Friday, August 18, 2017

Human Doing or Human Being?

An eastern philosopher when describing western society said that we are human doings rather than human beings. What did he mean?

Our culture is constantly on the go. We define ourselves more by what we do than by who we are. We become fixated on action, activity, doing. We become obsessed on our role in life, whether it’s being a teacher, a preacher, a farmer, or “only a housewife.” We become so focused on outward activity, that we forget who we are in the very core of our beings. We try to be something other than who or what we really are in order to fit into the mold that our culture tells us to be. Our inner selves get out of whack from our outer demands. We become fragmented, fractured, and sometimes to the extreme, schizophrenic.

Sit in silence along the lake and contemplate nature
The only way to bring balance back is to pay attention to the inner self, the Spirit of God in us, our souls, if you please, the image of God in which we have been made. And the only way we can come in touch with this inner self is to spend time in rest and solitude. “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15).

Our culture has an aversion to silence and rest. It provides us with many distractions.

How we become human doings:
1.     Busyness. Many of us avoid facing our true selves by becoming busy. We think that we can avoid facing what we don’t want to know about ourselves by staying busy. We think that by doing more things we will become more important in the eyes of others. But will we become more important in the eyes of God?
2.     Noise. Noise comes in all forms. Too many of us turn on the radio or TV, or some other noise as soon as we get into a car, enter our office or our homes. We can’t stand the silence. We are afraid of what the silence might show us.

Our excuse for rest is to “Veg out” and to plop in front of the TV or computer and be distracted by the mindless babble that flows out of the programming. It is constant noise, and it is the noise of our culture’s values, not the voice of God.

3.     Boredom. When our children are bored, we rent them a movie, turn on the TV or electronic device, and they turn into immediate automatons, and they are out of our hair. What if we would let them wallow in their boredom? More often than not, out of the boredom comes an idea, and a spark of the imagination, and they are off into their own little world. It is no coincidence that image and imagination are related. By using our imagination we discover the image of God in which we are made.

Even as adults, we should let our “vegging out” time take our minds into the world of our imagination instead of letting the purveyors of sleaze control our imaginations.

4.     Experiences. We tend to live on the surface, going from one new experience to another, much like we surf the channels on TV, never getting into the show completely, but always looking for a more exciting, more engaging show or experience that may just be on the next channel.

This “experience surfing” is a reality for most post moderns. Too often we are more interested in listing the countries or states we’ve visited than learning anything about the culture and people who are in the area. Our exciting experiences are recorded on social media punctuated with our spectacular pictures.

Many tend to experience church and religious life the same way. You hear people who leave a certain church say that they “just weren’t being fed.” This generally is more a commentary on the eater rather than on the feeder. What they mean is that they want a “better,” or a “newer” experience.

The church, too often in trying to meet this consumer demand thinks that it needs to make its worship more contemporary with louder music, dancing down the aisles, high-tech PowerPoint presentations. But there will always be a church down the road that will have a newer charismatic leader, a jazzier praise band and offer a better worship experience. Se we channel surf to the next place of worship.

5.     Drugs. A way that our culture deals with the fragmentation that we feel between our inner selves and the demands of our “human doing” culture, is to turn to mind and body altering drugs.

I find it easy to understand why so many young people turn to drugs. They see no difference between the new experience of altering their mood with drugs and their parents taking drugs to induce sleep, to have sex, to suppress their appetites, and to control every malfunctioning body part. Drug advertising is everywhere—drugs will fix everything, even the huge void in our souls??

Food is also a big drug in our society. Do we live to eat, or do we eat to live? I think it is no coincidence that our “human doing” culture has an epidemic of obesity while the “human being” cultures of the East do not. If not with drugs, we turn to food for the comfort we need to fill that fragmentation we feel between our outer and inner selves.

How to become human beings:
1.     Spiritual Disciplines. Because of the hunger for balance between the inner self and the demands of our superficial “human doing” culture, many people are turning to eastern religions. Many of us forget that Christianity is an Eastern religion as well. Before the Enlightenment and the crowning of science as more important than religion, Christians practiced most of the spiritual disciplines that Eastern religions offer. These disciplines help to keep the balance between the demands of the inner and the outer worlds. They help us to become human beings rather than human doings.

In our book The Spacious Heart, my sister and I outline many of the spiritual disciplines that have been practiced over the centuries by Christians, in this space I will mention a few that will help us bring some balance to our lives.

