Jesus, High & Lifted Up

My tummy felt unsettled, upon waking, and it was moments before tears welled up, and spilled over.

The little boy was 11. The mother, who beat him within a breath of his life, shouted “You’re not my son! You’re not my son!” one minute, and loudly shouted the Lord’s prayer in the next.

I was almost seven when my father threatened to kill our family. Later that day, in a drunken stupor, he belted out religious hymns and muttered incoherently about ‘poor Moses’ and ‘baby Jesus’, leaning over my baby brother. It scared me.

It has been thirty-seven years since that day that shaped so much of who I am today. That day, when I decided no one would take care of me, except me. I’ve had much healing, and renounced the vow I made to not need anyone, but the emotions linger, below the surface. Sometimes closer than I like.

I have no choice but to acknowledge past trauma and present grief when this happens. Not so much grief for me, or our family, any more, but grief that children still suffer. But I cannot linger long in that place. It is too dark and oppressive.

So I lifted my heart to heaven, and my eyes to the cross, this morning, and held up a little 11-yr-old boy whom I’ve never met. And asked Jesus to be with Him, to heal him. Because that little boy has physical, emotional and spiritual scars, if he survives, that will haunt him for life. I know this. And his two siblings, as well.

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When I think of these words of Jesus, almost without fail, I also think of the brass serpent Moses made in the Old Testament, Numbers 21, to be exact. In this story serpents attacked the Children of Israel, after they complained about God having rescued them from Egypt, where they had it so-o-o-o good! (How soon we forget!)

When the Children of Israel saw the consequences for their sin, they repented, and went to Moses, begging him to ask God to get rid of the serpents.

What God does next is a powerful sign of the coming Messiah, Jesus. God tells Moses to make a Serpent, and lift it up on a pole. If the people look at it, they will live.

Moses does as God says, makes the snake, and lifts it up. By that time many have died, and others are dying. But every one who raised their eyes, in obedience, was healed. It was not the snake that healed but faith, in what God had said, that healed them.

The symbolism of this event plays in my mind often, because of the work I do. If God had not called me to work with Sexual Abuse Victims, I would prefer never again in my life to utter the words, ‘sexual abuse’. It is such a tragic thing! And I love to focus on the brighter side of life.

But this abuse reminds me of those snakes. And to not acknowledge, is to watch countless people die a slow and painful ‘death of the heart and spirit’, without doing what I can.

In a way, I feel like God has asked me to sit with victims who are ‘bitten by the snake’, and point up, to the cross, where Jesus hangs dying for us, for our sin, our pain. If for no other reason, I believe God chose the cross because it is lifted up. It requires us taking our eyes off of ourselves, our pain, our trauma, and the ‘stuff of life’ and seeing a whole new perspective of suffering. The redemption.

And that is a hard thing to see, when we look down and focus only on our pain, or even the darkness around us. But when our eyes are lifted up, to Jesus on the cross, and we see His suffering for us, it changes our perception. It doesn’t change our circumstances, at least not immediately, but it changes the way we see them.

When we focus long enough on the cross, and acknowledge that suffering of Jesus, the Christ–our Messiah–then we realize He too did not stay in that place of suffering.

The revelation strikes us that His suffering brought our redemption, and if we let God use us, then our suffering will bring the redemption of others.

Oh… it is so tempting to stay caught up in our pain. For a long, long time. Much longer than we would need to. Because we get comfortable in our pain. We learn to embrace the sympathy we can draw from others, and we cringe at giving that up. We fear that if we cannot use that sympathy, the whole world will abandon us.

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Instead, when we lift our eyes to Jesus, and see Him, not only on the cross, but the Risen Saviour, and we begin to speak that kind of Hope to the world, out of our own suffering, it is then we discover true relationship with others. A relationship of giving, of pouring out, of making a difference.

While those who oppose me try to draw my eyes away from the Christ, and to the pathetic arguments of ‘this world’… And while the enemy attacks with various lame distractions… I have made a commitment. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, High and Lifted up.

And I will encourage all I meet to join me. Because when we do, the ‘serpent’s bites’–those tragic things we have experienced in our lives–will lose their power. Then we will live… truly live. We will be more alive than we were before the tragedy struck. And then the enemy’s power over us will be broken! Then even 11-yr-old boys, who are beaten within a breath of their life and scarred in every way, can be made whole again, and little girls too.

©TrudyMetzger

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Hope…. What, exactly, Is It?

I recall, as a child, the thrill of hope I felt, when my parents returned from town after having done some shopping. Hope that they might have brought us something special.

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In Mexico my parents’ trips to the city were a rare thing, partly due to poverty, and partly distance. But when they went, we anticipated their return with great excitement, hoping that they might have brought some small treat. A candy. Some gum, maybe. Or some other little surprise.

I recall running out to meet them, and targeting dad. If there was some treat, it came from him, almost without fail, because he controlled the money, the spending of it, and the distributing of anything special. I skipped beside him, sometimes in silence, hoping he might mention the treat, but most often I asked questions as I skipped beside him.

The exception to this enthusiasm was if his gait indicated anger, rage or some sort of upset. Then I stayed clear. Treat or no treat, I wouldn’t risk it. And, truth be told, when his footsteps had that heavy ‘thud’, I had no ‘hope’ left that he might have done something special for us.

Sometimes that hope was fulfilled, sometimes it was not.

In Canada that hope increased in strength, and the fulfilling of it increased in frequency. Each week, when my parents did the grocery shopping, that anticipation was there. And, for a time, they brought us each one small bag of corn chips as a treat. The last few minutes before their return, I could almost taste them, and ran to the window, watching for them. Any sound that indicated their return was met with a dash for the door.

Hope: The belief…even strong expectation… that what we cannot see, will come to pass. Sometimes the hope is based on a promise. Sometimes it is based on a particular outcome in the past. Sometimes it is a deep desire within, expressed in faith that it will one day be reality. And sometimes it is defying everything that current circumstances offer, and believing that there is something better ahead.

