Stepping Back Into Church

I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up in Seventh-Day Adventist churches. Then I left all that at age 18 and became an atheist for a few years and then converted to Orthodox Judaism.

For the past four years, I’ve been going to various 12-step programs dealing with emotional addictions and many of them meet in churches.

Stepping back into a church makes me feel, at times, as though my whole Jewish journey was pointless. I must have done it wrong.

I grew up in church. Church feels so familiar to me. It is disturbing to be back in church.

A major reason I converted to Judaism was to get my wild destructive impulses under control. That didn’t work. I had to enter a 12-step program for that.

So now I’m back in church, looking for help for my character defects that block me from the sunlight of the spirit. Perhaps if I had done my Judaism more properly I wouldn’t need to be back in church. Something is terribly wrong.

I went on this great big journey to Orthodox Judaism and here I am.

What’s that quote from the Father Brown detective story “The Queer Feet“? “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

I admit that for the first part of my journey into Judaism, I felt superior to my benighted Christian friends and family from childhood. Then I made such a big mess of things that I had go give up that illusion. Now I’m back in church and I’m shattered. Will they say I’m shattered at the foot of the Cross? Oy vey! What will the Jews think?

We talk in 12-step programs about doing a “geographic,” meaning to move to a new place, hoping that will fix your addiction. It doesn’t work.

I didn’t just do geographics for my addictions, I also did a massive religious change, and it made no difference to my addictions and to my fundamental character defects that block me from God, from other people, and from my best self. Only 12-step work, with meetings often held in a church basement or library or rec room, has done the trick, somewhat, a day at a time.

I’ve always looked for the easy way out but that rarely works.

It’s sobering to be back in church. It’s humbling. It’s shattering. I alienated myself from family and friends! I gave up everything to make Orthodox Judaism my life and here I am, despite my best efforts, I’m back in church. My own best thinking got me here. My own best efforts simply returned me to the starting line.

A life run on self-will doesn’t work. External changes may not shift your heart. You can’t run from who you are.

It’s a bit like going back to Australia where all the people I grew up with have created much better lives than I did — they’ve all married and have kids, own homes, have saved for retirement. If I had never left Australia at age 18, I probably would never have destroyed my health at 21 and spent the next six years in bed. I was making more money per hour cleaning a shopping center in Boyne Island, QLD, at age 18 than I make now. Australia is the best place in the world to be an average bloke but I couldn’t be satisfied with being an average bloke. I reached for the prize and fell here.

I have to face that I am delusional. I swing between delusions. I substitute one delusion for another. Everything I have sacrificed for, devoted myself to, has simply revealed new delusions in my thinking. I march from failure to failure.

My life would have been easier and more productive if I hadn’t been so enraged and rebellious.

This feeling of self-annihilation isn’t horrible. It gives me some peace.

I feel like the Australian diggers preparing — to the tune of Albinoni’s Adagio — to run into Turkish machine gun fire at the end of the 1981 Mel Gibson movie Gallipoli.

What are your legs?
Springs. Steel springs.
What are they going to do?
Hurl me down the track.
How fast can you run?
As fast as a leopard.
How fast are you going to run?
As fast as a leopard!
Then let’s see you do it!

PS. I was looking forward this afternoon to having a good wallow with my feelings of loss and unlovability, but I got interrupted by my weekly Skype call with my brother and now I feel too chipper to wallow to sufficient depth. If I were to try to wallow right now, I don’t think I’d feel my darkness with sufficient hopelessness, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

PPS. Chaim Amalek: “I mean you no offense or hurt, but at this stage in your life, being an average bloke would be a huge, vast step up in life for you. You really should rethink your sojourn in America.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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