People who have lost their way, are people who have lost their ‘why’.
~ Michael Hyatt ~
A question I’ve asked myself often is, “Why do I do ministry?” I asked it before I started and I’ve asked it even more since. Even if I think I know why I do what I do, it is critical that I stay focused on the purpose of ministry, otherwise the day to day grind can become overwhelming.
As I look back at the last few months, I would have to admit that there was a shift in focus for me. Not a new ‘why’, but I lost sight, to an extent, of the real why–the reason I said yes to God in the first place.
When God called me to ministry, many years ago–long before I ventured into it–I didn’t say yes because it looked glamorous. I said yes because I knew hurting people in the body of Christ needed His healing.
I had started to discover the magnitude of the epidemic of sexual abuse in my culture, and was shocked by it, but I knew that there was still hope. From believing I was the only victim, I went to having sixty people in my ‘world’ who admitted victimization to me, all within a relatively short time. And all of them didn’t want me to tell anyone, because of their shame.
That was only the sexual abuse. It didn’t begin to touch on the victims of violence. Granted, I knew of very few cases of violence in the Mennonite church at that time, and still believed it was only our family, and a handful of other families, at most, who had this problem. I knew of three families in all of the Conservative Mennonite Churches, and only two were extreme cases, our family and one other family. (That perception has since changed, mostly through my blogging world, and the stories you have shared with me. And while I don’t know the magnitude of the problem, I know it is a bit bigger than I had imagined.)
Other than the rumour mill or prayer chain, which at times intertwined, these things were not talked about. There was silence. Victims of abuse who did not cope well, were ‘mentally unstable’, but were offered no help or guidance, or even encouraged to seek counselling. The only advice I knew that was given, was, ‘forgive and forget’.
As this awareness grew in me, I felt compelled to do something. My ‘why’ was two-fold: to break the silence, and to bring the hope and healing of Jesus into the pain. To do that I knew I would have to share my testimony, and break the silence in my own life. I did so cautiously, mostly in one-on-one conversations, for about ten years. At first I shared in confidence, asking people to please not tell anyone. My deepest fear was that my father would discover it, deny everything, and harm me.
Shortly before dad’s death I spoke publicly for the first time. I was asked to tell my story to a group of about fifty women, none of whom were associated with my family, so the risk was small. But from the time of his death, I felt free to speak.
As I became more confident and bold, I stopped asking for confidentiality. In some ways my ‘how’ changed, but my ‘why’ never changed. My purpose, to break the silence and bring the hope of Jesus to people, never changed.
Working closely with people, in one-on-one mentoring, I have learned a lot. And I am open to new ideas, changing my methods, learning what works for a specific person, that may not be how I usually do things, but the reason for what I do isn’t up for grabs. It’s rock solid.
I break the silence because it needs to be shattered so the voices behind those invisible walls are released, and the hearts set free. We need to hear the cries of the wounded, rather than silence them, so there isn’t a spiritual holocaust in our churches. We silence them, put them in a large chamber, and slaughter their spirits, with our denial. It is wrong.
That, however, is incomplete. The real ‘why’, for me, is the ‘Jesus part’. If I cannot bring Him with me into the work I do, I will slowly die. I will have to carry your pain, your burden and your trauma. And I can’t do that. I won’t do it. I am willing to be there for you, and I love it, but I cannot carry that burden.
I have met with several individuals, Christians, who wanted to go through their stories with me, but when I got to the ‘Jesus/God part’ I was told that if I have to include that, they’re not interested. I explained that I would do them a grave injustice to do it on my own, apart from God. And, though many sessions are more about listening to people’s stories, than actually doing a lot of ‘God/Jesus talk’, if I cannot bring Him into it, then my ministry is incomplete.
For me, that part is critical for my protection and their healing. Apart from His healing, healing is incomplete. There can be healing through therapy, but it is incomplete. Not long ago I received a request to begin meeting with a medical professional who has gone through years of therapy. They asked if I would help with the spiritual healing, because it was never addressed. Therapy had helped in many ways, but it had not worked for the deeper soul healing.
In many people there is a toxic bitterness that suffocates their own souls, and poisons people around them. That is, until Jesus comes into the healing process and heals the soul. I have worked with them, and only when we invited God in, and understood what Jesus really came to do, did that toxic bitterness dissipate. Had I taken them on as clients, to simply hear their stories, I could easily have spent years wearing myself out with their emotional baggage, with no real transformation. Instead, I see people begin to transform in weeks. I see hope rise up. I see confidence where there was none. I see them go from being toxic to offering healing to others. That’s the Jesus factor.
I had lunch with my friend Cindy last week, to talk about ministry and the ‘stuff of life’ that goes with it. She and her husband have an amazing ministry for teen boys, Crane Lake Discovery Camp, and understand the battle that goes with what I do.
We were deep in conversation about ministry, about why we do what we do, when a text came in. I had already started this blog, but that text gave me the title.
“What is your agenda?” the text said.
I knew her well enough to know she was asking on behalf of someone else. She is one of my clients, who has become a radically transformed woman since we met. I knew it couldn’t be her asking. She knows my ‘why’ from experience.
“Who’s asking?” I sent back.
“Can’t say,” the person said.
I sent her a text to tell her I’m already blogging about why I do what I do, and told her to watch for my blog, and share it with the person asking.
My answer to the question, “what is your agenda?”, is, “I don’t have one”. If I had an agenda I would go about this very differently.
If I had an agenda, for starters, I would turn to the secular world because the secular world receives people who advocate against the evils of sexual abuse, even idolizes them, and applauds them. And there are a ton of sponsors out there willing to give money for the cause. In the church there are a few, here and there, who give generously to a cause like this.
If I had an agenda, the one place I wouldn’t do my work, is in the church. I would drop the God/Jesus factor, and make a name for myself. An agenda is always driven by self, and this ministry, within the context of church, is sacrifice in every way.
Yes, there are rewards in ministry, and those spiritual rewards out-weight what the secular world has to offer, with all its money and fame, but that doesn’t remove the struggle. And that is the reason it is imperative that I remember my ‘why’.
My ‘why’ is my love for Jesus and what He has done for me, and it is my way of helping others find His healing. My ‘why’ is a thank you to the people who sacrificed for me, who sat up, late at night, listening to my pain, all the while taking me back to God for healing. My ‘why’ is your freedom.
Do you have and agenda? Or have you found your why? Does your inner person get into a knot, trying to defend, protect, or accomplish that agenda? Or does your ‘why’ give you hope that spills into the lives of all you meet?
~ An agenda is toxic, a ‘why’ is life-giving. Choose wisely. ~
© Trudy Metzger
Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series
First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series