Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day….

It was Sunday evening when the text came in asking me to listen to some ‘Father/daughter’ dance songs for the wedding. In the seven months of wedding prep, I’ve been shockingly composed. In fact, I was starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I’ve not been all weepy about seeing our first daughter get married. I feel good about it, actually, having observed them these past few years, and how they accept each other, idiosyncrasies and all. And, yes, they do have some. We all do. I’ve observed how Andrew cares for Alicia, and that detail stands out above all things. So maybe it’s okay that tears haven’t been a big part of this journey. Still, I was a bit worried it would hit out of the blue on wedding day.

And then the text came in.  A list would be on the way shortly, which I didn’t realize, so I searched the web. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I found “Daddy’s Angel” and the emotions started. The memories…

Alicia used to come into our room and make a bed on the floor beside daddy when she couldn’t sleep at night and I had other babies, and with five in seven years plus to miscarriages, it was pretty much always. She would show up at our bedroom door, or beside our bed, blanket and pillow often already in hand. Daddy would reach his hand over the bed and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and her little heart would be at rest. As she grew to independent adulthood, through successes and struggles, Tim loves the little girl who made him a daddy for the first time.

It all took me back to the healing of my heart as I watched him, first with her, then with Nicole. An independent soul from the day she was born, and he patiently worked with her persistence and determination. That’s not said she didn’t win her fair share. In fact, one day she announced to her siblings, when she was six or seven that praying to God we have to be kind of like with Daddy, and keep coming back over and over again, until He gets tired of it and gives us what we want.  While her theology wasn’t 100% accurate, she spoke with sincerity, celebrating her own determination. And she should. God made her with that determination for His purposes. And always Tim loved her, as generously as he loved his first.

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And then came Bryan with a curiosity that led to a thousand and one answers to the question”Why?” and a whole new kind of rambunctious. An opposite to his daddy, with my spunk and crazy, he challenged and stretched his daddy in the rough and tumble of life. Rough-housing, which had never been something I saw in Tim, wasn’t optional. Granted, it tested his patience at times, but seeing them wrestle and roll, was delightful. It ended several years ago with Bryan sitting on Tim’s chest, having finally overthrown him, and having tested that patience to a whole new level, Tim looked up at Bryan, clearly at his son’s mercy, with arms pinned beside his head, and sternly said, “Have you had enough?!” And we all erupted in fits of laughter, regretting only that there was no video camera. In it all, with oreo cookies flying against the fridge like a hockey puck, and a soccer ball shattering the one and only expensive candelabra in our home, and the teasing and laughter, Tim loved Bryan well.

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Todd, the fourth son, came with a quiet temperament, and eventually we would discover an incredibly busy mind. A youngster of few words, big deep eyes, and unspoken curiosity, he gave us both a run for our money on more occasions than one. Whether daring to explore a big department store alone, the instant we turned the other way, and scaring the life out of us, or hiding in the back of our friend’s van at four because he so badly wanted to go along with them, or curling up behind a chair and falling asleep, he kept us on our toes. Through the scares, the laughter and a whole lot of affection, Tim loved his fourth with the same dedication as the first three.

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And about the time when we thought we were done, and ready to solidify our family of six with surgery, it happened, that thing I said I would not do. It all began when we dated, and discussed our hopes for having a family one day. Tim said four was a good number, and I wanted six. But, if not six, then four would have to do. Tim suggested a compromise, that maybe we could have five, but I had a list of reasons why five wouldn’t be a good choice, not the least of which would be the loneliness of being the odd number out.

It was almost three years after our first four–all of which were less than two years apart–and my feeling about odd numbers wouldn’t have been any different than during courtship, if I had contemplated a ‘plan’. Fortunately for us, God had a plan that superseded my logic.

Kordan was, from the start, a content and affectionate child. Physical touch, from day one, comforted him, but on his terms. One adult finger, held in tight grip, offered him the security he needed to relax and falling asleep. He was fortunate to be the fifth, and three years on behind the others, because practice and experience, not to mention age, relax us parents, so he faired well. The bumps and scrapes were fewer and farther in between, and life was a bit easier for him than for the others. And through it all, Tim loved Kordan as much as he loved the first four.

“Daddy’s Angel” plays in the background and my heart is full of thoughts from yesteryear. Memories of a handsome young man fathering so tenderly our five children, wrap around my heart and squeeze so tight that teardrops spill from it. Thoughts of yesterday, working side by side with that same man, attaching barn board, twinkly lights, burlap and lace to wedding things, creep in, and I am as crazy in love with him today as I was back then.

