Stubborn or Stiff-Necked?

I am stubborn.

I justify it often, using my height as a handy excuse.  A low center of gravity must lend itself naturally to being hard to move, right?  Or, my red hair becomes the excuse as if its inability to choose a more common color somehow influences my brain to stay in well-trained ruts rather than create new trails.

Stubbornness isn’t always a bad thing.  I tend to lower my head and push forward through obstacles in life like a linebacker rather than give up when I meet with resistance.  It makes me a good problem solver because I don’t easily lose faith that there is a solution, somewhere.  It helps me keep commitments even when it’s not fun to do so.  It helps me hold on to things that I don’t want to lose.

It’s definitely helped me in the 7+ years since my family began conversion.

Maybe faith sometimes takes stubbornness?  Even when the world seems to want to chip away at belief, some just as stubbornly cling to it, refusing to let it go no matter what they’re told or what temptations try to peel it from their tight grip.  It’s stubbornness as much as anything else that helps me keep the mitzvos I take on even when I’m in the midst of a bit of a disagreement with G-d about some of his decisions for my life.  (I like to think he’s amused when I’m disagreeing, as if my vote has some weight here or as if I have any knowledge that He lacks that He should consider.  Hopefully He finds it cute?)

The Jews are referred to multiple times in the Torah as a “stiff-necked” people.  It’s sometimes taken as an insult and is often brought up when they’ve gone and done exactly what they were told a few passages earlier NOT to do.  However, I also think that without that innate stubbornness, the Jewish people would not have endured being so scattered throughout the world.  Their very culture and religion would have perished were it not for a stubborn resistance to assimilation.  With Purim coming up, we have a great example of stubbornness as a virtue in Mordechai, who stubbornly refused to bow to Haman or idols, even under threat of death.  Over and over, in Torah, the Jews are both find themselves on the wrong side of G-d due to their stubborn nature, but also ultimately redeemed by it.  It also seems to be that G-d stubbornly loves and sticks with the Jews, even when they give Him reason to abandon them.

There are time, though, that my stubbornness becomes a handicap.  Like the Jews in their desert wanderings, it can make me difficult to lead to where I’m meant to go.  The more I resist the signs a change is needed, the more drastic the signs become.  The message is pretty clear.  Either be led in the direction I need to go or the nudges will become shoves and eventually I’ll be forced to go that direction.  So it is right now, with my family trying to time a big move across thousands of miles to a bigger Jewish community, hopefully one where we will be able to finish this conversion journey.  All logical signs point to waiting one more year to help us make the move in a more financially responsible way.  The nudges, though, keep getting stronger and stronger to push us toward that move sooner.

So, we’re left in our davening to G-d to ask which we’re meant to be in this situation, stubborn and stiff-necked so we can sell our home and uproot our family on our timeline, feeling a little safer that when we land where we are going, we’ll have an easier restart?  Or, are we meant to be led here, ripping the bandaid off at once and sooner so that we can lick our wounds in a larger community with more resources to support us?  We’re left to try to interpret these nudges as they grow stronger, wondering if they’re just reminders that we’re not home yet or if they’re the push to make a leap of faith?

Either way, there’s always value in asking the questions, even where I resist the answers.  I know, in that deep part of myself that drew me to conversion in the first place, that this big change is coming, whether this summer or the next.  I know it’s for our best good even if it’s a little scary.  I also know that G-d will take care of us, even if it doesn’t look like what I might want it to look like, even if it involves a little pain and hard lessons.

I know all this, but I’m still stubborn.

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