Church Life: Cheerleaders, Warriors, Bleachers or Battlefields

Often, when someone asks me, “So what do you do?” or “Where do you work?”, and I share how I work predominantly with Child Sex Abuse victims, I am enthusiastically applauded. “That takes so much courage….” or “Good for you… that’s not for everyone…”

Recently, sitting at Tim Hortons in New Hamburg, a woman, seated not far from me, started a conversation. It began superficially enough. “You have beautiful hair! I like the angles,” she said. I thanked her. “You’ve been in here before,”she continued, “I noticed it then too. It’s very beautiful.” I thanked her again, and passed the credit on to my hairdresser, Erin, at Le Salon, Fairview Mall.

As she pulled out a book to read, I realized I had been here before, in a different time, at the same place, observing her, with her coffee and book. Intriguing. Tim Hortons is not a place I would go to read. Couldn’t concentrate if I wanted to. I’d soon be ‘people watching’, and analyzing them, which would be rude, so better not to do that. My computer, on the other hand, writing my book or working on some blog, now that keeps me engaged. I returned to my writing for a moment, but again our eyes met, and the conversation continued.

At one point she asked me what I do, so I told her a bit about my work, the conferences, and meeting with people. “Wow! Good for you!” I could have recorded it, to play as a duet for the next person, when I’m asked again. It is a predictable response. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think it is insincere–I’ve never felt that way. It’s just a ‘not so subtle’ reminder how lonely the task is. It is easy to ‘applaud from a distance’ the thing that frightens us. Sexual abuse frightens most everyone.

She and I chatted a while longer. I answered her questions. Where do I speak? What is my training? Who funds the work? And anything else that came to mind.

The conversation ended, and the stranger slipped back out of my life. But since then, I have contemplated more deeply than ever, the magnitude of what we fight against, the battle it is, and the loneliness of it. Tim and I had already talked about this numerous times, and asked some pretty tough questions, because we realize this thing is bigger than we anticipated, going into it.

The questions are the result of a deep awareness that many, if not most, Christians and churches shy away from the topic, even while congregants slowly suffocate in their pain, or worse, carry on the chains.

There is nothing glamorous about fighting for the hearts of people. It is raw, painful, bloody hell. To step in and struggle endlessly, in an effort to find a heart, sometimes hardly beating–buried deep, or having been shut down by years of abuse and traumatic memories–is a daunting task. To lead that heart to healing, takes time and compassion.

What we need–those of us in this battle for hearts and minds of these victims–is not an audience in the bleachers that stands and applauds at the ‘great work’, or cheerleaders to dance and celebrate, but warriors who will fight with us, and for us. Not necessarily as part of ministry directly, but for churches, and Christians in general, to acknowledge the need, and offer support and care for victims and workers alike.

As I work with various individuals, whether abuse victims or not, and walk them through their pain, to help them find hope in Jesus, I realize more and more how much we need ‘Jesus-focused’ ministry in our evangelical churches, more than we need another program or project. Granted, people may still need professional counselling, but in knowing who we are in Christ, in truly understanding grace, we are better equipped for a full recovery.

I pray for the day when churches see this as a necessary ministry to offer, so that congregants can be free, rather than leaving it to counsellors and volunteers to do on their own. There is far more ‘work’ to do, than what a few well-meaning individuals can do on their own.

Jesus, after speaking with the woman at the well–a woman who had a ‘story’–challenged His disciples. He recognized what we, as believers, still struggle to get, that in entering into the very heart of people, and going to the raw pain of their stories, we are able to offer them ‘living water’, to fill that emptiness.


When the Samaritan woman showed interest in that living water, Jesus cut to the chase. “Go get your husband,” He said to her.

“I don’t have one,” she answered.

“You have spoken truthfully,” He continued, “because you have had five husbands, and now you’re living common law.”

The woman perceived Jesus to be a prophet, and continued the dialogue with Him, opening the door for Him to give her hope.

Worship, He told her, is not about a place or a cultural, but a spirit connection with God. “…the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman told Jesus that she knows the Messiah is coming, indicating that she is waiting, and at that moment, Jesus revealed Himself as ‘the One’.

Just then the disciples returned and Jesus immediately drew their attention to the great need around them. An ordinary Samaritan woman, who came to a well to draw water, even looked as though she had something to offer Jesus, was in fact in a place of deep need.

John 4:34-35

New King James Version (NKJV)

34 (When the disciples told him to eat), Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 …Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

Whether it’s sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, countless failed relationships, or any other thing, there are many people, who look ‘together’ on Sunday morning at church, who have stories of deep pain. People who ‘show up at the well’ to draw water… even looking as they have the wherewithal to serve others, all the while hiding their pain. Pain they are trying to fill, with one thing or another, like the woman at the well.

I hear the cry of Jesus, and wonder if we, like the disciples, have become distracted with ‘life’… with ‘bread’… with the things we can see and measure, all the while neglecting the hearts of people….

We offer ‘twelve steps’ for this, ‘and 6 steps’ for that, but do we ever take Jesus into their stories, and stay there until that moment when Jesus is able to speak past the ‘stuff of life’? Do we simply let them ‘draw their own water’ at the well, and hope they keep the strength to come draw again? Or do we go below the surface, and give Jesus opportunity say to them, “I am the Messiah…if you drink from my well, you will never thirst again”?


© Trudy Metzger

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