On Rejection & Whistling Cheery Tunes…

It has become a thing of habit, posting daily, but also a thing of thinking about the forgotten ones, the rejected ones, and the abandoned ones. Like the lepers in Bible stories, the religious people of today see many victims as ‘untouchable’, fearing their stories… fearing the exposure of their own pain and hidden secrets.

While the fear is understandable, the result is that many victims feel unnecessary rejection, and those who reject them out of fear of facing their own pain, miss out on the wonder of freedom.

Other times victims are rejected is a result of the person(s) needing to protect an offender. To acknowledge the pain of the victims would require acknowledging the consequence of hidden crimes. And in these cases, the offenders miss out on the help they need, and again victims feel rejected. But in this case it is the best interest of victims for these kinds of people to stay far, far away from them. The poison they offer is deadly, and serves only to further victimize and violate the hearts of wounded people. The rejection still bites, if the victims believe it is about them, but it is a gift.

When victims tell me about people rejecting them, my instinctive first response is compassion. And on the heels of that, I explain that rejection is never about them; people are far to self-serving to reject us because of us. They reject us for their own benefit, their own comfort, or their own self-preservation. They hate us because what we stand for or represent offends something in them. They speak evil of us because they have to defend themselves. And the more vehement their attacks or rejection, the more likely it is that our stories and our voices come too close to home, and their controls are threatened.

Again, in cases where it instills fear in victims who are hiding their stories out of shame, I offer nothing but compassion and understanding. And where it is the fear of some perpetrator being exposed, or needing to acknowledge those crimes, I have compassion but all I can say is thank God they stay far away. There is grace in that.

And as for the pain of rejection, it remains for those at the receiving end, and it is hard for most not to take it personally. Especially at first. With time, experience and seeing these patterns, it’s easier to let it ‘run off’ and chalk it up to the realization that these people have issues. But until then, it is a draining experience, and one that takes time to heal from and work through.

Counteracting rejection requires intentionality. Surround yourself with at least a few good and supportive people whom you can trust. Step outside of your own pain and story; a constant and repeated reliving of it is difficult even for those who love you, and does you no good. Find a mentor or counselor who will help you work through the hurt, and help you refocus so that you recognize you are not the problem; these people have issues. And, because I write from a Christian perspective and for Christians, get grounded in your true identity and who you are in Christ. The childish or fearful responses of those around us hold little weight when we know who we are, and Whose we are.

With the love, acceptance and approval of God, the Creator of the Universe, the rejection of a few fearful, angry, bitter or selfish people pales in comparison, and their approval means nothing.

Finally, if it is a close relationship, rather than some distant judgment pronounced by judgmental people who haven’t bothered to hear your heart, take time to have a conversation. If you have wounded them, hear their hearts. If they are afraid, encourage them.

But if it is that distant heartless judgment from those ignorant ones who are hell-bent on bringing you down–and especially the religious ones who misrepresent Jesus and who have not heard your heart–just pick up your boots and keep walking. Whistle a little tune, breathe in the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss your face… and celebrate Jesus, life and hope.

It’s a good day.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

When Victims Can’t Pray, Read the Bible or Trust God

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and particularly those who were violated in Christian settings, often struggle to trust God. Inevitably this plays into their ability to pray or read the Bible, or even receive biblical truth in the form of someone else quoting the Bible. And understandably so.

My goal when working with people, is to show them–in word and in action–that God is a relational God. Twenty minutes of prayer and an hour of Bible reading, as a religious duty, mean nothing apart from relationship.  Oh sure, it can be presented as ‘discipline’, but what is discipline in religious duty, apart from the kindness of relationship? I’m not interested in it. I can practice discipline in any one of countless other areas, if it is discipline I want to prove.

In learning to pray, I encourage conversational prayer. All the ‘Thee, Thou and Thine’ in the world, doesn’t reach or touch the heart of God, if it is spoken in religious distance. God is a near God. He is present. He is tender. He is a Papa, who wants to hear about our innermost thoughts, and our mundane things. He is like a good daddy or mama, who delights in hearing a child’s excited account of a day at the park, playing with Lego, or listens tenderly to the tears in recounting how the kitty got hit by a car. He’s not looking for deeply religious words that sound pious in right to the masses trapped in performance, but the real and genuine things of the heart–both good and bad. That’s prayer. And when we ‘chatter’ to God at that level, moment by moment, the religious performance takes on the scent of dead flesh, while conversation becomes the thing that breathes life into our soul.

When it comes to reading the Bible, one cause of struggle is the lack of understanding of God’s message, and the way truth has often been misrepresented. The voice of condemnation often associated with the Bible is tragically warped. God’s message, in every word, every story, every line is love. Humans didn’t do it well, always, that is a reality. But God’s message remains, consistently, a message of love.

And the matter of presenting it as condemnation is a thing of humanistic desire for control over another, which is demonic at best. God never granted one of us the right or responsibility to manipulate or control the mind of another. We do it out of fear, to the detriment of those struggling, and to comfort our own minds; we have done our duty, and hopefully the individuals will head our warnings for their ‘good’.

