Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The surprising encounters:

Wow, the men in the kitchen and the all male wait staff (young and old) were all volunteers and it looked like they wanted to do what they were doing, which was serving a large crowd of women, cutting no corners on the pampering and frills. There was candlelight. There was tea in fancy teacups. This is wonderful!

It’s not a great wonder that marriage works in these Mennonite women’s communities, given the amount of thought and humility these women put into their relationships with their husband. One woman gave a punitive example of a woman who judged her husband’s wishes to be “strange ideas” when he asked her to not run the dryer when she was not in the house. She admitted to not obeying his wishes when he was not around. She was chided by her sister in Christ: if you do not acknowledge your husband’s wishes in the little things, how can you possibly negotiate the big things? In the world I live in now, I am not accustomed to this sort of attention to the “little sins”.

The teaching is specific, applicable and not afraid to mess with people’s lives, instead remaining in the safety of the conceptual.

Another challenge that was put out to the women was to trust God and to have confidence in your husband. That in itself will make a successful marriage. One needs to trust God that if you husband blows it in a decision he makes, God is big enough to pick up the pieces. A few examples were given. A woman told a story of her husband who was working a business deal of his. She gave him some advice. He decided not to take it. Later, it became obvious that her husband should have taken her advice. Upon hearing the story, a young woman asked, “but did the fact that your husband’s disregard for your advice interfere with the harmony of your relationship.” The old woman chuckled. “I can tell, you are still young,” she said. “I know I can’t change my husband,” she said.

The older woman did not ridicule her husband for making a bad choice but rather used the situation to suffer with him in the consequences. In the end, that which could have brought division and self-loathing and destruction to the husband’s confidence actually worked a good they both desired, companionship and togetherness that only shared suffering can bring to a unit of two or more.

In my mind's eye, I held up something I've obsessed about. I felt it dissipate. My attachment to it released.

I would venture to guess, if the husband lived by the same principles with respect to his wife, generally the results would work toward the same end.

These Mennonite women mostly have no idea how to translate the principles of “a marriage that works” to a world riddled with feminism, entitlement, domestic abuse and misogyny. However, once when I brought a non-Mennonite woman to this sort of teaching, she said it was the best she had heard. What the non-Mennonite fears is becoming subservient to violence and a doormat to evil. Sometimes the language used in one context translates negatively to the other context. It would be valuable to have a dialogue.

Unwavering faith in God to work out the details of one life and longings is not mere talk here. It is the reality of these women’s lives and (surprise) God is faithful. Many of these women “have no options” with respect to the mainstream culture’s standards. They don’t often pour themselves into high profile careers and education. To even go as far as I did in my most recent post “needing a little help” is close to ladder climbing. To pursue desires and goals in sheer self determination, often is not the image of the virtuous Mennonite woman. Instead she waits, prays and is faithful to everything she has in front of her presently and trusts God to expand her circle of influence. I think we would all do well to have a bit more of the virtuous Mennonite woman’s spirit.

It’s no wonder there are desperate singles. As often and as central as the topic of marriage and singleness is mentioned, it surprises me no longer that young un-married women get desperate. Old maids are sort of an undesired class of their own, even though the community tries to teach and exemplify inclusion of the un-married.

The car-ride banter and commentary was enough to substantiate this assertion.
We all started off at 4 am, in a 16 passenger van. Everyone but me was wide awake and “cackling like a bunch of chickens,” as they described themselves.

A group of old maids were discussing how big of an age difference would be acceptable. It was decided that 15 years would be okay. Some time later one of them was married to a widower 18 years her senior.

I’ve often wondered why it’s generally more okay for the man to be significantly older than the woman but not vice versa. I was once turned down because I was 3 years older than the guy. I laughed at the comedy of it all, because I look like I’m at least 5 years younger than I am, if not more. My mom is 5 years older than my dad and I have an aunt who is 11 years older than her husband. So, my family has nixed the norm of the man being older than the woman. Generally, it makes more sense to have the woman be older, with respect to comparative life expectancy of males and females. Unless of course men die early so that women can experience a few years of freedom before they die.

Once a widower was dating around a bit. He met a widow that he had an interest in. But he wanted to know if she knew how to operate a catheter. I suppose the moral of that story is, when you get older your deal-breakers change.

An old maid was tired of having people ask her if she was married or who her husband was. So, she decided a snappy come-back was appropriate. The next time someone asked who her husband was she responded, “Well you see his wife hasn’t died yet.”

Another old maid was in a similar situation and she also responded to this inquiry. “Well,” she said, “My husband is Checkie Nix nutz and he died when he was an infant.

"Checkie" is the Penn. Dutch way to say Jake, which is a common name. The “ch” sound is used to pronounce the Js. My grandma did it all the time. Jerry became Cherry. It’s a little confusing when someone calls a grown man Cherry. Nix nutz is a word often used to describe a child’s careless play or something that amounts to no useful good.

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