Sometimes people lose hope, and surrender to circumstances. They lose their will to fight, and give up on hope. We talk about offering hope to  someone, and we do this, most often, by sharing our stories, our testimony of overcoming something similar to their struggle. When they say that we have overcome, or maybe even finding hope in the middle of a struggle, a temptation, a challenge, they find hope that they too will overcome.

And that is what our Extraordinary Hope Conference is all about. We will share stories of hope, in spite of tragedy, and invite you to let Jesus bring hope and healing to your experience, where tragedy and disappointment have suffocated hope. Where you feel like giving up, and tossing in the towel, we want to encourage you to get up one more time, and hold on, for the dear life, to hope that defies your current circumstances, or past pain.

My very good friend Jane Valenta, and her team, will lead us in worship. Jane’s music and worship style reflects her heart, and her heart reflects the heart of God.

Carol Weicker will share her story of being born with a severe facial deformity, and being bullied, isolated and rejected. She will talk of her mother’s incredible example of love, and sacrifice. She will tell you how she lost her father at a very young age.

Through laughter and tears, in the rise and fall of her experience, you will hear the message of hope. Hope that goes beyond those things that were meant to destroy us.

I will share my story of overcoming a childhood filled with violence, sexual abuse and death threats. I will tell you about the years I spent running from God, further wounding myself, and allowing myself to be used, as I pursued a life of rebellion and sin. In the extreme of my choices, that landed me in USA, I ended up living with an ex-con drug dealer, surrounded by the same violence that I had tried to escape when I left home at fifteen. I became desperate, hopeless and suicidal.

There God found me, and loved me. In my broken, lost state, God restored my hope by offering me Jesus… Offering me hope.

Hope… Extraordinary Hope…

At the conference we will spend time in prayer, worship and praise, ministering to you, allowing the love of Jesus to flow through us, and over you.

We would love to have you join us for the Extraordinary Hope Conference, to be held September 27-28, 2013, at Listowel Evangelical Missionary Church. The early bird deadline, saving you $20 per registration, ends August 22, 2013.

To  register online, visit http://www.faithgirlsunleashed.com/events_3.html, and scroll down to the event. To register via snail mail, scroll down and click on the registration form, fill it in, and mail to the address provided.

If you have questions, please email info@faithgirlsunleashed.com.

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©TrudyMetzger

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Return to Part One: A Story of Overcoming Self-Harm  (WARNING: Graphic content.)

Don’t Let Your Blind-Spots Kill You

I looked to the right, then to the left, and back to the right a second time, then, as I looked, I started to crawl forward. Just as quickly, I slammed on my brakes, my heart rate increasing slightly.

The other driver gave me the look and… oh dear! Was that the birdie? I mumbled an apology out loud, knowing good and well he couldn’t hear me. Still, it seemed appropriate, having nearly caused an accident… again.

My Mazda 3–the cute little car that won my heart with a ‘hug’ when I sat in it for the very first time almost seven years ago–has a blind-spot that has almost cost me more than once. No other vehicle, that I have ever owned or driven, has a blind spot quite as bad.

But blind-spots can be overcome.  I learned as child, when my father crashed our station wagon, the importance of that second look to the right. And that second look is the only thing that has spared me crashing in those situations. Only once, that I recall, have I missed it with that second look, and pulled out only to meet the other vehicle in the middle of the road. From that time on, I started taking a bit more time with that second look, pausing an extra second or two. And that is all it takes.

In life, in ministry, in the ‘day to day’, we have blind-spots too. I have them. And you have them. Those character flaws, personality quirks, and habits that drive people crazy, risk relationships, and wound people around us. And, most of the time, we don’t see it coming until we crash, or almost crash.

Lately, it seems, I come face to face with these realities in my personal life more often than I wish. Events happen that expose my blind-spots. Relationship struggles. Reactions to things people do, things that catch me off guard, and bring to the surface feelings and the temptation to respond in ways that are not healthy.

I might, in fact, most likely I will, push down those reactions, and count to ten… or a thousand, depending on the situation. And I’m glad for that. Self control is not a bad thing. But when it’s over, I am left to look at the black spots on my heart, and see my humanity in all its sinful realities.

And in that ‘assessing’ of things afterwards, I see, too frequently, that I said or did something to create the struggles in the relationship. An oversight. Some neglect. A selfish moment. A thoughtless word, or poorly articulated thoughts, and countless other things I do, but miss, until I ‘crash’, or almost crash.

And when it gets up close and personal, like that, and I discover that it was my blind-spots that created the mess in the first place, I struggle. I struggle because I want to help people, and never hurt them, or make them struggle. I want to be better than that for there sake. But also for my sake. Even for my pride, if I’m honest. And that is probably one reason God lets me be this human.

What I’m learning with my blind-spots, is to acknowledge them, one at a time, and not be overwhelmed by them. To say, “I am human”, but never use that as an excuse. To choose to grow. To take ownership. And, never, never quit.

Blind-spots, they kill you. They kill you in so many ways, if you don’t take that second look, and pause with that extra second, to assess what is happening. They kill you by making you hate yourself, or feel defeated. They kill you by making you retreat into a shell, where you can’t hurt anyone, and no one can hurt you. They kill you by making you hang up your keys, and taking no risks.

Don’t let your blind-spots kill you. That’s exactly what the enemy wants you to do. To give up. To surrender. To believe that God is done with you, and you have no purpose.

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But God has a better plan. When you choose to grow, to learn, and to release the outcome, God will use those blind-spots to teach you. But He won’t stop there. He will teach the other person too.

That ‘near run-in’ may be the very thing that shakes the other person to reality, and makes them pay attention. It might be the thing God uses to teach them, so they don’t go through a greater tragedy in another relationship.

