I went on a short trip to a women’s retreat this past weekend. I went to spend time with my mother, who was also going. I went to reconnect with my roots and do a bit of dappling in ethnography. I went to spend time with old friends who I grew up with in our little Beachy Amish community in rural Minnesota. And as often is the case, God quietly speaks, I went for that too. Our main speaker also grew up in the same community and her keynote topic was on trusting in God. I came away with some surprising realizations. For one, I didn’t expect to experience culture shock but I did. Yes, my own culture gave me culture shock! When my mom asked me if I enjoyed myself, I told her, I felt out of place on the inside. I was drawn into conversations I hadn’t participated in for a very long time. My explanation to my mom was, “I guess I don’t think about all the things that a typical Mennonite woman thinks of. I think I would be more at home at a Seminary, where they talked about theology, systems, strategy, programming and all that.”
For one, I could not identify at all with the woman who struggled with fear, nor the one who desired to get married because she wanted the security of someone else making the decisions. I did identify with the woman I observed who was managing the retreat. I overheard her say, “I am not meek and mild…”and a bit more commentary on how God had gifted her with leadership. Somehow she seemed to manage a balance between her beautifully strong personality and submission to her husband, the latter being a Amish Mennonite pillar and the first being not common at all. The stereotype is that strong women cannot be submissive and are generally feminist and tend to trample on men and “wear the pants.” This is certainly a stereotype and it is false.