The damaging effect of this serves to drive people farther from the heart of God, and deeper into sin and guilt, rather than drawing them to grace, to repentance and to hope. The impact is devastating.

An individual struggling with pornography or sexual immorality, as a result of sexual awakening that started him or her down that path, hardly needs us to quote a Bible verse or two about immorality and hell, in hopes it will scare them onto the straight and narrow. They need us to walk with them through the pain, the confusion and the trauma, to bring the love and grace of Jesus to that deep wound. Even Jesus, the Holy One, did not come to condemn but to offer life. Who are we, in our religious sinfulness and utter humanity, to offer any condemnation at all? I have never seen a life changed for the good through that approach. I have, however, witnessed life after life, transformed by Love, and addictions broken.

And then this whole thing of ‘God the Father’…. That’s a painful one for many. God. That fearful word applied to this Cosmic Being who wields power over us, and who has been misrepresented by fathers, brothers, preacher, bishops, pastors, uncles. To overcome such association is no small thing. And to walk a wounded heart through that pain is a thing of time, patience and the constant reminder that “He can handle this struggle… He is not put off by your fear… He doesn’t judge you or push you away for it…” and then to show the heart of the Father in love, compassion and caring for their hearts.

Many things have contributed to my healing, but not one more so than discovering the heart of my Heavenly Father–my Papa; Abba Father–for me. It was a moment of revelation that brought tears and warmed my heart when it realized, “God likes me.” I understood well that He loves me. What would drive a man–even a God-man– to a cross, to die for a sinner like me, if it were not for love? Yes, that love was an undeniable thing. But in my woundedness I believed I was unlikable, even by other humans. Even with Tim in our earlier years, I knew I was loved, but at times my mind doubted that he liked me. How could he? I was too scarred. My emotional ups and downs too ‘ugly’.

But little by little, I discovered that Tim likes me; he delights in me and enjoys spending time with me. I make him laugh. I bring him joy and pleasure, just by being me. And that same discovery with God transformed my life. It was a specific moment in time, that the awareness consciously struck me, “God likes me”. And in that moment my spirit danced and my heart laughed. To think that the God of Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, likes me…

I no longer define God based on who my earthly father–or any other spiritual figure in my life–was or is. God was not made in their image; they were made in God’s image, and failed in their representation of Him. I do not need to fear Him, based on who they were, or what they did.

God, the Highest Being, the Creator offers me His identity, invites me into conversation, and into relationship. That is Amazing Love. It is healing grace…

And that is why my hope, when working with survivors of abuse, is to always lead them gently to the Father’s heart. To offer anything less would be a grave injustice, when healing ultimately comes from Him, at that deep spirit level.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

The Message that Changed Me Forever

The stone bench had grown familiar, my senses numbed, so that I hardly thought of the discomfort. The prison cell was dark, damp and cold, yet, somehow, strangely comforting. I felt at home. I had memorized every square inch of my surroundings, every stain, and every mark. At least what I could see in the dim light of day. I wasn’t happy, exactly, and I didn’t pretend to be. I was trapped. Caged in. Held captive by iron bars in the window, placed so high no human could ever reach from within, surround by cement walls, and a heavy metal door blocked all but the tiniest hint of light from whatever lay beyond. There was a lock and, I assumed, somewhere there was a key. Not that I cared. Or even wondered. It could have been in my own pocket and I wouldn’t have bothered about it. I had no desire to leave. Nothing to leave for, or to. This was my ‘home’ and had been almost as far back as my mind could remember. Other realities had long faded, and when I thought of them, I wondered if it was real, or just some ‘other world’ I had imagined. Yes, this was ‘home’…. but, then, what did I know about the meaning of the word?

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When I paid any attention to it, I realized my parched tongue hurt. I touched my chapped lips. They burned. Moist red on my hands indicated they were bleeding. Again. I wiped my hand on my tattered old shirt, once a pure white, now faded and marred with sweat, blood and time. Just another stain. Another mark. Proof that I was still alive. Surviving. I washed my clothes, from time to time, in the puddle that collected in  the corner of my cell.  At least I did, to a time. Anymore it made no difference.

Thirst. It had been a long time since I had a drink of clean water. Just how long, I couldn’t say. I walked to the corner of my cell, picked up the rusty tin and held it to my mouth, sipping just a swallow of the stagnant water. At least it was wet. I looked in the bucket, now emptied of its last drops, and whispered a silent prayer for rain. To whom I prayed, or why, I had no idea. It just slipped in quiet desperation, without a thought, or a speck of faith to accompany it. The hole in the foundation had saved my life often, providing water in a puddle in the corner. Ironic, how a curse for one man is a blessing for another.

My stomach growled. I squinted, looking at the dried loaf at the end of the bench. It tempted. Each week someone pushed one loaf through the bars, without a word, letting it drop into my cell. It was how I told time. And each week I broke that bread into seven pieces, knowing it had to last. Sometimes the kind stranger didn’t show up and I found myself worrying they may be deathly ill, or even dead. The relief when the loaf arrived a few days late was more the knowing my ‘friend’ was alive, than the loaf that fell into my cell. But always, when the loaf came late, there was extra. I turned away from the portion that remained. It was the last piece.