Release the outcomes of your failures, your blind-spots, to God and let Him use you broken and imperfect. His name is Redeemer for a reason. Because we need Him to redeem. Redeem us. Redeem our mistakes. And redeem the impact of our blind-spots on ourselves, and on others.

I’ve made my decision. I will keep going, serving God, and try my best to do it well. When I fail, and I will fail, then I will hold my life in an open hand, including those failures, so God can redeem the outcome.

©TrudyMetzger

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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:

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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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Jeremy’s Journey: From Abuse & Addiction, to Freedom & Hope

The formal office setting could have been a bit intimidating, at least a little, if had come to be assessed by the young medical professional, and if he had not been so warm and welcoming. It isn’t every day I sit in the office of professionals, interviewing them and hearing stories of childhood abuse, sexual addictions and struggle.

It’s happened before, with a lawyer, my age, who simply needed to share his journey, and weep, and several other medical professionals, but still, it is rare. Whether that is because they have done so well, that pulling a painful story to the forefront is too overwhelming, or the fear of what clients, patients or customers might think, if they were to discover it.

Whatever the reason, it’s not because these hurts and traumas don’t exist there…. it’s just rare that I am the one sitting across from them. When I do, they simply become human beings, without title or position, who need someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to care. Or, in this case, to hear their story, and share it with the public. I’ve been criticized, mostly by one or two people, for sharing these painful stories publicly, as if I am wrecking people’s lives by doing so. On the contrary, I share stories because those who tell me theirs, and ask me to write about them, or give me permission to, want to have a voice, without exposing their identity.

I am careful what stories I choose. There are many I have heard that you will never see in black and white, unless the individuals choose to tell them themselves. They are powerful stories, but the telling of some horrific truths I simply cannot enter into, at least not at this time in my life. I can hear, and have compassion, but retelling makes my mind stop, and the words refuse to come. But the one thing I have hoped for, is to share the story of a gentleman, or two, who suffered sexual abuse and overcame….

Some months ago, in blog post, I asked if any men would be willing to share their stories, and eventually this gentleman contacted me. He would be willing to share his story and ‘tell all’, he said, as long as I don’t disclose his real name. I could come to his office and even record the interview.

After driving almost two hours, I was greeted by a short and slightly stocky, balding gentleman,  with friendly eyes, a big voice, and a ready smile. To break the ice, we chatted, casually for a few moments, about his work and how successful he has become, and to establish boundaries in the discussion. Anything was fair game, he said.

To lead into the interview, I asked if he has ever shared his story with anyone before, in its entirety, and he had not. And so I began with early childhood memories…

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Raised in a Christian home, his parents gave him the best that they could, both physically and spiritually. They were firm, yet loving, in parenting. They were involved in church, but not to the neglect of their children. They had a good and safe home, but they also had their work cut out for them. Jeremy was a high-energy, rambunctious boy…

It all began when Jeremy was babysat, as a very young boy, by ‘nice’ young man next door, in his mid to upper teens, and the babysitter helped him shower before bed. The babysitter joked with him about their bodies, and led into touching each other, covering it with laughter, to make it seem innocent. Beyond that, he said, he had no memories of anything happening.

While there seemed to be no obvious consequences that Jeremy would have recognized, it clearly set life patterns. Now a psychologist, Jeremy says it was studying that helped him understand how this impacted his life.

By age eight a friend introduced Jeremy to pornography, opening a door to a whole new set of problems and confusions. That introduction led to an addiction that would take many years to break.

Initially it amounted mostly to excessive time spent in the Sears catalogue, because there was no other easy access to porn. This lasted until his parents found a ‘home made’ porn book, of pictures glued into a lined subject book, and questioned him. He blamed it on his sister, who was only a year younger than he, but after a through investigation, they didn’t buy the story.

With time Jeremy introduced a boy in the neighbourhood, who was a year or two younger, to porn, and by age eleven he started mowing lawns to bring in money, and used it to buy candy and pornography. Being too embarrassed to purchase the magazines himself, he conned his friend into going into the store, in exchange for candy, to buy topless magazines

Jeremy was diagnosed ADHD at a young age–and it affected him to such an extreme that he was kicked out of preschool before the end of the first week–and was forbidden candy at home, as was his younger sister. His buddy’s home was also highly controlled, with a strong health focus, and as a result he too, almost never got candy. By partnering together, they managed to keep their addictions hidden–both the porn and the candy–while feeding those addictions constantly.

When the computer arrived in their home, unsupervised, providing easy access, Jeremy said the problem escalated to unimaginable levels.

At one point Jeremy’s mom sat down, sensing something was wrong, and questioned him, but he denied everything, and she never asked again.

Driven by guilt, the addiction was a compelling force in Jeremy’s life for many years. Through high school, through his early twenties, and then into marriage, he surrendered, mostly willingly, to the addiction. There were short periods of time when he fought hard, and even gave up the addictions. But it never lasted longer than 2 or 3 weeks, before it would overtake him again, leaving him hopeless, overwhelmed and defeated. Not to mention that he didn’t like who he became when not feeding the addictions.

While this struggle played out, going back to those earlier years, other drama and trauma also played out in Jeremy’s life. His sister developed extreme mental illness, leading to physical attacks and even death threats, starting when she was only thirteen. On several occasions she made actual physical attacks on Jeremy’s life, attacking him with sharp objects or other weapons. He was, at that time, still small for his age in every way, and his younger sister, who was taller, had the upper hand. At night his bedroom had to be locked, to keep her out and him safe. And even that didn’t prevent her from trying.

This struggle only served to deepen the addiction, as Jeremy searched for an escape from reality.

When Jeremy started dating, in his late twenties, there was a sudden and unexpected accountability that he hadn’t prepared for. It began when she asked if he was into pornography. In that moment he decided to be honest, and immediately told her the truth.