I told a friend about the song… about the tears and how it took me off guard to cry like that. “And it brings back memories of your own father too,” she said. And that’s when I realized those painful old memories of an abusive father, though long replaced by forgiveness and grace, were now officially replaced with memories of a kind man loving is children well. The man I married 22 years and five months ago this week.

This father’s day I honour Tim above all men I’ve ever known. And I’ve known some pretty amazing men in my lifetime. But not one holds a candle to the kindness of my husband. Sure, he’s imperfect, and I could point out some idiosyncrasies. But the one thing Tim taught me over the years, by his example, is to focus on the good and the strengths, and loving well. Thank you, Tim, and Happy Father’s Day! You’re the best!

And because of my own broken childhood, and not having a daddy to run to with safety and confidence, I can’t go through this day without thinking of those whose daddies are missing, for whatever reason. Tim can be many things in my life, but he can’t be my daddy. Watching him parent can warm my heart, but I’ve learned that I have to let my Heavenly Papa fill that one place that only a Papa can fill. This comfort is my prayer for all lonely children

For the fathers with empty arms, having lost children to death, miscarriage or due to infertility,  and those whose children have turned their hearts away without just cause, I pray for you, that God will be near and that people will be compassionate and sensitive to your loss and loneliness.

My prayer is that if you are lonely and hurting this father’s day, whether you are a father, a son or a daughter, you will find Him faithful and feel His love in your loneliness.  And if your heart is full and everything is perfect, that you will feel blessed and celebrate that joy this Father’s Day.

In memory of my father who has been gone fifteen years now, I’m listening to ‘The Living Years‘ by Mike & the Mechanics. It’s pretty much a tradition now, to think of Dad on this day and listen to that song… among others. There are things I would say, if I knew what I know now and had a day with him. I would keep the same boundaries, and I would still hug him and tell him I love him, in spite of all the abuse. It’s how I’m wired, a part of who I am, to be able to do that. Not everyone has to make themselves do these things. But if I had that one day, I’d tell him how much it hurt, and I’d ask more questions about his story, not to excuse what he did, but to have a better understanding. And I’d take him out for a day to some outdoor event with old machinery. But he’s gone, and what I have is the memory of God’s grace in his life and in mine. And that’s enough in a fallen world, where things are not as they should be. It will all be different on the other side of this life.

And, finally, a very special Father’s Day blessing to Tim, who is preparing his heart to watch his first little girl walk into the arms of another man, this Friday, for the rest of her life. Alicia will give up her father’s last name, and take on Andrew’s name to become Mrs. Martin. And there’s a thing about this whole process that tugs at a Daddy’s heart. It is a good thing–we know from experience–but the adjustment is worthy of mention, even while we bless her. Praying, Tim, that God will be near you this week and always. Thank you for loving your children well, and teaching me what a father should be. xoxo

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

 

 

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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Why We Shouldn’t Cancel Father’s Day…

In the last few days I saw a ‘No Father’s Day’ sign, and various blog titles boycotting Father’s Day for a variety of reasons. One that stands out was a young mom whose husband did nothing for her, therefore she will do nothing for him.  Another was targeted to punish delinquent and abusive dads. Yet another was a dad who had a ‘lost/missing child’, with nothing to celebrate. His world was turned upside down, and without his daughter, Father’s Day has become meaningless.

These various reasons for cancelling Father’s Day, or boycotting it as several said it, played in my mind this morning before church. One seemed a bit petty, to me, say ‘he forgot about me, therefore I will punish him’, and yet I understand that it is painful and disappointing to be forgotten, especially in the early years of marriage and parenting. The others are a big deal. A very big deal.

Only subconsciously, at first, did my mind slip back to my own childhood… life at home.. terror of dad, and all the other reasons I should boycott Father’s Day. But I was too distracted by the very idea of it, to really think about what life was. It just seemed wrong, somehow, to boycott a day celebrating dads, because my experience was tragic.

When I wake up Father’s Day morning, next to the Daddy of my children, my heart is filled with joy. Tim is a calm, quiet, gentle, understanding man, who parents with patience… most of the time. Sure, he gets exasperated now and then, but rarely, and when he does, he guards his heart carefully. I’m proud of him, and blessed by him.

(As I write this, our fourteen year old son walks across the room, curls up on the couch, puts his head on Daddy–his ‘pillow’, he says–and snuggles a minute before running off. Admittedly, there is a part of me that watches, and wonders… What would it be like to have that kind of safety and trust with a father? The thought isn’t a jealous one… it is just foreign to me, and I can’t imagine such a thing.)

