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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