Through the rise and fall of their courtship, Jeremy said he pushed his girlfriend far beyond her own boundaries, sexually, but managed to avoid having intercourse before marriage. Still, it added to struggles after marriage. She felt betrayed, almost used, and he was confused by her frigidity after marriage.

The marriage vows didn’t take care of the addictions. Jeremy continued to feed on pornography, going through the cycle of wanting to quit, feeling defeated, and drowning in guilt. And then trying again.

In that cycle of trying to overcome, Jeremy found that all he thought about was the very things he wanted to remove from his life. The end result was that the ‘draw’ to the addiction only grew stronger, leaving him yet more powerless.

Jeremy’s wife gave birth to their first child–a son–still the addictions continued, and their relationship deteriorated. As things grew increasingly worse in their marriage , after the birth of twin daughters, Jeremy’s wife insisted he get help. She was ready to give up on the marriage, struggling constantly with the ‘competition’ of pornography, and feeling like she wasn’t enough.

When trying to have sex with him, she said, she constantly pictured what scantily clad, or naked, woman he had last lusted after. The pornography had become a consuming force in their marriage, threatening to take from Jeremy the woman he loved.

Still afraid to expose his struggle, Jeremy reluctantly joined a Celebrate Recovery group, meeting with men who challenged and inspired one another to rise above, to forgive when they failed, to keep reaching for holiness.

As a result of that group, three men decided to meet weekly, apart from the group, and offer each other accountability. At first it worked like a weekly ‘confessional’, where all that really took place was taking turns admitting to failure. When this proved ineffective, they set up a method of ‘consequences’ in which, whoever failed had to pay the other two men a set amount. This worked effectively, he said, by training the mind on consequences.

“I’ve been ‘clean’ for over half a year now,” he said with bold confidence. He shared how he learned to focus on getting up after failing, rather than beating himself up for failing, and the difference that has made. He acknowledged how much his wife has suffered because of his sin, his choices, and how he wants to extend grace to her, as she struggles through that, and through her feelings for him–or the lack of them.

Jeremy is fighting for his wife’s heart, and for their family unit, without imposing on her the burden of his sin. He didn’t say she has to forgive and forget, and get on with life. He understands the consequences of his wrong choices, and time and patience, as God works, is the answer.

When his son gets a little older, he told me, he will have awkward talks with him about pornography and all that ‘stuff’. He remembers those awkward moments with his parents–even how his dad once admitted to having struggled–and plans to have even more talks… talks that are even more awkward. He will teach his children to protect themselves. Teach them about identity, value and purpose.

Jeremy is breaking a generational chain, by breaking the silence. He has moved from a journey of abuse and addiction, to a journey of freedom and hope through Jesus, through accountability, through honesty.

© Trudy Metzger

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Shattering the Silence & Finding Jesus in Our Pain

Proverbs 19:21

New International Version (NIV)

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

There are many things we can dream up, plan for and create. Many good things, in fact. But the move of the Holy Spirit is not something we can understand, much less control, or even truly define. There is a sacredness in what God does in the hearts of people, that moves my spirit in awe and wonder.

We witnessed that again this past weekend, at the Shattering the Silence conference, for men and women, addressing sexual abuse within Mennonite and plain cultures.

Our goal was to create a conference with sensitivity to the more conservative culture, by toning down our typical energetic worship, in both volume and intensity.  We also had more gentlemen involved, and taking more active leadership, with me taking a step back. A little step, since I inevitably need to be involved, but a step none-the-less, which I didn’t mind at all. These were good things, but we could not have anticipated or created the sweet response from the majority of the audience. Only God can touch hearts at that level.

Friday evening went well, with much higher attendance than we had anticipated for a first time event, specifically targeting the culture. Going into it, we had no way of knowing whether they would see that our intent was to create an environment that would be more comfortable for the culture, or if they would misunderstand us as saying the problem of sexual abuse is a Mennonite specific problem. The response was encouraging.


Pastor Dale Ingraham welcomed the audience and introduced the weekend, and then invited Tim and me to come up, so he and Tim could lay hands on me, and pray over me before sharing. This is something we do at every mixed gender conference, at my request. I would not, apart from Tim releasing me to do so, enter into speaking to men. It is a personal conviction I have, that I want to function with his blessing and release, as my leader. In the past, when he has said, ‘No’, or ‘Not now’, I respected that and waited for that release before moving ahead, and I’ve never regretted it. (Though I have been terribly impatient at times during the ‘waiting’ period!) I know that there is safety and protection in God’s design, and I feel that protection in ministry.

To break the ice I read a few jokes that highlight the difference between men and women. I then did a short talk about the strength of the Mennonite culture–the strong sense of community–and how the enemy is using this strength to his advantage, because of silence. There is something incredibly beautiful about the closeness of the culture, and the ability to band together in the face of hardship, as well as the social interactions and support of the Mennonite community.

It is also a place where much sexual interaction takes place between children, or youth, or youth and children, leading to all kinds of struggles in life. And, from the many cases I’ve been involved in, it often begins with a victimized child introducing other children, and it mushrooms from there into a much bigger problem, and sexual addictions.

I shared how, if we break the silence and begin to take the power away from the enemy, by teaching our sons and daughters of their sexual identity, their worth, their right to protect themselves, and make Jesus number one, then the Mennonite culture would be, without a doubt, the safest environment for our children. I honour the simplicity of the Mennonite lifestyle, though I do not idolize it or make it ‘a god’, and that simplicity, when Jesus is lifted high, and God is worshipped, is truly sweet.

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I then shared glimpses of my story, and how I went back and found Jesus in the pain and hell of my story. He never abandons us, but suffers with us, and meets us in the trauma, through the people who love us, through nature and in little ways that we sometimes can only see in hindsight. I shared how He is always there, but we need to invite Him into our healing journey and, when we do, He takes us to a place of hope, restoration, and forgiving those who wounded us.