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In church, two gentleman a father-and-son-in-law duet, did a special song–“Lead Me” by Sanctus Real. It was not only beautifully done, it was deeply moving. Men who care about the ‘heart cry’ of their wives and children… Men of honour. I held Tim’s hand, squeezed it a bit tighter. Thankful.

They ran a video clip before the message, of children of every age, paying tribute to their fathers. The first messages were warm, sweet. Good fathers. Just like my husband, I thought, and then the pain of what I never knew pierced my heart, for just an instant, stirring up memories and emotions of loss. A tear fell, but I willed the emotions to go away.

Father’s Day is a day I celebrate my husband and the men in my life who showed me what God is like, by their respect, their love and their integrity. I don’t deny the pain, I just don’t give it my full attention, and let it rob me of the good I know, by being consumed with the negative.

As the video progressed, the clips included children whose fathers were absent, whose fathers had hurt their families. Again the emotions surfaced, and more tears spilled. Conflicting emotions are the worst.

“Why the tears?” Tim whispered in my ear.

I smiled, shrugged. How do you explain to the man you love that you’re crying because he’s such an amazing man, and your heart ‘hurts like hell’ because you can’t imagine having had a dad like that? He didn’t need an explanation. The question was a sign of caring, more than looking for me to explain.

The service was good. Pastor Dan spoke about six gifts a father should give his children. Ironic, I thought to myself, it’s Father’s Day, and dad is being encouraged to be the gift giver.

The six gifts were:

1. Love their mother

2. Spiritual Direction

3. Encouragement

4. Time

5. Consistent Discipline

6. Prayer

Rating my husband on these, he gets a seriously high-end average. Rating how this played out in my childhood, I recognize the neglect, and all that I lost, and how much those losses have impacted my life over the years. And still do, from time to time.

It occurred to me, that if I boycotted Father’s Day, and focused on the negative and the ‘darkness’, then, inadvertently, I would set this day aside to celebrate that darkness. By celebrating what is good and right, despite the fact that so little was good and right in my childhood, in my relationship with my father, I put the focus on what is right, and promote what is good.

So today I focus on the moment when my father, in his old age, said, “Will you forgive me…?” I won’t deny the pain, but I won’t let it take more from me than it already took in childhood.

Having said that, we should continue to advocate for truth and justice. We should continue to stand against violence, abuse and neglect. We should not turn a blind eye to evil, nor deny the pain, but never should focusing on evil rob us of celebrating that which is good and right.

If for no other reason in the world, then for the sake of honouring what is good, and right, for the sake of promoting what fatherhood was intended to be, we should not cancel Father’s Day, or boycott it. We should honour all the fathers who sacrifice and fight for their families, their churches, their communities, their countries. And on Father’s Day we should thank them.

Thank you, and Happy Father’s Day, to the men in my life who represented fatherhood well, even though you were not my ‘real dad’. Some of you came and went quickly, passing through my life for only a day, an hour or a brief moment, but you blessed me in that time. Some of you were there for months, or years. Some of you have stayed to this day.

You are the men who impacted my life in a positive way, and I am indebted to you. Today I honour you.

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©TrudyMetzger

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A Time (for the Church) To Speak (on Sexual Abuse & Taboo Topics)

For many years the church has been silent on the topic of sexuality, and sexual abuse. She has been guilty of covering her eyes and turning a blind eye, as children fell prey to predators. The predators often wearing religious garbs. She has covered her ears at the sound of their weeping, and sung the more loudly, to hide those cries.

She has been controlled and led predominantly by men, many of whom have their own hidden secrets, buried in the shame and silence of the past. The shame is either because they have suffered abuse and victimization, or because they are the perpetrators who have inflicted such trauma. The silence is either one of those, or possibly to cover for the friend or relative who was or is a perpetrator.

It has been done to protect the false image of the church or denomination. It has been done to keep the funds rolling in from the perpetrator who gives generously. It is a crime that has been committed against victims, a sin committed against God. A violation of the heart of Jesus.

But those days are coming to an end. The church will again rise up for the truth, and stand up against evil. She will again reclaim her role as the passionate bride of Christ, the nurturing representation of God’s heart, the safe place for victims.

We live in a time that demands accountability from leadership, justice for the perpetrator, and protection for the victims and potential victims. The laws of our land require it. The law of God and His justice demand it. But more importantly, His heart for children cries out for it.

Not only is our nation rising up, because God has ordained it to be so, but victims are finding their voices and God is raising up  warriors who will fight for the children within the body of Christ. He is exposing the sins of the fathers, and freeing the children from the curse. He is turning the hearts of the children back to the fathers, to bring healing, hope and restoration. I am not going to miss out on that!

