Monday, December 19, 2011
Why Did They Cry?
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 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.