After my talk, Dale Ingraham and his wife Faith spoke to the audience, in turn, making confessions on behalf of fathers and mothers who have not protected their children, or, worse, who have abused their children. Faith speaks on behalf of mothers beautifully, even though she was violated by her own father, a pastor, and was not protected by her mother in childhood, or in adulthood. Dale, who has walked gently with Faith in her healing journey, did an excellent job on behalf of fathers.

I spoke on behalf of women who have abuse women or men, acknowledging the pain and destruction we have brought into their lives, and asked them to forgive us. As someone whose childhood was scarred with abuse, by both males and females, and who witnessed a group of older teens abusing a group of children when I was only three, it is not hard for me to imagine the damage. To stand in the gap, and make that confession is gut-wrenching for me, and when I ask the audience to forgive us, I can only pray that God does His work, and brings healing to the brokenness of their experience.

Tim made a confession on behalf of men who have abused women or other males. His life was amazingly protected from sexual abuse, with no memory or reason to believe he ever suffered such abuse, but he has seen in me the ‘hell’ this trauma causes. He has held me countless times as I wept, watches as my body curled into the fetal position, in those early years of working through the trauma. When he speaks, he speaks as one who has seen the devastating aftermath, and patiently, lovingly walked me through it.

Pastor Dale then went back on stage and did the pastor’s confession, which is always powerfully touching. He speaks, as a pastor, on behalf of pastors who have silenced victims, or otherwise disregarded and shut them down, for personal agenda, religious pride and various other reasons. He also speaks on behalf of pastors who have been perpetrators, knowing his wife was abused by her own father, a pastor.

Pastor Dale then closed by inviting the worship team to do a song or two, while giving opportunity for anyone who needed prayer, to come to someone on the ministry team.

Saturday morning we started with the testimonies of two Mennonite women from the states. For privacy and confidentiality reasons, I cannot share their stories, but suffice it to say they did amazing with difficult testimonies. It was incredibly powerful to hear their journeys of trauma, tragedy and ultimately healing. They gave the audience permission to acknowledge their pain, their stories, within the culture.

At break a Conservative Mennonite man, along with his wife and a friend, approached me. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’ve waited for many, many years for someone to rise up and break the silence.” His wife stood beside him nodding, tears in her eyes, obviously choking back emotion. He paused, then continued, “Their story is my story. Everything they said, I went through.”

They thanked me, all of three of them, and walked away. If no one else had appreciated the weekend, that moment, alone, would have been more than enough of a sign from heaven, that we did the right thing. But it was one of many, many such sentiments.

Dr. Timothy Warner spoke on Identity in Christ, and the power we have over the enemy, when we understand the ‘rights’ and blessings that come with sonship, as God’s adopted children, as co-heirs with Jesus. He explains in depth, beautifully, something we hear superficially, but often don’t understand just what it means.

Numerous people said, after hearing Dr. Warner’s message, that they wish they had known this many years ago. It is life changing, and empowering to know who we are in Christ!

After lunch Pastor Dale spoke on ‘When Life Hurts the Most’, acknowledging the suffering of victims, and the enemy’s determination to destroy victims through that suffering. He based his message on the life of Job, and also shared part of his wife’s story, and their journey.

The final talk was “Unleashing the Next Generation: A New Legacy”. I used the story of Achan to show that God hates silence, and burying sin ‘in the camp’, or church, as the case may be. If God despised stolen clothes hidden under the tent of one man, then surely, surely, He will hold the Body of Christ to account if we remain silent and hide stolen innocence–crimes and violence against children–under our proverbial church rug.

I felt led to close with an invitation to men, to rise up, to be like Joshua, and with the same gentleness with which he addresses Achan, to call the church to repentance. Joshua 7:19 says, “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”  I asked them to respond to God’s call to protect their wives and children, and be the men of God that He calls them to be. The vast majority of men rose to their feet, and in one moment, my heart thrilled at what took place.

The moment was one of simply hearing God and obeying what I sensed He asked me to say. I had no plan, no agenda. For an instant I had no idea what I would do next, but almost immediately I sensed God asking us, as women to rise up to support our leaders, to honour them and show are appreciation, but also to plug into that leadership, and become all that God has called us to be. I presented this, and gave women opportunity to respond, and they did. Most of them.

Last, I invited those willing to join me, to unite as the Body of Christ, with differing cultures and backgrounds, to stand together in the name of Jesus. To fight for our families, our churches, and our communities. More than half of the audience filed to the front, starting with one young conservative Mennonite couple, who came from the back down the centre aisle.

As we sang the closing song, ‘Because He Lives’, surrounded by fellow believers, I noted an Old Order couple still standing at their pew, singing with hands raised in worship. It was truly beautiful! This is what we, the Body of Christ were created for. To band together, from all cultures and backgrounds, and lift up the name of Jesus, in whose name we will conquer the darkness.

Thank you to all who attended, all who prayed, all who helped in any way. We were blessed beyond anything we anticipated or imagined. If ever I was blessed by an encounter with God, and His children, it was in this weekend of worship with ‘my people’, and fellow believers from my cultural roots. It was a healing moment!

***

I am returning to posting one blog a week, scheduled on Fridays, whenever possible. I may add an occasional extra post, but Fridays will be consistent, apart from technical difficulties, or some other unforeseen interference. As the business of ministry overtakes me, it is increasingly difficult to find the time to write as much as I would like.

It is challenging to prioritize the things I love, and the things God has called me to, and balance those things with family. Ultimately family must come first, though we do sacrifice on that front for the ministry.

I appreciate your prayers, your support, your encouragement, and even the ‘challenges’ when you don’t agree or see eye to eye. All of these are an important part of shaping me, and making me all that God has called me to be. I, in turn, pray for you, my readers, that God will continue to draw you to Himself, to His heart, to know Him, and be fully known and loved by Him.

