I grew up Mennonite.
Some of you may be shocked. Some of you may think that means I used to look like this:
But in fact, I didn’t. I didn’t wear a covering. (Except for the one time my cousins and I found a box of my grandma’s coverings after she died and tried them on, just to be funny.) I didn’t dress plainly. I didn’t wear dresses as a way of life. I didn’t speak Pennsylvania Dutch, (though my mom’s parents did). We drove cars–and they weren’t dark colored, either.
Truth be told, there are around forty different Mennonite groups in the United States alone, and they are each unique. To give you an idea of my Mennonite church’s philosophies, my mom was an ordained minister in the church. So, my church would have been on the “liberal end” of the spectrum, since they ordained women.
But when I was in high school, the idea of revealing to people around me that I was a Mennonite scared the holy crap out of me. It just felt so… embarrassing. 😮 (Isn’t that awful I was embarrassed about my own faith?) I was afraid that people would box me into a stereotype that I didn’t want to be a part of. I was afraid people would think I was conservative and close minded. I was afraid others would think I was wearing a covering in secret. (The horror!) I was afraid that I wouldn’t get invited to hang out with people because they would assume I was so different from them.
When I arrived to college, things changed. That’s because I went to a Mennonite college–Goshen College–ever heard of it? Suddenly I was surrounded by Mennos. I didn’t think about how “different” I was anymore. It was a stark contrast for me from high school.
Fast forward to the present. I don’t identify myself as a Mennonite today. The irony of this is that I now ENJOY telling people I used to be Mennonite. I love shocking them while simultaneously informing them that there are so many different kinds of Mennonites, and that my mom was even a Mennonite pastor.
The other day, I went with two friends of mine into the local Ten Thousand Villages store. Ten Thousand Villages is associated with the Mennonite Central Committee. When I walked into the store, I went up to the people who volunteer in the store and told them “I was one of them.”
They looked at me strangely, and I said, “You are my people. I’m Mennonite… Er, I mean I was Mennonite.”
They continued to look at me strangely and told me they weren’t Mennonite, although I was correct in my assumption that the store is affiliated with the Mennonite church.
What I’ve realized is that as I’ve matured into an adult, I finally have embraced that which is different about me. And let me tell you folks, that is one of the keys to happiness. Each of us were born to stand out and tell our stories. That is the only reason I am able to write a blog–because I know that being a weirdo is okay. (Not that Mennonites are weirdos–I’m just talking about myself IN GENERAL. I’m a weirdo.)
Quote from Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite church:
And I’m very appreciative of the foundation paved in my heart by the Mennonite church. I learned from Mennonites about what it means to live out one’s faith by helping those less fortunate and the courage that comes with choosing peace and forgiveness over war and resentment.
I ❤️ you, Mennos.