Returning from Rumspringa

Returning from Rumspringa
Dr. Mark Aaron Humphrey

There is a well-known custom among the Amish whereby adolescents are encouraged to venture outside the confines of their community and experience what the outside world has to offer. If they find fulfillment there, they are free to leave their community and embrace the freedom of the outside world. If they choose to rededicate themselves to the Amish way, they are baptized as adults.

We see corollaries to this throughout the human narrative. Whether it’s the story of the prodigal son or the kid who ate too much Halloween candy, the principle behind rumspringa is pervasive. It’s so pervasive that I wonder why we so often fear it.

I can’t help but wonder if many aspects of our culture are returning from their collective rumspringas. So much seems to have been driven to excess only to collapse on the couch with a tummy ache. Another smoke machine will not improve the gospel. A bigger house won’t bring our family closer. All of our study will not explain the unexplainable. Hoarding food will not feed my neighbor.

Perhaps we can learn from the architecture of coastal Japan, where some structures are made to fall away in the inevitable storm. Where pouring deep foundations has proven to erode the very land it clings to. Maybe more is just more. It hasn’t proven to be enough.