Setting Back Time (literally), Cake Batter Disasters, and Other Mother’s Day Musings

How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it.  There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it.  She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again.  Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.

Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.

Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…

Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.

So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.

And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.

Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.

Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be.  Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.

This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.

And, this Mother’s Day,  if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.

Happy Mother’s Day!

With Love, 
Trudy

 

© Trudy Metzger 2017

6 Ways the Church Fosters Sexual Abuse

Well worth our read. Grace filled and direct. No hate, just redemption and a cry for change. Amen to this!

broken2BmadeBEAUTIFUL

  1. In response to the world’s overt worship of sex, the church goes silent.

“Let your manhood be a blessing; rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight.” Proverbs 5:18-19, TLB

Did you know if you Google ‘what the Bible says about sex’, Google will suggest ‘what the Bible says about sexual immorality’? The popular search engine suggests that we are well-versed in how not to do sex, but do we really know what sex is?

Sex is a beautiful act of worship to God. The sexual union of male and female within the marriage commitment is a beautiful expression of love that brings God great glory. Satan does not want God to receive this glory, so he twists sex that it becomes about man worshiping himself instead of God.

Instead of rising up to…

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A Conference for Sex Abuse Victims With The Anabaptist, the Baptist, and Me

God willing and the crick don’t rise, on May 19 – 20 we plan to do a conference at Erb Mennonite church, Lititz PA, for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as those who offer support. This includes pastors, teachers, friends, family, mentors and anyone who wishes to offer understanding.

poster

Some years ago, when going through a particularly dark time in dealing with the abuses in my past – the sexual, physical and spiritual abuse – I cried out to God, as I have often done over the years. I don’t expect God to write on the wall, take away my grief or pain, or even say a whole lot in those moments. It’s mostly just a trusted place where I release my heart and know I will not be brushed aside, judged or disregarded; He always listens and always loves me just the same. But somewhere in that time He whispered something to me. And I just knew it was Him, and I just knew it would happen. Deeper healing would come from the place of my suffering, but the ‘how’ of it was not revealed. I shared it with Tim, a bit hesitantly. I didn’t know what it meant, but believed someone from ‘within’ would play a role in that healing and acknowledge that the problem is real. I didn’t hold my breath, but I held on to hope, knowing such a thing would have significant impact on many.

Being told it doesn’t happen or isn’t so bad, thus downplaying the impact of sexual violence, adds to trauma while also escalating the problem. And maybe it is the latter that makes it the denial so hard; we who were once victims know it continues and there’s no way to stop it from happening to other children. That thought torments us. So for someone within my culture to boldly acknowledge the problem, without excusing the offender, minimizing the trauma, or blaming victims, would have been enough. But what happened was so much better.

The note came at a difficult time. The challenge of helping victims is wearing, because exposing it disrupts people and systems, and anger is directed at those trying to help. And exposing the darkness is particularly exhausting when I’d rather be friends with everyone and believe there isn’t any evil in religious cultures. The fatigue of that resistance had set in when the note came from a conservative Anabaptist lay pastor; a simple apology for the attacks on our ministry, and on me as a person, simply for following God’s call, a thank you for daring to follow that call, and then speaking into that calling and affirming it.  I was overwhelmed.

Weeks earlier someone shared an incident where they heard a leader in our local community speak evil of me and our ministry. Because they are a couple I held in high regard, I contacted them and asked to meet and try to come to an understanding. They declined and till all was said and done, I felt inadequate and genuinely believed maybe God was telling me to walk away from my calling, that I was unqualified.  On the heels of this, I was astounded to receive the random note of encouragement, apology and blessing from the conservative Anabaptist leader. He even included the very verses God used many years ago to define my calling; verses which are documented and engraved in every phase of this ministry, and which always seem to resurface from random places when something is at stake.

That conservative Anabaptist leader was Kenny Kuhns.

Some time later, when I heard Kenny speak, I wept. Hearing a leader from ‘among my people’ speak such life and hope into the harsh reality of my past, and the past of every survivor of sexual violence in a religious setting, deeply moved me and gave me hope. For a second time, God used Kenny to bring deeper healing into my own experience. I’ve been in ministry a long time, and sometimes people ask if the past ever causes struggle. The answer? Of course it does. From time to time, something triggers the trauma. While this ever less frequent, the truth is that humans have moments when we are confronted with the past, and we must grieve, or run. I used to run. Where there is grief and pain, there is a need for healing, and that is something we need never be ashamed to admit, no matter how long we are in ministry, or how ‘healed’ we become. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is enough for me, and the power of the past is broken. I am not a victim. And I believe just as confidently that He sends representatives to unveil His love in new ways to bring deeper healing when needed.