Be blessed!

© Trudy Metzger

Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

A Week in the Life of… And the Things Humans Say…

What a week! I intentionally scheduled very little for Easter Monday, knowing that my children would be off school. And it was a good thing, since I ended up running a fever, and fighting a cold-flu bug. The rest of the week was filled with appointments, so I took it easy that day, doing little more than feeding my family and answering the phone.

Calls came in steady, asking about the conference, especially from the Old Order community, telling me they would like to come, and they’re hoping many of their community and surrounding Mennonite communities join in. It’s time for the silence to shatter. One of the leaders even called to ask questions, and told me he knows I am working with a client from his congregation. “Be encouraged,” he said, “you’re making a difference.”

Another woman called to to chat and share her heart, and talk about the passion she has for helping the local Mennonite community. We talked for almost two hours, and were encouraged by each other. It’s the beginning of a friendship.

Monday ended on somewhat of a calm note for me. After meeting with one client in the evening, I relaxed in my recliner. I had only a low-grade fever but otherwise felt quite well. A good night’s rest and I would be set to go for a busy few days…

On Tuesday I met a friend for coffee. We touch base once a year, or so, getting caught up on what’s happening in each other’s families, their businesses, and our ministry.

Immediately after coffee, I met with a client at a local church that has graciously allowed me to use their space, from time to time, for this purpose. And from that moment life became a whirlwind.

I learned that my client, a young woman in her twenties, the mother of two children, had attempted suicide the night before. She has battled through this before, but this time she lost hope, and acted spontaneously. Thank God that He spared her life! It took a while for me to absorb the reality, and I didn’t really until the day after. We spent our session talking, or just sitting quietly when words failed, and other times simply praying. At one point she fell to the floor, weeping in agony, and all I could do was pray quietly, and let my own tears fall.

I had another meeting scheduled, so I left for a time, and then returned later to meet with her and several other individuals, in an effort to bring safety, support and stability to her world. And, to an extent, we did. We talked, sometimes cried, and then prayed. At the end of our session as I prepared to leave, one of the individuals looked out the window and saw a heart-shaped cloud.

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The last client I met that day, comes from the Old Order church, and I meet with a ‘team of two’ each time. We spent some time talking through ‘the stuff of life’ and current struggles, and I learned that someone had spoken harshly, and shut down their very spirit and heart. I went back to the deep identity we are given in God, and the position of authority we are given through Jesus, and affirmed them.

After I made sure my client was grounded and doing well, I returned home. I had walked out the door just after 8:30am and returned just after 10:30pm, exhausted, but fulfilled. Seldom are days that packed.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from another local newspaper, wondering if they could do a story, and would I meet so they could take my photo? Why not? It’s good advertising–the story that is–and the picture will help people identify me and hopefully create a connection when we meet in the grocery store.

The reporter asked me to bring any books I use in mentoring my clients. I told her I use only my Bible and conversation to help people, though I have several books I recommend they read. She asked if I would bring only my Bible then.

At noon I met the pleasant young reporter. I took my new Bible, since giving my other one to Abigail. The reporter took a half dozen pictures, and it was all over. Funny how it all worked out, because the rest of my week was jam-packed–except Friday, which was too late–and that short stretch was all the free time I had, just when she needed me.

I met with another client who is in a very difficult place. We worked through some things, but a heaviness and a sadness hung over her, making it hard to end the session. But commitments must be kept, and I cannot be a god to anyone, so I had to release her even when it was the hardest  thing in the world to do.

With a burdened heart I drove off for the evening…

I met Juanita, my super-sweet friend, with whom I go visit Aylmer Amish country from time to time. It was a refreshing conclusion to a busy two days. I love the Amish cooking, the sweet, beautiful kids, and the earthy feel of unadulterated country living. The Wagler families, and their friends, are kind and welcoming. (I think we need to create an ‘Amish Experience’ retreat centre.)

I had left my phone in the car earlier, and by the time I returned at the end of our visit, to head home, I had numerous messages. Two stood out in particular, in stark contrast to each other, each leaving a powerful impact.

The first was a message from a young woman who identified herself as a former classmate of one of our daughters. She shared some of her struggles, but more than that she thanked me for being a voice of hope… a light in her world. It was an honour to hear from someone so young, and an encouragement to discover that God is bringing hope to her through the blog. She specifically mentioned Abigail’s story, and how much it has helped her.

The other message was disheartening. Many of the people I work with have suffered much abuse–emotional, physical, sexual, and sometimes even spiritual–and therefore many of them struggle with depression, suicidal tendencies and cutting. Percentage wise it is probably over sixty percent that deal with some form or self harm or suicidal ideation. Most of them are Christians who desperately want to be free, and are slowly gaining the tools to overcome. One truth at a time they discover their true worth, their God-given identity, and with that they overcome the lies.

It takes little to be the undoing of that truth, early on, when clients are still vulnerable and weak. And that is just what the second message was about. One of my clients had received yet another message laced with guilt-tripping, and reminding her, harshly, that her struggle was a slap in God’s face after all He had done for her.

I felt sick. Physically. I didn’t question the intent, but I knew it had the potential to push my client to a place of darkness and struggle against suicide. It is so counter-productive, and find myself constantly undoing the damage of words spoken. It feels at times like a step forward and a dozen backward, all because of words spoken when clients are too week to handle them, or to process them. And I think to myself, what if Christians actually stopped to ask themselves if Jesus used that kind of verbiage and manipulation… what if they spoke only the way He spoke, and used only His methods, His way? Wouldn’t it change things for those struggling?  

After touching base with my client, and letting her know that God loves her and has not forgotten her, I returned to my ‘present’. I told stories, and even did some reading to entertain Juanita as we drove home. She is a saint of a friend! (Granted her halo is probably a bit bent out of shape, possibly thanks to my influence, but she is an amazing friend!)