2.     Solitude. I already quoted the Isaiah passage, “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” By letting our minds run in solitude and rest we can get in touch with our inner self.

3.     Prayer and Meditation. You might take a favorite Bible verse along with you on a walk, or a favorite song. Or using your imagination, you might walk along the banks of the sea with Jesus and have a conversation with him.

4.     Fasting. Takes the focus away from food and on to more important matters.

5.     Retreats. What we call retreats are often filled with activity— “doing.” How many of us plan a retreat to just be!? Alone in the woods with our thoughts, our imaginations, our journals?

The spiritual disciplines have traditionally been the way Christians have come closer to God and closer to themselves--until the twentieth Century. They are a means to turn our tendency to be “human doings,” stressed and burned out, into “human beings.”

If we are really interested in meeting the needs of our church, and others around us, we need to address this spiritual gap between the inner and outer worlds to make a difference. This is what people are hungry for. The rest is just part of the larger noise of our culture.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What’s in a name?

Some twenty odd years ago, while working as the director of communications for Virginia Mennonite Conference and Missions, I began our monthly newsletter with a short devotional titled “Klymer Klatsch.” It was a takeoff on the German word/phrase “Kaffeeklatsch” which means a conversation over coffee. I simply changed the first letter of my name to form an alliteration.

The old city hall in Affoltern am Albis, Switzerland
When I began to write a blog a few years later, it was only natural for me to resurrect the name Klymer Klatsch for the title. I’ve had numerous conversations about this title; most people are bemused by my choice.

While here in Switzerland, I’ve enjoyed doing some work on my ancestry, particularly looking into the origins of my father’s name Clymer, and my mother’s, Horst.

The immigrant from whom I descend arrived in Philadelphia with the name Henrich Clemmer. He had been Klemmer in Germany before he made the cross-oceanic voyage. My great-grandfather changed our name from Clemmer to Clymer.

Through email exchanges with Mennonite historian John Ruth, I discovered that the Klemmer name originated in Affoltern am Albis, a region southeast of Zürich. He also told me that there were variants of the name in the same region: Klimer, Klimmer, and Kleiner. So I searched websites related to the region and found another interesting variation of the name: KLYMER. Yes, the same name as I use in my alliterative blog title!

But it gets even more interesting. I kept finding all sorts twists and turns on the Clemmers’ migration to the USA with genealogical experts presenting contrasting views. So when I discovered a website, I was lured by the statement, “Research your Swiss, German, or Mennonite Ancestry,” including information on the Clemmers, I sprung for it.

I excitedly opened the PDF file on the Clemmer genealogy and the very first entry at the top of
The region Am Albis, near Zürich, where Klymer comes from
the page was this: “Thoman Klymer, b. c1554 at Affoltern, Zurich, Switzerland.” So the earliest found relative of mine was named KLYMER. The very same name I have used in my blog title. A coincidence? Pure luck? Or was it something planted in my unconscious that I’ve carried with me all these years?

I planned an excursion to Affoltern, the area of my ancestors. Since there was no graveyard near the train station, I started out on foot, looking for variations of my name on the mailboxes of apartment complexes. I must have looked at some 100 mailboxes without any success. Instead I found all sorts of other Swiss-Mennonite surnames: Huber, Good, Eberly, Lichty, Noll, Siegrist, Gautsche, Bergey, Mischler, Hess, Eby and Baer. I even found the name of some Honduran Anabaptists multiple times: Machado!

Not to be deterred, I began asking people on the street if they had a schoolmate or acquaintance named, Klemmer, Klimmer, Klymer or Kleiner. After enduring a number of puzzled looks, I finally found someone who knew of several Kleiners who were classmates of hers. I didn’t have time to schedule a visit with them, but I felt like I had made a connection.

What’s in a name? For me searching for my ancestry through my surname was a process of finding roots, a home. I now know where I’ve come since at least 1554. That’s over 450 years.

What’s in a name? A name that has been passed down for so many years and in different places, gives me a sense of knowing who I am. That name ties me to a human history of both time and place. But I also have another name. I have been stamped with the “image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:27), like every other human being. While my Klymer name links me to an earthly heritage, my God identity links me to an eternal heritage. “I have called you by name, you are mine, (Isa. 43:1)” says my creator. God has been calling me “Klymer” since before I was born, and since before I discovered where I’m from.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Swiss Independence Day, August 1, 2017

The Prelude. The Swiss are quite patriotic. You see their red flags with a white cross and little red candleholder cups designed with the white cross in multitudinous places—homes, stores, and public places. The candles are lit at dusk on August first.
Flags decorating my apartment complex balconies.

Beginning three nights before the actual celebration, we could hear firecrackers going off all around us. But nothing prepared us for the actual celebration on the evening of August 1. 

Stores began stocking all sorts of fireworks, sparklers, and firecrackers of all sorts a month before the celebration. In fact, they began appearing around July 4, which was ironically interesting for a US American, navigating his way through a year in Switzerland.

The brunch. It has become increasingly popular to eat brunch on a farm sometime before noon
Andy, Ruth, Esther's sister and
daughter Jasmina Wyss.
on August first. Esther’s sister Ruth invited us to join her family for brunch. We drove up into a very remote corner of the Jura Mountains, passing a number of Mennonite settlements, including the farm where my brother-in-law’s mother grew up. She is an Amstutz. Winding along narrow roads and through a one-lane tunnel, we ended up at the Scheidegger Ranch with some one hundred other people.

Esther and I enjoying our brunch.
The food.
The buffet menu consisted of fried eggs and bacon along with the Swiss version of hash browns (called Röschti, and a good bit better, I would add). Breads, including the traditional braided Sunday Züpfe, jams, and a variety of cold cuts, cheeses, Birchermüesli and coffee rounded out the buffet’s offerings. We ate to our hearts’ content.

The Outing. You cannot be invited to a Swiss celebration of any sort without going on an after brunch (dinner) walk to “help with the digestion,” so we wound our way down one mountain through Tramelan and up the other side to Chasseral, a lookout point with communication’s tower on the top of a 5,000 ft. mountain. I understand that it is the highest point of the Jura mountain range that borders on France in the western part of Switzerland. The tower is visible from many areas of Switzerland, even from our dinning room window in Aarberg.
Overlooking Lake Biel from the tower

We walked the fifteen-minute trail from the parking lot to the tower, took some pictures and then headed back. We had to stop at the restaurant for drinks before heading back home. 

The Celebration in Aarberg. From about 7:30 pm on to midnight, the town of Aarberg planned an Independence Day Celebration in the “Stedtli,” the beautiful “Old Town.” About 300 people gathered to hear a local choir and band that provided entertainment while they ordered a variety of foods and drinks before taking part in the official part of the evening.

First, there was a welcoming speech by the Mayor, then a reflective speech by a distinguished
Mayor of Aarberg
The youth who were honored
guest on the future of democracy in the Switzerland as well as the world. The next part of the ceremony was a pleasant surprise for me. They had invited about 20 young people, who had just turned 18, as special guests for the ceremony. They were given a letter from the Mayor, and encouraged to become active citizens in Switzerland’s civic life. Not only is 18 the voting age for Swiss, but also when they are allowed to get their driver’s license. I found this to be an interesting touch to an Independence Day Celebration, but am told it is pretty common throughout Switzerland. I find this to be a wonderful rite of passage unknown to us in the USA.

Words to the Swiss National Hymn
After the youth were honored, we stood to sing all four verses of the Swiss National Hymn. The
crowd was admonished for only knowing the first verse, so flyers with all four verses were passed out so that all could join in. That was a great help for me, who didn’t even know the first verse. In my opinion as a musician and a singer, the music of the Swiss hymn far surpasses our own anthem, which is nearly unsingable. The words paint a picture of the beauty of Switzerland’s natural God-given land and a longing for that land, rather than a bellicose tribute to a flag.

At exactly 9:15 pm, the children paraded through the Stedtli with the traditional red ball lanterns suspended on a stick called “⁠⁠⁠Fackeln,” accompanied by drumming. The Fackeln lanterns are red with the white cross, with a lit candle inside. Many of the children were dressed in traditional dress. It was a touching sight, with the children eagerly anticipating their inclusion in the national event. The traditional parade is called a “Fackelnumzug.”

After the children’s parade, everyone was encouraged to stay on to dance until midnight. A band was provided for that purpose. Esther and I were pretty exhausted from all the activities of the day, so we went home.

Decorated Old Town
The Fireworks. I was pretty sure that we could see some major fireworks displays from our kitchen window on the third floor of our apartment complex. Several years earlier, we were invited to one of the more famous fireworks in Switzerland set off over Lake Biel. Since Biel is only 20 minutes away from where we live, I figured that we could see them from our house. I was not disappointed. Although not as spectacular from a distance, I could still claim that I saw them.

However, who needed the fireworks from a distance? The Swiss LOVE fireworks, and the laws prohibiting certain types must not be as strict as they are where I am from. We had spectacular displays both in front of as well as behind our apartment. Along with the numerous firecrackers, the noise sounded like we were in the middle of a war zone. The only similar thing I’ve experienced was in Honduras during their New Year’s celebrations after being suppressed by a state of siege during a war.

It was impossible to escape the noise. I finally fell asleep at around 11:00 pm, but when I went to the bathroom at 2:00 am, they were still going strong. All the reticence of the typical Swiss character seemed to be let loose with a bang—or maybe I should say quite a few bangs.

The other traditional event is the lighting of a huge bonfire. We didn’t personally witness any of these, but as we travelled around during the day, we saw many pyres prepared for this event. They are HUGE. I did see a large plume of smoke off in the distance from my kitchen window, but I wasn’t sure if it was from a bonfire or some other fireworks.  

The aftermath. I have come to know the Swiss to be some of the neatest and tidiest people on the planet. However, when I walked around my city the morning after, there was trash, mostly from various and sundry spent fireworks, littered everywhere. For a US American who likes tidiness up to a certain point, a tidiness that doesn’t include obsessiveness, it was a sight to behold!

On my walk, I ran into a neighbor who wasn’t as enthused about the celebrative noise as most Swiss. After asking about how I slept, she went on a tirade against the festivities of the night before. She said her dog went berserk with every bang, and she imagined that the many babies in the neighborhood weren’t very impressed either. She probably has her house in pristine order.
Decorated Old Town of Aarberg

Monday, July 24, 2017

Melding of Heritages: A Swiss/Latino Hybrid

With few exceptions, everyone wants to know where they come from, i.e., their heritage. This is especially true of those of us who are children of immigrants in the United States. During this past year in Switzerland, I have been steeped in discovering my own ancestral roots. From the Alpine foothills near Schwartzenburg and the Gürbetal Valley near Wattenwil, the Wengers, the Hersheys and the Horsts were pushed into the deep crevices of the Emmental Valley. Constantly pursued by Bernese Authorities, they moved on to the Palatinate in Germany, and finally settled in the USA after years of uncertainty. The Clemmers (Clymer, Kleiner, Klymer) came from the region of Zürich.

The Hohgant Ridge near where the Emme River begins.
I travelled the Emmental (Emme River Valley) both literally and in my readings from the beginnings of the Emme River near Kemmeriboden-Bad under the majestic Hohgant Ridge, to Burgdorf with its majestic fortress on a hill overlooking the Emme River. The whole area at one time was riddled with Anabaptists. Our travels included the castle in Trachselwald were my forbearers were held in prison, and the Anabaptist Hideout where the Frankhauser family concealed Anabaptists in a hidden chamber in their barn while Bernese “Anabaptist hunters” pursued them.

I discovered that one part of my family had been Anabaptist since 1591, making me a tenth generation Anabaptist. That same family came to the USA in 1731, and eight generations of that family still live in the original house in Lancaster County. My Clemmer relative supposedly arrived in the USA in 1730 in the same wave of Anabaptist immigrants, making me an eighth generation Anabaptist in the USA.

All of this family history has made me feel rooted, understanding where I’ve come from, and some of the idiosyncrasies of my cultural make up. There are times here in Switzerland when I meet someone, walk a certain road, or hear a piece of music that makes me feel an uncannily nostalgic bred-in-the-bone affinity to Switzerland.

In the middle of this journey to find my roots, I received a message from the director of the Latino Student Alliance at Eastern Mennonite University. They wanted to invite me to be the keynote speaker for the kickoff of their Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. I was delighted to accept, while protesting that I am not Latino. “You are an honorary Latino,” was the response from the planning committee.

Lago Atitlán in Guatemala
Indeed, I have lived, worked, studied and related to Latinos more than eight years in the countries of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. I taught Spanish full- and part-time for over 30 years at two institutions in the USA. I served on Mennonite Central Committee’s East Coast board of directors for six years. During that stint with MCC, I caucused with the Latino representatives, sometimes translating, often serving as a liaison. We shared our stories with each other, laughed and worked together for a cause that transcended our heritages. They fully accepted me into their circle as one of them.