The calling God placed on my life–a calling that has been declared and prophesied over and over again, by friends in the Mennonite church and in my current church–is directly linked to this exposing, healing and restoration that God is doing.  It is an honour and a delight to be part of what God is doing in the time, this generation.

For two years we have done ministry focusing predominantly, almost solely, on women, other than meeting with and mentoring a few couples. It has been good, rewarding. But we quickly discovered that there are many, many male victims, and little acknowledgement or resources in the church addressing their plight, partially because of ignorance, and partially ‘it’s never been done’, and no one seems to know where to begin.

When we were first asked if we would do ministry for men, I said ‘no’. As a female, leading the ministry, I found the thought daunting. Overwhelming. Little by little I felt a stirring in my heart. God inviting me to reconsider. I’m not Jael, or Esther, or Deborah, and yet I felt so clearly God saying, “for such a time as this”. I heard Him challenge me to ‘drive a spike’ into the enemy’s head, and reclaim authority in the area of sexuality, and take back what the enemy has taken through silence.

With that Tim and I embarked on the mission to establish Generations Unleashed, a ministry to men, women and families. While the official charitable status is still in limbo, as we wait for Ottawa to bless our mandate, we have our first conference coming up November 23-24, 2012, in partnership with Faith Girls Unleashed.

I searched and prayed for a man to work with me, to be part of the conference and speak on behalf of male victims. God answered that prayer, connecting me with a young man named David Elliott, a 15-year-old survivor, who, along with his family, is determined to make a difference.

David and his parents have written a book for children, called David’s Sword, giving children a voice. His brother, Dan, and his parents have written a second book, David’s Shield, for siblings of victims. And his parents, Marybeth and Lee, are working on two more books.

We are excited to have David and his family join us for the conference and share their story with us. They will offer hope to victims and help equip the body of Christ, the community and families in dealing with sexual abuse, as well as preparing those who will one day encounter this tragedy.

Kirk Durston, of Woodside church in Elmira, will share on the topic of homosexuality, another neglected topic. While not all who struggle with homosexuality do so because of abuse, many do and openly admit it. And not all abusive victims struggle with homosexuality. Either way, and even apart from the abuse issue, the church needs to speak on this topic. Silence will accomplish nothing.

I will share a bit of my story on Friday night, followed by confessions from individuals representing fathers, mothers, pastors, men in general and women in general, as the offenders in abuse.

The conference, Healing for the Broken, will be held at Wilmot Centre Missionary Church 2463 Bleams Road, RR2 Petersburg, Ontario. We would love to have you join us. To register visit http://www.faithgirlsunleashed.com/events_3.html. The early bird rate ends November 8, 2012.

For more information about the speakers, visit: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events.html

NOTE: Saturday snacks and noon meal included

© Trudy Metzger

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Sketchy Pets & The Unconditional Love of Jesus

As a little girl, I used to catch wild creatures in hopes of keeping them for pets. Mice. Snakes. Bugs. Turtles. Frogs. Pigeons. (Lice infested pigeons.) Once I almost caught a little owl-type-bird, but it pecked at me so viciously I released it. When I had it cornered, it spread its wings back, looked at me with its beady little black eyes, and did the strangest hiss. It made my heart stand still for the briefest second, sending little electrical shocks and shivers down to my toes. It looked like  a little demon. (Years later, reading Frank Perretti’s books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, I pictured the demons he wrote of, to look much like that evil little bird.)

I dragged home the creatures I caught, and tried to convince my mother to let me keep them. I wanted them to be my pets, to belong to me.  It never worked. The creatures didn’t appeal to her. She didn’t want them.

I did win in one situation, with Dad. And, though it wasn’t a wild creature, it was the next thing to it. Our neighbour boy brought a ratty looking old stray cat that he had found somewhere, and tried to sell her to Dad. She was gaunt and sickly looking, and Dad wasn’t interested. But to me she was a beautiful calico, and I assured Dad that if I took good care of her, she would get better. Dad paid the dollar for the cat.

It’s a long story, and a rather disgusting one, so I won’t tell it, even though it was one of my proudest moments, but as I doctored that cat, she got well. I did minor surgery as an 8-yr-old, using tools from my mothers sewing machine–something I never did confess to her–and soon the cat, whom we named ‘Tiger’, was fat and healthy. Not long after, she was fatter than ever, and pregnant. She became the mother of many, and grandmother of countless little beauties.

Dad kind of claimed her as his cat, which was okay, but secretly I claimed her as mine. I had swayed him to buy a sick old cat he thought wasn’t worth a dollar. And more importantly, I had healed her. Something I never told him.