I wondered, often, who my kind stranger might be. The cell was to be my slow and painful death, starving and abandoned. Yet this stranger’s gifts sustained me. I wondered how many other cells there were, and did anyone bring them bread? I was fairly certain it was a child—I had heard the voice, faintly, a few times—but couldn’t be sure. And, if it was a child, where were they getting the bread? It occupied my mind and, in a way, boosted my will to live. I needed to be there to receive the gift.

The lock rattled. I jumped. Startled out of my reverie, I cried out in fear. “Who is it? And what do you want?” My mind raced, immediately. Who knew I was here? My captors were long gone, assuming I was dead, and apart from the child and the bread, no one had ever bothered about me.

The key scraped loudly, the lock clearly rusted, and the rattling continued. The visitor persisted and, at long last, removed the lock. The door creaked loudly as it swung open and light suddenly filled the room. In truth, it wasn’t a bright light, but to eyes that had not seen more than a distant ray, it was nearly blinding. I raised my hand, covering my eyes, parting my fingers to peer through them.

A man stood just outside the door. “May I come in?” he asked.

“It’s really quite a dirty place,” I said, my voice as rusty as the lock. I was suddenly aware of the filthy ‘toilet’, off to one side, offering nothing more than a hole in the floor. I cringed, not willing that anyone would see my condition, or my ‘home’. “I’m not sure you want to come in. You’ll get your clothes soiled. Besides, I don’t even know who you are, or what you want. Why would I let you in? Why would you want to?”

“Please, just let me come in. I have some good news for you, if you’ll hear it,” the visitor said, his voice tender, and filled with compassion.

“Good news? For me? What on earth could you have to say to me? You don’t know me and….” I paused. “Oh, never mind, what do I have to lose? You can come in, I suppose.” I mumbled as I motioned, somewhat carelessly, for him to sit beside me on the stone bench. My mind raced, filled with questions I dared not ask.

He sat down and I looked at him just long enough to see if I recognized anything about him. His brown eyes held a rare gentleness, something I had not seen often in my life. Even in the days before I was thrown in this dark pit… though there had been someone, once… but it had been so long ago… one of the memories I doubted were real. His eyes drew me in, yet I dared not hold his gaze, knowing how repulsive I must be and fearing the memory that threatened. Keenly aware of the present, I tried not to imagine the stench of the place. A stench to which I had grown so accustomed it didn’t even bother me. But it had, at first, and suddenly I remembered. I wanted to tell him to leave, to lock the door behind him and never come back, but I couldn’t speak. His voice interrupted my rambling thoughts.

“I was sent here by the king, to unlock this door and release you from this prison,” the man said.

“Why that’s ludicrous!” I blurted out, scoffing. “Why would the king send you? And besides, I don’t want to leave! Every week a child brings me a loaf of bread, and I collect water from the rains. I have lived here so long that I’ve all but forgotten how to live in any other world. I have no place to go, no future and no life outside of this place anymore. And, even if I wanted to leave, who would want me? I deserve this place. I did dreadful things before I was thrown in here. Paying for my crimes in this way assuages my guilt. So, if you don’t mind, please leave. Just go.”

“The prison door is open, you are free to walk out of here, on the king’s orders,” the man said. “He has granted a pardon for all your crimes. What’s more, he arrested the men who threw you in this place and is having them sentenced. But that’s not all. I haven’t even told you the best part of all…”

“Sir, I don’t know who you are, or why you are kind to me. I don’t know why the king sent you, but I cannot leave. Whatever the rest of this ‘good news’ is, it doesn’t matter, so don’t even tell me…. I don’t want to hear any of it. It will only torment me when you are gone.” I pointed to my ankle, at the shackles that held me further entrapped. A large iron ball had been placed in the middle of the room, and the chain attaching me to it allowed me just within reach of the stone bench, the toilet, and the puddle–my water supply. Never, not in a million years, would I move it from its place. The shackles that once cut my circulation, when my flesh was healthy, now scraped against my bony body, calloused from the rubbing.

The man pulled another key from his pockets. “Ah,” he said, “but the king sent that key, having taken it from your captors. He ordered me to unlock it also.”

The kind man knelt, then, on that dirt floor and worked at the shackles until they came off. At once he began massaging my feet, his warm tears falling. He kissed the wounded ankle. I cringed, embarrassed that he would touch my wounds, so filthy, repulsive. Yet I was amazed at his tenderness. “Please, sir…” I started to speak again, but he interrupted, raising his finger to my lips.


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“Shhh….” He continued working on my ankle as he spoke. “There is something you need to know, if you are to understand why I am here….” the tears turned to sobs, as he spoke and he had to pause, from time to time, to compose himself. “The king is my father, and you… you are my sister. We never stopped searching for you after you disappeared. Not a moment has passed that you were not in our hearts and on our minds.”

