Ira Wagler says forgiveness has made his relationship with his Amish family better than ever.
In a follow-up to his New York Times bestseller Growing Up Amish, Wagler has a new book out, titled Broken Roads: Returning to My Amish Father, where he recounts his reconciliation with his father, family, and heritage after he walked away from the Amish culture over 30 years ago. The author, from Aylmer, Ontario, explores his difficult reunion, his confrontations, betrayals, and questions with faith and identity.
Like his bestselling book, Wagler unapologetically gives readers insight into the Amish community through his lens after leaving, returning to his Amish father, and how they might mend the broken roads between them before it's too late.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with the popular blogger and speaker’s, in which Wagler shares how forgiveness made his once broken relationships with his family better than ever despite trading the Amish lifestyle for a modern one.
Christian Post: How did the inspiration for your new book, Broken Roads, come about?
Wagler: It was a long process, but I realized some years ago that my next book would be about my father. Since my life has consisted of many broken roads, that title seemed fitting.
CP: Can you briefly share your journey to forgiving your family and returning to your father?
Wagler: I don’t know that it was so much me forgiving my family as it was me seeking forgiveness from my family. It seems like when you stay focused on your own flaws instead of the flaws of others, then many good things, including forgiveness, can flow from that.
CP: Was your family forgiving as well? How is your relationship with them now?
Wagler: We have all forgiven each other, yes. We have reached the age where old differences just don’t make much sense anymore. And we all have love and forbearance for each other. My relationship with all my siblings, Amish and non-Amish, could not be better. We genuinely care for each other.
CP: How does someone who is Amish have a genuine relationship with someone who is no longer practicing the Amish lifestyle?
Wagler: I suppose it all comes down to community “standards” or rules. The plainer a community gets, the harsher the shunning when you leave. I came from a much more moderate type of Amish. Shunning was part of my experience, but we were always welcomed home, if only for short stays. We were welcomed and never disowned. There’s a big, big difference in the degree of harshness from level to level, from Amish community to Amish community.
CP: In going back through your life, what are some things you believe are benefits in the Amish culture that everyone else can learn from?
Wagler: All the old style values, of course. Faith, family, etc. The one I’m most grateful for is probably the work ethic. Young Amish children are taught simple chores from the time they can walk. From a young age, they expect to work for a living. They expect nothing they haven’t earned. This simple code is increasingly rare in western culture.
CP: Do you believe you've followed God's plan for your own life despite what the Amish community might think about someone who has left?
Wagler: I don’t worry too much about “God’s plan for my life.” I try to live the Gospel and reflect Christ’s love. I don’t have to be talking about it all the time. Anyone can claim anything. I have long ago quit wondering what the Amish think about what I write. A lot of them read my stuff, my blog, mostly. Some of them respect me. Some don’t. That’s fine because that’s the market.
CP: What advice do you have for others who have grown up in strict religious backgrounds to pursue their own calling in God amid resistance?
Wagler: Each situation has its own specifics. Some places are harder to break free from than others. If it’s possible, I advise any person who wants to leave to wait until they are at least 18. If you’re a legal adult, that simplifies things. And then, you might have to make some hard choices. No one can choose for you, whether to go or stay. Life is not fair. I try to live by a simple formula. Trust God. Walk free. Don’t be afraid.