***

Most of my time, interacting with people, is spent across the table drinking coffee or sipping tea–depending on the time of day. (I’m over 40, so the days of drinking coffee all day long, and sleeping well at night, are over.) Often, when I refer to conversations, I write about ‘sitting across the table’ from someone. It’s not just a line I use, it’s a life I live and love, and I’ve been blessed to sit with some of you, my faithful readers. Something I consider an honour.

That said, I recently sat across the table from a beautiful young woman, with whom I am blessed to meet on a bi-weekly basis. She is so pure of heart, so honest, so transparent. I won’t share any of her story, because it isn’t mine to tell, other than to refer to a question she asked me on the most recent visit. Someone had told her that after we accept Christ, we should be able to attain sinless perfection, in this life. She wondered if I agree with that.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but that one I have an answer ready, without hours of study. My answer was, “No, we will never attain perfect holiness in this life.” If it depends on us attaining, we Christians are as sinful as any. Our thoughts are, from time to time, filled with hate, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, pride, covetousness, lust and all manner of evil.

I have not met a full-grown adult, born again or not, who is of sound mind, and does not struggle with at least some of these things, from time to time. Some will arrogantly pretend, but start asking the hard questions and they will either confess, or sin by lying.

We are sinful creatures. That’s a fact. When Jesus saves us, He gives us power to overcome sin, but in our humanity, we fail miserably. It is therefore not our behaviour that makes us saved. It is the love of Jesus, our faith in His sacrifice, as the Son of God, and our willingness to repent, that makes all the difference. The New Testament says repeatedly, “Repent and believe, and you will be saved” or “Repent, believe and be baptized…”

Our salvation is much less dependent on our behaviour, than most of us give it credit for. (And our opinion of our own sinlessness is often a bit high.) Should we not care, then, about our behaviour? Of course we should! If we are truly sold out for Jesus Christ, we will want to reflect Him in our lives and our behaviours. We don’t plan to sin. We put every effort into living a life of holiness, but when we find ourselves in sin, and we will, we repent quickly.

Even the Apostle Paul, whom I would regard highly as a man of God, a man of holiness, and a man of integrity, has this to say:

Romans 7:18-25

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

18 I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t.

19 I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.

20 I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me.

21 Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law.

23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body.

24 What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body?

25 I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.

Paul, in his sinfulness and humanity, recognizes that he will fail. He strives for a life of holiness, but, in the end, he says, “What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin and it’s impact? I thank God, who will save me through Jesus.”

If Paul has to fall back on that, when he dedicated his entire life to ministry and suffering, who am I to pretend that I, of my own effort, am holy? Or that I am even capable of attaining holiness? I am made holy only through Jesus Christ, who presents me to the Father based on His love for me, not on my righteousness, which amounts to filthy rags.

I picture Jesus taking me, sinful and human, and presenting me to God kind of like that stray cat. Sin does a number on me, and makes me look sick and not too appealing. But Jesus doesn’t look on me as I truly am, in my sinfulness. He looks on the ‘sinful me’, and sees the ‘loved and redeemed’ version of me, and that is who He presents to God. He sees me as made whole through His love and grace, in spite of the healing that needs to happen.

Just as my father saw the sick cat through the eyes of my love, and it became his favourite cat, so God sees us through they eyes of the love of Jesus. He embraces us, grunge and all, and accepts us as His own. Adopted. Loved.

© Trudy Metzger

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The Last Farewell: A Heart Held in God’s Hand

I tiptoed through the funeral parlour, across the room to where my father rested. It was just Dad and I, one last time. I had come alone, when I knew no one else would be there. I needed it. Our most meaningful times the last few years had been with just the two of us.

There were so many things we had talked about. Things that would have never been spoken in a group. Heart things. Painful things. Raw. Honest. Beautiful. Forgiving. Redeeming.

The emotion inside of me needed one on one grieving to be released.

The night after Dad’s death had been hell. I can’t explain it. It just was. I could pretend it never happened. But it did. And it felt as if every demon that had ever tormented him had been sent to haunt me. Never was a night more filled with dark nightmares and trauma, than what I lived through that night. I constantly awakened, trembling, only to find it wasn’t real. Each time I could only whisper a prayer of protection, and make a declaration that I was unwilling to surrender to that darkness, whatever it was.

Dad’s life, apart from abuse with his family, had other sketchy realities woven through it. Some that we would never know about. Some we would hear of in the form of rumours. The latter, intertwined with a strange bled of fiction, made up my nightmares.

I don’t remember the next day, Saturday February 22, at all. I don’t know what I did that day. Or where I was. It is a blank spot in my memory.

