I received a message from a Mennonite reader who follows my column in the local paper. (She faithfully contacts me every time to say thank you for being a voice for those who have none, and to tell me how much it means to be understood.) She had read the article, in last week’s paper , “Sexual Abuse: To Confront, or Not to Confront the Abuser”.
When I let her read this blog, before posting, she said, “I wonder what kind of response you will get. It means a lot to be understood.” I hope the response is compassion for victims, and outrage–or righteous indignation, if that makes you feel better–that this is hidden and protected in religious settings.
The reader’s message, that inspired this blog, was quite simple. It wouldn’t make any difference to confront at least two of her abusers, she wrote…. because they are church leaders. And she learned a long time ago that church leaders get to do what they want.
As a little girl, this woman lived in an environment with hired men, coming and going out of her world, using her as their own private little prostitute. She was ‘sold into the sex trade’, right in her own home, and when she tried to tell people, they told her she was lying. This pain, she says, is more difficult to forgive than being violated over and over again.
Her purpose for writing was to ask me ‘How do I forgive?”
But that’s not a question I am going to answer today. Today I am simply going to acknowledge her pain, and the damage done by the abuse, and the leaders who cover for themselves or others.
Forgiveness is so easy to preach from the front of the church, and I presume it gets even easier when hands, covered with the blood of innocent children, grab the podium for support while teaching it.
Even the demons, I expect, attend those mornings and delight in listening to the sermon of unrepentant men who hide sin while ‘guiding’ the children to salvation. Even demons, yes, I think they show up for church those days, bright and early.
And the women in the audience write to tell me how the demonic attacked them, and they wonder why they shake and tremble when certain men take the podium. And others write to tell me that the way some men look at them–men who are leaders, men who are bullies, men who have sin hidden–and they strip them naked, right there in church. And they wonder why, and they ask me, too, how to forgive.
And I could pull out old messages, just like the one I got yesterday, telling the same story, and I could line them up and count them…. and the questions they ask, about needing to forgive… But each person is an individual, and each story is unique, told for the first time, even if you’ve heard it somewhere else a thousand times.
As the messages trickle in, and the tears trickle out, I tremble too. And each time, my heart shatters for them… my heart, weak after the intense battle of last year, breaks again. Yet, with that breaking a new courage rises up. I will never lay down my Sword for these children. No, I will carry it… drag it on the ground if I must because of lack of strength, but I will carry it to the finish.
And in the face of the enemy hope will fill my chest because I know the One who knelt with those children… the One who keeps account of every little deed He saw, committed in the dark against one little one… And every one who silenced that child to protect image, family name or some other pride…
And I cry out to Him…
“God, we need your help! We carry the Sword to fight against the enemy. But we need You to Shatter the Silence of sin hidden in the church… We need You to vindicate the children and acknowledge their pain… We need You to expose the corruption hidden behind titles and position… We need You to end this violence against children.”
And God rose up and went to war.
Every man and woman who had hidden sin was exposed. Everyone who had not repented, confessed and taken ownership of their crimes, was held to account.
And the heavens opened again in blessing on God’s people. No longer did they believe the enemy’s lies and fall prey to his confusions and perversions.
The wounded were healed, the dead raised back to life again. And the soldiers, weary from the fight, fell to their knees in worship. The Warrior had come… Freedom, sweet freedom, had come…
The children went out to play in safety.
The angels watched over them closely, clapping their hands in delight. At long last, having witnessed many years of heinous crimes, the children were free to laugh, free to run, and free to dance.
Matthew 18:10 – Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
READ NEXT BLOG: “All Mennonites Are Not Sexual Predators”
© Trudy Metzger
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