Still weeping, he looked deep into my eyes and in that instant I recognized him. His father had adopted me, many years ago, and loved me like his own, from the start. I had never known such joy as I did then. But, alas, I had begun to listen to other influences who lied to me about my adoptive father. Gradually, at first, my heart had pulled back, as I began to question his heart, his motives and his intentions. With time I had become hardened, bitter and angry and, eventually, I had run away while still quite young. The men who had lied about my father, had taught me to steal and murder for them, and when they had no use for me anymore, especially when they discovered I kept some of what I stole in hopes of one day escaping, they had raped me, beaten me and tossed me in this prison.

Now, haggard and worn, my father had found me. I sat in disbelief, my mind reeling from shock, my soul buried in shame, unable to form words. I didn’t deserve him, but oh how my heart longed to go back… A deep ache tugged at my heart. A place deep inside that I thought had died long ago, began to throb with desire.

The man stood to his feet, and reached out his hand, “If you are willing, I would like to take you home and my father and I will care for you. You will regain your strength, and your father will welcome you with open arms, but the choice is yours. You can choose to stay here, or you can come with me.”

I stood to my feet, holding his hand for support. I had resorted to crawling mostly, of late,  so weak from malnutrition and dehydration. My body trembled and I was about to sit back down and declare defeat, resigning myself to my fate, when he picked me up and carried me out of the prison. Weary, I collapsed in his arms as he returned me to my father’s house. He ran to the gate, when he saw us, and threw his arms around me, with no apparent notice of my tattered rags and the stench of my years in prison.

Home. What did I know about the meaning of the word? In that moment, in my father’s embrace, my heart remembered… And in that moment I knew where I belonged.

****

Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)

The Good News

61 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

****

I stumbled across this writing while sorting through items from as many as twenty (or more?) years ago. A hand scribbled expression of my heart, recounting in allegorical form, the wonder of what I felt when I encountered Jesus, and the gift of adoption God offers us through Jesus.

Many things of life experience make no sense to me and leave me wondering and uncertain, yet always some ‘loaf’, or kindness, sustains me. Many times I don’t know where the ‘bread’ comes from, and when I feel there isn’t any way to survive without the ‘rains’, God carries me through deep hunger and desperate thirst.

How easily I slip into various prison cells, when the struggles of life overtake me, and how quickly the Son returns to meet me in that dark and broken place, reminding me who I am, and Who adopted me. He offers me one constant assurance: The Good News is for me, in every broken place I enter. And it is for you too. We are loved. We are bought with a price. The adoption papers are signed the moment we accept Jesus as the Son of God, who died for us. And that thought comforts me more than any religious ‘knowing’ of where I stand has ever offered me. And for this truth I thank my Father. I am His. I am loved.

© Trudy Metzger

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Father’s Day: To be Affirmed & Loved

Father’s Day. Each year it rolls around, a reminder of all that was, all that should have been and wasn’t, and all that could have been.

My mind wanders in every direction. This is my twelfth Father’s Day since my dad passed away. Oddly, I think of him more now that he is gone, than I did most of his living years–the last two or three being the exception.

Just like Mother’s Day, we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day, growing up. Except for that early childhood stuff we did in school. And when I handed dad whatever gift I had made, or some little card, he’d accept it graciously.

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He’d hold the item, especially if it was a card, and study it carefully. He was a perfectionist. A man who attended to great detail. Watching him write his name took patience for me. That’s how meticulous he was. Every letter was a piece of art, in his mind. And it was with the same attention that he studied a card.

At length, having absorbed every jot and tittle, he would look up, thoughtfully, and say, “Thank you very much”, always in Plautdietsch. And you could tell he meant it.

In those moments my little heart would skip a beat, and feel happy, and my feet wanted to skip too. But I held back those urges. At least until I was out of sight.  And in those moments everything was right in my world. All the pain, trauma and dysfunction, instantly forgiven.

In contrast I have watched my husband be a daddy to our children for almost twenty years. His patience, love and compassion have taught me much about my Heavenly Father, and helped me accept and receive Him as such. Tim isn’t perfect. But then, who is. There are areas he struggles–particularly in communicating his heart and feelings. His actions say it all,  as he lives what many say but never act on. We are truly blessed by his faithful representation of God’s grace and kindness. He loves his children, and their mom, with never a hint that we should be anyone other than who we are. In his heart, we are loved and accepted.

And that is what every child longs for: affirmation and acceptance. It’s in-born. We were created to have intimate relationship with God. No pain. No disappointment. No shame. No rejection.

That same love and acceptance was supposed to be ours in our earthly family too. But sin robbed us of that relationship with God, and brought tragedy and dysfunction into human relationships.

As a result we find ourselves struggling in the relationships that matter most. The ones that link most closely to our identity.

If you find yourself, this Father’s Day, in a difficult place as a daughter or son, you are not forgotten. I’m sorry for your grief and loss–no matter the reason for it, whether death or broken relationship, or distance geographically.  I pray that redemption will come, sooner rather than later. And I pray that you will find your hope and your identity in your Heavenly Father.

And if you are a father, like mine, who has failed your sons and/or daughters, it isn’t too late to do your part in healing that relationship. My father tried and failed, many times, caught in a cycle of abuse. And it wasn’t until he came face to face with God’s love and grace–completely apart from religion–that his heart found peace. Only then did we enter into any kind of heart relationship, in the last two years of his life. But it wasn’t too late. I hold on to those memories, of talking and crying together in spite of many years of broken history.