But on Sunday, February 23, as I stood before him at the funeral parlour, I was at peace. The haunting was past. Over. In that moment with Dad, I knew one Truth more powerful than any past, any nightmare, any rumour–whether true or false. And that truth is Jesus.

My heart ached, and tears fell in a steady stream. I couldn’t speak, other than to whisper the name of Jesus, and say ‘thank you’, over and over.

It’s all that counted, in that moment, and I knew it was all that mattered for eternity. I embraced it, but my confidence would be tested, three years and nine months later, to the day. On November 21, 2006, I would be admitted to the hospital, in my own battle against death. And in the fight for my own life, the Truth would be my sustaining force.

I tiptoed back, the way I had come, and left the funeral parlour. I was at peace, ready for the demands of the next several days.

The previous day had been my brother’s birthday. The day following was our oldest son’s birthday. In the middle of grieving death, we celebrated life. Could it be more ironic, than to die the day before your son’s birthday and be buried the day after your grandson’s?

We laid my father to rest, on February 25, 2003. A crowd of people gathered around the grave. It’s a blur in my memory. Traditionally the Old Colony Mennonite church has open casket, right up to that final moment, when the body is lowered into the grave.

The family files past, for one final goodbye. I don’t remember the order, or if all of us filed by. I just know that I found myself kneeling down beside my father, in tears. Snowflakes fell lightly on his face. He looked cold. I placed my right hand on his heart.

The heart of an infant, once untouched by life and sin. A heart too soon broken by life. A heart blackened by sin. A heart that had grieved the loss of family relationships because of that sin. A heart with secrets, hidden from most, but trusted to a few. A heart that had searched desperately for peace with Almighty God. I heart reconciled, through faith in Jesus. A heart now still. Silent. Held in God’s hands.

I paused for a moment. Then rose to my feet and returned to my husband’s side. Tim put his arm around me. Held me as I wept. He understood, like no one else in the world, my journey. I had invited him into my heart, holding nothing back of the pain, the grief and the shame of those early years.

Tim had watched as I reconciled with my father. He was the one who got the call from the hospital, after the most powerful heart to heart with Dad. I had cried, “Honey, miracles still happen. I can’t believe what just happened.”

I felt safe in his arms. Loved. Healed. We turned and retraced our steps. My feet hurt from the cold. I needed warmth. People.

Back at the church I reconnected with cousins, from whom I had been estranged for many years. Doors opened that had long been closed. And in my heart, compassion stirred for my people. My culture. A silent vow was broken.

It is appropriate that through my father’s death and funeral, my heart softened, eventually creating a desire to bring healing back into my culture. A dream God has brought to life in various ways. And when I think on that, I am honoured to be a survivor–or overcomer, as I prefer–of a painful past. God truly has redeemed all things. He has made all things beautiful in His time.

© Trudy Metzger

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The Last Farewell: A Shocking Call

It is not possible to prepare yourself for that phone call. It doesn’t matter how hard you try mentally, emotionally, spiritually… When it comes, it shocks the body and numbs the mind.

And a day like that, you don’t have to look back at the calendar, to see what day of the week it was. You know the day. You know the hour. You know what the weather was like. You feel that day, as if it is forever etched in your very body and soul.

It was Friday, February 21, 2003. There was a nip in the air, but it was sunny, spring-like and beautiful. Living out in the country, on a farm, spring weather always brings with it a sense of urgency to clean windows, following the winter months. The weather was perfect for that.

I had spent my morning doing some other cleaning, tidying up, and immediately after lunch, I tackled the windows. I felt light, free. Energetic. It was a very good day.

This was noteworthy because I had started battling fatigue, muscle pains and joint pains some months earlier. I had seen a doctor but testing showed nothing. Chronic fatigue, maybe, or Fibromyalgia. But they didn’t think so, and they couldn’t know for sure. I was to take comfort knowing it wasn’t serious. I did. And I took advantage of the good days. Like that Friday….

I had seen my father several weeks earlier–the last week of January–for a family get-together. Our late Christmas gathering. We met at a small community centre, in Hawkesville, Ontario, just minutes away from the family who took me in and gave me back my life. Minutes away from the place of my healing, and from the people who had opened that door to truth and healing in the first place.

Alice had said, ‘The truth will set you free’. And it had. I spent time with my family that day, without the fears of days gone by. It was one of the only family gatherings, if not the only one, where I didn’t have flashbacks to childhood. The only time we were all together and I didn’t worry about Dad sneaking away to get a gun to murder us all. Yes, the truth had set me free.

And it was in the town where the healing took place, that I saw my father for the last time in his living years.

