Ancient History 303: I Learn A New Word, See Another World
When I was 13 my folks bought a cafe/store/post office in a small town on the Trans-Canada Highway. When I was sixteen I became interested in a certain grain buyer who ran one of the grain elevators in this town. We spent quite a bit of time together that spring, but then his company transferred him to Manitoba and I asked him, “What about us?”
And he said, “Well, I guess we should get married.” So we set a date for the next summer, followed through with it as planned and I became Mrs. Robert Goodnough.
Bob had an interesting mixture of religion in his background. His Mom had been raised in a Mennonite group, but left that faith when she married Dad, a Methodist born in Iowa, who came up with his father and brothers to homestead in southern Sask.
Something in the Mennonite faith –what little he knew of it– appealed to Bob and he read a bit about the doctrines that Mennonites historically stood for. He told me soon after we started dating that he wanted to be a Mennonite but he didn’t really know for sure what it involved; he only had a conviction that this was where he should go.
I’d never even heard the word Mennonite, so I was clueless on that account. Neither of us were born again at this point and our knowledge of living a true Christian life was limited, but I thought myself a Christian and I did pray. When Bob talked of marriage I prayed to God for some kind of sign that this was the thing to do. I’d seen some pretty unhappy – and pretty violent – marriages; it seemed too important a step to be undertaken outside of the will of God. God gave me a precious assurance that this was the right thing to do – and I’ve needed that assurance over the years as the trials and troubles of married life came along.
So we were married August 1st, 1970 and our first home was in southern Manitoba. My husband lucked out here with his interest in Mennonites, as southern Manitoba is full of “Russian Mennonites”, including some of his relatives. His mother was born not far from where we now lived.
(Briefly, what we refer to as “Russian Mennonites” are the descendants of Christians who left their native Holland in the 1600’s because of severe persecution. They settled in Germany where others joined their group, then moved on to Russia in the 1700’s at the invitation of Catherine the Great. There they settled on colonies in the Ukraine and enjoyed prosperous years. But being off to themselves they became a culture and in time lost their fervent spirituality.
However, when the Russian government threatened to withdraw their privileged CO status in the late 1800’s a lot of them came to Canada at the invitation of the Canadian government, settling in two blocks of land in southern Manitoba. As families grew and more land was needed, they moved on across the prairies, into BC, and finally all over the country. They arrived as farmers; by now their descendants have entered many professions and have split into a number of different churches as well as joined other – mostly Protestant Evangelical – groups.)
A number of months after we were married we began attending one of the Mennonite churches in a farming community south of where we lived. We even applied for baptism there; however, they hesitated to baptise us because we had been baptised as children. (I was baptised as a baby; Bob was nine.) This perplexed us; we knew the traditional Mennonite faith taught “believer’s baptism.”
We began attending another church of the same denomination, but there was trouble between the pastor and the congregation. When this pastor left and went to another nearby church (same denomination) we went along, for we liked him and thought he was doing a good work. It was there that we were finally baptised on Thanksgiving Day, 1972. We had to give a confession of faith and Bob’s was clear, for he truly had been converted just before we were married. As I said in yesterday’s post, I confessed my belief in God but I’d never read James 2:19!
An incident happened that summer, an eye-opener that gave me a different look at my world. Don, a fellow from our new church, invited us to go along to the exhibition. He was wanting to take a young lady on a sort-of date, but he was prudent and wanted the company of another couple, so we went along.
As a child I’d been to the Ex every year; often my siblings and I spent several days wandering around, seeing the sights, enjoying the rides. I loved it. Now here we were, Bob & I and Don & his new friend; we paid our money and entered the gate. I was set to enjoy myself, but we’d no sooner stepped inside when something strange happened to my vision.
My eyes took the scene before me: the flashing lights of the midway, the side shows, all the glitz and the noise. Suddenly my perspective completely shifted; for an instant it was as if I saw this setting through God’s eyes — and it looked like cheap glittering tinsel, empty thrills, a total waste of money on worthless trash. Vanity Fair.
I look at this revelation now as being like the first kick of a baby on the way to being born. It was my first inkling that there was something else, another way of seeing things, a carnal perspective versus a spiritual perspective. That God may see a lot of our “fun” as pure vanity.
That was the last time we ever went to the Ex. I’ve never again wanted to. It’s just so empty.