To every honourable man… “Thank you”

Recently, in the middle of a crazy situation involving sexual abuse, it struck me how blessed I am in our marriage. I told Tim that. Again. Our marriage isn’t not perfect, and we’ve had moments of ‘gasping for air’, so to speak, just to get through. Times it felt like we wouldn’t make it. But, thank God for grace, determination, forgiveness and the kind of love that fights through when feelings are weak and life is hard. And thank God Tim is so respectful. I’m blessed.

I’m blessed that with all the sexual perversions I see, that I can still look Tim full in the face and think, “What a sexy man of God!” (And I love his beard!) I add the ‘sexy’ part, not flippantly or even sensually, but because I truly am blessed that God has protected that ‘appeal’ in spite of all the sexual corruption I encounter when supporting victims. That is a real gift, because God intended sex to be a wonderful part of marriage, and I’ve heard of people becoming asexual when working closely with this kind of thing, or becoming so repulsed that it wrecks their marriage. So I am thankful that Tim is every bit as appealing to me today as he was 24 years ago when we made our vows.

The other thing that struck me, though, is that I see men as generally good-hearted, respectful and kind. A compliment gets a thank you. And a man who holds the door open also gets a thank you. There are gentleman in this world, who remember chivalry, and they deserve my respect and appreciation. (I also understand why some men are hesitant to hold the door). Even in my teens, a rebel among other things, I appreciated a sincere compliment. (That said, when compliments were sexualized, I responded with the lift of a finger. Just being honest.) When I think of the men I know and/or encounter, I feel respected and my general perception is that most are not corrupt to the core. I think most struggle sexually, with few exceptions. And those ‘exceptions’ are, no doubt, still tempted but have learned to turn their eyes away. Being tempted doesn’t make a person perverted or evil. It makes them human and dependent on grace. Falling into temptation also doesn’t make them perverted and evil. It makes them human and in need of grace. Excusing such behaviour, that’s a different ball game.)

That all got me to thinking about what it must be like to be a man. A few men in one community, church or club, can make the whole seem perverted and not trustworthy. If a sex predator aligns himself with that church, club or community to gain credibility or access to vulnerable people, then the whole lot become a bit suspect because victims really are not sure about their affiliates. Using those affiliations to gain public trust and respect of people and get access to vulnerable people is pretty low down. Because it makes them well buffered and virtually untouchable, and leaves victims 100% voiceless.

That is, until a few find a voice… and more find a voice and eventually the truth is revealed. But by that time the church, organization or ministry – and especially the other men there – will pay a high price for not having been more discerning and for (apparently) turning a blind eye. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t look the other way. Sometimes they were just too trusting.

Being a man suddenly isn’t that appealing. (In spite of the fact that, as a little Mennonite girl I desperately wanted to be male and thought surely God could still do a miracle and transform me into a male. If he can make babies from scratch, surely turning a girl into a boy wouldn’t be that hard. Boy, am I glad He didn’t, because it would be hard being a male in today’s world.) It isn’t appealing to me, but it is honourable when stewarded well. The strength of character it must take to be a good and honourable man, when those who are brutal and abusive shape how women see you, must be immense… and discouraging. That really struck me. And I thought about men, how I generally view them, and realized that percentage wise, they have a very good track record in my life.

In my ‘close’ experience the greater percentage have been kind, gentle, empowering and value their wives, and respect women in general. And then there is that small percentage who are cruel, controlling, abusive and demeaning. Some with strong religious affiliations and presenting a spiritual image, others with no such claims. But men, in general, are blamed and shamed, because to many victims all men represent what was done to them, so they trust none.

I was blessed. Men invested deeply in my healing. As much, if not more than women. But they played a different role. They didn’t ‘hold me’ to ‘give back’ what had been taken. (That wouldn’t have worked!) Sure, a few of them gave me healthy hugs, but they pointed me to Jesus, to God as my heavenly Papa, for Him to restore that brokenness, rather than trying to be that for me. They showed me I am valuable and worth caring for. They listened, but they let God be my Hero. And most of all they loved and respected their wives and daughters.

So, to every man who is honourable (even if imperfect), to every man who does not take advantage of vulnerable women, and every one who honours his wife and respects women in general… to every one who handles his sexuality well and does not use it against women and children: Thank you. (Even if you struggle and are tempted.) I respect you. You are noble. You are the unsung heroes of our time, and I can only imagine how hard it must be to not bow to shame and defeat on behalf of the abusers. I encourage you, hold your heads up, and don’t give in. We need you. You are the healing many of us need. We see you love your wives and children well. You give us hope for our children and grandchildren.

To honourable men: I am sorry I even need to write the blogs I write, speak out about the abuse…. I’m sorry for how that must, at times, make you struggle with your manhood. Know that I honour you, and I believe there are more of you (by far) in my world than there are abusers. And if I am wrong and you are outnumbered, I honour you yet more.

As always, and with deep honour for these men…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Behind Our Pulpits…

To everyone who submitted emails via “Behind our Pulpits” website, thank you for your emails. If you would please send an email again as there were technical issues that caused us to lose all contact information and email addresses. (Or simply forward your previous email again to: behindourpulpits (at) gmail (dot) com.

Our goal is not to bring destruction, but healing, hope and accountability. This accountability includes accountability to the laws of the land, and also includes a willingness (even preference for) working with Restorative Justice initiatives where victims voices are heard and included, and where offenders are offered support to help them overcome their addictions and remain accountable to a team of people upon release from prison.

We are not targeting ‘our people’ to destroy anyone (not even the culture), to shame anyone (not even the leaders or the culture), but to give victims who are terrified to speak out a safe place to be heard. The power under which many victims function is suffocating. And in a purity culture of silence, the shame and consequences for speaking out make it all but impossible for victims to break free and find a voice. Advised to take medications (by leaders, family and friends) while held in that silence, is deadly. The spirit dies. The soul dies. The mind goes insane. Or numb. Everything goes numb.

