don’t understand. This is why my family and I made a point to learn more about the Jewish faith and celebrate Passover one year. I read all the Old Testament scriptures and recited all the daily prayers related to the Passover tradition alongside the Christian prayers and scriptures I was already practicing for Lent. I was enamored with the beauty of Judaism and how similar the two traditions really are. I even went as far as buying all kosher foods as I prepared the menu for the Passover meal. The whole experience was surreal and connected me to Lisa on an even deeper level.
There are many gifts people exchange during the holiday season and beyond. Some of those gifts are not visible to the eye, only felt by the heart. My friendship with Shelby covers both types of gifts. During our season of Passover last year, I gifted Shelby with a Torah (the Jewish Bible). I am humbled that she desires to learn about Judaism. I am honored to discover everything I can about what it means to be a Christian woman.
In the midst of my learning, I have made the most important discovery of all: If you love God, then you can love all.
Whether we like it or not, as children of God, we’re in this thing together. We may disagree on issues and have different beliefs, but our soulprints look the same in the sand no matter how many lines we try to draw through them.
Love is the through-line that binds us. Love is deeper than any label we try to affix on one another. Love is the only thing that can conquer the fear that keeps us divided. We just need to get out of our own way and let love do what love does.
Having the compassion to ask, “What’s your story?” when we meet someone new and then taking the time to listen is a surefire way to make that happen.