After seeing Kenny’s heart, we invited him and Irma to join us at our upcoming conference at Erb Mennonite church in Lititz, to speak to the victims as a ‘voice from within’ who understands both the magnitude of sexual abuse in our culture and the cost to those who were victimized. Having worked with survivors for many years, he sees the damage done, but also sees the potential, the place for hope, and the power of Christ to restore and renew. His compassion for survivors serves as a life-line for those often misunderstood and unheard in churches, as he acknowledges the deep suffering. But he doesn’t leave us in our suffering; he honours the hard spiritual battles we fight and acknowledges speaks the life and hope of Jesus into that darkness.

We’ve also invited Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham from New York to join us again. We’ve had the privilege of working with them numerous times in the past five years, and are always blessed and encouraged. Faith’s story of overcoming abuse at the hands of her father, also a Baptist pastor, while painful, is also a story of resilience, courage and faith. Their heart for the wounded is as genuine as any I’ve encountered, and the gentle message of hope God has given them, brings healing and life.

We are honoured to partner with Kenny and Irma Kuhns for the first time, and especially thankful for the long-term support and friendship of Dale and Faith Ingraham. We look forward to what God will do. It’s going to be good!

red brochure front

red brochure inside

All are welcome to attend. We acknowledge sexual abuse, however, what we focus on and talk about is God’s love, His grace and His redemption; that is something we all need. Registration is by donation until May 5. After May 5 it is $65. Refreshments and a noon meal will be provided on Saturday May 20, but attendees must preregister for this. This is to make meal planning possible, and avoid last minute stress for the organizing team. Register online: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events or by snail mail to: Generations Unleashed 15 Coral Gables Crescent, Elmira Ontario N3B 3P4.

For further information, call Dave Miller at: 519-669-3126.

Love,
~ T ~

Ps. Because of the unusual nature of this conference, in that we have invited a conservative Anabaptist leader to come speak, we are aware this may stir up questions, concerns and even fears for some who have suffered abuse at the hands of leaders within the culture, whether spiritually, sexually or otherwise. We acknowledge this risk and are open to questions, concerns and addressing those fears. Please feel free to contact any of our speaking team at:
Trudy: trudy@generationsunleashed.com
Kenny: kenkuhns@nls.net
Dale & Faith Ingraham: dfingraham@speakingtruthinlove.org

Male? Female? Neither? Both? Who is God?

Who is God… really? This is the one big kerfluffle–among other kerfluffles–entertaining Christians on social media, or distressing some, as the case may be. Some are intrigued, some are distressed, and some cry heresy and apostasy. But what does God say, when He speaks for Himself?

Personally, I’m fascinated by the question, and have been for many years. It started when I was 21, a conservative Mennonite Christian, shocked by such a representation. To say it out loud felt particularly scandalous and disrespectful, because God was a ‘He’–and not only in the pronoun sense, but in a male-gender-specific identity. All my life He had been this big man in the sky with a powerful stick. I feared Him. But never for a day in my life did I wish Him to be female. And I still don’t. But my reasons are entirely selfish; I’ll be honest. Too many women with influence and power in my early life were manipulators and in my mind it was much harder to deal with than a big, mean–even violent–male, who is at least predictably harsh and unkind. That was my view of men, generally, and women, just as generally. Why would I want a God with female attributes? A cosmic manipulator? Yeah… No thanks.

And then I read the Bible and things started jumping out at me differently; a God with feminine characteristics and attributes, but not a manipulator. I had read the verses before, but my conditioning had caused me to miss what was right there. When I read the first part of Genesis, over and over, picking through it with a fine-tooth comb, trying to grasp everything in it. Creation. Man. Woman. Mankind. In God’s image and likeness. Both of them. A reflection of the Almighty… Me? You? I found it hard to absorb that He had made females in His image and likeness, as well as males. (Image: צֶ֫לֶם noun Masculine. Likeness:  דְּמוּת noun feminine… not to mention the very direct wording.)

The thought of God looking at me as His reflection rocked my world and gave me a sense of eternal identity like nothing I had ever known. For many years I had believed that God was/is male, that men are made in His image and likeness, and women are… well ‘the refined version of man’, made in man’s image but prettier, softer and curvier. Someone had actually made a statement to this general effect when I was a preteen or teen, and I bought into it as truth. (Coincidentally, moments after typing this a friend private messaged me on Facebook–not knowing I am working on this blog, and that I just wrote this–and said: “I thought woman was in the image of man to be his help mate”. Clearly I am not alone in this belief/teaching.)