Medications have a place, but they are not the answer, and the number of victims barely surviving, popping pills but speaking to no one, is tragic. It is also unnecessary. If you are a victim, I encourage you to find the courage to speak out. We will support you as much as possible in helping you find the supports you need. Those who want people ‘on the inside’ (leaders and lay people in the conservative Anabaptist church) we can connect you to these leaders. We trust them, and we are confident you can too. Those who wish for support only outside of the culture, we will honour that.

But you need to know, there are conservative leaders (none on our team, as that would prove intimidating for many victims) whom we know are 100% supportive of you and who will fight for you. They are amazing, godly men and women who are real ‘Jesus people’. Yes, in their straight-cut, plain suits, and black hats, and their wives in cape dresses, white coverings and black bonnets… they are there rooting for you and fighting for you. They pray and they care. They don’t ever need to know what you are going through (nor will we disclose your info to them) but you need to know that they are among you. That is true in Ontario, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Virginia and beyond. We are not asking you to trust them, or have any interaction and (it bears repeating) we won’t leak any info to them. But you deserve to know there are those who sit in your pews who bless what we (Behind Our Pulpits team) are doing, as well as the work of Generations Unleashed. (Those who oppose and hate us are repeatedly (and eventually) often exposed for sexual sin and/or hiding it for family or friends.)

God is moving on the inside… He has heard the prayers and cries of many, many wounded and their families, and is keeping His promise in Habakkuk, that he will do a thing that we would not have believed if someone had told us. Early in ministry, a conservative Mennonite woman sent me those verses and said God showed her that in relation to our ministry to victims. I still have her note. And I still believe that God is doing just that.

To this end, I pray…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Pt 2: Religious leaders are NOT untouchable! How we can stop them…

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men,
with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong.
If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power,
increasing as the power increases.
Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
~ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton ~

****

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

But God…

How I love those words. But God… He is gracious. He is kind. He is loving. He is for the brokenhearted and wounded. And He is a fierce and gentle Warrior. He has no room for abuse and victimization of the vulnerable in His Kingdom. He says He will cast down the arrogant and judge those who abuse their power. Those who do and justify these things are not affiliated with His kingdom. And those who cover these sins and silence victims do not represent anything of the heart of God or the life of Christ.

While God will not hold on forever, He is patient. He is loving. He is the Redeemer. He is the Restorer. And He will give even these offenders opportunity to come clean, to bring their own sins to Light and receive His grace and forgiveness.

But God’s process will not fall in line with the constitution.

He moves in Truth, Justice and Mercy… And He is calling…

But, having deceived many, betrayed many, violated some physically and sexually, and many spiritually, it is not enough for these leaders to fall on your knees and say sorry to God while you continue lying to the public and deceiving them. That is neither repentance nor receiving God’s grace. That is self-preservation. And what abusers try to hide, God will expose… or they will accidentally expose. Most offenders, no matter how skilled, make fatal mistakes in their cover-up plans and God is using those fatal flaws to expose them.

When King David had a man killed so he could have Bath Sheba, he thought he had a pretty good ‘secret’ going on. Shameless murder and the victimization of another man’s wife by the most powerful man in the country. But God…

God sent the Prophet Nathan to expose the sin, and when the prophet spoke, King David got it about repentance. Really got it! He, as king, humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes and let the whole nation know that he had sinned. There were no justifications or excuses. Never did he blame Bath Sheba. (Who was naked, by the way, never mind dressed to constitution standards). He owned his sin so he could give it over to God, and he understood it was his duty to protect her. And that is what we need from these leaders.

God has sent “Nathan” to some of you leaders, a ‘prophet’ to confront your sin, and you have lied, rejected and further covered up your sins and crimes. But God… He will not leave it at that. He’s not done, and the empire of lies is transparent; glass smeared with blood, but there are places exposed. And you still have the opportunity to take ownership for your sins, vindicate your victims, and repent.

Enough with blaming how she dressed. When it’s a male victim, whose fault is it then? (And please not the ‘he/she is troubled line! That’s all the more responsibility on you to protect them!) Enough accusing her of lying when you know the strangle hold of power you have over her and what she had to overcome to even tell one soul. Enough of all else except personal ownership, repentance and seeking help… Let the King David humility rise up…

If you are a spiritual leader (teacher, pastor, ministry leader, boys’ ‘rehab‘ centre support staff, Sunday school teacher, or other) – no matter how conservative or how not conservative – and you have committed sexual crimes and sins, whether against a child, a teen or a woman – I am committed to helping you get the help you need. (Yes, the law will be involved, no I will not keep a secret, but my motive is not destruction and I will walk gently even with you.) You don’t have to carry this to your grave, and your victim(s) surely should not have to! The first email I received from a pastor who had offended early in his life, came unsolicited in 2011 or 2012 from out of country. It was so shocking I fell to my knees and wept, and prayed for him and his victim, and prayed for wisdom. I then coached him through appropriate steps to take. I can tell you this, if you come forward and deal with your sins properly, which includes not covering for yourself or making excuses, you will fare much better than if it gets reported, whether by one, or a hundred and one victims. While I don’t expect a flood of these emails, I welcome them. Send an email here or visit this link and fill in the form: Pastors & Leaders Self-Reporting Sex Offences.

If you are a victim of sex crimes, molestation and abuse at the hands of a church leader or ministry leader in a conservative Anabaptist church, and you feel voiceless, I (and others with me) are committed to supporting you in finding the help you need. I am not a counsellor, and as a mentor I have limited time available, but there are people who can help you. I am committed to supporting as many of you as possible in finding your voice and offering you a place to expose your leaders without your names being made public, and helping you find the support you need. If numerous allegations come against a particular person, you will be contacted to ask if you are willing to have allegations investigated. Your name will not be forwarded to anyone without your consent to do so. If you wish to connect and share your story, please visit this link: I Was Abused By An Anabaptist Church Leader, Teacher or Ministry Worker and fill out the form. (Ministry workers includes any staff at any Anabaptist organizations, whether missions, residential facilities where offenders are sent, schools, Bible schools and all religiously affiliated organizations, whether male or female. I know this is a problem in those organizations). If information submitted is unclear, or vital details are missing, you will be contacted for clarification. You will also be contacted to see ask what support you most need, and we will do our best to connect you with the appropriate people and resources for healing.

