Trademark of a Persecutor

March 24, 2014

The Non-Power of Bunny Prayers

April 7, 2014

Char and the Dog

March 31, 2014

I was drying dishes the other day, while my youngest sister, Elizabeth, washed. Since there is no room in our old farmhouse kitchen for a dishwasher, we wash them by hand, like pioneers. And with eight constantly-consuming adults in the family, that is no easy task. The one good thing about doing dishes the old-fashioned way is that it encourages conversations. I have had some of the most meaningful discussions of my life while washing dishes. This time, we got to talking about Mennonites.

“I worry about myself sometimes,” I said. “I mean with this whole thing of being a Mennonite. I’m worried about what I’ll do or what I’ll become because of what’s inside me. I’m different inside than I look on the outside. I just don’t feel like a Mennonite.”

I also worry about being a bad influence on my little sister with everything I tell her, but she is sixteen, receptive and responsible. It makes her temptingly easy to talk to.

“You mean you don’t have the convictions?”

“Yeah–I mean I guess I do sorta–but I think about things and explore things and my mind goes all sorts of places. I’m different than the other Mennonites.”

“But there are all kinds of Mennonites.”

“Yeah, that’s true–maybe I’m just thinking of the wrong Mennonites. Maybe this idea I have of what Mennonites are is only a myth. Do you think so?”

Sometimes I am hopeful. Recently, I made a Mennonite writer friend with a ready wit and a great sense of humor. She is twenty-eight and a mother of five, and she told me a story about her own mother, who, it seems, embarrassed the older of her eleven children on trips to Chesapeake Bay. As they crossed the bridge, she would lean out the window of their big black maxi van hollering, “Hi, Bay! We came to see you, Bay! Hi, Bay! Greetings! HI! HI!”

That free-spirited image doesn’t fit the picture in my mind of a typical Mennonite lady. Stories like that make me wonder if the Mennonite image I’ve constructed is something I’ve built out of two decades worth of Sunday school stories, with no basis in reality.

I think my mom has a Mennonite image of her own. For years, looking weary and shadowed under the eyes, when dishes were piled in the sink, I remember her saying things like this: “I’m afraid I haven’t taught you girls what you should know to keep a house. I’m just not organized. I’m just not a good mother.”

I know the picture she has in her mind. It is the picture of a perfect Mennonite housewife with clean cupboard drawers who has her children study the Sunday school lesson Saturday nights. But I haven’t heard many of those “what I should be” comments lately. I think when you get to about fifty, you realize you are what you are, whether or not it’s what you should be.

My Mennonite image has less to do with a clean house and more to do with someone who is rock solid, who is simple and discreet and holy and sure of the difference between good and evil. I am never sure.

“Maybe I have a picture in my mind that’s not really a true picture,” I told Elizabeth. “It’s just that I feel so wrong inside. Sneaky. Like I’m acting one way when I’m really another. Like I’m bad inside.”

She was wiping off the cupboard with a dishcloth, and she paused and looked at me. “Maybe you have to think of not how you are in comparison to other Mennonites,”–she made a swooping motion with her hands–“but just how you are in a big open space with God. You know, like with Char and the dog.”

I started crying. “But that’s so beautiful. How did you know about Char and the dog?”

“You told me about it.”

“But I didn’t know you understood it.” How does she know these things? She is only sixteen.

Char was my old-lady friend, a person who was disillusioned with religion and had cut herself off from church groups. I think because of that she lost much in growth and in spiritual understanding, but still, I learned a lot from her. She thought simply, the way a child would think. Of all people I have known–maybe because she was alone–she viewed herself not as how she compared to others, but as in a big open space with God.

She grew up Catholic and had been taught to pray to Mary. We discussed this, and both of us believed it to be false teaching. “I never really prayed to Mary,” Char told me. “I just didn’t see the reason for it, when I could pray to God.”

Later, she told me this story: “When I was young, the nuns taught us to pray to Mary. It was part of learning about God and Jesus, and that wasn’t wrong for me to do. But there was a dog who followed me to school every day. I would yell at it to go home, and it would keep on following me. I used to cross a railroad trestle that went over a river, and one day I was so sick and tired of that dog I stood in the middle of the trestle and kicked it in the stomach as hard as I could. It went sailing up in the air and landed in the river. I don’t know what happened to it.

“That was wrong.”

Char understood what confuses so many of us. We are not responsible for what we do not know. We are not responsible for what we cannot be. Neither are we responsible to others. Each of us stands in a big open space before God, and if we take the time to think about it, we will know exactly where we stand with Him.

That is our only responsibility.

5 comments

  1. But it is our pet popular thing to analyze: feeling like a Mennonite or not. Don’t take away the fun. Ok, I’m schputting. You came to the right conclusion, I think. There is little point in trying to kick a culture and who it has made us today. It really is a goodly heritage and people trying to get away from it are even more awkward somehow. It is like trying to change our skin color. The only legitimate change we should pursue is to ” put off the old man….and put on the new…” Colossians 3:9,10.

    1. Your so cute Lucinda, Your so honest with your feelings and how you perceive things its very refreshing. As to your questions bout being Mennonite? Would you rather worry more that you are one of those or more so to be the reflection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Stick with the later and you will never lose. So many put more importance upon their affiliation than their relationship and devotion to the One true God.
      Eph 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
      Eph 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
      Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
      Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

      Joh_14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

      Our focus only need be these, Lest we get caught up in the pride that over took the Pharisee’s, where their affiliation and position were more important than God himself, missing all that truly is important, and all common sense lost. Like healing on the Sabbath or saving an animal on the Sabbath for a couple of examples. They then added more traditions, and services to God’s plan.

      Mar 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
      Mar 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
      Mar 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
      Mar 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
      Mar 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

      Sorry I am a stickler for scripture, but I know of no other authority to look to.

  2. Luci, I don’t feel like a Mennonite either. I remember one time we were at the Library and a bunch of kids my age came in. They looked at me like I was some type of alien. I have never felt so glaringly Mennonite in my life. But then, another time, we went to a garage sale that some very conservative Mennonites were having, and I felt so liberal. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever truly fit in. But I don’t think the point is “feeling like a Mennonite”. I think the point is living so people can tell that we have Jesus in us. Sometimes I don’t even want to be a Mennonite, because I feel that sometimes people use the name to cover up what they truly are. ~Lavina

  3. I wonder too, if maybe you don’t have to feel so much like a Mennonite, but let us be more concerned about being a Christian and living like Jesus did…along with that, if we can focus more on the Biblical principle behind the application, it can change the entire way we look at the application. For instance, the Bible teaches modesty, not outward adorning, having a meek and quiet spirit…and if we are really striving for these principles, it won’t be so hard to live by the applications that we’ve agreed to by being a part of the church!! So many live by the ‘law’, and the minute they get somewhere that the ‘law’ doesn’t say…well, they don’t have anything left to stand for!! So search the Scriptures, there really are Biblical principles behind most of what we stand for!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: