Growing Up Amish : a Memoir by Ira Wagler

The Amish have always fascinated me. I find it amazing and wonderful that a group of people would voluntarily give up cars, televisions, telephones and other “worldly” things so they can focus on their community and their spiritual lives. However, I had never thought about what it would be like to actually be Amish.

Ira Wagler has changed that for me, now that I have read his very honest and moving memoir about being born into a Midwestern community of Amish.  Wagler makes it clear that there are many wonderful things about being part of such a close and supportive community. For example, when his brother Titus was paralyzed as a result of a diving accident in a farm pond, the members of their Aylmer, Ontario, settlement paid every penny of the $80,000 hospital bill.

However, as he grew into a young man, Ira felt confined by all the seemingly arbitrary rules.  His hair had to be an exact length and no longer, with no beard allowed till he married, and even then he was not permitted to grow a mustache. His horse-drawn buggy could have some modern conveniences but others were considered “sinful.” He could not have any “English” (non-Amish) friends but could only associate with them in business and non-personal ways.

Hardest of all for him was the fact that if he ever expressed any doubts or yearnings for anything outside his Amish world, he was met with platitudes like “Just decide to do what is right” or “Just straighten up and settle down.”

Ira left his community several times during his youth, searching for something to assuage his inner restlessness.  However, he kept coming back, even though he knew his inability to make up his mind was torturing both him and his family.

Finally, an Amish friend who was not born into the community but was a later convert helped Ira solve his inner dilemma. He realized that he had been motivated by fear rather than faith.  Now, finally, he began to address God not with formal prayers out of a book, but from the heart.  He realized that he could never “get it right” on his own, never make up for all the hurt he had caused others.  Only God in His redemptive love could do that.

Once Ira began to face the truth rather than running from it, he gradually gained the courage to make the decision that would determine his future. Will he stay and commit to being a member of the Amish for life? Or will he leave and face excommunication?

What I liked about Ira’s story was that we can all relate to it on some level.  At some point in our lives we have to face the truth about ourselves and for better or worse learn how to live that truth. That momentous step, though it can be painful, can also be the opening into empowerment and peace with ourselves.

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One Response to “Growing Up Amish : a Memoir by Ira Wagler”

  1. Roman Bartmes Says:

    Spirituality can be enhanced by always making sure that you have compassion for everyone. –

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