If you are a counsellor, police officer, or social worker – or any other professional –  wiling to be a resource for victims and/or offenders and are committed to confidentiality (except in the case of crime, risk to self or others, or involving minors), and if you are willing to serve conservative Anabaptist people, please scroll down to the ‘Contact Us’ section of this link: BehindOurPulpits. Before being connected with victims or offenders, to volunteer or offer counseling, someone will check your credentials, and you will need to go through an interview process before you are recommended to these exceptionally vulnerable victims.

As the magnitude of the problem looms before me, I am hopeful that some will do the right thing, and expose their own crimes and face consequences. I am also hopeful that as leaders rise up within who will be like Esther, and as more and more victims come forward and find a voice, those who have hidden behind their facades and the pulpit, will be crowded out of leadership roles by their own sins. As this happens, more and more godly leaders will rise up in their places. And I am deeply hopeful that as a result many victims will find healing, and offenders will find help for their addictions, forgiveness for theirs sins, and face the consequences of their crimes without excuse.

To this end I pray…

****

DISCLAIMER: This idea was birthed (and discussed publicly) in 2016, through my work with victims through Generations Unleashed and the growing awareness that leaders victimizing their ‘flock’ and denying allegations is too common, leaving the victims with no voice. The information collected will be used to offer support to victims and connect them to resources, to hold offenders accountable, and to work in cooperation with law enforcement as required. The data will not be publicized or used for any other purposes, research or otherwise, without the explicit consent of contributors. All cases involving minors will immediately be turned over to appropriate authorities.

NOTE: I apologize that active support needs to be limited to my conservative Anabaptist culture. There are unique dynamics we deal with as victims in these cultures, and it is the area to which I am called and where I have most connections and am most equipped to help. That said, I welcome your messages, no matter who you are or where you are from, and will do what I can, but cannot commit to helping everyone find resources and support.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Pt 1: Are religious leaders (who offend sexually) untouchable?

One of my favourite things about university has been the freedom to guide my own path in the area of research. Returning to studying after years of experience it was critical that it fit with my work with sexual violence in religious communities. For most projects and all research I chose to look at various aspects of religion and crime – mostly sexual abuse – in a variety of contexts, including Latter Day Saints, Orthodox Judaism, and conservative Anabaptists. I grew up in a series of conservative Mennonite churches – thanks to parents who never found peace in any of the ones we tried – so I am not unfamiliar with the terrain of religion. But I was shocked by the similarities in function between other fundamental religious groups and my background. We are not the only ones structured to protect top leaders.

At first I questioned if it was actually structured that way (on purpose) or if it was merely the inadvertent and inevitable outcome of ultimate power given to bishops and leaders. But after a bit of digging and searching for answers, I concluded some are intentionally structured to make leaders untouchable. Why? I am not certain, beyond the need to make the religious culture look perfect and maintain image. (To see how this plays out in the Orthodox Jews, read Michael Lesher’s: Shonda and Concealment). And then there is this notion that those called to ministry are just a bit more sacred and holy than the rest. Here I would propose that the calling itself may be entirely holy, but the human executing that calling is entirely flawed, completely human and particularly vulnerable to corruption when placed at such a level.

Someone said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, or something close to that. I would echo that. Power that is accountable to no one is absolute power, and it absolutely is corrupt. No human gets to play God, be untouchable by those they lead, and still stay human and flawed in their own mind. That kind of power leads to grandiose thinking, narcissism and idolatry. When people who follow such a leaders start believing they have a special kind of ‘in’ with God, and maybe it’s okay for them to do things others can’t, rather than exposing leaders’ crimes, we have a real problem. And these were the testimonies of some of the women in the studies I read; rather than exposing crime they saw leaders are having ‘special permission’ from God. This matches what I’ve heard from victims I’ve worked with.

Every spiritual leader and person in ministry I’ve known is prone to failure and sin, myself included. We all have to repent. Every last one of us. Knowing many others, and knowing myself, I have concluded we are all the same. All human, just like you. All sinners saved by grace. We, like the Apostle Paul, do the things we don’t want to do and don’t get done what we want to do. But true leaders do not justify sin and crime in their own lives.

Do away with the pedestals. They are not stable and only stay up as long as people are willing to hold them up. On a pedestal repentance is difficult, as is facing consequences for sin and crime. There’s the fear that if people discover how broken and human we are they will be destroyed by our imperfection and lose their faith in God. Even in this we raise ourselves to a God-like-status. But it’s not truth. They’ll be fine, believe it or not, if they see our humanity. And if they aren’t, the perception of perfection is better crushed. It’s their one hope of replacing leaders with God, and giving God His rightful place.

So how do leaders rise to that place in the minds of (their) people? Because, let’s face it, none are ‘all that and a bag of chips’ once you get to know them. They may be wonderful and nice, and all, but they are human. And I’ve not met one that isn’t somehow selfish, no matter who they desire to be. Me included. We are all human; you and I, and on the same level.

I can’t speak to the ‘how’ of every religious community, but it struck me in my readings for the research I did, that it is a taught and controlled path to the top. A path carefully laid out in the constitutions and rule books, including Anabaptists and Orthodox Jews among others. Of course my ‘knowing’ from experience and observation also gave me insights other ‘outsiders’ wouldn’t see. (Regrettably, I cannot use the material from that research publicly at this time, t is also part of my PhD application package.)

Some church constitutions state that charges or allegations can only be brought against a church leader if there are several witnesses. If there is one thing sex offenders and child molesters know, it is to never leave room for witnesses. The lengths to which they go in planning and scheming, or their skill at taking advantage of the vulnerable person at hand, would leave room for little chance of ever having even one witness, let alone two. They are opportunistic, and have an uncanny ability to sniff out the vulnerable ones who have no voice.

