I suffered from an identity crisis right from birth. Born an identical twin in a Jewish family in Overbrook Park, Philadelphia, I struggled to know who I was, the purpose of life, and my part in it.
The conservative synagogue my family attended was just a few doors from my home on the same side of the street. Although I was intrigued by the Old Testament stories and knew that the Jews were God’s chosen people, I did not know what we were chosen for. I had heard about a coming Messiah from time to time. There were so many things that we (the Jews) needed to be delivered from. But my understanding did not go very deep.
It’s not as if I didn’t try to understand. At the ripe old age of six, there was a gorge down the street where I used to go to seek God. The neighborhood lore was that a bridge used to run over the gorge, but it collapsed while cars were traveling over it. The fact that there were tires and car parts down the steep sides of the gorge seemed to confirm this horrifying tale. Although I was afraid to be there, I thought God would be in this sacred place, so I would go there and ask Him questions that my parents and others could not seem to answer.
When I turned eight, my family moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. We blended nicely with the natives (the Gentiles) in our new neighborhood. After a year or two, my parents no longer required that we attend synagogue. When I turned 13, my grandmother died and even the thought of a Bar Mitzvah faded. Religion and tradition stopped being a priority in our household.
During my high school years, my parent’s relationship went down hill. By my
senior year, they were separated, never to join together again. Senior year was a time of regression. I experimented with drugs and alcohol. I joined a rock band, playing the drums. Dave, my twin, played the guitar. It was a time of independence and rebellion, but our upbringing prevented us from getting into any major trouble.
Although my three brothers and I did well academically, I entered my freshman year at LaSalle College (now a university) disillusioned with life. Satan loves disillusion, as it offers a chance for him to allure people away from the truth.
Though the glamour of drugs and alcohol had worn off, I now sought meaningful communication with anyone who was willing to talk about life. The first person I found was John, a fellow freshman who lived on the same floor I did. Like me, he preferred talking late into the night over drinking or drugs. After his gay tendencies revealed themselves, however, I sought a counselor instead.
In my counseling sessions, I discoursed frequently about death. This alarmed my counselor and she brought in a psychologist. He didn’t see me as suicidal, but acknowledged that I was grappling with some legitimate questions about life. Neither he nor the counselor, however, could provide satisfying answers.
For some extra money, I took a job on weekends as a mobile disc jockey. I enjoyed the music, dancing, and emcee role, showing people a fun time. In between classes and homework, I would relax in the music room. Bernard, the janitor, showed an unusual interest in me. We quickly became friends. Shortly thereafter, I took up video arcade games, and Bernard would supply me with quarters. He seemed to have an endless supply, which, at the time, I never seemed to question.
One day, he asked me what my license plate number was and proceeded to announce that my number would win the lottery. The next day, he nonchalantly tossed me the paper. Can you guess what the winning number was? Bernard, it seemed, had psychic powers. He even claimed that he could cause me to think about him, even call him. Often when I called, he would exclaim that I had just done his bidding. Whenever I tried to find where he lived, I was unable.
Years later, when I attempted to find Bernard, there was no record that he ever worked for the college. It turns out, I didn’t need to find him. Even though I had moved so many times that my parents had trouble keeping track of me, whenever I least expected it, Bernard would appear. Who was this mysterious person and why did he show up in my life at that time? I realized later that, by distracting me from my spiritual quest through appealing alternatives, Bernard was one of Satan’s decoys to keep me from the truth.
By the end of my freshman year, a girl from my home town in New Jersey was showing interest in a serious relationship. I went along for the ride. We got an apartment together 30 minutes from college. I attempted to commute my second year, but saddled with a dysfunctional relationship, I soon dropped out of LaSalle, even though I was just shy of a 3.6 gpa.
Now I was responsible for taking care of the two of us. I landed a job selling family portraits for straight commission and began to travel from store to store and invest 10 days per stint in each new place. Being on the road quickly revealed that my girlfriend was interested in whomever happened to be around at the moment. Soon, that person wasn’t me.
Now on my own, my work had become traveling photo salesman by default. I would meet hundreds of people every day (mainly women) in the food and department stores I was assigned to. I enjoyed the challenge of selling, but there were many lonely days when there was no friend with whom to talk.
