Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Did They Cry?

I finished reading Naomi Mullet Stutzman's book, A Basketful of Broken Dishes, tonight. Several passages gave me food for thought, but one in particular really struck me.

Her mother had died and she and her siblings were discussing with their father memories they had of their mom. Naomi brought up the story of how her mother was given a basket of broken dishes which had belonged to Naomi's Amish grandmother. I won't reveal that conversation in its entirety so I don't spoil the mystery of those dishes, but one thing her dad said gave me an enormous aha! moment.

As Naomi's sister lamented over her mother's Amish sisters's reasons for crying at the casket of Naomi's mom, her father explained:

"Actually, they might have cried because they were sad that their sister was not Amish when she died."

I re-read the sentence to be sure I understood and then put the book down as I thought through the statement. They weren't crying because they would miss her. They weren't crying because they felt guilty for shunning her all those years. They weren't crying because of lost opportunities to know their sister. It was that she wasn't Amish when she died.

Yes. It made sense.

To many Amish, knowing a former-Amish had died outside of the church meant no salvation was possible. Several Amish communities believe if you are born Amish, you MUST die Amish in order to go to heaven. No amount of good works after you leave the Amish fold will help you. No grace from Christ's shed blood alone will help you. You are condemned as soon as your foot leaves the threshold of your Amish home to venture forth into the sinful English world. Unless you return to the Amish and make a confession, and rejoin, you are doomed to hell.

So many reproving letters have been sent to wayward former-Amish in which parents and other family members beg their children to return home. If threats don't work, some resort to promises. If promises don't work, some Amish families resort to more threats, fear tactics, shunning for life, and other means to try to persuade the doomed loved one to return.

I have always struggled to understand the mentality of this kind of thinking, but as I pondered Naomi's father's explanation, it suddenly made sense. To the Amish, a former-Amish person is a dead man walking. Death row is a certainty. The die is cast. The judgment is made. The severity of the coming punishment cries out for desperate measures to be taken in order to snatch, pull, coerce and shame the former Amish to be former no more.

The complexity of these relationships built and formed by the hands of religious man-made rules can't be stressed enough. There is nothing simple about being Amish and there is nothing simple about being former-Amish. In each, the devout Amish and the seemingly condemned former-Amish, a host of cultural demands and spiritual guilt wrestle daily.

The families suffer. The wayward one suffers. The community suffers. And in light of Christ's sacrifice for all sin, I am forced to ask why?

Why do they not understand the Gift?

We'll celebrate Christ's birth soon. We'll celebrate because we know His birth led to His path to the cross. Our "dead men walking" souls were released from death row when He died and rose again.

No more guilt. No more condemnation. No more hopeless attempts for perfection.

We don't have to be Amish. We don't have to be Baptist. We don't have to Presbyterian. We don't have to be anything but washed in grace.


12 comments:

Parenting Expert Brenda Nixon said...

Another good post Dee - thanks for sharing your knowledge. It is my experience (with our former-Amish friends) that the biologic parents have even attempted to bribe their kids to return. One shared with me that his parents promised $1,000 and some family heirloom furniture if he returned.

Katie Troyer said...

When I was Amish I was the best of Amish. I tried to do everything just right. It was during those years that I also knew there is no hope whatsoever for a former Amish person to get to heaven. Whenever I saw a Tent meeting, I always thought,"You are just trying to wiggle your way into heaven but you won't get there." The only reason God opened my eyes was because I was seeking God and wanting the truth.

Joanne Sher said...

WOW - sounds like an amazing book - and what a truth to grasp! Fantabulous post, Dee!

Dee Yoder said...

Brenda, I've heard of others, too, who have been bribed with money or promises. Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

Katie, you are SO right! God is always waiting for us to come to Him with hearts that are open and willing to accept His gift of grace. I'm so glad you did!

Jo, it IS a great book. I'm going to feature it in a giveaway soon.

Patty Wysong said...

It is so sad how we as people try and try to earn our way into Heaven when it's nothing to do with us and our works and entirely on who God is and the grace He holds out to us. So often it's easier to think we can work our way to heaven. A check list of dos and don'ts is easier than humility and accepting our sinfulness and asking for God's forgiveness and receiving His grace.

Dee Yoder said...

Very true, Peej. We think if we only have rules to follow, we can make it on our own. History proves, though, we always fail! So glad there is grace.

Denise said...

Amen, such truth spoken here.

Dee Yoder said...

Thank you for posting, Denise. I appreciate it!

Mary S said...

Thank you for sharing this, Dee. Oh. the agony I sometimes go through to separate truth from untruth, shedding the baggage that comes with an Amish heritage. If you don't strive with all your strength to please a God who has many strict requirements, then how do you do? How does God really look at you and respond when you mess up? What all is wrong and right anyway? You've been told so many things are sin, and now it's starting to dawn on you that you've been fed a lie... How much of it is lie? On and on goes the agony, the insecurity...

Dee Yoder said...

My heart goes out to you, Mary. I know you have God's gift of grace in your soul and I'm praying He pours out His love and acceptance on you in ways that let you KNOW how much HE accepts you. May His love and grace wrap you in trust and peace. May he comfort your heart and give you "peace that passes all understanding". I love you, friend. Thank you so much for sharing your heart's cry.

Arlen's Living Water Springs said...

From a man's perspective and coming from a Mennonite/Amish background I can identify somewhat with the things faced by Amish people. I'm thankful, however, that my family and I never directly faced the things Naomi's family faced. I'm not sure if there was behind the scenes talk or animosity toward my Dad who left the Amish. My Dad expressed some fairly deep insecurities, but at times shared a sense of happiness. To this day I'm not sure what impact growing Amish had on him, and he is no longer living for me to ask. I know that he was pretty much a perfectionist. Gladly he found the Lord at the end of his life. What a wonder it would be if people would be taught the truth of Jesus Christ at an early age, and not just tradition.

Mary S said...

Thank you , Dee... Your words bring comfort to my heart....