Now take those skills, give them to a revered church leader who knows who is who, and what church families struggles with, and who is vulnerable, insecure, abused (by parents, spouse or teacher etc), and you have a perfect storm. When sex offenders and molesters become preachers and bishops, or ministry leaders, and especially if they have that lovable personality, they have access to victims with a reputation that is well fortressed. Offenders in church leadership are often very charismatic leaders who ‘love’ people, and are loved and worshiped by their followers. They have no need to defend themselves, because they have built their empire so that no one will believe the allegations, and the people will rise to their defence so they need only to sit back and watch as their voiceless victims scramble for someone, anyone to hear them.

These offenders will likely have made certain to have enough trusted relationships with the demographic of their victims who can vouch for them as respectful and safe, to ensure that allegations sound foolish and far-fetched. (For example, students are often shocked when the teacher is caught molesting because the teacher was respectful to most students. The ministry leader or minister who violates the vulnerable wives of the abusive men they help may have the respect of many of the wives of these men, having never made moves or crossed lines, thus making the rest sound ridiculous when they bring forward their allegations. And the leader who molests girls may leave his own daughters untouched, so that the whole family can vouch for him. You get the picture.)

These are skilled criminals, not people who ‘fall’ into affairs in leadership. These are not pastors, bishops and ministry leaders; they are wolves. They are predators. They are power-mongers with lust issues; lust for power and lust for sex. They excommunicate and ostracize those who fail to live up to the constitution, and excuse their own sin. They  have no regard for the sacredness of sex and God’s laws, not to mention the laws of the land. They rape, overpower, molest and lust… and excommunicate victims for not being silent. (In any case, if a leader molests or abuses someone, he/she should be removed and dealt with, even if only a one time offence. They are not safe in positions of power.)

The more these allegations against church and ministry leaders come to light, in various communities and churches, the more certain I am that one of the key sources of the larger problem is the result of corrupt leadership. Be that 20% of the leaders, or 50%, or 5%, it’s too many. And, unfortunately, those leaders who are pure of heart genuinely struggle to grasp that a fellow-leader would/could do such a thing, and they too write things off as false allegations made by a troubled church member. This needs to change.

And that leads me to the the next thing in the constitution… The word of a member in good standing, according to some constitutions, is to be taken over that of those who are not in good standing. It takes little imagination to see that sex abuse victims are often very troubled and don’t do ‘constitution following’ very well, making their testimony easy to write off. And those victims who are faithful constitution followers are silent, because that’s what the constitution sets up. Some state that members are to first attempt resolving issues directly with those who wronged them, before going to leaders, meaning victims must first face their offender before seeking help. They further state that once communion has been observed and peace is expressed, a matter is to be considered forgiven and done.

The way these things are structures make church leaders – especially bishops, but also prominent ministry leaders and lay members of good rapport – almost untouchable. And that perpetuates the crimes both at a leadership level and among the people. Almost untouchable…

But God…

But God is not done. He will expose. He will bring to light. And He will give voice to victims so that these wolves will be stripped of their facades, and they will stand naked in their sins. And more than giving them a voice He will be their voice and He will speak boldly. And then there will be no constitution to manage damage control. There will be no hiding. The truth will be revealed.

What excites me is that God is raising up leaders ‘among them‘ who will not be silent.  Leaders who will not look the other way, and who will hold them accountable and turn them over to the law. These leaders and their wives have reached out to me, internationally, and encouraged me to never quit, never give up… And God is also raising up a network of law enforcement workers across USA who are listening. They are seeing the patterns, the cover-ups and the crime in the name of God.

Reckoning day is coming…

And that doesn’t even begin to account for standing before God with these sins exposed, their covers blown.

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

(To be continued…)

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

24 years ago we made a vow…

Tim and I promised each other, twenty-four years ago today, that no matter what, come hell or high water, we would stay and fight for our marriage. Hell has come and the water has risen until it was so deep we had to learn to swim… or float… or doggy paddle; anything to keep our heads above water. We’ve struggled to hold true to those promises in various ways, and multiple times.

t&t126

Our first baby was born nine months, one week, one day and two hours after that ceremony. (But who’s counting? Especially when eight months and 3 weeks would have raised the eyebrows of more than a few.) In the 6 years that followed, God blessed us with five more healthy children, and carried us through losing two others. We cried. We misunderstood how the other grieves, and at times felt hopelessly lost in this thing we call marriage.

Over the years we both have been in situations at various times that, if we had been so inclined, could have led to infidelity and unfaithfulness. But we communicated and risked opening our hearts to each other. Sometimes it meant one of us seeing the risk the other was in, and sometimes it meant seeing it ourselves and together working through navigating those relationships… and ending them.

We’ve each failed the other. We’ve looked out for our own interests instead of the other. We’ve had to own our wrongs, and say “I’m sorry”. And, when we could have walked away from each other, always we chose to stay and forgive, and support each other.

We’ve had crises and challenges and blessings, all blended together into a sometimes confusing mosaic. But when I step back, I see beauty, love and grace. We’ve hurt each other and been disappointed, and wondered if we’d make it through. Yet we’ve never, even in the hell of life, stopped loving. Even in our ‘fights’ – such as they tend to be with both of us not liking conflict – we have kept our love alive. (Yes, you can be angry and love someone. You can hurt deeply, and love them. And you can look at them and say “I still love you… I just can’t keep doing life this way”.)

I am, by nature – or maybe because of past experience – a hedgehog with rhino tendencies. I extend grace, and more grace, and more grace, and then something tips the building blocks neatly stacked, and it all comes tumbling down. And when it all erupts, we haven’t much choice but to stumble through the mess on the floor and work through it. Tim is, by nature, a hedgehog. That’s how we did the first ‘many’ years of marriage, as two hedgehogs – one with rhino tendencies.

