Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jake, the Mennonite, Strays at the Beach

According to Espiritu Paz, "Sarasota is the Amish-Mennonite retirement capital of the USA." Here is a modern parable set in Sarasota, written by someone in the Amish-Mennonite tradition. The parable is called The Prodigal Beachy.

A certain rich Beachy farmer had two sons, and they lived in the land of Holmes County. Now the farmer, whose name was Amos Beiler (cousin to Sam Beiler from Plain City, who I think you all might know) lived quite happily in Holmes County for many years, and his two sons had now Come of Age.

(By “Come of Age” I refer, of course, to the Amish Mennonite system of family finance, in which you give your parents all (or a vast majority) of your money, until you Come of Age at 18 or 20 or 21 or 45, whichever your parents decide. In exchange, the parents will buy you your first buggy/car and maybe some furniture when you get married, but if you would have kept all your money, you could have got that yourself, and probably paid off the house to boot, but that’s beside the point. But back to the story…)

Now when the two brothers had Come of Age, the younger brother, Jake Beiler, said to his father, “Verily, Father, now that I am Come of Age, I want to journey to Sarasota, Florida, on vacation, and since some of the youth group is going down over the same time, it could be a great bonding experience.” His father did not think too highly of this idea, but hey, now it was his son’s money, and he didn’t think he could interfere, since that was the only control he had ever had over his son in the first place. Besides, they had some Relatives down there, so he said “I guess we could make arrangements with your aunt, Mabel Hostetler (from Gap Mills), since she has a house down there, you could just stay there, and it would all be peachy.” So that’s what they decided to do.

And Jake journeyed to Sarasota to sojourn for two months. And when his youth group was come unto the place, and he saw their manner of attire, that it was not Beachy. Then said he in his heart, “Yea, is this not the manner of Sarasota? For verily, I can come hither, and wear all manner of T-shirts and shorts, and get a full body tan, and the bishop can say nothing to me, for I am a stranger and pilgrim in a different land. Oh, what fun!” And so Jake went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on many shorts and every manner of striped and checkered and flowery T-shirts, and said in his heart, “Now no man shall know that I am Beachy.”

So Jake ventured daily to the beach to tan, and talk to the Beachy girls (who had also discovered the principles of Floridian immodesty and bishop noninvolvement). For all the visiting Beachys had cast off standards of every kind, and did wear bathing suits of very immodest varieties, and did participate in mixed swimming and beach volleyball, and journeyed to the spring training camps, as though they supposed God could not see them in Florida as well as in Holmes County.

But then came the time when most of the visiting youth went home. And Jake was left alone in that strange country, with no friends, for yet another month. And he was tired of tanning, and besides, all the girls from his youth group had gone home, so it was rather pointless anyway. There was nobody with whom to play beach volleyball, for all the Beachys had gone home. And his conscience was pricked when he thought of all the things he had done, for he had wasted his money on riotous living, but now that it was over, he felt a vast emptiness in his life. And so he went to Wal-Mart and bought a four-pack of Amp, some Full Throttle, and a country music CD, and therewith he tried to drown out his troubles. So the next morning, after all the country music and energy drinks were spent, he came to a conclusion. “This is really dull,” he said, “So I will go home, where at least there are enough people to play a game of Rook or something.” And so he packed up his car, and started home. When he had gone for about 3 hours, he began to get a bit tired of driving, and definitely needed some different music. So he stopped at Wal-Mart to get a couple cases of Red Bull and No Fear, and a little Nos, and some snacks. He also picked up several more country albums, and hit the road again, ready to go.

He drove on. Caffeine and country music kept him awake and on the road (for the most part at least). He didn’t stop for anything but gas. Jake loudly sang along with Kenny Chesney, extolling the merits of his attractive farm equipment. Down the road he sped, feeling on top of the world, at the peak of a caffeine-induced high. At this point he had enough caffeine in his blood stream to kill a small raccoon, and his body reacted accordingly. He couldn’t focus on one thing, but tried to look everywhere simultaneously, taking in the other cars, the road, signs, towns, mile markers, headlights, tail lights, flashing red and blue lights…

Flashing red and blue lights! Jake’s unnaturally bright eyes saw them in the rearview mirror. He was tempted to take the advice of Dierks Bentley and cut through the corn field. He would have done just that, except the field next to the road was soybeans. He pulled over to the side of the road, with the police cruiser right behind him.

As the officer checked his license and registration, Jake’s mind reeled, trying to invent an excuse for whatever the cop might have stopped him for, trying to make the fried circuits of his brain connect with some relevant fact. Nothing. Finally the officer came back and said, “You were doing quite a bit of weaving back there. Have you been drinking any alcohol this evening?”

“No sir,” Jake said, “Just a couple energy drinks.”

“Mind if I check out the car?” the officer asked.

“Go ahead,” Jake consented. He stepped from the car and watched the officer rummage through the 5 or 6 empty cases of energy drinks in the back. His hands shook, partially from nervousness but mostly from all the energy within. At last the officer came out.

“You certainly can be glad there is no limit on caffeine and country music, or you’d be in jail for quite some time,” said the officer. “As it is, I think I’ll let you off with a warning, but slow down, and stay in your lane.” Jake thanked the officer. He got in and drove the rest of the way home. He was beginning to feel a little queasy, and his mind was starting to fog up. He reached home in a near-zombie state, and collapsed into his own bed.

The next morning brought Jake a clear mind but an upset stomach. He was glad to be home again, but his stomach was in absolute rebellion against the variety of energy drinks that he had imposed upon it. His whole body still felt jittery from the caffeine of the day before. And he could turn on the touch lamp on his night stand from a foot away. Yes, Jake had finally learned two of the greatest lessons in life.

Energy drinks and Country music do not mix in large quantities.

Neither do Beachys and Sarasota, Florida.

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