That day Dad looked pale. Tired. He sat back and watched his family. He and I chatted for a  while. I could return to the precise spot where we talked, but for the life of me I have not been able to recall a word of the conversation. I remember we both laughed, but that is all. And I remember we were standing near the dessert table, a spot he was supposed to avoid. He never did well with following doctor’s orders.

But the memory of that day was the farthest thing from my mind as I scrubbed windows that Friday. I was in my own zone, playing music, watching children–the three who were not yet in school.

The phone rang, interrupting my productivity. It was my sister-in-law, whom I could easily chat with for several hours, if I wasn’t careful. It wasn’t something we did often, but every now and then… I answered.

The conversation is a blur. “Trudy, your father… heart attack… didn’t make it…”

“You’re sure? …He’s dead?”

She said he was gone.

The mind is a funny thing. I found myself thinking, “maybe at the hospital they will shock him and bring him back…. maybe they thought he’s dead but…. ” Even as the thoughts chased through my head, I tamed them. It was over. Dad was gone. I hung up the phone. The final words had been spoken. What was done, was done. What was healed, was healed. The rest remained, forever, as it had been left.

I finished the window. Numb. Really? Dad, gone just like that? Once strong, and invincible, now he was lifeless.

I called my brother Wil. Told him. It feels harsh when you speak the words to an unsuspecting sibling. We talked about going together to the hospital, later. He and I. Maybe another sibling or two. And our spouses, if they wanted to. We’d talk later.

I called Tim.

I finished the window. Halfishly. Dumped the bucket of water. Put away my stuff. I didn’t really cry much. It was all too surreal. I had decided years earlier how I would respond. But that was when things were bad. Very bad. I was simply going to shut off my heart and not worry about his end. My sanity would depend on it.

Now it was different. Things had changed so drastically in a few short years. Not perfect, but as good as they were going to get, given all that had been. I was at peace. Even so, there is always the element of grieving what was lost, of grieving what we never had.

Even though we had talked, forgiven, and things were as right as they could get in this life, I felt strangely empty and lonely. As though I had been robbed, one final time, of all that should have been in our family. Almost as if Dad’s death was the final declaration that what never was, never would be.

I found myself hurled into grieving life and death, simultaneously. Celebrating what we had, and aching for what we lacked. I cried out in thanks to God for the last several years, while feeling, keenly, the horror of years gone by. I was thankful we had talked things out, in The Living Years, and yet wished we had said more. So much conflict.

And that is how it had to be… It was the beginning of the last farewell…

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Happy Birthday to Me, From Dad

Shortly after that visit, Dad’s leg was amputated, just below the knee.  They had transferred him to London Ontario for the surgery. And, because of his weak heart, they could not put him out for the procedure. Again his strong, stubborn, German blood served him well.He seemed none the worse for the wear, when I visited him following the procedure. I’ll spare the details, but he enthusiastically described every sound, every little thing he felt during that procedure. His only regret was that the doctors wouldn’t let him watch. I understood his intrigue, having watched a small procedure on my hip some years earlier, while the doctor kept muttering, “You don’t have to watch.”  To which I replied, “But I want to!”

He told me never to worry about my health. Never to fear or worry, but always to trust God with my health and my life, as was his goal. Little did he realize what lay ahead of him, and little did I realize what lay ahead for me and how fitting his advice would be.

Dad went through rehab and bounced back quickly, learning to walk again and reclaiming his independence and making it possible for him to return home.  As winter approached, my baby-belly grew, and my trips to see him died down. Our contact returned to ‘normal’.

The following April I gave birth to our third son, Kordan Timothy Steven, completing our family of five. Life was busy. All consuming.

Spring gave way to summer, and summer to fall. Then in October, 2002, the phone rang, one Saturday afternoon. It was Dad, calling to ‘talk’. He was struggling. Afraid. Worried that God could not find it in His heart to forgive a man like himself, with all the evil things he had done. What if there was just not enough grace? Would he end up in hell, after all?

The fear was triggered by the notion that one must suffer in this life, or have it coming in the next. I had heard this teaching in childhood, but had long forgotten it. He had recovered too quickly from the amputation, he feared. Almost no pain, no suffering. Just a quick surgery and a painless recovery. He was certain this meant he was doomed. His good friend, a saint in Dad’s mind, had also had an amputation and suffered agonizingly. It all fit together to support some warped theology he had learned and embraced.

“Dad, suffering or not suffering has nothing to do with salvation,” I said. But he wasn’t so sure, so I began asking him questions.

“Do you believe in Jesus as your Saviour?” I asked. He said he did. “Have you asked Him to forgive your sins?” He said he had. “Do you believe that Jesus is the Way to heaven?” He answered affirmatively. “Dad, then you are saved. Don’t give the enemy power over you. When he tempts you to fear, tell him the truth. Tell him what you just told me, that you have repented, that you have been forgiven and that he has no right to you.”