Gradually we have learned (and are learning still) that if we talk about things as they happen – which we have done times since all hell broke loose nearly two years ago -things are so much better. When I’m cranky, I take inventory about what’s happening to my heart. Sometimes it’s just hormones. (Seriously! this middle-aged stuff…!)  But it’s not all bad. As my naturopath Dr. Jim Farquarson told me, it’s a time when God invites us to the past and heals a lot of stuff that we’ve ignored. (Okay. I can do that!)  Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt it is the result of a subtle little thing that I’ve decided ‘isn’t a big deal’ because I want to be mature. Many times that works and such grace is good. But sometimes, if it lingers, the best thing for me to do is to tell Tim. I’ve learned that often if I tell him, it breaks that negative power, and it’s over “just like that!” with the little things that build up and cause explosions. So we have less and less ‘Mt. St. Helen’ moments in our marriage all the time, and more peace.

Through it all, we’ve never stopped holding and loving each other. Sure, a few times there were several days of space and distance while we sorted ourselves out, but rarely did that stop us snuggling, even if in silence, and often falling asleep in each other’s arms. That intimacy of physical closeness – with or without sex – has been critical to us thriving. (Please understand, Tim has never violated me physically or sexually. Not in word, not in deed, not in an affair, and not by using pornography. This deeply impacts my trust in physical touch. He has hurt me in other ways, but not sexually. If that is your marriage, I encourage you to seek help. And, in any case, please don’t compare with us. Every story is different.)

Our closest friends have seen our struggles, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t know if we’d have survived if we had kept it all secret. (Special thanks to these closest friends who knew the battles and loved us anyway. In part it is thanks to you we survived those times and came out thriving!) I’m good with confidentiality, but I’m not good at ‘hidden things’ and ‘secrets’, so having safe places to process hurt and anger has been a lifesaver for me, and for us. Twenty-four years later, I spend my life with my best friend because we pushed through those struggles, and are pushing through still.

Tim, you are my best friend. I can imagine my future a thousand different ways and be excited about it. From continuing in our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ life… to pursuing my PhD (scared as I feel at moments), or being rejected from the PhD program… From staying where we live now, to downsizing as our family continues to shrink… I can imagine staying home more, or working a 9 – 5 job, or pursuing my current line of work more – or some variation of it….

I can imagine my future a thousand and one different ways and be excited. But I cannot imagine a future without you…  without my heart breaking.

You are my best friend, my lover, my constant support. In the past two years you have carried me through deep loss and grief. When my heart was so crushed it physically hurt to breathe, you held me. I don’t cry easily, even when life hurts like hell, but in your arms the tears unlock and I am comforted by your love. You have healed me and built confidence in me. You’ve showed me that amazing men exist; men who don’t worship sex, porn and control. (And as I said last week… thank you for staying away from that stuff. In this you honour our marriage so well, and spare me the shame and betrayal many women feel.)

Because of you I generally view men as trustworthy in spite of my past, and because of you I feel respected by all men. You have taught me the stability of faithfulness through the certainty of your love. You call out my strengths, you challenge, you encourage and above all, you bless me. You have learned to fight for me… for us. And you have, in all of these things, showed me the heart of God. Because of you, I trust Him with all that I am… because you have showed me that He is trustworthy. Your faithfulness replaced fear and terror of Him, with love and trust, and helped me see that He adores me.

And if next week some hell hits, or the crick begins to rise, we will paddle and swim and float… And we will fight our way forward. I love you, with all my heart! Happy 24th Anniversary!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Of Elephants, Loud Speakers, And Thank God for the Mullet Family

So help me God, if I don’t say things I am supposed to keep to myself… Not confidential client things, but other things… Things that my inner being says should not be silent, and yet there sitteth a large and smothering creature on me…

elephant

****

It arrived in my FB inbox, had I seen the Mullet’s blog? I had not, and then I had. I felt something rise inside of me – a feeling, a real true deep feeling – and not a happy one. I felt angry. There are things that make me ‘angry’, in the sense of knowing they are wrong, but even as I say that it ‘makes me angry’, I realize it is a ‘knowing the wrongnesss’, not a feeling. Well, tonight I felt it.

The author expresses deep anger – and I don’t know which party wrote it, because the whole thing never did load for me, and if the author signed it, I couldn’t see it. But whoever it was, sounded kind of ‘hoppin’ mad’ as we used to say. Like, some righteous indignation had found it’s way out, and there was no holding back. And as a reader, I felt their anger. Not as my own anger, but as their anger. Oddly, that part made me feel good. They were angry, and not afraid to say it.

Finally. Someone all Christian, and nice and put together. Not to mention  from my Anabaptist background. Finally, one of them tackling this whole thing of sexual abuse and cover up in the church with passion. There comes a certain satisfaction when I’ve been more less silent for a long time, and such a thing happens, because it feels like ‘they’re getting it’ on the inside, and not just the victims who can’t hold their (you know what) together. It’s the other talking – the one in the spotlight, one of the ‘stars’ if you please. (Can we have a hallelujah? Thank you very much!)

Even as I read that blog and felt a certain relief, I started to feel angry. Not their anger. But my anger. And it wasn’t anger at sexual abuse. It wasn’t even anger at the church’s mishandling of it, which was the tone of their blog, and put into their words what I’ve said for years. (And, no doubt they have known for years). This anger came from the realization that if a victim was that honest, they’d get labeled. I’d get labeled. (Actually, even without the anger, I am labeled. Behold, I careth not.) We would be bitter, unforgiving, have issues, not healed…

There is something brutally wrong with that picture. I have spent the past two falls and winters (meaning this present winter as the second) studying and investing in learning, preparing myself to make a bigger difference. People at university have listened. They have cared. They have encouraged me, launched me further. They have cared for and fought for victims… I am not two weeks into working with the ‘church’, and already am asking myself how I used to survive that part of it…  Working with clients is not the hard part. Watching the other religious stuff… that’s what wears a soul down.