In early 1982, during a photo promotion in Reading, Pennsylvania, a couple came into the store and promptly bought some family portraits. After I secured their fivedollar deposit, they began to question me. The first thing I found surprising was that they asked my name. No customer had ever asked before. Then they asked me about my background. When they heard that I was Jewish, they seemed excited. I told them that I was pretty streetwise.
I noticed right away that there was something different about them. The comment just flowed out unexpectedly.
“I see something in the two of you that I have never seen before. What is it?”
They chuckled, joyfully acknowledging that what I had just said was true indeed. Instead of answering directly, they continued their line of questioning.
“What is the hope of a Jewish person?” they asked.
I replied, “I don’t know. I believe in God and I try to be the best person that I can be.”
“From our understanding of the Jewish scriptures, it seems as though Israel was waiting for the Messiah.”
“Well, I don’t read those anymore. Though, I still remember some stories from Hebrew School.” I looked at them intently. “You are going to tell me that you think Jesus Christ is the Messiah.” They laughed, incredulous to how fast I read them. “I told you that I’ve been on the streets for a while. I don’t believe that stuff about Jesus. If you want to, that’s up to you.”
They excused themselves and promised to come back later that day. They had something they wanted to show me.
Upon their return, they presented a chart showing all the major world religions. The heading stated something like, “The Truth of Being Born Again and the Error of All Other Religions.” I remember thinking how audacious that title seemed to me. I also remember the man pointing his finger at me in a strong way (I did not like when anyone did that) and challenging me.
“Larry,” he said. “I challenge you. Just pray to your God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and just ask Him if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. If He’s not, you have nothing to lose. But He is…”
Never again was I to see this couple or even remember their names. If only they knew the events that were soon to occur in my life.
That night, I returned to my rundown motel. A bar was attached to the side and I was having a beer, wondering which gal I might pick up. One was showing interest from a distance, but somehow, I was too bothered about the events of the day to pursue it. That couple had gotten through a chink in my armor. In disgust, I left the beer and the gal where they were.
Back at the room, I tossed and turned. Restless, I turned on the tv. The first words I heard were from Pat Robertson of the 700 Club. “I know some of you Jews are watching tonight.” I turned around to see who was in the room with me. “The Bible says that you are a stubborn and stiff-necked people. You always demand miraculous signs.” He flashed scriptures on to the screen from the Old Testament to prove his point.
Then he did something that I will never forget. He pointed his big, boney finger at the viewing audience and said the very same words I’d heard earlier in the day. “I challenge you Jews who are watching. Just pray to your God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and ask Him whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. What do you have to lose?”
Well! Two Gentiles had challenged me in the same day about some Jesus who they claimed was raised from the dead. Until now, the only times I had heard Jesus’ name were when someone from the old neighborhood hit their finger with a hammer! Now there were two boney fingers both pointing at me to pray.
Years earlier, I had asked God for answers about life, but I had never heard anything back. Still, I did believe in God. I had always believed in God, since I could remember.
I prayed out loud for the first time in my life. “God, I’m a Jew”—like He didn’t know that—”I don’t believe in Jesus, but if He is really alive like these Gentiles are saying to me, then I will put my faith in Him. If He’s alive, then it should not be too difficult for him to reveal Himself to me. You know, since we Jews always demand miraculous signs.” (I was still upset about Pat’s comment.) “Come to me and show Yourself to me and I will believe in You and commit myself to You.”
After putting the onus back on God, I fell easily back asleep. After all, it wasn’t my problem anymore.
The next day as I was in the shower, hair lathered, I heard a voice. Not audibly, but in my mind. I had never had this experience before.
“I have come in answer to your prayers,” it said.
The voice was so clear that I did not even finish rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. I put a towel around me and went, shivering, out into the room. In the bathroom, there was a shower and toilet. Outside was a foyer with a double sink. My hair dryer had been plugged into the big mirror’s outlet for all five days I had been there.
The room was pitch dark. I sat on one of the double beds closest to the bathroom. Then asked out loud, “How did you come in answer to my prayers?”
The voice spoke again. “What you are looking for is on the mirror.”
“The mirror… ?”
I stood up and flicked on the light. I was stunned to see symbols scratched into the glass of the mirror. They did not spell anything or mean anything in English. They looked Greek to me.
The next thing I knew, the clerk and the motel manager were trying to calm me down as I attempted to ascertain where the letters had come from. They assured me that the writing had not been there when I moved in. Terrified, I asked for another room, but there were none available. For the next five days, I continued to stare at the symbols, wondering how they got there.