To say that I was not affected or influenced by my exposure to the Latino cultural heritage is to ignore reality. Once while attending a party of mostly Latinos, a non-Spanish speaking participant friend of mine remarked after the party: “You seem to have a different personality when you speak Spanish.” This was a totally new and intriguing thought to me.

Do I have two distinct personalities that weave in and out of the cultural situations in which I find myself? One Latino and one Swiss-American? If this is so, am I schizophrenic?

I would rather believe that I have learned to meld the two heritages together into a hybrid personality that functions in whatever particular culture I am in. This melding does not make me two-faced, or a doppelganger, but rather an example of what has potential to be an emerging culture in the USA.

As evidenced by many posts on the recent MCUSA Convention in Orlando, there are still numerous cultural divides that separate rather than meld together. An example of this comes from a Latina friend of mine who is the most acculturated Latina Mennonite I know. She wrote on Facebook while on her way to the Convention: “The white people in this shuttle have identified each other as Mennonite, and have left me out of this conversation. So therefore, I think they think I'm here on some other business.” The Swiss, German, Dutch, Russian-American heritage white card left my Latina friend excluded. I have heard many similar stories.

Our church has much to learn about the melding of heritages, and our racially divided country even more. My hope is that my church can become an example, a witness, to the power of the Gospel to meld cultural heritages. Even though Paul was “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5) he became the apostle to the Gentiles, crossing and melding cultural heritages “becom[ing] all things to all people in order to save some” (1. Cor. 9:22). There has been some progress, but we have a long way to go.

The Latino Student Alliance accepted me as an “honorary Latino.” I felt that the Latino Caucus at MCC did the same. How soon will we be ready to invite non-European heritage people into our midst as not just “honorary Mennonite/Christians,” but fully accepted as equals? 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Informalization of Swiss Ways

Many years ago during the first year I lived in Switzerland, Esther and I took a four-day bus trip to Holland with a group of mostly farmers from the Emmental Valley. We addressed each other as Mr. so-and-so, and Mrs. so-and-so, and used the formal “you” conjugation of the verb.  On the final evening of our tour, we stopped for dinner in Rüdesheim, a wine-growing region along the Rhine River in Germany. The restaurant was proud to show off its regional wines and it flowed freely among our fellow passengers. After about the third round of toasts, people started giving each other their first names. From now on we could use the informal “Du” to address each other. A little wine was all it took to break down the social barriers. We were now on a first-name basis.

I always thought it was a bit ironic, since I never met any of our fellow passengers again to exercise this newfound intimacy. Meanwhile, others I met on almost a daily basis were still held at arm’s length with formal address. Usually you have to wait until the person in the higher social position invites you to use the informal you.

This year we have experienced a newfound freedom to do away with this awkward (in my US American point of view) social custom. We have visited eight different churches so far, and attended numerous meetings and seminars in different localities where we have met hundreds of people. In the vast majority of cases upon introducing ourselves, the Swiss person would immediately give their first name, inviting us to use the informal “you” form with them. I find this an interesting example of the “informalization” of Swiss ways.

Another area of change has been in the normal greeting given when passing someone on the street or on a hike. In the past, you never walked past someone without giving a greeting: “Good morning,” “Greetings to you,” or “Good evening” depending on the time of the day. Arriving here this time, I began to greet people the way I had in the past. Most people responded accordingly, but many seemed surprised by the greeting, like they weren’t expecting it. Usually I initiated the greeting, so I experimented by waiting for the other person to give the greeting first. More often than not, I didn’t get a greeting. Perhaps there are regional differences, but I found this to be another interesting example in the “informalization” of Swiss ways.

Finally we come to the kiss. It used to be customary for you to greet friends or relatives with a kiss on the cheek when meeting them: men to women, women to women, but not men to men. Actually, it was three kisses, starting on the left side, moving to the right side, and then returning to the left side again. Or is it the other way around? Although the kissing ritual is still done, especially among older people, I have discovered that it is not necessarily expected anymore. It is often replaced with a hug; even among men. I find this to be another example of the “informalization” of Swiss culture.

I am sure there are many factors involved in the informalization of Swiss ways. Perhaps it is the ubiquitous global youth culture, spread by music, movies and social media. Perhaps it is simply the natural evolving of a culture. However, not all Swiss ways changing, as I observed in a former blog post, “Bumbling through Swiss Social Conventions.”