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This Father’s Day I am thankful for the memories of dad that remind me how much God loves His children. Amongst the memories of abuse and violence, these moments lie buried like diamonds, waiting to be discovered. And more than this, I thank God for Jesus, who has redeemed even the hard times.

But most of all I am thankful that God is my Heavenly Papa. That I can run to Him with anything, and He simply loves me. Whatever gift I bring Him, He accepts graciously, taking in every jot and tittle. And, having done so, He looks at me with love… and I know…

…I am His daughter, He is my Father.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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The Golden Chalice (Guest Column, Steve Stutzman)

My friend, Steve Stutzman, shared the following story with me some time ago, via facebook, and asked me what I think. I began to weep as I read it, and that’s precisely what I told him in my response.

“I’m sitting here weeping… and can’t seem to stop. Does that answer your question?” I wrote back.

“That bad, huh?” he asked, with typical Steve-kind-of humour.

“If it was that bad, my heart wouldn’t have been yanked around like that. It’s very touching! God has given you a gift for expressing yourself, and touching hearts, that’s for sure!”

Steve has graciously allowed me to post the story here on my blog. My prayer is that you will be blessed, as I was, by this beautifully written story.

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The  Craftsman looked down at the masterpiece in His hands. “Perfect”, He muttered under His breath. “Just Perfect.” His helpers gathered around in awe to admire this latest of all creations by the Master. Made of fine beaten gold, and overlaid with crystal-like glass, every element and curve of the vessel gleamed. Without it gave the appearance of having been carefully carved, and within it had a polished surface. “I’ll put My Life in it one day”, the Craftsman said, as if to Himself.

The helpers quietly discussed this elegant piece of exquisite  design. “So beautiful”, breathed one. “Yes, but so fragile”, said another. “Surely something so delicate and precious must be protected, not bumped or jarred”, commented yet another. “Probably no one but the Master will ever be allowed to hold or use it.”

Then the helpers fell silent. A  far away look of musing appeared on the Master’s face, and a tear slid down His cheek, and fell onto the vessel in His hand. “Oh yes” , He crooned. “Yes, others will hold it. I fact, I shall make many of them, each one very like the first, yet each one very distinct. And I will give them to my servants, to have, to hold, to cherish. Some will be filled with the finest of wines, and be treasured, polished and prized. But some…” the Master choked a little, then went on. ” some will be dropped, shattered, or broken. It is up to the servant, how he chooses to treat my Masterpiece. But ALL of them will be close to my heart, for I am the Master Designer.”

As the helpers watched, they realized that each element of the chalice had been so eloquently designed, so perfectly fitted, so excellently  conceived, that regardless of how broken the vessel may become, the Master could rebuild it. And not only so, but each element, when rebuilt, reflected the colors of light and wine more succinctly. Truly, the Master has created the ultimate vessel.

One day, the Master smiled at me and handed me  a Golden Chalice. It was a good thing, He said, and I had obtained His favor. I cried that day. I wanted the Golden Chalice, my heart longed for her…. But I had no idea how to care for a Golden Chalice. I wanted to drink of the wine, but had no idea how to refill the Vessel. And somehow, intuitively, I realized the Master cared intently how I treated this masterpiece of such great value.

He never really told me why He made it of such finely beaten gold, or why the beautiful crystal cover.The Chalice doesn’t come with a printed owners manual. The Master told me He wrote the owners manual deep inside me, and I could find it written there if I looked hard enough. It took years for me to grasp the delicateness of the Chalice, and I fear I have dropped and broken it more than once, to my shame. Today, not a day goes by that I do not realize the delicate, fragile, yet priceless nature of the Chalice given into my hands.

I feel anger rising in me when I see a Golden Chalice used to play in the mud or the sandbox.  When servants believe they can use their Chalice to scoop the muck of daily work, then expect fine wine in the evening from the Chalice, the Master is not pleased. When  servants drop the vessels, and grind on them with their heels,  what exactly do we expect the Master to feel? The Golden Chalice was made to be treasured, protected and loved…. not only used.  I can only conclude that either servants do not realize the value of the Chalice, or else they are intentionally trying to anger the Master, and either scenario is not good.

I suppose you realize I am writing about women. My heart is grieved with the way I see men today in so many places treating the precious vessel given to them. I weep for the shatteredness of the little girls that no one protected, no one treasured, no one loved. All they wanted was to feel like a princess, to be convinced they were a Golden Chalice, to be filled with the very best wine  of confidence and beauty. When somehow a man feels it is his divine right to trample all this into the ground, and drive the women in his life like a rented mule, and use the Bible to justify it, I will freely admit to being more than a little annoyed. Do we not somehow see the disrespect this is to the Master Designer?

Yes, women can be a little difficult to understand. And no, God never intended for them to be in charge. But somewhere deep inside the man lies a roadmap to the woman’s heart. Somewhere down there  lies a realization that this beautiful creature, the crowning of all of God’s creation, The Golden Chalice, represents the Bride of Christ. She is most precious and delicate to Him, and God’s intention was that the way we treat her be a picture of Christ and the Church.

