Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Retaining Honour--Post 10

There’s something joyful about just BEING, about knowing who you are and what you are, and about having gender be framework and foundation and context, rather than something you have to prove to yourself and others.

If your identity is solid, you can get on with life.

If you grow up Amish, there are times when you would really, really like to not only be something besides Amish, but to have others think you are, too.

My friend Cathy worked as a waitress in the Amish paradise of Sarasota, Florida.  Every so often a group of young guys would come in.  Short haircuts.  Tight t-shirts.  Fashionable jeans.  English-speaking.  Just doing their best to mist the air with the intoxicating scent of Cool.

Cathy would go to their table and start talking in Pennsylvania Dutch.

Sorry, guys.  Nice try.

I will always see the world through Amish lenses.  Cows make me happy.  Bare legs bother me.  I will eat the last bites off your plate rather than see you throw food away.  I will always have an ear for languages.

It would be a waste of time for me to try to BE something or someone else.  I might as well accept it and learn to laugh at myself.

However, I can admire and learn from many others.  I can study Spanish, read Jewish stories, and learn to make chai and chapatis like Kenyans.  I can listen to other perspectives.

That is very different from trying to be something I’m not.

The same applies to who you are as male or female.

If a child is loved for who they are, they don’t have to obsess about it.  Their parents’ love becomes a foundation for their lives and they don’t have to constantly prove that it’s there.  They can launch off of that platform.

If you know deep in your soul that God made you like you are –looks, emotions, interests, gender, weaknesses, strengths, and tastes—and he loves you completely, then, instead of staying stuck on any of those features, you can go marching on with your life and be someone who gives and blesses out of your own abundance.

You can experience joy.

Maybe you’re a woman who loves floral dresses and cooking big suppers.  That’s ok.  Or maybe you’d rather be crunching numbers or reading about the Civil War.  That’s ok too.  Or you might enjoy all the above.  If you know who you are as a woman, it doesn’t matter.  Your foundation is solid.

I find something sad and desperate about people who feel they have to prove their gender.  Young men who wear cowboy boots and spit and cuss for no good reason except to convince us that they’re men.  Young women who show off their bodies as though proving their femininity.

There’s joy in just being who you are--fully a woman or man.

A woman who isn’t afraid to be seen as “motherly.”

Men who open doors for women, and women who thank them.

A man who does his work and follows his interests, macho or not, without worrying about labels.

Women who recognize how much power they have and use it wisely.

A big farmer rocking a small child to sleep.

There’s a purpose for you and for everything that you are.  If you know God made you and loves you, you can just Be.  You don’t have to feel constantly compelled to Do or to Prove.

My friend Ella Boss was a jolly woman with a large family who got enormous satisfaction out of taking care of them.  She also made me feel like, oh, yeeeess, of COURSE, I would do just FINE as a new mom!  Despite being a traditional Mennonite woman in pretty much every way, Ella loved to chop wood.  One time the family went camping, she told me, and she wanted to split the kindling wood, so the others indulged her.  She was squatting down and whacking away with the hatchet having a great time when a neighboring camper marched over and reamed out all those big strapping sons standing around.  Disgusting--how they made their poor mother split the firewood while they just stood around being lazy!  Ella tried to explain but the neighbor didn’t want an explanation.  Ella laughed and laughed, telling me about it years later.

Now I think: maybe Ella was someone who could just BE.

And she was always smiling.

Tomorrow: a few final thoughts from me and comments from you


  1. Ella is my aunt (my Dad's sister) and she came from a family of 17 children. Always I remember her laugh! I think that whole family loved to laugh. And that's where she probably learned to enjoy chopping wood.

  2. I remember when that happened. We had a good laugh about it at the time. We all enjoyed the talk and marshmallows that went with that fire.

  3. Yes if we could all learn to allow people to just be who they truly are!!

  4. I've been drinking great big draughts of this series. My heart and my mind are saying "Yes, yes, yes!" Probably partly because I'm not one of those women who thrives on cleaning and laundry, or gushes over babies. I don't dislike babies, of course, but I'll gladly let someone else hold them. I'm more likely to use power tools, crunch numbers, or mow the yard, though I do love to cook, and pretty dishes make me wish for a kitchen of my own. Meanwhile, I will keep doing the things I love, even if some of those things are unusual in a woman. Thank you for giving me that extra bit of courage today.

  5. Gwen Hertzler4/01/2014 7:40 PM

    So, Dorcas, are you going to publish it all in a small book, or some other easily available format? I want all my children to be able to read it, without having to scroll through your archives, and digest it bit by bit, though, I admit, there was something highly effective about that method.
    Bless you for taking time to do this. It is excellent.

  6. I, too, have been following this series with interest. I see a difference between sex as defined by the biological structure of the body we are born with—not always as clear as our normal definitions would indicate, gender as sensed by the mind, and roles that are mostly shaped by a society's culture. At some points in your essays, I sensed these categories bleeding into one another in a way that confused some issues.

    I find this #10 to be uplifting. My only wish is that we would allow our gay, lesbian, and transexual brothers and sisters the same freedom to live out who they know themselves to be as we rejoice in who we are by the way we were formed in the womb by God (Psa. 139:13), shaped by our self in interaction as we mature, and known to God, self, and others. To ask people to live with a false sexual/gender identity is to violate love for neighbor as we love ourselves.

  7. Thanks for all your comments and, Anonymous, special thanks to you because I think I was mostly writing for you.
    To Anolddisciple--you are correct that my definition lines are unclear at times. A lot of gender/sexual subjects were outside the scope of these posts and remain for someone else to write.

  8. I have really enjoyed this series. Thank you.

  9. I agree, I would love to see this whole series all together in some form of publication. It would be extremely valuable and I would love to recommend it to others.

    Your comment about Sarasota makes sense! When I visited a few times as a child, I noticed there were a lot of Amish people and Amish restaurants, and to this day my mouth waters when I think about the peanut butter pie at Yoders Restaurant! Mmmmm. :)

  10. Thanks for sharing that story about my Grandma Ella. :) It makes me giggle every time I hear that story (among other ones). It is partly thanks to her that today I'm okay with who I am as a woman with varied interests, such as my Grandma had. Btw...I just now read the entire series, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you. It has given me more courage, especially as I pursue a career in what has historically been a male-dominant field. The courage to believe that I can do this and yet still be fully a woman at heart. :) Blessings on you Dorcas!!