Reading the first few chapters of Genesis as though I had never heard them before, and re-reading it numerous times, what stood out was Genesis 1:26-27 where God clearly states making ‘male and female’ in His own image. If we, God’s daughters, are made in the image and likeness of God, it can mean only one thing; the triune God has feminine characteristics. Some insist it is only the Holy Spirit who displays feminine attributes–the nurturer who comes and comforts–others say the whole thing is heretical, at best, and anyone who ascribes to such a belief is an apostate who no longer believes in the One True God. But when I read my Bible, with no agenda, as it is written, I see over and over again that God is shown “…as a mother…”, and “…as a father”, and Jesus is always “the Son”, therefore to refute any feminine characteristics in God is to refute parts of the Bible. Even so, when I ‘picture’ God, I don’t get the image of a female. Ever. But I no longer get an image of a male either. I get a sense of mystery and wonderment. A God who shows up in a burning bush… in a dove… through a donkey–and a female donkey at that… It begs the question, what have we done to femininity and womanhood to find it the one ‘vessel’ unfit for God? Why is this the one thing by which we are so offended? Is a female donkey really so much more sacred than a woman made in God’s image and likeness? Or has religion warped our view of femininity to such an extent?

talking donkey

Frankly, it disturbs me that the Bible gives examples of God showing up through objects and creatures, and no one finds it scandalous, and yet when the Bible clearly states it, those who accept at face value that God has feminine attributes are silenced, judged and slandered. What a shame and tragedy.

Do I believe then that God is female, as opposed to male? Maybe both? Or neither? Here is what I believe, without apology: God is neither male nor female. He is generally portrayed as a Father, sometimes a husband, sometimes as a mother, and in Jesus He is male (and a brother). He is not limited to ‘form and body’, nor is He ‘gendered’ or subject to the terms we assign Him based on our limited human understanding. He is simply the Great I Am. The “I Am that I Am”, who enters our broken experience in whatever form He chooses. As His daughter, made in His image, I do not think He finds femininity repulsive or beneath His dignity; I believe it is a part of who He is. I reflect that part of Him, and He quite delights in me.

And my husband, who has loved me well, and reflects God beautifully….  I think God is kind of like that, just more perfect, holy, and without flaw or weakness. A ‘male’ God doesn’t frighten me, but limiting God to such ideologies is not biblical and I won’t pretend it just to win a crowd.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Denominations, Abomination & the Christ

Denominational barriers, in my opinion, are a bit like a certain proposed wall between USA and Mexico; we build the wall, and the other side pays. We’re in; they’re out. It’s a divisive ‘us v/s them’ mentality, when ‘denomination-as-an identity’ is what we focus on, rather than focusing on Jesus, and rather than blessing our neighbours who also focus on Jesus, but do it differently. That said, I’ve read several strong ‘anti-denomination’ articles and comments ranging from general anti-denominational rants to calling all use of denomination identifiers demonic, to healthy questioning. (Observation would tell me that those who are totally anti-denomination, are very ‘pro-my-belief-system’ and create the same barriers without the denomination name associated.) And it all made me think below the surface of this problem.

Isn’t the real issue from Whom/whom, or what we draw our spiritual identity? Is it from a denomination? From a leader? (dead or alive) Or from any other person or thing other than Christ? To whom do we look for validation and affirmation? Denominations are an unnecessary thing in and of themselves, granted, but I’d hesitate to call them demonic, as there’s no biblical evidence, nor current evidence that they are. But there’s plenty of evidence that they can be problematic. And that problem is old as the idea of Christianity and church. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…” they said in Corinthians, and Paul corrected them, to bring it back to Christ, and that is something that popularly ‘followed’ or ‘idolized’ spiritual leaders sometimes fail to do, as they watch their ‘tribe’ grow in strength in support of them, lifting them up rather than bringing it back to the simple gospel of Jesus. Good spiritual leaders will turn that ‘lifting up’ back to Jesus, not in false humility, but humbly accepting thanks and redirecting glory to God. Less than stellar spiritual leaders will absorb that ‘idolatry’, and as their name grows, the shift happens from Jesus to a person. (I would know… I’m “MENNOnite” by cultural birth, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t a spiritual identity.) And as that name grows and if the identity becomes about a person or a set of beliefs held by that person, rather than about Jesus, divisions are inevitable. But the problem isn’t about the name, it’s about the position it is given, and the division it causes in the body of Christ.

That divisiveness is not good. But it goes deeper than denominational name, doesn’t it? Is the root not a baser thing than that? A thing of selfish ambition and fear of losing position if we don’t feed and absorb that place of being held high, or having our beliefs held high… even higher than Christ? We forget that the ‘positions’ we are given in spiritual leadership are sacred callings, and they are servant-hood; an invitation by God to do His work, and when He has called, He preserves our calling if we trust Him and humbly turn the hearts of people to Him. This is gracious spiritual leadership, honouring ‘the Christ’, whether with denominational ‘titles’ or not. And I have known men and women of great ‘position’, wealth, and wisdom, who have walked humbly with their God, and whose names hold significant ‘presence’ when referenced, yet always they hold their hands up, redirecting to Jesus, the worship, as did Peter and Paul on the streets, as told in Acts 14. These are men and women of various denominations, or no denominations at all, but they are true heroes of faith, and true spiritual leaders. Because spiritual leaders always lead the way to God; they are never an end in themselves.

