Desiring to find truth at any cost, Annemarie found God

Annemarie Arnold

Annemarie Arnold 1909–1980

The only girl at the German boarding school for boys run by her father, Dr. Christian Otto Wächter, Annemarie spent a carefree and happy childhood. Then adolescence hit, and with it, a precocious and persistent search for truth. “And what is God, then?” Annemarie asked her diary in 1929.

I don’t know whether I believe in him or don’t. I’m not able to pray. I have only read about him. I would rather be an atheist than be like this. There must be something that can rend my heart and take hold of me. 

While studying to become a kindergarten teacher, she met Emy-Margret Arnold, the daughter of Eberhard and Emmy Arnold, founders of the Bruderhof. After visiting in 1930, Annemarie wrote to Emy-Margret:

You may ask me: What do you believe in? Do you believe in God, in Christ, in the good, or in anything else? All I can say is, I don’t know. I do know that at the Bruderhof you claim to believe in Christ’s message – in the possibility of community of all people in one Spirit – and act accordingly; and there is reality and life behind this belief, and not a lot of meaningless philosophical discussion. This makes me so happy.

Two years later she became a member of the community. Her decision was wrenching for her family, who had expected her to help run their school one day. Annemarie wrote home to her mother:

An experience of faith is always a personal, individual experience. Yet because of what it reveals of God’s nature – God, who is love – it brings alive the call to community. The isolation that characterizes society today simply does not allow people to live in true love and brotherliness. That kind of relationship can be fostered only in a communal way of life. 

In another letter, she replied to her mother’s suggestion that community life was an escape from the challenges of life in the “real world.”

There is a full knowledge here of the burden and bitterness of the Way, and no sweetly gushing piety. What I have found here is a Christianity of conviction and faith and therefore of selfless action, and that is what makes all the difference.

The Cause is so great that each one committed to it must be ready to surrender his personal “freedom” for the privilege of living for it. I can think of no future work that would be greater and more worthwhile than what I have found here.

The isolation that characterizes society today simply does not allow people to live in true love and brotherliness. That kind of relationship can be fostered only in a communal way of life.

And to her brother in 1932:

The essence of life here, to which I feel committed, is an awareness of the kingdom of God – and not just a kingdom existing far away in some vague fantasy land that will come at some undetermined point in time, but a kingdom that must be lived and realized here and now. It is not an ideology or a product of philosophical recognition and theoretical deliberation, and therefore is not dependent on the relativity of human research and thought. No, it can exist only in the living reality of deeds – in the visible result of all that we do. Only so does this kingdom correspond with the will of God. Because God himself is absolute reality.

Playing in the Cuckoo Woods, a favorite haunt of Darvell’s children

We wish to live in unity, social justice, brotherly surrender, and love. Unity is created through the power of the Holy Spirit: since God only reveals himself to people through the Holy Spirit’s working within us, we can only find a living, direct relationship to God in this way. However, this Spirit will, and must, bring about a very strong unity and unanimity – a profound community – among the people who have opened themselves to it. Life in community, therefore, is not something that is initiated and constructed by people, something that they can consequently just as readily abandon. People sought unity with God, and through it unity with one another was given to them. It would not be possible to build a community on human strengths and capabilities, as the countless unsuccessful intentional communities have shown. Life in community and unity is a gift of God to those who have made themselves ready to receive the working of his Holy Spirit.

Undisturbed time in nature is an important part of childhood.

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