There is something backwards about that. Or at least lopsided

Thank God people are rising up to acknowledge all this abuse carefully hidden. That’s long over due. But seriously, shaming and silencing victims, telling them they are reacting? And then applauding others when they explode? Encouraging fellow ministries while shaming those who actually lived the hell? The fault is not on those who do what Mullets did. But it does expose the bigger problem, and one of the horrible roots of this thing: Victims have no voice. I am one of the fortunate few who refuses to be silenced. I am one of those who has chosen to stay in a faith-based community, continue to fight for a relationship with God, and choose not to be stopped by those who stick out their feet to trip me, or try to put duct tape over my mouth. On that front I am incredibly fortunate.

But all around are victims who are silenced by the church. By ministries. By Christians. The previous generation hid their sins. No one talked about it then, and by pushing it way far away in the memory, many left a string of victims in their wake. They went on to do quite well, many of them, while the victims got lost in their pain. Then they turned around and silenced the cries of the victims because they reminded them of their own sins, and they refused to face that truth. Because that truth is too overwhelming.

Never mind that the victim cuts to feel anything at all, or to numb the overwhelming pain. And drinks too much alcohol. And does drugs. And hates God. And the abuser for robbing her…  Spiritually starving, she shrivels in the cold of church, without cover… and is scolded for lying naked and not eating, while the abusers grow fat and rich.

It ought not so to be. So tonight, I’m angry. Angry that victims are silenced, over and over and over again.

And I’m thankful. So very thankful that the Mullets are speaking out. I don’t know them, so this is not an endorsement of them or their ministry. (Anymore I feel like I have to throw in a disclaimer. Thank you, Andy Savage, et al., for making that necessary by hiding your sins behind the pulpit.)  But because they dared to show feeling and anger, I trust their motives. There’s little religious whitewashing in what they have to say. (Thank you for that! You give me hope. You can read their blog here.)

So I’m angry and thankful, and a whole lot sad. With a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe…  One day victims will be heard in church, if enough of the compassionate ones, and especially those with power, start shouting for them…

loud speaker

As for the Mullet’s friends’ case, I hope it is dealt with, and the victims are not blamed. There is an uncanny ability in the church to manipulate the law. (Read Shonda and Concealment by Michael Lesher). But there is hope, even on that front. There are law enforcement officials across USA who are starting to see it, and they are finding one another. As that number grows, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Tonight in spite of the frustration… And as always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Christmas: a Widow, a Church’s Kindness, and a Washing Machine

The day after Christmas seems a perfect time to pause and write a seasonal blog, and wish you all Christmas blessings. Yesterday was full, with no time to sit down with my computer until later in the evening. That, to me, is a good thing, to be busy in real world relationships that the virtual world becomes secondary. With being in school, continuing with speaking engagements and trying to do the basics at home, social media has taken a back seat for a while, so that has become more normal for me. But that does mean the blog I intended to write for Christmas never happened.
Even so, throughout my day, I thought of many of you, my friends. Especially those of you who find this season difficult. Those who have suffered great losses this season, whether this year or years gone by, saying goodbye to family members with whom you won’t share another Christmas… or maybe never spent even one Christmas… wee ones, recent or in the past, who slipped away before you heard their laughter, their cries, their chatter…  And those who are rejected by family, or just far away, and lonely this season, wishing your world was different; praying for healed relationships, or maybe having given up hope, yet unable to shake the longing for what could have been.
Christmas can be the hardest of times, and it can be the sweetest of times. Sometimes both at the same time. That was our Christmas this year, for reasons I won’t and can’t get into, but just to say you are not alone, and there are others who understand. As much as we had a wonderful Christmas, there was an emptiness and an ache, the reality of unknowns as we head toward 2018, that is unsettling. Even as I write this, I know that every day is an unknown for every human. Our last breath, some great sadness or loss, or the opposite: some unlikely kindness and grace that falls on us. We never know the future, and yet it is an unsettling thing to have it written on the walls of our lives where we must read it every day, and wrestle with the realization that the outcome may be far from what we long for, and somehow to find peace in it, if not with it.
They talk about coming to peace with things, but I’ve concluded some things we cannot make peace with. We can only find a way to be at peace within the existing reality, in spite of the unknowns, even as we grieve the reality that is. And sometimes grieving is that peace, or at least a part of it, because it’s the facing head on of a thing you’d rather run from, and knowing you will be okay, even when your heart stops beating every now and then, and you catch your breath from the pain. And then it starts to beat again, out of rhythm and out of time, because a heart can’t beat right when a piece of it has died. But it can beat, and it can still give love, and find hope. And maybe, having experienced loss, it can give more, love more, and find a greater hope. Because where all is as it should be, or as we desire it to be, there is no need for hope. Hope is the thing that makes the heart keep beating, willing it to live, when everything else makes it stop.
Speaking of love and giving, one of my favourite things this Christmas had a rather tragic  beginning… It was early November – the 6th, I believe – when I came upon an accident. It happened only a few vehicles in front of me, and I stopped to make sure there was someone there with First Aid and CPR, and that 911 had been called. The one woman involved in the accident spoke Low German and seemed very distressed, so I asked if it would mean something to her if I stayed to support her. Her conversational English was excellent, but trauma can make communication difficult. She borrowed my phone and made a call to what I understood was her husband, and when she handed back the phone, she said the name and that he is on his way. A bit later, when she seemed to be slipping into shock and struggled to communicate, I asked where her husband works and how far he has to drive. She looked at me, eyes filled with unspeakable pain, and said, “he died four years ago”, and began to weep. Shocked, I said, “I am so, so sorry! I thought that’s who you said you called”. I stayed composed, but writing it now, I weep. She slipped into a state of complete shock and confusion, repeatedly expressing worry over the injured driver of the other vehicle. I stayed with her and her young daughter, and later went to the hospital to offer what support I could, when other children arrived and made certain they had food and drinks. I left, then, and told them to call if they need anything at all, and especially if they have to go to court.
It was almost two weeks later, I sat at Tim Hortons waiting for the woman to arrive. We were meeting for coffee to discuss her ticket, a first for her, which she couldn’t read and understand. It was a fine, due the next day. I was heading in, so I offered to deliver it, and support her in a meeting with the prosecuting attorney, to discuss options. Before we parted ways, I asked if she needs anything else, and she mentioned needing a wash machine, and might I know anyone who has a used one that wouldn’t cost a lot. I put the word out that evening, asking friends if they might know a place to find one. There were several leads, but nothing came together. Several weeks went by and I came across a message I had missed.
Faith Mennonite Church near Wellesley heard of this woman’s need, and offered to get her a wash machine. I connected them with the woman and this week she messaged saying how much she appreciated the machine they brought, and how she feels so undeserving. “You’re one of the kindest people I ever know”, she wrote. I didn’t do anything except put a need out there, so I felt I didn’t do anything, and told her it was the church, not me who gave the gift. Even so, I thanked her for her kind words and told her she deserves the gift and I’m very happy for her. What touched me most is that a church would take Acts 6:1 and James 1:27 so seriously as to reach out to someone not even in their congregation, or a church in any way affiliated. It was about a woman in need, and a passion to exercise the religion that God honours (James 1:27) and spread the love of Jesus in a practical way.
That is Christmas. That is the Gospel. Whether delivered to a believer, or one who has never heard of Christ, that is the love of Jesus, packaged in language that humans understand, through meeting practical needs. It’s not the only way, but it’s one way. And because so often it seems Acts 6:1 is the greater reality, where widows and orphans are neglected and overlooked, while the religious systems pressure them to give and barely survive, this touched my heart deeply. In a world where religious systems seem often to absorb more than they live generously among the broken, this blessed me to happy tears.
I posted recently that choosing thankfulness sets apart those who overcome, from those who are victims. Today I am thankful. Thankful that Faith Mennonite church met this woman’s need, and for other churches like it. (My friends at Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan have a house they offer to single moms! Check it out: Gold House Project) I’m thankful that I am surrounded by people I love, and people who love me – from here at home, to Mexico, to Africa, to Australia and New Zealand and beyond. And I am deeply thankful, for the kindness of God in my life and His promise to walk gently with us, to lead us, carry us, hold us, and never abandon us.
 IMG_2905
For Christmas our youngest son had my name, and he gave me a blue coffee mug with one word on it. My favourite mug cracked a while ago, and he knew I had looked for a replacement. He also knew how much I love words and writing. The mug said “Kindness”. So that’s the word I am taking with me into 2018. Kindness. My prayer is that God will help me live this word, daily. It won’t be perfect. It never is. Because I’m involved and I’m human, but it is my prayer and I trust God will teach me, walk with me, remind me and love me through my failures. And I will choose kindness.
Merry Christmas! And may 2018 be a year filled with kindness even in the pain, sorrow, and hard times that are inevitable in human experience.
Love
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2017