I will grant it, I don’t like the whole ‘denominations’ thing much, and find it particularly unnecessary as a frame of reference as to what ‘kind’ of Christian I am. I’m either the Jesus kind, or I’m not one at all. But I can extend grace for the idea of it, because it dates back to the beginning of the church, from what I can tell, though often associated with cities, and now associated with beliefs. I don’t think it will keep people out of heaven, so I come back to the argument that strong labeling or condemnation of denominations seems a bit over zealous.

Revelation addresses unique church identities well, pointing out that each has something to offer, but with areas of deep need for transformation. So I question whether ‘ridding the world of denominations’ is the answer, or even possible. Rather, tearing down the invisible divides we create by holding high our own positions, or this person or that one, rather than lifting Jesus high… now that’s a mission I’m into. Because when Jesus is lifted high, people are drawn to Him. And when He is invited in, the demonic flees and people are made whole and the body of Christ is made whole, not divided. We humans tend to focus on solving a problem so the Christ can be portrayed accurately and we try to rid ourselves (or each other) of the demonic to invite Jesus in, but the reverse is the answer most times; when Jesus is invited in, the darkness scatters. Darkness cannot exist in the light. And Jesus does not fear that darkness. In His darkest hour, He opened His arms wide, welcoming the whole world into grace.

And that’s the problem with us… We tend to cross our arms and close our hearts, but Jesus opened His arms wide, and His heart wider. If we stop ‘fixing the problem’, and rather invite a broad shift in focus away from the denominations that exist, and away from the people who lead them, and collectively lift Jesus high, and walk in the way of His love, transformation will come. Barriers will come down. Walls will crumble.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Why I chose to forgive my dad…

Today marks the day, fourteen years later, when the news came of my father’s passing. It was an odd, shocking, numbing feeling; one which I still cannot frame in words. The finality is jarring, knowing the last words spoken were the final exchange. While I had no regret in that, specifically, it was harsh nonetheless, and I recall my mind trying, as if by sheer force of will, to turn back time one day, and call him. I’m not sure there was much left to say, really, though there are a few questions I wanted to ask… the kind that always felt too frightening and vulnerable to say out loud, even after he asked me to forgive him for the harm he brought into my life. That day, an old, broken, and fragile man he wept and asked me to forgive him. And  I responded, “Dad, I chose to forgive you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”

That was 2001. I was 32 years old, a mom of four and pregnant with our fifth. I called Tim before I left the hospital that day, crying, to tell him about our conversation. “Miracles still happen,” I remember saying through tears. Choosing consciously and purposefully to forgive my dad dated back more than a decade before that day. But it didn’t look the way many fit forgiveness into a perfect little box. The consequences for his choices meant that I suffered flashbacks, anxiety disorders (including PTSD), and nightmares every time we had contact for many years, and they became especially haunting after we had children. This continued even after I forgave him most sincerely. My fear that some horrible thing would be done to my family prevented us from feeling comfortable interacting too closely. I meant we attended at most one family event a year, if that.Tim and I chose early in marriage to not risk the lives and innocence of our children by placing them in an environment where abuse of every kind had run rampant and remained buried. This choice, in the eyes of some, would have been cause to judge me as unforgiving. Nonetheless, we made the choice and never looked back. No regret, for the sake of our children.

The cost to me was significant. It meant I had to miss out on family gatherings, and years later the lack of relationship leaves an emptiness within. The loss is ongoing. Still, I choose to forgive my father. And still I don’t regret having the boundaries, in spite of that cost.

My choice to forgive was first and foremost for my freedom. Not a fraction of that decision was to overlook his sins and crimes, or make myself okay with them. They are not okay. But the power of his sin, by allowing bitterness to take root in me, frightened me far more than did the consequences of his choices against me. Secondly, I chose to forgive him for the sake of my husband and children. To let his sins rule my life would be to give him permission to pass on the curses of many generations to my children, through my bitterness. (And generational cycles are well documented in both secular and spiritual literature.) I didn’t want that, and to the best of my ability I protected our children from anyone who had molested, and never left them unsupervised in an environment where known offenders were present.

That said, I was not perfect by any stretch of imagination, and made choices as a mom that left scars on my children, and those are choices for which I take ownership. When I chose to forgive my father, I chose also to take ownership for decisions I made, even if birthed out of the scars and emotional deficits he left in my life. I did this so that the chains would end with me.

I chose to forgive my father to break generational chains that he struggled with to his death, to end cycles of abuse and violence, to leave a new legacy for the next generation, and to prevent bitterness in my life. My children will need to decide whether they will forgive me for ways I sinned against them, and whether they will take ownership for the ways they sin against their own children. And the generation to follow will need to make the same decision.

forgiveness-quote

Forgiveness isn’t a choice to overlook violence, molestation, neglect and various abuses. It is the decision to break chains, end vicious cycles and leave a new legacy. It doesn’t mean everything is all cozy and the wrongs are never spoken of again. It means we do our best to lead the next generation, even at personal cost. And sometimes it means we tell broken, painful and brutal stories, so that the amazing grace of God in our lives is understood, and so others can draw hope and strength for their own journeys.