It was late when I returned home….

Thursday morning I awakened to our son visiting our room. It was his birthday. Kordan turned eleven, my little boy not much longer, as he grows into manhood. It is almost shocking how quickly it all happens.

In the morning, after the children were off to school, I met a friend for coffee. Later I had a meeting at the bank with Tim, and then home again to get the birthday supper made, complete with a ‘Starfy’ birthday cake. It’s all my little guy really wanted for his birthday–the Starfy game for his Nintendo DS, so we got that, and a few other little things, and I made a cake to match.

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And here it is Friday already. I’m still fighting the bug I picked up on Easter weekend, and my back has been bothering me ever since, which is weird. I never have back pain. Only once every couple of years. So to be walking around with my back all stiff and feeling hunched over is kind of strange.

I have no plans, no meetings, no appointments throughout my day. It’s been an intense week, and I’m happy just to be home, and rest my body. There are things that desperately need my attention here, that may or may not get done. So far, at 1:25pm, I have spent my day on the phone answering questions about the conference, and responding to texts and emails. For the rest of the day I anticipate getting more calls about the conference, and hopefully I will get a bit of writing done…. (At least enough to get this blog posted!)

And that is how one week slips into the next, in my life. If I learned anything at all this week, it is to double check my words, my tone, my message and my motivations.

When I see the trauma well meaning words bring into the lives of my clients, I stop and wonder if I do that to others around me. Do I communicate the love of Jesus, and inspire deep conviction to live for God, or do I tear down, through control, through manipulation, through condemnation? It struck me more powerfully than ever, this week, how humans destroy the spirits of those who are struggling with their words, even though often well-meaning.

As my life touches others, I pray that the love of Jesus shines through, and they walk away a bit stronger, more encouraged and with more hope than they had when they came. I pray they long to know the Jesus I love, because they have seen and felt His grace.

And I pray that you, too, will check your words, guard your heart, and ask yourself the question, “Do my words give life, because they reflect Jesus, or do they shut down the heart and soul of those I meet, through condemnation, manipulation and guilt-tripping?”

© Trudy Metzger

Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

New Hope: Abigail’s Story (Part 10)

These days, when I spend time with Abigail, she is not huddled on a couch, with her feet pulled up, eyes downcast, and unable to speak. I don’t have to draw every word out of her, through deep questioning, just to get somewhere. There are moments, but mostly it isn’t like that any more. Abigail has a sparkle in her eyes, much of the time, she laughs, and engages in conversation, and with people around her. It is so fun to watch Jesus set her free!

The other day Abigail spent some time with our family, in a group setting, and I saw a carefree joy in her that I had not seen before. I told Tim later that I see a little girl in her, just wanting to break free. With a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face, Tim told me that I had missed a moment when she ran and bounced into a chair, racing someone to get there first. “She has been suppressed for a very long time,” he added.

Abigail and I continue to meet, to work through her pain and her struggles, because the reality is that knowing Jesus does not end pain, or remove struggle. He strengthens us, loves us, and fights the battle for us, but in our humanity we rise and fall with that battle. From time to time she is placed in situations where she interacts with those who wounded her, and the raw memories trigger struggle, and in our sessions those encounters quickly show, and her spirit still takes the pain in quite easily, but one battle at a time she is learning to give it all to Jesus.

And, realistically, for Abigail the fight has only just begun. The enemy will use anything he can, and anyone whom he can, to try to make Abigail give up on her journey to knowing Jesus. He will try to destroy her faith, discourage her heart and convince her to throw in the towel.

Abigail will have to resist his tactics, and stand firm in Jesus Christ, to overcome, because attacks will still bring the temptation to return to old habits–to cut when she can’t feel or feels hopeless. But one victory at a time, a warrior will rise up in her, and she will help others.

Only a few days ago Abigail awoke in the middle of the night, tempted to find something with which to cut herself. In the dark of that night, she reached for the Bible I left with her–my big, fat ‘preacher sized’ Bible, with notes, underlines and scribbles–and clutched it to her chest. She reached for Jesus–the Word–instead of walking to the knife block, and staring at the temptation.

I am so blessed by Abigail, and thank God for bringing her into my life. In only a few short months she has disclosed deep pain, hurt and trauma. We’re still walking through the ongoing journey of freedom and forgiving people in her life, but she is free in Jesus, in spite of the struggle.

Abigail has given me permission to share her story here, in black and white, so that you will be challenged and encouraged. Few people have the courage to do that, while still in the ‘raw’ battle. Especially when people who know her might read her story, and judge or otherwise hurt her, should they recognize her story.

I am honoured to have shared with you, Abigail’s story. Thank you for allowing her pain to touch your heart, and her victory to cheer you on in your own journey. Your messages to me have been encouraging–some of which I have passed on to Abigail, to encourage her.

Please pray for Abigail. She wants desperately to follow and know Jesus intimately. She struggles from time to time, to hear His voice and know that it is Him, because other voices have ruled for so long. We are getting into the Word of God–the Bible–to learn how to identify the voice of God and the voice of the enemy, to know when it is truth, and when it is attack. She is learning that God’s voice speaks invitation, hope, salvation, purpose, love and deep conviction, but the voice of the enemy is one of condemnation, hopelessness, shame, defeat and oppression.

Pray for courage and strength, so that the attacks do not knock her down, and when she falls, that she will know the grace of God is more than enough.

Above all, I pray that Abigail’s story has stirred compassion in your heart for those struggling, and a passion to move beyond the typical ‘pat answers’ of religion, and take Jesus into the hearts of the hurting. I pray that, when touching hurting hearts, you will do it with the love of Jesus, and do so with a selfless heart, and words of life. Our words carry the power of life and death, and words that condemn and shame–something even Jesus did not come to do (John 3:17)–and they have the power to shut down a seeking heart, and discourage the struggling.