Seize that inheritance. Kill the Goliath of anger . Fight through the issues of your own life and past, and begin to set free, with your words, the beauty in the woman (and daughters) in your life. Treasure and protect the Chalice, carry it very carefully. Wash it with your words, gently. Being invited to drink of the wine from a Golden Chalice is one of the most intimate and priceless things a man can ever experience. It must not be desecrated and cheapened. The Master is watching.

~  Stephen Stutzman ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Conversation with Old Order Woman: “Love the ‘Me’ That I Am”

The phone rings. I recognize the name. Earlier this year I met several Old Order women in the States. This particular woman is one I would wish to know better; she is so likable, fun and a dynamic communicator. Her lilting voice, her expressive eyes, and easy laugh all work to deeply engage her audience.

I answer the phone. She is depressed, she tells me, and losing hope. She wonders if I have time to talk. We chat for about 10 minutes. She talks, I listen, and I ask the occasional question.

Nothing bad is happening, really, she says. There are just things she longs for, that don’t exist in her world. She reaches for affirmation, and longs to be loved and encouraged. Basic human needs. She has a good husband, a handsome son, and several beautiful daughters. They love her, she knows that. But, beyond that little world at home, she struggles.

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She thinks ‘outside the box’ of her culture, not quite able to confine herself to the expected temperament of a ‘meek’ woman. She borders on being flamboyant, in spite of her cultural attire. Something that I find quite refreshing to watch, as ‘who she is’ collides with what one anticipates, based on that attire.

It is much as if a priest would come skipping and jumping down the church aisle, waving the cross freely from side to side, and whistling a happy little tune, prior to mass or some ceremony, not out of irreverence, but pure joy in his heart.

That ‘spirit is just who this woman is, by God’s design, and His joy bubbles out of her, and, in the eyes of her people, it spells ‘in a messy heap on the floor’ of her culture. They simply don’t know what to do with it, with her.

But she loves her culture, embracing the simple lifestyle with deep appreciation and pleasure. Only a few things, she says, she would change. Maybe one or two fast car rides every year just to get it out of her system. (“But I would need to be the driver,” she says.) And maybe some of the restrictions on women, like staying home so much. She would rather go out walking or jogging with a friend, now and then, even though it’s an unwritten rule that middle-aged women not do such a thing. But the clothes, the horse and buggy and those cultural things, she wouldn’t give up. Those she loves! She would add Bible studies and fellowship, because of her deep spiritual awakening, but never leave her culture.

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I listen to her and smile. It is so refreshing to hear her express her love of her culture. Her voice ‘sparkles’, even when she’s feeling down. She tells me of the criticism she faces for not being like the other women in church. She follows the rules, but her personality just doesn’t fit.

“Nothing bad is happening right now. Nothing is really wrong. But there are things I long for…” her voice fades.  “Maybe I’m just being selfish.”

She pauses.

At length she continues, “Can’t they just love me for who I am?” She speaks with sad desperation, then pauses once more. When she speaks again, her voice is filled with passion and intensity, the sparkle back in her voice. “I may not be a good ‘Old Order’, but maybe I’m still a good Lavina!”

I burst into giggles, as tears fill my eyes. She giggles too.

“I love that!” I tell her, “And, yes, you are so right! You are a good Lavina!”

She laughs. “Really?”

“Yes! Really!” I tell her that she isn’t selfish at all and that we all long for affirmation, in one form or another, and she is simply human.

“I am? You mean I’m not the only one?” she says, surprised.

“No, Lavina, you are not alone! You and every one of my clients here in Ontario, whom I’ve spoken with this week, shared that same longing for acceptance and affirmation. We all struggle when it isn’t there.”

She sounds relieved. The phone call, though brief, has lifted her spirits. There is nothing wrong with her after all. Her desires and longings are legitimate human needs. No doubt many others in her culture, like her, struggle with it too. Every other culture does. We are all human, after all.

We are created for relationship. We long to be in up-building, affirming relationships, and struggle when those are lacking, or when toxic relationships undermine us. While I believe that Jesus is enough, in every situation, I will add, quickly, that He often reveals Himself through humans.

A moment of listening, and offering compassionate encouragement rather than judgement, may be all the person needs in order to find courage for that next step. Some small affirmation may be the very thing that reminds them God has not forgotten.

I learned this lesson in 2010, when an unbelieving friend and I had a conversation at a church event. With no agenda, and in all sincerity, I applauded him as a father. He’s an amazing dad. And has been as long as I’ve known him. Long before he was a believer.

I watched, in shock and delight, as that moment opened the door for him to hear from his Heavenly Father. Within moments my friend accepted Jesus as his Saviour and embraced a journey of faith. And he started the conversation, all because I affirmed him as a father.

Like my friend, there are people all around you, all around me, looking for someone to accept them ‘just as they are’, without judgement or strings attached. Every person you meet is an opportunity to let the love and grace of Jesus flow through you, and leave each person better for having known you.

What truth do you offer the people in your life? How do you bring hope, courage and more meaning to those whose lives you impact? Do you love the ‘Lavina’s’ in your world simply for who they are? Or do you demand that the people around you fit in a mold of your choosing before you accept them?

