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Gideon Paull
At some point in life, in order to find happiness, to find love, it is OK to throw out convention and adopt the unconventional, what others think about that is irrelevant.

Love Happens – A most unconventional match

We walk our own paths to each other

I’m Jewish – it’s a key part of what defines me and my life.

Even though my siblings and I grew up in a place relatively devoid of any other Jews, we were brought up to be Jewish. Our Judaism was on full display in the home and at the synagogue. While growing up we weren’t totally observant, yet our parents put a very strong emphasis on our Jewish education, our unique culture and the practice of our Judaism. This was how they were raised, my father in the East end of London and my mother in Slough, about 30 miles west of London, a place almost totally devoid of any meaningful Jewish presence. Yet, she inherited a very strong Jewish identity from her parents and passed it on to us all.

My mother had a very strong influence on us, my father always showed her the utmost respect and always stood by her side till the day she died. They were of the same mind when it came to raising us, educating us and instilling in us moral and ethical behaviors anchored in our religion.

The Paull’s of Windsor circa 1970

It was their love of Judaism and the deep connection to our people that our parents had instilled in us from such an early age, that would follow us and define the rest of our lives.

We are five siblings, two girls on the outsides and three boys sandwiched between them.  Most of us found our way to Israel and made Aliyah, as did our parents.   I eventually found my way the US where I reside to this day in Los Angeles. Wherever we are in the world, our Jewish identity runs deep and defines a lot of who we are and how we behave.

The Paull brothers and sisters. Circa 1969

For all of us, when choosing a spouse, it was important that he or she be Jewish – we all married Jewish spouses.

Over many years, I struggled with finding love. I have been married to lovely Jewish girls, I’ve dated almost exclusively Jewish girls, but there was always a piece of the puzzle missing. My marriages failed for one reason or another and I was ready to give up and just live my life as a single man. I had come to terms with this eventuality.

I met her on a flight from Seattle to Burbank. We had taken very different, very long twisting paths with sudden turns. Unpredictable events dictated that we found ourselves sitting together that day on that flight. If God orchestrated this move, He certainly has a sense of humor.

She hadn’t wanted to speak with me, yet she forgot her earphones – the universal symbol for “leave me alone”.  As she browsed the photos on her phone I looked over her shoulder and noticed that she had been to Windsor Castle. I suddenly exclaimed, “I was born there – well not exactly there, but right down the road from that castle”.

I asked her what she does for a living – the question she hates the most. She told me she was a minister. I asked, what does that mean, she responded, “I’m a clergy, the Pastor of a church”. Later she told me that once she tells people that she’s a clergy, most people leave her alone – for some reason I didn’t.

A week later we met for lunch but I had to cut it short and run to pick up my son from school. Before leaving her I instinctively gave her a hug – I’m a hugger. What happened next was unexplainable; as we separated from our embrace, I felt something being pulled out of me, like a piece of me was ripped away from my insides. I walked towards my car and my thought was, “something’s changed”, no, I corrected myself, “everything has changed – nothing will be the same again”. Later I found out that she felt the exact same thing at the same moment.

Different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different religions, yet soul mates matched in heaven

I do believe that there is such a thing as soul mates. Maybe we have been together in every life, maybe we are souls that are bound together in heaven. Maybe in every life we are thrown to the corners of the earth and must find each other at exactly the right moment in our lives. I do believe we all have that soul mate somewhere and we will eventually cross paths, as if we were magnets attracted to each other. Whether our eyes are open to see what’s in front of us or not is only up to us.

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Fast-forward a few years and we’re married. I’m a practicing Jew, she’s a Pastor at a church in Los Angeles. A graduate from the University of Hawaii with a masters in theology from Fuller in Pasadena, she is an ordained United Methodist Church Pastor.

One of the first questions that I asked her was, “if you’re a Christian, you must believe that I’m going to hell for not accepting Jesus as my savior”. Her response set the tone of our relationship to this day.

There are many paths to God. While we may walk different paths in our journey to God, our goal is always the same. We come at God from different directions, each with our own practices of honoring God

“If you had asked me a few years ago, my answer would have been in the positive”, she responded. “However,”, she continued, “now I think differently. We are all the children of God, we who believe in God and do God’s work here on earth have a place in heaven next to God. Regardless of religion there are good people everywhere, people who believe in God and love God and help their fellow humans. Are they any less deserving of heaven?”.

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She continued, “There are many paths to God. While we may walk different paths in our journey to God, our goal is always the same. We come at God from different directions, each with our own practices of honoring God”.

Our religions define our path towards God, yet we all walk towards the same source. We all have the same goals – to glorify God and build his kingdom here on earth.

Regardless of religion there are good people everywhere, people who believe in God and love God and help their fellow humans. Are they any less deserving of heaven?

Our relationship is defined by how different we are yet by how much we agree on key principles. Obviously, there are differences between our practices and beliefs, yet we strive to find the commonality and there is more of that than differences. We have an enormous respect for each other and each other’s religion. We don’t come with an objective to change, to convince or persuade, but to accept and learn from each other.

She accompanies me to synagogue and is proud of me when I read from the Torah or receive an honor. I accompany her to church to be there for her, to support her. I’m proud of what she does. Her sermons, mostly focusing on Old Testament, are rich in content, very well researched drawing from Jewish, Christian and contemporary sources and are insightful and very relevant. Her prayers are spiritual and through her prayers she has a connection to God that I often struggle to find in the synagogue.

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As I am defined by my Judaism, she is defined by her love for God, her belief in humanity and social justice.

At home we are a blended family. Korean, British, Israeli, American, Christian and Jewish. Each of us with our own child, we have learnt to coexist as a family. We celebrate holidays together as a family. It is my Christian wife who reminds me to light the shabbat candles or buy a challah for shabbat. It is her who researched what we traditionally eat on Rosh Hashanah and made a dinner for me.  She says Grace before eating a meal and she is sensitive enough to pray in the name of God in order to be more inclusive. It is her who suggested that we provide a Passover Seder for people who are in blended family situations like us.

It turns out that the perfect match is more often than not, the least expected match.

I have learnt to accept the things that are important to her and support her in all she does. I am proud of who she is, what she represents and what she does. It doesn’t mean that we always agree on every subject – we don’t. That is what makes our marriage so interesting. We discuss our differences of theological doctrine in great depth, finding arguments and justification for what we believe.

Previously we were both married to the “perfect spouse”. She to a Korean man, a good Christian man from a prominent Korean family. Me to Jewish women who my mother would approve of. It turns out that the perfect match is more often than not, the least expected match.

At some point in life, in order to find happiness, to find love, it is OK to throw out convention and adopt the unconventional, what others think about that is irrelevant.

I was amazed how her family, friends and colleagues accepted me and my religious beliefs. I was sure that I would encounter hostility maybe even anti-semitism – there was none of that. I wish that the same could be said for some of my Jewish brethren, words such as “shiksa”, “goy” are thrown around every now and then both in front of us as well as behind our backs.

At some point in life, in order to find happiness, to find love, it is OK to throw out convention and adopt the unconventional, what others think about that is irrelevant. In the end, we are the one’s living this life and we are not living it to meet other people’s expectations or standards.

Our relationship is not conventional by any stretch of the imagination, yet it works. It is a relationship that is punctuated by trust, respect and love. All of these are on display in everything we do every day.

About the Author
Gideon Paull is an engineer and developer of websites related to Judaism and Jewish practice. Gideon, who resides in Santa Clarita, California, identifies as a practicing Jew and is married to a Korean United Methodist Church Pastor. Being in an interfaith, intercultural marriage has presented its own set of unique and diverse experiences.
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