I’ve been busy this week kicking off the release of From the White House to the Amish, so I didn’t get to write the deeply thoughtful post about Mennonites that I thought I might. Those of you subscribed by email will get a collection of survey responses about “What Frustrates You About the Mennonites.” I would say that volume speaks for itself. Some of the thoughts I agreed with fully, and some I did not, as will likely be the case for anyone else who reads it. A few responses asked essentially, “Do I have to be frustrated?” A few had sharp disdain for the Mennonite church. Most responses fell somewhere in between. One respondent cleverly wondered if choosing “Mennonites are critical” were self-incriminating!
It’s interesting the things that we as humans complain about
For instance, I have often complained about northern Indiana traffic. To me, driving into Shipshewana or Nappanee demands the sheer effort of my will. I mean, why do semis drive through city centers? Why do 55,000 people want to park behind the Blue Gate Restaurant at the same time? Why must traffic on Highway 20 be bumper to bumper 24-7-365? (I know, New Yorkers – your life is much worse. But I don’t have the option to take a subway.) Why can’t I turn around in an E & S Sales aisle without dislocating another shopper’s jaw?
Okay, I’m stretching things. But don’t frustrated people often stretch things?
So, this week, I had a number of places I needed to visit with From the White House to the Amish. I took courage in hand and drove down that notorious corridor of frustration, Highway 20. I gritted my teeth and, feeling excessively pregnant, climbed the stairs to the corporate offices of three large stores. (Why does everyone have to put their offices upstairs?) I fought congestion on State Road 5 and in the aisles of E & S Sales, notably assisted by my indispensable friend Pam. I achieved the unthinkable by finding a parking space across from the Blue Gate restaurant. I drove on up to Yoder’s Country Market in Centreville, came home, and drove to Nappanee the next day. Highway 19 into Nappanee is only second in high pressure to Highway 20, and in some ways worse with only two lanes. I toured the Nappanee Countryside, then drove to Osceola for my Walmart order. I literally looped around northern Indiana in two days.
Then, why, I asked myself as I headed north toward Walmart, did I enjoy that tour so much?
- Well, for one thing I felt good. I don’t know if my sickness is truly waning or if it was just a lucky break for those two days. But I felt good.
- Secondly, the scenery was beyond spectacular. I felt like a tourist in a strange and wonderful land of yellows, oranges, and roadside pumpkin stands. And I wasn’t even irritated when I got behind a combine on a small rural road.
- Most important, I was focused on a mission. I had books to sell. Selling things is a little nerve-racking, but a little exhilarating.
So I’m going to cut short all my thoughts about the Mennonites and their problems, and just say this. In all organizations, businesses, regions, and cultures, there are some people who are happy and some who are unhappy. Even stranger, in every human heart there are times we are happy and times we are unhappy.
I thought I hated going to Shipshewana because of the terrible congestion and people pressure. But because I wanted to be there, and I knew why I was there, and I felt good that day, I had a great experience.
Seeing this inconsistency in myself helps me understand why some people long to be part of an Anabaptist church and others are convinced that these same cultures are beyond redemption. If my opinions change depending on the day, why should I be surprised that people with experiences different from mine have emotion-charged disdain for the same groups that others admire? That Tom Kirkman joined the Amish church because an incredibly spiritual Amish man brought him to Christ, while other people say the Amish don’t understand salvation?
Our viewpoints about certain places or groups rely heavily on whether we really want to be there
If we want to be part of something, whether it’s the US Army, a Mennonite church, or a company like Amazon, we won’t be quickly frustrated by the uniformity, routine or structure that define all organizations. If we don’t want to be where we are, everything will irritate and chafe and feel like tyranny.
What about actual sin and corruption?
If we want to be with a certain company or church, I think we view actual corruption in others as something to address directly to that person’s face and to meet bravely, while we hold our own ground and realize that someone else’s failure doesn’t define us. If we don’t want to be with that company or church, we view corruption in others as something to mock and belittle to anyone who will listen, but we have no interest in speaking to the person involved.
Is there a time to say, “I don’t want to be with this church” or “I don’t want to drive to this city” or “I don’t want to work for this company”? Very likely. And the best thing to do, I suppose, is to leave respectfully and find a place where you can be all there, and meet the good, the bad, and the ugly (because it exists everywhere!) with maturity, justice, and redemption.
And sometimes, like me and the traffic, you might find yourself so focused on your mission and sense of what is beautiful that you forget to be frustrated.
So anyway, I’m kind of exhausted from the busyness of the week and I’m not going to write all the things I had in my head. If you have highly emotional comments, please email me at Katrina@500-words.com. Like I said last week, I don’t mind dialoguing with anyone on a one-to-one basis, but I prefer to avoid extensive emotional debate online.
Local People: You can pick up a copy of From the White House to the Amish at the following locations.
- Light of Grace Book Store in Coppes Commons, Nappanee
- E&S Sales, Shipshewana, close to register seven (I say this because if you haven’t been to this store before, you will get overwhelmed and probably lost, if not trampled)
- The Blue Gate Restaurant, Shipshewana
- Yoder’s Country Store, Centreville, MI
Or, as always you can buy a signed copy directly from me. You may choose “local pickup” at checkout if you are willing to stop by our house or Marnell’s workplace to pick up the book. Just remember that Monday is Columbus Day, which will slow shipment. I’ve also included the link to pre-order the ebook from Amazon US, but remember you can get it through Amazon Canada and other regions as well.
Also, if you are on Goodreads and missed the giveaway, it will end in a few days. You can still join here.