© Trudy Metzger

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Wrecked for Love’s Sake

I look into her eyes… the grief… the shame… the hovering darkness… the accusing voices… the hopeless, empty cries…

…and she asks me…

“How do I know I can trust you? How do I know you won’t betray my fragile, broken heart? How do I know you won’t pull out your Bible, quote a few scriptures, pray in the name of Jesus, and then reach out and touch me, taking from me what I’ve never had to give…

…that innocence that I’ve been robbed of, over and over and over again, since birth…

…Will you too, take it, strip me, violate me, use me, abuse me, and leave my heart bleeding on the floor… leave me,  gasping for my next breath…. just to survive….

…And, if you do, will you be the last? Will it finally be all I had left to give? Will the life fade from me…. Are you the one who will be ‘my death’?…

…Or can I dare… do I try, once more… one more desperate time… to trust, in hope that maybe… just maybe… you will not strip me? …

Do I dare risk, and believe that you will cover me, respect me, protect my heart and my dignity… and lead me to the Gentle Healer–the only One who is enough?”

I look into her eyes, and weep…. “Oh God, what have we done? What have we done in your name? Forgive us!”

And in that moment I know, again, it is only Jesus…. only Jesus….

My heart cries out to Him, to use me, to let me be wrecked for love’s sake, but never to get in the way of Love. To let me be a channel, and let Him flow through me, pouring His life into her…. 

…into you…

…so that He can meet every need in you, and show you what He sees in you… how He loves you… values you.

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I open my email, having written the above, and I find in my inbox a message from a client.  In the last several weeks I have ‘confronted’ her abuser, who denies allegations, even though there was a witness.  I read the words, and the tears splash in front of me, as I am reminded why I do what I do:

note of thanks

If it is the first time the abuse victim feels truly understood and fought for, then I have given her hope…

©TrudyMetzger

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Beautiful Wounds, Redeeming Scars: Abigail’s Story (Part 4)

WARNING: This post contains graphic content… If you struggle with cutting, or are sensitive to the graphic description of cutting, do not read this post. The intent is to create awareness in the body of Christ, of a struggle that is relatively common, and tragically hidden, because of fear of judgement. Healing comes when silence is broken.

The day Abigail gave me her blades, she gave me something else. Her trust. And the trust went much deeper than handing me the blades. There was trust in that, without a doubt, but she gave me an even more personal trust.

“Abigail, has anyone ever seen your cuts, your scars?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Where are they?” I asked.

Abigail pointed out several areas on her legs and body, where she had cut. “One word will always be there. The scar is bad. It will never go away,” she told me.

“What’s the word?” I asked.

“Die,” Abigail said.

“It expresses what you felt at that moment, doesn’t it?” I asked the obvious question. I paused a moment, then continued, “Would you let me see your scars?”

Knowing where the scars were located, I knew I could ask without feeling inappropriate. I handed her a blanket, and told her it was to cover up the rest of her legs, if she decided it would be okay for me to see her scars. She hesitated.

“What are you most afraid of?” I asked. “Are you afraid that if I see your scars–if anyone sees your scars–that I won’t love you any more, that I won’t see you the same way again? Are you afraid of rejection… of being judged?”

Abigail nodded. Fear. Pain. Angst. Shame. Impending judgement. So many things you feel when you contemplate revealing the inner, hidden parts of your heart.

“Abigail, I promise you that I will see you no differently.The only advantage to letting someone see your scars, is so they no longer have the same power over you,” I explained.

Anything we carry alone, as our little secret, has power over us. When we let someone who cares into that secret, the power is broken.

Abigail spread the blanket over her legs, then raised her skirt just above her knees, revealing a patch of skin with letters boldly carved into into her body, three inches tall. DIE it read, just as she said.

I had never seen with my eyes before, words boldly scarred into flesh, that way, and my heart felt sad for Abigail. Not because of the scars, really. But the pain those scars bore testament to. It’s okay to grieve the sorrow and trauma of another, and in that moment my heart felt her pain. But more powerful than her pain, I felt the deep conviction that Jesus is more. He is more in every way, and more than enough for her pain.

Our eyes met. “I don’t see you any differently, Abigail,” I said. I reminded her that Jesus died for her scars. That her scars, rather than reminding her, and the world, of her pain, have the potential to be a testimony to the grace and goodness of God through Jesus, if she will continue to give it all to Him, and let Him redeem those scars.

Her scars, I told her, have the potential to inspire praise. If she looks at them and remembers what God has done for her, and redeemed her from…

We think of wounds as unsightly, and scars as a reminder of darkness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I stand in front of Jesus, one day, I hope I will have a moment alone with Him  to kneel down in front of Him, to hold His hands, and kiss the scars the paid the price for my freedom. I want to touch His pierced side and see the wounds that gave me life, and healed my bleeding heart.