Parenting: What we should have known…

“...it feels like the heart gets ripped out in little pieces, and somehow is supposed to keep on beating… and it hurts to breathe. And I think these honest conversations are generations overdue.
        Those were my words to a parent earlier today; a parent I have idolized from afar and wished I could measure up to. A parent who is hurting, grieving mistakes, longing for the best for their children. If you are a dad… If you are a mom… Most likely you understand this. We fail, and there are consequences. We misunderstand our children, and they misunderstand us. We don’t do conflict because it’s not polite to fight, and Christians just forgive quickly and silence the chaos and messy of conflict. So we ‘forgive’ and expect to be so easily forgiven, but scars remain on our hearts and one day those scars rip wide open and bleed years of pain, or they thicken the walls of our hearts so we cannot feel. The former is harder, the latter kills.
        I, for one, fear pain. I am terrified of relational pain. That’s just the truth. But I am learning, slowly, deliberately, to let the scars rip open. It is the only way to heal and stay tender… or become tender. And I’m sharing this because I have heard story, after story after story of parental grief in recent weeks, from professionals, from church leaders, from friends. Some just sharing a story, not knowing if I will get it. Some seeking advice… at which point I simply confess, “I get it. I blew it so often and am living in the aftermath of that” and the advice I have for them? Face it and hurt like hell, so you can heal; don’t run and die. Because you will die – something in your spirit will die – if you run. I came pretty close… and it’s a hard recovery.
        Why share this? Because it should have been openly discussed many generations ago. I never knew, and because I didn’t know, I was completely blindsided and lost more than I could afford to lose when I turned to survival. And I don’t want that to happen to you. So know this. I made early vows, and I mostly kept them. They were many vows. Vows of all the things I would not do, all the things that were not ideal in my story. I would not let a child molester near them if I could help it. I would not call them degrading names, or say they are useless and never amount to anything. I would never take their money; if they worked, they would save up for school and their future. There were many things I vowed I would not do. But there were many things I should have done; things that I missed. And I expect, if you are a parent, you understand some of this.
        Parenting is the most beautiful, the most painful, the most rewarding, the most devastating and the most wonderful thing you will ever do. You will fail your children terribly. And they will fail you. And if you don’t talk and face the conflict, a day will come when it will cave in on you and you will have to stay and dig yourself out of the rubble, or you will outrun the debris, and lose everything worth fighting for.
        So start young. Start now. Face the hurts, the betrayals, the misunderstandings (on both sides… it’s not just them and it’s not just you) and fight for your family like you’ve never fought before. Fight *for*, not *with*. Maybe you think they hate you, maybe they think you hate them. Fight with truth, and fight with love. Fight against the hate and the darkness that steals relationship and joy. Fight resentment, and fight for honest conversation, and deep listening. Dare to go to hard places; don’t retreat in passivity and comfort yourself with being a peacemaker.
        That is’t peace. I thought it was. I hate conflict. I hated it when I saw my parents fight. I hated it when dad threatened to kill us, or mom threatened to beat us. I hated it when a parent and one of my siblings threatened one another, or when a sibling threatened me. I became the master of forgiving and letting go, of avoiding the conflict, and expected the world around me to be as ‘gracious’ and ‘forgive’ as easily; but it was neither grace nor forgiveness. It was a blend of fear and apathy. For me, more the former than the latter.. It isn’t worth it. It communicates dreadful things to our children. To my children.
        In the past year I have studied Conflict Resolution, Conflict Analysis, Restorative Justice, Negotiations (a lot of mediation focus), and have learned good ‘fighting’ (aka conflict management) skills. And I am convinced we Christians need to unlearn a lot of the passivity we have adopted and learn a new way of facing conflict, especially as I face the consequences of years of avoiding conflict. Avoidance – even with ‘cheap forgiveness’, as I call it, that doesn’t resolve the deeper story – kills meaningful relationship. Conflict, well managed, is a good and beneficial thing.
        So fight for your family relationships. Get a mediator or support person involved to prevent escalation if that’s something you can’t manage. Do it for them – especially for them, do it for you, and do it for the next generation. A cycle will continue; you choose which one it will be.
family conflict
        I promise you, avoiding the conflict isn’t worth it. Choose your pain; the pain of working through conflict, or the pain of feeling your heart torn as you decide whether you will run as far and as fast as you can, or stay and let your heart bleed back to life, as you face what you ran from in the past.