Dad sounded tired, sad. We chatted a while longer, then he thanked me for my time and we hung up.

It felt good. Dad, who always had all the answers, who knew his Bible inside out–however religious his past interpretations had been–called me for encouragement. I, the non-Mennonite rebel, had hope to offer him at his lowest point. I felt honoured that he trusted me with his struggle, and allowed me to speak truth into his experience.

The following month, November 23, 2002, I turned 33. It was late evening when the phone rang again. It was Dad, just calling to wish me a happy birthday. He called just to say he remembered me. That he thought of me… of the day I was born and brought into his life. It had taken him 33 years, but I finally felt that I was held in my father’s heart.

It was the first time in my life that Dad had remembered my birthday, or put in the effort to call me and tell me. And it would be the last.

© Trudy Metzger

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All I Ever Wanted, Was My Father’s Approval

Watching my father eat a meal was an experience unto itself. Each item was perfectly arranged on the tray before he began. Then he placed all lids strategically off to the side. He removed the seal from the yogurt container, pulled it back, licked it clean, folded it in half, and placed it ‘just so’, out of the way. The knife, fort and spoon were in perfect position. Watching him I wondered if he teetered on the edge of OCD.

He had always been a perfectionist in some ways, though definitely not in everything or every way, but some things.

I suppose I’m like him, in that, if I’m going to do something at all, I’ll do it to perfection. If I can’t do it to perfection, I quickly struggle with feeling defeated. It’s a battle I’ve had to fight over the years. Especially in parenting. In fact, for years my children gave me a hard time about taking over when showing them how to do something. That is when I realized it is because I want it done perfectly, and I deliberately retrained myself not to do it. I’ve not completely overcome it, but  I’ve come a long way.

We didn’t talk while he prepared his food. All his focus and energy went into that moment of preparation. When he was set to eat, our conversation resumed.

“I see your children, and they seem so healthy. So intelligent. And happy,” he said, thoughtfully. “How did you give them so much, such a good home, when we gave you so little?”

“Dad, I started off, just like you,” I said. “I was angry. The children were in my way. And I lost my temper with them, when things went wrong. When our oldest daughter was about 2 years old, I went to a Bible Study group and told them I need help. I confessed my anger to them and told them I am afraid of what my rage could lead to. I got help. And that is when I forgave you. I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my children. And to do that, I had to stop trying to be better than you, and just give them the best that I could give.”

I shared some of my struggles with Dad, and that it had been a long journey of healing, growing, and learning. A journey of failing, and getting up to try again.

Only weeks earlier I had hit an all time low, when I realized that I had not known how to connect with my children at a heart level past the toddler years. As they developed their early independence, communicated opinions and defied me, I had started to live out of head space, rather than getting inside their hearts and understanding them. That realization had terrified me.

The moment of revelation had caused me to fall to my knees beside my oldest daughter, then seven, in tears, asking her to forgive me. The next day I had called a counsellor and mentor friend of ours, Steve Masterson of Promise Keepers Canada, and asked him for help. I wanted to learn to parent well in each new phase of parenting.

That call, and the ones that followed, had profoundly changed my relationship with my oldest daughter, and I knew it would make all the difference with the rest of our children as well.

Dad listened intently. He expressed regret for what life had been, at knowing things couldn’t be undone. He told me how blessed I was to have Tim. That he believed Tim to be a very good man. I couldn’t agree more! He said he wished for all his children to have good spouses, who would treat them well.

Hearing how proud Dad was of me, as a wife, as a mother, did my heart good. I knew well that I was an imperfect mom. But hearing how highly he thought of me, empowered and encouraged me.

Regardless what life has been, regardless of imperfections and broken memories, every young woman wants to be her Daddy’s little girl. His princess. It begins at birth, and never ends.

Whether sons, or daughters, we all want our fathers to be proud of us, and tell us so. We want to be loved, simply loved without condition, for who we are. And in that moment I felt I had my father’s heart.

It was all I had ever wanted, all those painful years of childhood. And, though it came in the eleventh hour, it wasn’t too late.

My dad was proud of me, of who I had become, and believed in who I was becoming.

Having finished his meal, Dad replaced every lid, to every container, careful to seal each one completely. The tray, now empty of food, looked almost untouched.

Externally, I looked just as I had when I arrived. Nothing had visibly changed. But something radical had transpired in my time with Dad. My relationship with my dad was sealed. My heart was full.

© Trudy Metzger

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