When my father asked me to forgive him, I chose to verbally extend that grace and reflect the heart of God the best I knew how. It didn’t change how we protected our children by not giving him access, and it didn’t change much of anything at all in a practical sense. But I knew my forgiveness was genuine, and he knew it too. And that was enough for me.

If I could go back to the day before February 21, 2003, knowing what I know now, I might still visit dad and ask some hard questions…. but maybe I wouldn’t change anything at all. I told him I loved him. I told him I forgive him. And, when he doubted that God would forgive a man like him, I told him that because of what Jesus did on the cross, there was a place in heaven for him.

*****

I stood alone by his coffin in the funeral home and wept as I repeatedly whispered the only three words that formed, “Thank you Jesus.”

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

On Questioning Faith & God Because of University?

“Be careful in the Master Peace and Conflict Studies,” the woman said, most sincerely, “a few of my friends did it and came out questioning their faith.”
“Too late,” I said, “I already question…” And I was amazed how vulnerable it felt to say those words out loud, but paused a moment, because it is true, and then continued with explaining. “Given the work I do, and the horrendous things I hear and see in Christian communities, I’ve been questioning my faith for a good six years. Daily… It’s inevitable…. I’ve often said, ‘If it wasn’t for God I’d be an atheist.'”
I don’t know her well, the woman who spoke those words when we bumped into each other downtown. I even had to think twice about her name when we parted ways, and would have been clueless if her friend hadn’t walked by and called it out before we parted ways.
Truth is, I do question God. Not His existence. Not even His goodness. But God Himself, and how things are what they are with the suffering of little ones on the streets, being trafficked… and in His house… the molestation. No, there’s not a fragment of a doubt in my mind that He exists, and is good… But these questions about His household run deep, so I question. My faith has been taxed heavily, and I have questioned for years. And I hope I continue. Because there are a few simple ‘hard truths’ I cling to for dear life, but with everything I know of life and crime, in church and on the streets, I fear that by the time I stop questioning, I will have come to the wrong conclusion. So I question, and God listens. Sometimes He answers in ways I can cling to, sometimes He just listens. At least for a while.
It is not possible to know what I know, of darkness hidden in religious communities, of hatred (by some) for those who desperately want truth on all levels (not only convincing doctrine)… Of leaders so insecure in their calling that they write off and attempt to silence anyone who speaks into that hidden darkness…. No, these things are not possible for me (and for many others in the trenches) without questioning both God and faith, in some way. I’m sure there’s some easy religious answer to explain everything, and make it all look nice again, but I can’t do that, can’t go there. A few Bible verses, lengthy prayers or one hundred or even a thousand ‘Hail Mary’s’ just doesn’t make the hard reality go away, or even more bearable. Nor does booting out a few demons heal every inner trauma. Those solutions work much like masking tape on a wet surface. It sticks until it doesn’t. And when it no longer sticks, there is a need for deep, compassionate care. (For the sake of everyone who feels a sense of obligation to burn their candle at both ends until they suffer burnout, let me add… ‘Compassion with boundaries’, because Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout are real… and knowing when to step back is critical. Also, it may not be the hard stories that wear you down. Be aware of personal stress triggers, and set boundaries accordingly.)
Anywhere else I can reconcile wickedness, but not among the Jesus people. It violates every part of what He came to be and do. Especially when hidden and then protected under a guise of forgiveness, while the naked victims stand by, beaten with stripes they never deserved, just for admitting to pain. I can even reconcile wickedness happening among Jesus people, because of human struggle and scars of unhealed wounds, but when there is an agenda to hide or mask over without deep acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused, and care given accordingly… Not that.
So, yes, I question. And, yes, I have walked through more than one faith crisis in my six years of ministry. The one thing that has helped me refocus, is speaking truth over others, because there is truth that I cannot ‘unknow’ even if I wanted to, and that truth is the love of Jesus, and when spoken it has power. I fall hard on it’s simplicity. And in moments of hopelessness, I have grasped it with slippery fingers. Still that love remained, and remains still. I have grasped it when grief at what I see ‘among His’ washes over me, defying that grace-filled love, realizing it’s all I have…
Now, having nearly completed my first term, I find it fascinating that rather than causing me to question God, and the things He allows in this messy world, it has affirmed my faith. It has helped tremendously to take a step back from being so close to trauma in religious communities, and take a break from the harshness of it to study. It has been a good thing and a God thing.
That said, I know my journey well enough to know I will continue to question and wrestle as long as I work with victims and offenders of sexual violence. I wish at moments that I had suffered nothing of abuse in religious community… that I had heard none of it… that I was innocent of knowing the cover-ups… All so that I could walk in innocent, intoxicating-ly sweet love relationship with Jesus, oblivious to the messiness of crime and wickedness in church. The tired heart of six years of investing, at times thanked, at times cursed, struggles, but it is a rare and selfish moment that cries for this innocence.
Instead, I will continue to do what God has called me to do, pressing into His heart for answers when I question, wonder or wrestle. Because it is in those moments I realize how imperfect, inadequate and human I am, and how much it is His love that carries me. And that, alone, makes every question a faith-building one.
Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Only One More Sleep…