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And because of those beautiful wounds, and redeeming scars, I can look at the words carved on Abigail’s leg, and see beauty, hope and grace, because God will use her life–and, in fact, is using her life already–to reach others. Hundreds of people are reading her story, here, and are touched. Your messages tell me that her pain has purpose…

Purpose that is being realized in your hearts, as you find permission to open up your own pain to Jesus, so that He can take your wounds and scars, and make them beautiful, and bring redemption. Purpose in the ways her story is preparing you for that young man, or young woman, whom you will meet soon, who struggles with feeling worthless, and maybe even cuts, like Abigail.

And as we stand in the gap for others, and bring Jesus to them, we experience church–the Body of the Christ–as it is supposed to be. A place where wounds and scars are exposed, and the love of Jesus transforms them into life-giving testimonies. And we extend grace for the rise and fall of that battle, so that we don’t destroy or shut down hearts in that battle.

Abigail’s battle is far from over, Any expectation of perfection, any expectation that her psychological scars, and the spiritual battle, would miraculously end, would have served only to push her into hopelessness. But in turning her heart gently toward Jesus, she found the courage to take one step into freedom….

And then another…

And another…

But with the steps into freedom came vicious attacks from the enemy, and a divine visitation from God, through Jesus, in a dream.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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The Exchange… 2 Blades for A Life: Abigail’s Story (Part 3)

“Tomorrow we need to have some kind of funeral service. Figured I’d text you before I freak out and decide I can’t do it, but those blades have to go…” Abigail’s text said.

“Sounds good to me,” I sent back, “and what shall we replace them with?” When we remove something negative from our lives, it is important to fill that replace with something good, something uplifting.

“I’m not sure,” Abigail replied. “Do you have any ideas?”

“I have some thoughts…” I said.

“Like?” Abigail asked.

“The place that you kept them should have something to remind you who you are, that you are beautiful, and have worth. Where do you keep them?” I asked.

The next day we met, and true to her word, Abigail brought the blades. I told her I had brought her two books, in exchange. The books, I said, while excellent books, held little value compared to the blades.

“Those blades are worth a life to me,” I said, offering her my gift.

There are two books I always keep on hand, besides the Bible. One is Think Differently Live Differently, written by my friend Pastor Bob Hamp, of Gateway Church Texas, is one, an identity book. Bob is a licensed therapist, but more than that he is a man of God, whose passion is freedom for God’s children. He has taught me much about what it means to be free, and the power that lies in simply being who God created me to be, without apology. The other book, Your Secret Name is written by my friend, Pastor Kary Oberbrunner who struggled through hopelessness, depression and used cutting as his outlet, before discovering the freedom that comes from knowing his ‘secret name’–the name given him by God.

With reluctant determination, she traded in her blades. It is not an easy thing to let go of something that has become your security like that, and your outlet. Sacrificing something that reminds you that you are alive, if only because of the pain it helps you feel. Something that has, in a way, become your god, your source of ‘life’, if only to make death more real, reminding you that you are still, at present, a living, breathing entity.

I asked Abigail for permission to find someone who might be able to melt down the blades, and make something out of them for her. A heart, or a cross, maybe. Something to symbolize true hope, life, purpose and value. The thought of burying the blades was okay, but it’s so easy to dig up what is buried. I am far more interested in transformation–in making something completely new out of the painful broken reality of our lives. It is what Jesus does with us. She agreed that would be okay.

I slipped the blades into my Bible for safe keeping for the time being. I would need to find a place to store them until I have connections to transform them into art.

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In my previous visit with Abigail–the one in between the texts about her disappointment in the church ‘system’, and the texts about planning the ‘funeral’ for the blades–we had explored some deep childhood pain and trauma. Abigail cried for the first time in many years that day. I cried too. There is something about going to those places in our young hearts and memories, that is raw and difficult. But it is in finding Jesus there, experiencing the pain and tragedy with us, and carrying it for us, and carrying us, that we find healing. It is in seeing that He never abandoned us, that we make peace with Him, and move on.

Those tears were hard, and painful, but in those moments I saw life in Abigail like I had not seen before. I saw hope. I saw Jesus. And felt Him. I think it was that stirring of life that gave Abigail the courage to get rid of the blades. If Jesus was there, and suffering with her, and if He understands her and cares for her, then the blades are not quite as important. Then maybe, just maybe, He can get her through that trauma without the blades. Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t need the blades to make her ‘feel’.

It was a powerful moment, when she actually handed me the blades. I saw the fear in her eyes, the ‘angst’ of losing that security, but I knew they had to go, for her to break free. I knew their power would never be broken, as long as she held them close to her heart.

I left that meeting with Abigail feeling more victorious than I have felt in a very long time. It wasn’t about personal achievement–there is nothing I can do to change the heart of a human and bring life to the emptiness–that is the Holy Spirit.  It was a ‘wow’ moment, at the grace and goodness of God.

Sometimes it is just as well that we celebrate the moment, with no inkling of what lies ahead. Only days later that victory crumbled at my feet, and forced me to into hard battle for Abigail’s heart.

In the hardest moments, when we invite God to take over, when we abandon ourselves to His call, He moves… And when He moves, and invites us to join Him in what He is doing, we are moved out of our comfort zone, into unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar battles.

Great wars are won, not with one moment in time, but facing battle, after battle, after battle. That day was one battle.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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