Whatever the cause of what changes and what does not, I find it interesting to observe over the course of the 37 years that I’ve lived and traveled in Switzerland.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gelassenheit: Parsing of a Spiritual Journey

My brother-in-law recently showed some footage of a family gathering in Switzerland many years ago. In the video, I was on a reclining lawn chair, trying to be oblivious to what was going on around me. My two kids were having the time of their life cavorting with their Swiss cousins. Unfortunately, the grimace on my face revealed that I wasn’t exactly having the same delight as my children.

I was in my early forties when this was filmed. I was working on construction during my summer off from teaching in order to pay for our trip to visit relatives in Switzerland. The weather was hot, and the work was demanding, both physically and with a language that was not my native tongue. Even though the job that awaited me back at home was better than pounding nails and driving screws, I was getting increasingly restless with it. My life seemed out of control. I was in great need of “Gelassenheit.”

“Gelassenheit” is a term from the German that is often used to describe a quality of life of the Anabaptists, the radical arm of the Reformation in Europe in the 16th Century. There have been numerous attempts to translate what this term means as related to the Anabaptist life and practice.

In chapter eight of our book The Spacious Heart, I write extensively about the concept of Gelassenheit. I cite this as part of the discussion: “According to the Global Anabaptist Encyclopedia Online,” I write, “these are the multiple meanings of the word: ‘self-surrender, resignation in God’s will, yieldedness to God’s will, self-abandonment, the (passive) opening to God’s willing, including the readiness to suffer for the sake of God, also peace and calmness of mind.’”

These definitions are all wonderful descriptions of spiritual qualities that as Christians, we would do well to emulate.  However, if you look the word up in a modern English/German dictionary, you won’t find any of these definitions. The first word that normally appears is “serenity.” So perhaps for better understanding, a little parsing of the word would be helpful.

“Gelassen” is the past participle of the verb “lassen,” which means “to leave [behind]” and “to let [allow].” An interesting side note. Eastern Pennsylvania, where I grew up, was preponderantly settled by German speakers. To this day, because of the influence of the German, English speakers from this area have a hard time distinguishing between “to let” and “to leave.”

“Gelassen” can also be used as an adjective. As such it means: “unhurried, calm, easy-going.” I would add “laid-back.” This gets a little closer to the spiritual qualities of the Anabaptists listed above, especially self-abandonment. Adding the suffix “heit” to “gelassen” turns our adjective into a noun, like turning the English adjective “helpful” into the noun “helpfulness” by adding the suffix “ness.” The suffix here turns helpful into, “the state or quality of being helpful.

For the purpose of this blog, I would like to define “Gelassenheit” as “the state or quality of being easy-going or laid-back.”

Until my middle twenties, I was considered to be easy-going and carefree. In fact, I was often criticized for not taking life seriously enough. I was the book definition of “Gelassenheit”. This all changed when I was confronted with the realities of poverty and oppression that I experienced during my years as a volunteer in Central America. I became a cynical, bitter adult, suppressing my anger at not being able to do much about the situation of my friends. Becoming a father and career responsibilities added to my becoming more “uptight” than “easy-going.” These realities caused the grimace on my face in the home video mentioned earlier.

To deal with my spiritual crisis, I did years of inner work, looking for the source of my restlessness, and finding my inner God image and likeness. Numerous forms of prayer, meditation, dream work, contemplative walking, and other forms of inner work, helped me to return to what God made me to be, rather than what the outer world forced on me. In our book that I mentioned earlier, I write extensively about these processes.

Recently, my wife Esther and I were returning from another family visit. We had a wonderful time with her family, visiting, joking and just enjoying the moment. I innocently asked her if she noticed any change in my demeanor at such family reunions. “Absolutely,” she said without needing to think about it. “You are not nearly as uptight.” I’ve become more easy-going and laid back. I returned to the Gelassenheit of my youth.

The spiritual journey I was on, however, was not an overnight victory. It took years of difficult confrontation with my inner demons. People who fail to do the necessary inner work remain angry and resentful well into their old age. It doesn’t take much effort to see the grimaces on faces you pass along the way. Unfortunately, they far outnumber the faces that reflect the image and likeness of God.

Perhaps I haven’t gained all the qualities of Gelassenheit mentioned in the Global Anabaptist Encyclopedia I cited above. However, my parsing of the word, and parsing of my spiritual journey, show that I have come a remarkable way.

Solo Dei gloria