The Kindest Mennonite

It’s a snowy morning and I should be deep cleaning in my bedroom.

I know that reading two stories to Liesl and frying potatoes and eggs for breakfast and making tuna sandwiches isn’t going to cut it for the days’ work.  But cuddled here in a blanket on the couch, eating caramels with the laptop, I’m believing it to be so. (Does your laptop enjoy caramels like mine does?  Sometimes I get tired of rewriting sentences to make them sound proper.)

The children were off to school in their usual flurry of gloves and lunches and papers.  This morning they also had their bags of shoebox gifts, ready to pack together for Operation Christmas Child.  I love this tradition and hope some kids are very, very blessed by it.

We always wait till the last minute to go shopping and the whole experience ends up in exhaustion, as 6 of us wander aisles and wrack our brains for what a child in Iraq or Costa Rica might need or love.  The hard part is not knowing where the box will end up.  If it’s going to the Ukraine, we’d put in those gloves.  But what if it’s heading to Nicaragua?

Anyway.  It was fun its in own wild way.  And the brown eyes bright with the delight of giving will hopefully be matched with eyes of joy in the receiver.  (Although Liesl is dying with envy over the t-shirt she got for her little girl overseas.)

I’ve had this post whirling around in my head all week….all about stereotypes and being Mennonite and the fruit of the spirit. I have a few drafts saved on the subject and they all sound chintzy.

So it’s best if I just talk about things instead of trying to teach a lesson.

I’ve guess I’ve been kind of an apologetic Mennonite a lot of my life.  I’m sad about all the “ex-es” of my denomination, with bitter stories of mistreatment. I quickly go quiet in a discussion on why Christians should vote if they care about their country.  I don’t like that some people think they have to look like us before they can visit our church.  Dan has to remind me about some of our tradition: “It’s not the only way, but it’s a way that works.”  And  I don’t have an answer for you about why we’re named after a man.

But I also love my church and the quirky personalities that make it up.  I appreciate the values that make Mennonites who they are.

I’ve been blessed to know mostly good Mennonites, with church leaders who are kind and strong and even humorous.  We had one great bishop in the past who would keep us in stitches with his dry jokes and then say, “My wife has to remind me often of two things:  my age and my position in the church.”

Recently we had a visitor preach at our church, a Mennonite bishop.  Maybe only those who are ex-Mennonites or current Mennonites will get this, but he didn’t fit the stereotype.

Picture a circle of men in formal Mennonite attire discussing an erring member.  The air is somber.  The formality is thick.  They are likely all good men, but the code of politics demands certain words and actions.  And clothes. And woe to anyone who challenges it. Without knowing why, we immediately get the sense of “Get your outside lined up, people.  And quickly.”

This man didn’t fit that picture at all.  He seemed the most comfortable in his jeans.  And in his plain-cut suit on Sunday, he spoke humbly about the gospel being attractive.  He gave encouragement.  He talked about how David in the Bible was a gatherer of men, not a scatterer and divider.  He talked about the church being a place of healing. He talked a lot about spirit fruit.  In a discussion at our house, he said that we’re not here to make people good Mennonites, we’re here to help them to heaven.

I’m not here to glorify this bishop because I’m sure his family and his church could tell me his faults.

But I guess he encouraged me not to make apologies about my denomination and its inconsistencies.  I don’t have to be out there trying to prove that I don’t fit a certain bad stereotype.

Why not just work on being the kindest Mennonite someone meets?

Or the gentlest Baptist?

Or the meekest house-churcher around?

There’s no law against Love,

Joy,

Peace,

Longsuffering,

Gentleness,

Goodness,

Faith,

Meekness,

or Temperance.

My life work seems cut out in letting Jesus develop these fruits on my tree, Mennonite or otherwise.

It’s tested in moments like yesterday when first Liesl spilled her hot chocolate down through the cracks of the table, onto the floor, onto her chair.  Just by being silly.  And then her little friend Talaya did the same thing about 5 minutes later.   Through the cracks of the table, onto the floor, onto her chair,  onto her dress.  Just by being silly.  Just after the first spill had been carefully wiped up with soap and hot water.

I wish you a good day, comrades. May you never procrastinate with making your bed or combing your hair like I did today.

*There are as many stripes and colors of Mennonites as there are ice cream flavours.  When I use the term “Mennonite” on this blog, I mean kind-of-sort-of-ish MY kind, which is kind-of-sort-of-ish in the conservative section.  In the relative sense of the word, if you know what I mean. 🙂 And that part of me edits this to add that I believe in holiness and obedience to ALL the commands of Jesus, along with kindness. And I mean no disrespect by my stereotypical bishop scene either.  We are most of us following God in the way we most think He wants us to.  Amen.*

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11 thoughts on “The Kindest Mennonite

  1. I get tired of rewriting sentences to make them sound correct also.

    I think Christians have a tendency to forget, no matter which denomination they are, that the whole point is that Jesus died for us, in all of our unworthiness because he loved us. So our primary goal is loving our neighbor without regard to worthiness. If we just stopped and examined our actions and thoughts with the sole filter of “is this loving my neighbor?” How much better off would we all be??

  2. Ah Luci, but it was quite refreshing to read a post by you again. Do take more time to feed that computer it’s due amount of caramel or anything else it would like. 🙂

    Love your thoughts and the title. Just being the kindest Mennonite I can be!!

  3. I like this! I have to say, when things like your hot chocolate spill happen, that’s when it can be the hardest to show kindness. It seems like those you love most can test you the most 🙂

  4. As I read this to Clair, he kept ummming and ahhing and at the end he said ” I can’t say amen loud enough” and I don’t think it was about the hot chocolate spill! 🙂

  5. I’m with you in the love/hate feeling of Menn. issues but find myself here because it IS a good way to model Kingdom living. Your words here are true and right–that Spirit fruit is far more valuable than any denominational idiosyncrasies.

  6. Our church is blessed to have a bishop who, while he seems most comfortable in his suit, isn’t afraid to get his suit dirty. That’s why he has a couple of them. We feel We can trust him and we know he is open to hear our disagreement with him. He isn’t threatened if we don’t see eye to eye. Our congregation has had its share of problems — we are all human, but having come from a church where the ministry is on a pedestal and everyone else is way down there, I can’t get over being blessed and thankful for ministers who minister — spiritually and physically– at our level.

  7. Okay, I am a stalker (but not a scary one) who doesn’t know you and you don’t know me, but I am good friends of some friends of yours (Amy and Shilah) and so that is why I am not scary, ha! Just wanted to say, I enjoy checking your blog, a lot of what you write resonates with me and I especially was nodding my head along with this post. Agree wholeheartedly! Also, I like to see your snowy pictures as we rarely are so “blessed” with that stuff down here in GA. 🙂
    ~Jenn Barnhart

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