I called my mother and twin brother to tell them of the bizarre incident. Dwayne, my brother’s college roommate, seemed to affirm that God was revealing something to me, but it all seemed too weird and far fetched to me.
This event did not convert me, but it did get me to investigate the New Testament for myself. “I don’t trust any Christians as far as I can throw them,” I would mutter as I read through the enthralling stories in a book I never had reason to look at before.
Very quickly, I became enamored with Christ. He was like a super hero. In fact, reading the New Testament was more like reading a comic book than a religious book. How could Jesus live like that? Always doing good and overcoming the odds? I even called each of my parents and asked them why I had not learned of this Jewish rabbi before. What didn’t they tell me about him? I needed to have Christians challenge me to look into it. I even told my mom about the mirror incident. I wondered what she thought of her nice unstable Jewish boy.
One day, I read in the gospels the story of Jesus visiting His hometown and how they were taken aback and offended. After all, He grew up with them. What was He now claiming about Himself? They were so angry that they intended to throw Him over the cliff on which the town was built. The sentence ended at the bottom of the righthand page.
I turned the page in suspense and read, “He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.” I kept flipping back and forth to see if I was perhaps missing a page. I was not. How could Jesus walk through a mob of one thousand angry Jews? I have personally seen a single Orthodox Jew clear out a whole New York City subway train because one of the passengers provoked him. Now here was Jesus walking right through their midst.
He must be God, I thought. I felt afraid of what that might mean.
During the time of my reading the New Testament, I visited my brother at his university. His roommate, Dwayne, turned out to be a Christian. He shared a very clear explanation of God’s plan for mankind and how Jesus, being the Messiah, had completed the work on the cross, dying for my sins. He drew out a bridge with God on one side and man on the other.
“Which side are you on?” he asked.
“Man’s side. Which side are you on?”
“Well, how do I get over there?”
Dwayne shared John 1:12: “Yet to all those who had received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
I told Dwayne that I had already done that on my own. He then shared 1 John 5:11–13. This passage talked about knowing for sure that I had eternal life. As he was still sharing with me, I bowed my head in response to the challenge to know for sure that I was going to heaven and that I was saved right now. The date: November 15, 1982. I was 19 years old.
Over time, I learned that the symbols scratched on my mirror in Reading, Pennsylvania, were the Greek symbols of the Alpha and Omega.
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and what thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia." (Rev. 1:10,11 kjv)
It became clear to me that Jesus had come in answer to the prayer of this stubborn and stiff-necked Jew. It is interesting to note that the voice that accompanied the symbols was, in fact, Jesus Himself, and that He was alive. Was it possible that I could now find my true identity in Jesus Christ?
Some have asked me how I know that it was Jesus, not Satan, who engraved the symbols on the mirror that day. My response begins with a bit of sarcasm. “Thank you, Satan, for doing such a thing—for getting me to read the Bible and helping me get to know the Jewish Messiah.”
My point is clear. Satan does not lead people to Jesus. I know Satan as a deceiver who loves to promote fear, pride, and confusion. He loves to mimic God and to try to steal His praise, honor, and glory. If he did write the message in an attempt to lead me away from Jesus, he made a whopper of a miscalculation!
Within a day or two of praying with Dwayne, I approached David, my twin brother.
“Dave, you know how God has always been obvious to us…”
“Yes,” he said with hesitation.
“Well, now Jesus is obvious to us.”
Within two weeks, David came to the Jewish Messiah. Now we are eternal twins instead of just earthly twins. Now we are laboring together to help one another find our identity in Him.
Though I was unworthy, undeserving, and not outwardly seeking at the time, God chose to reveal something about Himself to me. It also changed my relationship with mirrors forever.
I had always been uncomfortable looking at myself in the mirror. I did not know who I was as a person, nor my meaning and purpose in life. It’s challenging enough to be a twin, but even if you are not, how do you look confidently in the mirror every morning, ready to tackle God’s plan for your life? Now, for the first time, I could. I knew what my life was about. It was living for God, accepting who He had made me to be, and appreciating the special uniqueness that He created in me for such a time as this—to serve Him.
Since then, God has shown me many things about who we as believers are in Christ. Listen to these passages and relate them to my story and to yours.
"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." (James 1:23,24 kjv)
"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:17,18 kjv)
Through the mirror of scripture, I have found that which I had been seeking my whole life—my identity.