© Trudy Metzger 2017

Why can’t you shut up about sexual abuse and get a life?

That question. Why can’t I just shut up? I’ve been asked this question in various forms over the past several years, by a variety of people. I’ve been unfriended (both in the real world and on FB) because I won’t shut up. One woman, a victim herself, who claims it’s had no impact on her and “it’s not a big deal” had a most condescending way of telling me to give it up already and find something better to do with my life.

Here’s the thing. With my personality, my nature, or the way I was trained – (I don’t always know where the ‘born this way’ starts or ends, and where the ‘trained this way’ picks up) – but in any case I would rather shut up. Yes, you heard me. I would rather shut up and pretend that sexual abuse isn’t an epidemic. And I’d especially like to pretend it isn’t in churches and faith communities. But it is. And I can’t.

In part I’d like to shut up because it’s not a fun way to spend my life. And I like fun. I love laughter and doing fun things. And I’d rather do them all the time than to even once get my hands bloody and feet dirty in the messy world of sexual violence against children. I’d rather plant flowers and manicure my lawn and sit in my flower garden and sip coffee, tea and water all day long in frivolous conversation with happy people. (Okay…stroke the ‘frivolous conversation’ bit. I don’t enjoy that.) And eat fruit. Because in The Garden it was supposed to be that peaceful and nice. But we don’t live in that Garden and hell has invaded our worlds in ways our first parents never imagined when they took that bite.

So the thought of sitting in a garden chattering with friends, laughing and playing games is appealing. Not gonna lie. No one would threaten to sue me.  No one would hate me. Everybody would love me. If all I did was sit in a garden with friends and never spoke another word of confrontation about sexual abuse and the agenda to cover up. Okay, they might hate me if I was super rich and if it was only an elitist group welcome in my garden. But if all were welcome and I simply served biscuits, treats and drinks, no one would hate me. Except maybe those who hate everyone and are always jealous. But mostly I would be loved. And that is my bottom line, based on my personality and who I am: I like to be loved and accepted. I am born for that. I am conditioned for it. Follow the rules. Don’t stir the water. Love everyone, and be loved back generously.

But I can’t shut up. And I can’t because every day children are conceived. Every day they are born. And every day they are molested, raped, brutalized and used. And every day I am aware that at any given moment, if I pause, a child enters the world, somewhere. And in that same moment another is being raped or molested in some way. And in that same moment an abuser, a church leader, a parent… someone, somewhere, is denying the horror that child lives. I cannot ‘un-know’ these things. They are as real to me as the breath I breathe.

But the real reason I cannot shut up is because I know there is hope for that child in spite of all that darkness and hell and trauma. And if just one child (whether an adult or still a child) hears that someone, somewhere is willing to fight for the truth and their hearts, then defying everything my heart longs for (peace, no conflict, Garden-kind-of-innocence, and to be loved by all) is worth it. Because that child might not commit suicide. That child might find the courage to heal and get help. And that child might not grow up to molest others, if that child knows that their story matters to someone.

So, go ahead, ask me if I can’t just get over it already, or move on or get a life. But first dare to picture the graphic truth of a toddler (male or female) being raped, an adult body forcing inside, and that adult getting away with it as a “member in good standing” because he said he is sorry. (Now recreate with a female offender). Too graphic? This is the reality of many children so we as adults better be able to handle it if we demand they live with it.

If you can physically step over that toddler, spirit torn and flesh bleeding, and keep on walking and literally ‘get over it’…. then send me your challenge to get over it and move on. But I can’t. And I won’t. Because I have ‘seen’ those little bodies left to bleed… I have seen them in the broken lives of struggling adults. I will continue to pick up those little bodies, wipe up the blood and bodily fluids that have left forever stains in their spirits – stains which remain, fluids which continue to spill, and blood which continues to flow from those scars for decades. And I will speak the love of Jesus over them, tell them who they really are and what they are worth. And I will confront boldly the dark sins hiding in our communities.

Because Jesus would. And He would say a whole lot more than I have courage or boldness or words for. And it wouldn’t be laced with an ounce of self-preservation or fear or wanting to be liked.

Matthew 18:6-9.

I invite you to speak up. Educate yourself about the truth. And fight for the lost children, stripped of innocence, and born into the silent sex-trade of what we call church and faith community.

Rise up. Join in transforming our communities so children are safe and offenders are called out and held responsible. Together we will create an environment where image means nothing and truth means everything. We need you. Even if the only ‘speaking out’ and ‘fighting for’ you can muster is on your knees in your room. The children need you.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2017