May God give you wisdom to reach out to others, without personal agenda, to bring Jesus to the world around, and to fellow believers who struggle. Because the death and resurrection of Jesus really is more than enough for each of us.

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Moment of Triumph: Abigail’s Story (Part 9)

WARNING: This post may contain graphic or disturbing 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.

 Sitting with Abigail in my car, seeing her deep bondage, and knowing her desperate desire to be free, I felt compelled to fight for her, even if it meant getting some backlash. Even if it meant taking on the enemy alone, where I would typically work with a team.

I explained that there is power in the name of Jesus, and we have authority to command the enemy to be silent. “Would it be okay if I did that? I promise it won’t be anything wonky, or loud or frightening. I will calmly and quietly tell him to leave.”

Abigail said I could, so I began to pray, and speak into the darkness…..

I spoke with gentle confidence, quietly and calmly commanding the enemy to leave, in the name of Jesus, to take his hands off of Abigail, to stop tormenting her mind with lies, and get out of my car. I asked God to protect Abigail and speak truth over her–I spoke His truth against the lies in her mind–and invited Jesus to be with us.

When I finished praying, we listened to worship music and, with time, I asked her, “What are the voices saying now?”

“One is getting quieter,” she said.

I cheered, quietly, and waited, as the worship music continued. At length I asked her if she was ready to pray. She said she was, so I explained how it would work, and that there would be no surprises. Knowing that she had not been able to pray much, if at all, for many years, I said I would lead her in prayer, and she could repeat it after me. I would pray only about the things we discussed, and I wouldn’t do anything strange, just a gentle prayer of confession, repentance and invitation, asking Jesus to take the place of those blades, and fill her life again.

In a previous session Abigail had told me she doesn’t believe that Jesus died for her. She believed He died for the world, but struggled to grasp that He did that for her. Unbelief in this area, from encounters I’ve had, is often comes from a feeling of worthlessness, brought on by negative life experience. But believing that Jesus died for me, personally, and you, personally, is the core of salvation, so I spoke into that  lie one more time.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked.

“Yes,” Abigail said.

“Do you believe Jesus is God’s son?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said again.

“Do you believe that Jesus died for you?” I asked.

“I believe He died for the world, but not for me,” she said.

“If you believe in God, and you believe in Jesus, then is the Word of God true?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered.

“And if the Word of God says that Jesus died for you too, then is that true?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Do you believe that Jesus died for you, Abigail?” I asked again.

“Yes,” she said.

Lies run deep, and the only way to overcome their power is by replacing them with truth. And if it takes a thousand times, then I am willing to ask the questions as often as it takes for the truth to pentrate.

I explained to Abigail that the prayer would be one of repentance, as well as asking Jesus to take the place of the blades, and giving God His rightful place in her heart in life. When she was ready, I began….

“Heavenly Father…. ” I said, then, after speaking only a sentence, I paused, waiting for her to repeat after me.

Silence. More silence. I peeked. Abigail’s big brown eyes were wide open, staring at me.

I smiled. Maybe she misunderstood…

“Can you pray and repeat after me?” I asked.

“Not to ‘Father’,” she said, matter-of-factly.

It was at that moment I realized what I had done, without even thinking to talk with her about God as her Heavenly Father. In Abigail’s mind, associating God with ‘father’, created an unsafe connection, immediately shutting her down, allowing fear, condemnation and oppression to overtake her.

“I’m sorry, Abigail,” I said, “I didn’t even think about it. I can lead you in prayer without addressing Him as Father, but if I leave it there, I do you a grave injustice.”

I took some time to tell Abigail about God, as Papa–our ‘Abba Father’–and explain that when our earthly fathers fail us, God is our protector. He is the one who carries us through the trauma of what is done to us. He is our shield, our warrior.

I took the ‘big picture’ approach, and showed her how God shows Himself as a ‘Warrior Father’ to His children, His people, throughout the entire Old Testament Story. If anyone messed with His children, God rose to their defence. When they wandered into captivity, He let them run themselves into some dark places, but always He fought for them, and offered redemption.

“You need Him, as your Heavenly Father, the Warrior who fights for you, Abigail,” I said. “To not take you there would be to rob you of His protection, and leave you vulnerable.” When we understand God as our protector, we learn to fall on Him, rather than fight our own battles. And if Abigail was to win this, it would not be on her own strength.

I asked Abigail if I could pray and ask Jesus to reveal the heart of the Father to her, to lead her to Him, to be the mediator and ask Him to reveal His incredible love and acceptance. Instead of asking her to address Him as Father, or falling back on intellectual acceptance, I would pray on her behalf, standing in the gap for her pain, and allowing the Holy Spirit to do the work. She agreed, and I again started to pray.

Abigail prayed after me, speaking truth over the lies, repenting, confessing Jesus as her Saviour, and asking Him to fill her life again. It was a moment of victory, a moment of triumph.

I handed her my Bible. “You’re going to need this,” I told her. “Find places I’ve underlined, or just hold it when you’re struggling.” I assured her that God will continue to heal her and, with time, she will be able to read and understand the Word of God. I remember well how hard it was, to a time, and also know how much I love the Bible now.

In the wee hours of the morning, I hugged Abigail good night, after hours and hours of battle.

It was a night well spent, on the heels of an amazing retreat with the women from Milverton Mennonite Church. I should have been too exhausted to fight, having lost sleep in the days leading up to that night but, instead, I felt exhilarated and ‘alive’, doing exactly what God created me for–worshipping Him, and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ that breaks chains of addiction, religion, sin, and every other bondage.

Abigail walked into the night, a smile on her face, and joy in her heart. I knew that she would be okay and, regardless of the battle ahead, she would make it through.

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