Monday, June 13, 2011

Amish

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of Plain Wisdom, a book that offers a peek into the Amish lifestyle.  I have to be honest.  I've always wondered why anyone would choose to live they way the Amish do--not in a disparaging or judgemental way--I've just wondered what their reasons are: no electricity?  no motors?  Really?  Are those things bad?  Does God not approve?  I mean, what could be so bad about something that makes our lives easier, better?  Right?

Just as I question the Amish lifestyle, I am absolutely certain that there are those who would question some of my family's choices, for instance: making sure we have money to pay for something before we buy it, therefore not racking up credit card debt; buying a less expensive house than the mortgage company said we could afford; paying cash for our vehicles. Whenever possible I borrow or buy things used, and I try to avoid paying full price for anything (because why would you pay full price when you don't have to?).  We do not have the latest and greatest gadgets; we do not run out and buy the next big thing as soon as it's available.  We are blessed to have all that we need, and so much more, and I am, we are, content.  But the world says if you want it, you should get it, no matter the consequences, no matter the cost.

I am so thankful every time I pull a load of clean, good-smelling laundry out of my washing machine, because I didn't have to wash it by hand.  I am so thankful every time I put a dish in our automatic dishwasher, because that means I don't have to do the dishes by hand.  I am so thankful, especially today, that I have an air conditioner so I can bring the temperature in my home down to the point where I'm not sweating buckets just by sitting.  My goodness, the Amish don't even have fans to help cool them down.  I mean, I think it's kind of fun, when our electricity goes out, to break out the oil lamps and read or play games or eat supper by candlelight, but let me tell you, it sure is nice to be able to just flick the lights on whenever I want to.

I've decided that the Amish lifestyle is not for me.  Even so, as I was reading Plain Wisdom, I had an "ah ha" moment.  You see, all of this technology, all of our time-saving devices, make everything we do easier (OK, not exactly everything), so we can do it faster, so we can do more.  And because we can do more, we think we should do more, and we do do more.

We rush from task to task, feeling scattered and stretched, and we wonder how we're going to fit everything in.  We lose hours fiddling with our phones, our computers, our iPods.  We cultivate artificial online relationships, rather than investing our time and energy in nurturing relationships with the flesh and blood people surrounding us.  Sound familiar?  But what if we decided not to do more?  What if we took the time we were saving to savor life?  What if we chose to live simply?

Miriam writes, in the chapter titled "Greatfulness":
     Being Amish isn't always easy.  Sometimes our rules and guidelines make life a little harder than I'd like.  Yet doing without holds blessings too.
     If I had a car, I'd whiz around in all my busyness instead of enjoying the slow pace of a relaxing buggy ride on a beautiful afternoon.
     As much as I would like to use a dryer during bad weather, I'd miss the pleasure that comes from taking a basketful of clothes into the fresh morning air....
     The hot days of summer can be trying.  But since I don't have an air conditioner, I try to work outdoors in the garden or yard in the coolest hours and stay inside where my brick home keeps me reasonably cool during the hottest part of the day. I open the windows and listen to the birds on bright sunny days, the gentle rains on cloudy days, and the horses passing by my home....
     Leaving it all in God's hands, I think Him for the challenges as well as the blessings.
I love that: "doing without holds blessing, too."  This passage struck me to the core, especially at the end of this busy school year, when I have so longed for less: less busyness, less rush, less chaos.  So while I'm not going to ban electricity in our home or rid our life of motors, and I don't pretend to know all of the reasons why Amish folks make their lifestyle choices, I can see how this way of living that the world sees as limiting and restrictive allows adherents the freedom to live each moment, and to experience joy in the ordinary.

The rest of us, we think our devices and machines give us freedom; we seek joy in more: having more, doing more, being more.  But true freedom, true joy, comes from nothing more than placing our trust in an eternal Savior.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

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