The fall after we moved to Canada, back in 1975, I couldn’t wait to start school. It was just before ‘the big day’ when mom took me aside, and explained I would need to wait a little longer. My head felt light. A lump formed in my throat. And her explanation, that I needed to wait and start with my fourth cousin Kenny Guenther, made no sense to me. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to go to school. I had waited since I was about four, or even younger, when I watched my brothers and sisters leave, and secretly wanted to go with them. So whatever mom said after explaining I would need to wait, fell on deaf ears and a sad heart.Looking back I understand that it was only a short wait. But that wait seemed like an eternity…
I loved kindergarten. And grade one… and two.. and three… and four.. And I loved parts of grades five through nine. And then I left home and school. But I never stopped dreaming of it.
In my late twenties, maybe early thirties, when I found the courage and confidence to get my GED. But the longing to hold a ‘real’ high school diploma in my hand, never died.
In 2006 I returned to adult high school to take Grade 12 University English, just one course, to prove to myself that my grammar and writing were at least close to ‘on track’. The young woman taking my information at the desk asked if I had done grade eleven. “No, M’am, I only went to grade nine.” She informed me I would have to do ten and eleven first. I asked if they could make an exception, give me two weeks to prove myself in grade 12, and if I was in over my head, I would take her advice. She smiled. “You seem pretty confident. We’ll register you.”
Ms. Forwell was an outstanding teacher. I approached her before the first essay and asked for advice on how to write an essay. She looked bewildered. “But you know how. You would have done them throughout high school.” I explained that I had dropped out at grade nine from private school, and had never written an essay. She gave me permission to come to her any time if I had questions, and she would help me.
For my first essay, I hired an English teacher to proof and edit my work and give me feedback, and got a decent mark, somewhere in the 90’s. And after that I was on my own. I kept his feedback handy, and used it to edit my next one, and handed it in as early as possible, to get the bonus mark. Classmates supported each other. And the principal was an outstanding cheerleader for all students. She believed in us. She believed in me.
It was then, when I wasn’t even looking, that my dreams coming true, started to take shape. The guidance counselor wanted to meet with me. What were my dreams, my goals, so far as school were concerned. For the time being, I said, all I wanted was my Grade 12 University English. Nothing more. I had a young family–five children between 12 and 4. The counselor looked at me then, intently, and asked, “Do you realize how close you are to getting an official high school diploma?” I had no clue. The documentation I handed in included Life Insurance and Mutual Funds Licensing, a variety of college courses, and a resume. “You only need for credits, Ms. Metzger. Are you sure you don’t want to do this?”
That evening I shared with Tim. Only four more credits! I would take Chemistry, Biology and do a Co-op and with my English course that would earn me a diploma. Tim agreed that while it was inconvenient, I needed to get it done, and his parents helped with
babysitting. Thanks to Ms. Day, who patiently helped me grasp the concepts of Chemistry, and made Biology class interesting, both classes went very well.
Fall of 2006 I finished my final course at an adult learning centre. The principal called me not long after, and asked if I would take on approximately 10 students struggling in math–the one subject I had skirted by using my mutual funds & life insurance licensing, and the various bookkeeping systems I knew as credit. I made excuses but in the end her faith in me gave me the courage to try it. “I’ll try anything once, and if I am in too deep, I’ll let you know.” And with that I was ‘in’. To be honest, I haven’t a clue how she got by with it, with me not having my diploma, but she did. And I taught.
Our classroom was a blast. Each evening Tim taught me the lesson, and the following day I taught my class, with the support of a genius student. And by first tests, all students who previously were failing, had pulled marks over 80’s. All tests were sent away for marking, leaving no room for questioning. It wasn’t my brilliance that transformed their marks; it was the reality that I too struggled and once having it explained, I was able to connect with struggling students and explain it in a way that made sense to them. (God forbid I should be asked to teach those same lessons now… Tim would have to teach me all over again!)
Unfortunately, before the term was up, I suffered a massive heart attack, ending my short-lived career as high school teacher. By the following school year the adult high school closed down. I was in the last graduating class.
June 27, 2007, I graduated, having completed my co-op earlier that year, and handed in my final projects, and received my official high school diploma. The school honoured me with the Valedictorian Award, and the Governor General’s Award for highest academic achievement in the school. The experience of pulling off high marks in my courses, and successfully teaching grade 10 applied and academic math,  boosted my confidence. I was no dummy, after all, as I had long believed.
I started dreaming more of university and what I would do next, but with my heart and health, it wasn’t the right time. I looked into it, but laid the dream aside for a time. For nine years I left it ‘on hold’ and in that time I took medication for my heart. It was summer 2015 when we suddenly discovered I had lost much of my short-term memory, which was mildly frightening. A little research into my meds and I found one with the side effect ‘may cause short term memory loss’. My heart sank. What if it never returned? What if it continued to deteriorate?
By September 2015 I had weaned myself off of all medications, determined to live whatever time I have to the fullest. It was then I decided that I would rather have my life cut shorter, and have a memory and feel well, than to take meds and live to ninety, but with poor quality of life.
In November a gentleman who had read a review of my memoir connected me with Michelle Jackett of University of Waterloo, and encouraged us to meet. In December we met and in the course of conversation she recommended I take some undergrad courses in the Peace & Conflict Studies. But within a day or two she emailed and encouraged me to consider applying to the Masters program, as a mature student. There were no guarantees, but it was worth a try.  I met with the director and assistant to ‘ask a gazillion questions’ and in January I applied.
It was a long wait from January when I applied, to May when the email came in telling me I had been accepted on the condition that I was willing to do a 5-course term of undergrad studies, and prove that I am able to maintain a minimum of 75% in all 5 courses.
Tomorrow is the big day. I will go for a full day of orientation, in preparation for the first three months of study. I am excited. Mildly nervous… or at least with butterflies in my tummy… I don’t know what ten years of medication has done to my memory in the context of studying, but I know I will fight through and give it all I’ve got.
For the next two years my family plans to eat grilled cheese two nights a week, sandwiches two nights, pizza one night, and eat big meals on weekends. (Which my men will cook.)
In all seriousness, the course schedule is such that it feels very do-able. I will be away less with school than I was with one-on-one clients,  and home for all dinners except Tuesday evenings. The rest of my week will be spent with my nose in a book, right here in the comfort of home.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

