In a world of snarky bloggers, I choose not to snark. There are plenty of blog posts pointing out the short-comings of the Mennonite world, and there are plenty of people reading those posts. I have read many of these posts and, in fact, enjoyed them and agreed with much. But I decided when I started my own blog that controversy was not my forte. I read articles on blogging that advised me to post something controversial to bring people to my new blog. I have a mind of my own, though, and I decided that I much preferred to be unknown for the sake of peace than snarky for the sake of readers.
Therefore, I have chosen to write this post about reasons I love being Mennonite, rather than the things that are tiresome. There are a few of those (“Oh, you’re a Mennonite? Can you make me some whoopie pies?”), but the reason I am a Mennonite is because the good outweighs the bad… Those who know me personally probably also know that for a few years of my life I longed to walk away from the Mennonite world and never look back. Sometimes people ask me what happened, but most of them just wonder silently… In answer to that silent question- I guess life happened. I guess God showed me that by walking away from my Mennonite culture, I would lose more than I would ever gain. And here are my reasons why:
#1- Let’s start with the little things. Things that have a definite twist to them that might look bad from the outside but are so freeing… Other girls my age live with pressure to look a certain way, to wear the right clothes, to make up their faces for 15 minutes every morning. Despite my chagrin at sticking out like a sore thumb and feeling ugly sometimes- I love being able to look different under the name of Mennonite. I love not having to put on make-up in the morning. I love not spending as much money on my personal appearance. It has made me free to concentrate on other things. And having a group behind me responsible and supportive of this aspect of my life leaves me free from the pressure that would come if I were choosing on my own to dress like this. It also helps keep me humble. It’s a small thing, but something I did not appreciate at the age of 15… I guess it’s one of those adult things you grow into. Right along with this point is the freedom to have different opinions and stand-out in a group. Yes, the Mennonite girl doesn’t fit in, but at least she is expected to be different and there’s an accepted reason for it!
#2- Another thing I love about being a Mennonite is the slowness to embrace new technology. I don’t watch TV or Netflix, and sometimes I’ve felt left-out when all my coworkers talked about a popular TV show or movie and I had no idea what they were referring to. If I hadn’t been a Mennonite, I almost certainly would have gone home and binge-watched these same shows. But because I was a Mennonite, I didn’t. Because I was a Mennonite, I was strictly limited on my screen time and Internet use all my growing up years. There are so many wonderful books I would have never read if I hadn’t been a Mennonite. There are so many conversations I would not have had, and so much time spent near God’s creation that wouldn’t have happened. For years I used the “Is it wrong?” argument. I stopped that, and just recently removed Facebook, Google, and YouTube from my smartphone. Not because those things are wrong, but because I wanted to spend more time doing better things…
#3- I also love the emphasis on family. Just because I love my family! This can be excluding, I know, to singles and those without family connections in the Mennonites. I guess that’s why we need to be inclusive, and maybe unofficially adopt people into our families. Mennonite families can have problems just as messy as non-Mennonite families, but at least as a group we value things like lifetime marriages, freedom from divorce, and the men functioning as head of the home. From my limited experience, there is so much security in strong family units. Right along with that, I love that most moms stay at home and care for their children while they are small. I’ve seen too many burned-out working moms with shuffled-around children. I’m not saying this is wrong in every situation- I just like this Mennonite custom.
#4- The right to be a pushover- I have to consciously cling to that concept in this world of assertiveness. The ability to let people run over you, to forgive and forget, to journey on in peace… This is actively taught in our Mennonite community, and it seems like much of the world is losing it. I don’t have to demand fairness from the world. There is so much peace in letting people walk all over you, and you gain better relationships. Sometimes I forget this, and my human nature wants to cry loud for fairness! But this isn’t how I was trained, at least, and it isn’t what Jesus teaches. Entitled-ism is not the Mennonite way, and I can only hope we retain this.
#5- I’ve saved my favorite thing for last- the main reason I am still a Mennonite, when once I wasn’t going to be. Relationships are at the heart of all decisions, I believe. And strong relationships are at the core of the Mennonite community. Gossip and love travel fast. There’s so much support for those in distress, even if there is also a thriving grape-vine to lend its own brand of support. Things do travel fast in the Mennonite community, but not as maliciously, I’ve learned, as in a non-Christian community. In the Mennonite community, you belong. They don’t kick you out when you’re struggling emotionally or spiritually. They give so much love and food when someone in the family is physically unwell. When my dad died, we got enough flowers to fill a small greenhouse. They pray for you and send you cards. They include others even if they don’t really want to. In the name of community. Because we’re all family- church family. Somedays we might all look crazy to the rest of the world, but isn’t that how families are? (I know mine is its own brand of crazy.) We’re all in this together, and that is why I’m still here. I finally figured out that I’m in this with the rest of the crazy Mennonite clan. Walking away wouldn’t change the fact that these are my people, and I’d rather be with them than with anyone else…