Sunday, March 23, 2014

Retaining Honour--Post 4

Identity has to do with who you are, a complicated soup of innate traits, family history, personal choices, others’ responses to you, and much more.

If your identity is solid and healthy, you don’t have to spend your life trying to figure it out, and you have the emotional energy for meaningful work and happy family relationships and making good choices because you don’t have to prove anything.

I was born into an Amish family.  We were the real deal--the Pennsylvania German language, horses, buggies, thrift, shame, the Lob Lied, hired drivers, big gardens, hooks & eyes on mutza suits.

My dad and my one brother were, by nature and gifting, scholars.  They would both have made fantastic researchers, spending years deep in dusty volumes, exploring obscure threads of history.

But they were Amish, and the Amish had no slot for scholars.

A good Amishman was a farmer--a good farmer, with grade-A milk and all the weeds trimmed around the outbuildings.  If you couldn’t farm, then you were a carpenter or something equally physical.

This isn’t something I discuss with my dad and brother, all of us still being at least half Amish at heart, but I think it messed with their identities.

Here they were, driven by deep curiosity and intelligence and God-given talents.  That was who they were.   And born into, and deeply identifying with, this closed, unique culture.  That was who they were, also.

But the other Amish made them feel like they somehow weren’t really Amish, they couldn’t be, because they weren’t ambitious farmers or efficient carpenters.

I wonder: why was there no room for them?  This was not a Biblical issue.  Surely there would have been some way for them to be wholly who they were--fully Amish and fully studious and impractical.

It did not do good things to their identity.

Tomorrow: more on identity—what do we do to the woman mechanic, the man who is afraid of spiders?


  1. I finally got to read this series, keep it up! BTW I know 2 Mennonite (real deal) women who are mechanics and several men who avoid spiders.

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  3. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  4. Wonderful series! My parents raised my brother and me as Christian Anabaptist feminists (not an impossible juxtaposition in our family) so I don't avoid the label, per se. I did start clarifying what I meant, though, after I started having children. (I'm a dress wearing, homeschooling, stay-at-home wife/mom with a huge garden...whew.) So much of worldly feminism seemed predicated up on the supposition that care-giving was inherently oppressive and demeaning. I wanted no part of that, for sure! But coming from a more acculturated background than plain Anabaptists are, my challenge has been to say, "Hey! I'm smart, serious person and yes, I made this dress myself and would you like another slice of pie?" Ps. My husband cried when he had to put down one of our sick goats.

  5. Thank you so much for your frank thoughts and questions. There is a real storm brewing in our Mennonite conference over gays in leadership and I'm thinking often about gender these days. Plus, I'm a mother to a daughter and son, so I am always curious about how their genders affects my parenting. . .

  6. kathryn martin3/27/2014 3:19 AM

    you had me at the second paragraph,Dorcas....I think this is huge.