My Father was Mennonite
Except he introduced this concept to me in a strange way – that was both powerful but confusing.
Perhaps, I should say that it was a Mennonite brand of forgiveness. And I didn’t even know what a Mennonite was – nor did I understand them - back then.
I was in first grade. My three cousins and I were swinging on the swings when an older boy came by and sarcastically remarked, "Isn't it just like the Mennonites to hog the swings."
Mennonite. I was a Mennonite? I had never even heard the term.
I asked someone, "What is a Mennonite?"
She paused, took a deep breath, and in an obvious, teacherish tone said, "They're a people who wear black bonnets, won't own cars, and only ride in horse-drawn buggies. They don't have electricity in their homes, the women aren't allowed to wear any makeup, and they all live together in a large community. They are known for their quilts."
"Are we Mennonites?" I asked cautiously.
"But we don't live like that." I protested. And we didn’t. Our lifestyles – living in the Fraser Valley were indistinguishable from the rest – except that we were perhaps a bit more modest and poorer.
"We're a different kind. There are thousands of different kinds. We're more modern, but we're still Mennonites."
I listened to her incredulously. I went directly to my father. He was bent over his workbench fixing a small motor. He listened to my question, and explained that, yes, there were many different types of Mennonites, but the one thing they all had in common was that they believed in nonresistance. And that's what we were known for.
"What's that?" I asked.
"We don't believe in going to war." He went on to explain that, "But to a true Mennonites it actually means more than just not going to war. It means believing in peace. We take it seriously when the Bible says that you should love your enemies, that when someone hits you on one cheek you should turn the other."
After that I was very interested in Mennonite history – and the stories of how we had suffered persecution since our beginnings in the 16th Century.
I was proud to be part of a people who were not only known for the culture, their language, their faith, and their food, but also known for their lofty biblical beliefs. Peace! Non-resistance!
This was what story books were made of. Perhaps I had a story!
“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” ― Patrick Rothfuss