And tonight there is no one telling me I have to wait a bit longer. It is time..

The Emperor Spats with an Elder

(Continued from previous blog. And final dog episode)…

The first dog to enter Kaiser’s oversized personal bubble was a giant, well filled out, tan and black German Shepherd. He had the straight back and full body and a general look of authority and confidence. Kaiser is lean and slanted with a bit of a wolfe-like face and mane area. Especially when his hair flares in aggression. And it did.

This shocked me.

Kaiser lived with seven or eight other dogs at camp, I was told, and did well. He went to obedience training and spent time with other dogs. He did well there too, I was told.  So when he bristled at the sight of one old, unconcerned Shepherd, and looked like he was ready to slaughter him for lunch, I gulped. And I certainly didn’t know what to do besides pull back while he tugged forward, barking viciously .

The gentleman with the other Shepherd looked as unconcerned as his dog, and moved forward, even as I apologized for my dog’s behavior, which was drowned out by the raucous. At length the world was quiet, and before I could say a thing, the gentleman spoke.

“You have a pretty vicious dog there?”

I explained that I had owned him for all of under three hours, and still had quite a drive ahead, and I really didn’t know he was vicious. “When you look at him, does his face look vicious?” I asked him, because I couldn’t see my dog’s face with him pulling ahead of me like that, and besides, he owned a Shepherd. He was far more likely to know.

“Yes, he looks quite vicious, really,” he said.

“I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into,” I said. “No one mentioned any of this to me. I wasn’t expecting it.” I apologized again, this time without the racket, and said I would take him to another corner and figure it out.

But the gentleman encouraged me to stay. “Give them a chance. My old guy here can handle him. He’ll calm him down.” So, instead of moving further apart, we moved closer together. Nervously I watched as Kaiser barked and threatened, teeth bared, his bark carrying for miles around. And then he calmed again. We moved closer, letting both dogs move until they were face to face, and that is when I witnessed a most miraculous thing. Kaiser bristled a bit and barked loudly again. The older Shepherd returned a gentle authoritative bark, and kept walking. He walked right past Kaiser’s face, brushing gently against him–at which point the usual dog greeting ensued, which I shall not describe–and then the old fellow walked around to the other side and brushed right up against Kaiser again, ever so gently again. The barking stopped instantly, and Kaiser had a new friend. It gave me a shred of hope that I had not purchased  a dog that would maul anyone and anything that approached me.

The other Shepherd went and stood at his master’s side. Kaiser came and stood ever so slightly in front of me.

“Look at that! You have yourself a protector. He’s already bonded with you and will defend you,” the man said.

I wasn’t sure if that was comforting or terrifying, after what I had seen, and with picturing a family and neighbourhood of children back home, but at least there was a bond. It was a starting point. We chatted a while before we each walked our separate ways. That’s when other dogs came. Not one. Not two. But dogs. Plural, way too many, walking around. I wasn’t ready to drive with Kaiser, and I wasn’t ready to deal with his aggression. I opted for the latter and kept walking, trying to keep him focused away from the other dogs, but he was on high alert, and it started all over again. The gentleman and his Shepherd walked our way, the old shepherd walking between Kaiser and the other dogs, and again Kaiser settled down, only distracted momentarily, to bark, when a new dog came too near.

We returned to the car, after about an hour of play, and a drink–his drink, not mine, because I knew I had hours of driving with no break–and headed for home. He nuzzled close to my hand when I reached back each time he showed signs of distress, and calmed right back down.

About an hour from home I noted my gas tank was running low, and stopped at the last rest stop to get gas and rid Kaiser of more energy. I pulled up to the gas bar, opened the door and Kaiser again dove recklessly at me. And at that moment I stopped being his comforter and I became his master. I pushed him back into his seat with great determination, much like a kid trying to force a heavy spring loaded jack-in-the-box into its container, and closed the lid. I mean, the door. I waited a moment and tried again to open the door and get gas. Again he tried to bolt. So I belted myself in and drove  across the parking lot. And that’s when he figured out I don’t like his behavior. I talked to him like I would to any toddler in a tantrum, and knew he didn’t understand a word of it, but I felt better. And I was certain he understood my displeasure, because he whimpered and barked a quiet, sad little bark and then settled down when I told him, “No! You can’t behave that way and there is no way you’re getting out. You will learn to sit quietly and wait.” And he sat back in his seat in resignation.

We sat there for what must seem like ‘forever’ in dog minutes, especially a young one like him. And then I spoke to him before I opened the door. I explained that he needed to wait, and I would help him out on my terms. Amazingly, it went sort of okay. I wasn’t as ‘in charge’ as I wanted to be, but more than earlier, and that was progress. And all progress is good progress. This is what I tell myself daily right now.

We played for a good twenty minutes, after which I pulled back to the gas bar. I told Kaiser he would stay in the car, and I would get out without him, and commanded him to ‘Sit’. He sat. I held up my hand and said, “Wait”. And he waited. He watched me closely as I moved out of the car and filled up, but he waited politely.

I had opened the window a few inches and spoke before going in to pay–because of course the ‘pay at the pump’ wasn’t working. He sat there, all proper, and watched me. “Wait’ in Kaiser’s world means I will return soon, and you may move around while you wait.” He practiced in the next few minutes.

The guy in front of me was on a mini-winning streak, buying lottery tickets and spending the money faster than he was making it. He used his winnings and added from his pocket, before finally wrapping it up, whether due to boredom from not winning, or out of change. Either way, he shuffled along and I paid for my gas.

In the car Kaiser sat as properly as an Emperor should, in a fur coat and four legs, and waited, eyes on me with every move. I sat in with no lunging. He rose to his feet, kissed my shoulders generously, as if to thank me for coming back, and then settled down again.

The final stretch home was completely uneventful, until that moment when we pulled in the lane. Incorporating a German Shepherd dog with fear issues, into a family of seven humans and one other canine, is a very different challenge entirely.

It has been almost a month now, since getting Kaiser, and he has overcome most anxieties in the day to day. Nighttime anxieties still come and go, and, speaking of coming and going, that’s still not his favourite thing, to have changes to the household ‘pack’. So our last big hurdle is to have all of us leave him several hours a week, when the children return to school and I begin university next week.

Aside from this he has made himself at home enough to sneak into Tim’s chair, wear Bryan’s hat, and allow our 10-yr-old cockapoo, Akira, to visit his ‘house’. Keeping in mind that she despised him and would have had him for a snack if she wasn’t a quarter of his size, so some of that ‘allowing’ is her growth.

  
    
   
His favourite thing in the world is playing ball, of any sort but in particular soccer. And especially with Kordan, which has been a very good thing, drawing the youngest teen off the couch to play. I read that German Shepherds do their best to draw a family together, and that is accurate. His self-appointed job–because he is bred to be a working dog–is to engage the whole family in play. Everything from keep away, to high jump, to hide and seek, and whatever entertainment we can conjure up, he’s in. When playing ball we count down, “Three, two… play ball”, so that when Kordan randomly counts, he studies him closely, appearing confused as to why there’s no ball to play.

All around, I am glad I made that trip to Montreal four weeks ago, and glad that we acquired a dog of his intelligence, obedience and affection. He is a guard dog, however, so if you plan on ‘popping by’, call first and don’t walk into the house uninvited, or without an ‘inspection’ from the Emperor himself.

And now, having adjusted to life with a dog like Kaiser, and before I become the crazy dog lady if it’s not already too l, I will move on to a new chapter of life. Where the road will lead,  after my next two years of being invested in intense study, doing the University of Waterloo Master Peace and Conflict Studies, I am not certain. Still, I am glad I made that decision to move in a new direction even though I do not love the uncertainty of dramatic change. That said, I am confident it will be good and a step forward… it always has been in the past.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger