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~ T ~
Recently, in the middle of a crazy situation involving sexual abuse, it struck me how blessed I am in our marriage. I told Tim that. Again. Our marriage isn’t not perfect, and we’ve had moments of ‘gasping for air’, so to speak, just to get through. Times it felt like we wouldn’t make it. But, thank God for grace, determination, forgiveness and the kind of love that fights through when feelings are weak and life is hard. And thank God Tim is so respectful. I’m blessed.
I’m blessed that with all the sexual perversions I see, that I can still look Tim full in the face and think, “What a sexy man of God!” (And I love his beard!) I add the ‘sexy’ part, not flippantly or even sensually, but because I truly am blessed that God has protected that ‘appeal’ in spite of all the sexual corruption I encounter when supporting victims. That is a real gift, because God intended sex to be a wonderful part of marriage, and I’ve heard of people becoming asexual when working closely with this kind of thing, or becoming so repulsed that it wrecks their marriage. So I am thankful that Tim is every bit as appealing to me today as he was 24 years ago when we made our vows.
The other thing that struck me, though, is that I see men as generally good-hearted, respectful and kind. A compliment gets a thank you. And a man who holds the door open also gets a thank you. There are gentleman in this world, who remember chivalry, and they deserve my respect and appreciation. (I also understand why some men are hesitant to hold the door). Even in my teens, a rebel among other things, I appreciated a sincere compliment. (That said, when compliments were sexualized, I responded with the lift of a finger. Just being honest.) When I think of the men I know and/or encounter, I feel respected and my general perception is that most are not corrupt to the core. I think most struggle sexually, with few exceptions. And those ‘exceptions’ are, no doubt, still tempted but have learned to turn their eyes away. Being tempted doesn’t make a person perverted or evil. It makes them human and dependent on grace. Falling into temptation also doesn’t make them perverted and evil. It makes them human and in need of grace. Excusing such behaviour, that’s a different ball game.)
That all got me to thinking about what it must be like to be a man. A few men in one community, church or club, can make the whole seem perverted and not trustworthy. If a sex predator aligns himself with that church, club or community to gain credibility or access to vulnerable people, then the whole lot become a bit suspect because victims really are not sure about their affiliates. Using those affiliations to gain public trust and respect of people and get access to vulnerable people is pretty low down. Because it makes them well buffered and virtually untouchable, and leaves victims 100% voiceless.
That is, until a few find a voice… and more find a voice and eventually the truth is revealed. But by that time the church, organization or ministry – and especially the other men there – will pay a high price for not having been more discerning and for (apparently) turning a blind eye. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t look the other way. Sometimes they were just too trusting.
Being a man suddenly isn’t that appealing. (In spite of the fact that, as a little Mennonite girl I desperately wanted to be male and thought surely God could still do a miracle and transform me into a male. If he can make babies from scratch, surely turning a girl into a boy wouldn’t be that hard. Boy, am I glad He didn’t, because it would be hard being a male in today’s world.) It isn’t appealing to me, but it is honourable when stewarded well. The strength of character it must take to be a good and honourable man, when those who are brutal and abusive shape how women see you, must be immense… and discouraging. That really struck me. And I thought about men, how I generally view them, and realized that percentage wise, they have a very good track record in my life.
In my ‘close’ experience the greater percentage have been kind, gentle, empowering and value their wives, and respect women in general. And then there is that small percentage who are cruel, controlling, abusive and demeaning. Some with strong religious affiliations and presenting a spiritual image, others with no such claims. But men, in general, are blamed and shamed, because to many victims all men represent what was done to them, so they trust none.
I was blessed. Men invested deeply in my healing. As much, if not more than women. But they played a different role. They didn’t ‘hold me’ to ‘give back’ what had been taken. (That wouldn’t have worked!) Sure, a few of them gave me healthy hugs, but they pointed me to Jesus, to God as my heavenly Papa, for Him to restore that brokenness, rather than trying to be that for me. They showed me I am valuable and worth caring for. They listened, but they let God be my Hero. And most of all they loved and respected their wives and daughters.
So, to every man who is honourable (even if imperfect), to every man who does not take advantage of vulnerable women, and every one who honours his wife and respects women in general… to every one who handles his sexuality well and does not use it against women and children: Thank you. (Even if you struggle and are tempted.) I respect you. You are noble. You are the unsung heroes of our time, and I can only imagine how hard it must be to not bow to shame and defeat on behalf of the abusers. I encourage you, hold your heads up, and don’t give in. We need you. You are the healing many of us need. We see you love your wives and children well. You give us hope for our children and grandchildren.
To honourable men: I am sorry I even need to write the blogs I write, speak out about the abuse…. I’m sorry for how that must, at times, make you struggle with your manhood. Know that I honour you, and I believe there are more of you (by far) in my world than there are abusers. And if I am wrong and you are outnumbered, I honour you yet more.
As always, and with deep honour for these men…
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2018
A great man once taught me to face my fears and ‘do it afraid’, and to never stop believing in impossible dreams, if those dreams can bring about good.
Today It is January 2, 2016.
On December 30 2014, I posted a status on Facebook, playfully asking for an interpretation to a dream I had the previous night. The dream involved my former car (beloved old Rustbucket) disappearing, and me being all distressed at that loss, but when I went back out to prove it had disappeared, a brand new gold Mazda convertible awaited me.
I posted the status in jest, asking for an interpretation and expecting nonsensical responses. Instead, I received a rush of private messages and comments on that status, telling me that it had meaning, and many said 2015 would be a year of change–good change–for our ministry. (To read the status and public comments, click link here or on the photo.)
I’ll be honest, I struggled to take any of it seriously, at first, but after numerous people said the same thing, I started to listen. Some joked about the dream–which I could obviously appreciate, since that was my motive–and while many said it related to our ministry, Generations Unleashed, a few even threw in the notion that maybe a new car awaited me in 2015. That part I didn’t take seriously at all, but the thought was nice.
As I reflected today on 2015, I did so with mixed emotions. True to the prophetic words spoken, our ministry changed dramatically! We did only 2 conferences all year, with more stand-alone speaking engagements, as well as partnering in ministry with others. A highlight was partnering with comedian/musician, Kelita Haverland.
But the most dramatic change was the amount of ‘out of country travel’. I love to drive, but even more than driving, I love to fly! I would fly at least once a month, if I could. And by ‘could’ I mean that right now it isn’t reasonable for me to be away from home that much, so I do not pursue that much ministry out of country. As it stands, I spent about five weeks out of country in 2015, mostly working with victims of sexual assault and hearing stories of pain and trauma, while walking with those victims or parents of victims, to offer support in crisis.
The last quarter took a turn, and doors opened to have international clients move to Ontario to spend weeks at a time, investing in coaching and mentoring sessions. This has proven to be a wonderful option for those victims out of country who have no place to go locally–at least not places they feel comfortable going–and want to spend time developing confidence and pursuing freedom. There are a few pitfalls, bumps and scrapes, however, as there are with any growth. And for us that was predominantly in trying to determine internationally whether a client fits into a coaching/mentoring client relationship, or whether the extent of trauma or need would be more appropriate for psychotherapy with a licensed counselor or other professional, or a mental health institution. Locally I have the option of meeting a client several times, and if the need crosses that line, I can simply refer the client elsewhere, or we choose to work in partnership with licensed professionals, which is not an easy option at a great distance. We are growing and learning, and trust God to continue leading us in this.
As for the car, we did end up with a new-to-us car for our ministry, and it was indeed a blessing from someone, earlier this year. It wasn’t gold; it was silver. And it wasn’t a Mazda convertible, but it was a Honda Accord, 2-door with a sun roof. Close enough. The gentleman who sold it, donated a portion back, and the remainder was gifted to the ministry days after our old Mazda ‘died’, and only days before I was scheduled to drive to USA to spend time with a young woman in a very difficult situation. The car has since traveled thousands of miles to reach wounded hearts, to encourage the struggling, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in broken lives. We are thankful for the gift, and pray that God’s blessing over the individual who provided it.
In other firsts and changes, 2o15 offered deep trials and confronted fears I would never have thought I could cope well facing. Rejection. Lies. False accusations. Broken trust. Threats of various sorts. Losses. And in each of these I found my God more faithful than ever I have known Him to be, personally. He has kept my heart tender towards those who have wronged me, and given me love in places where I once grew hardened for fear of being wounded. Today He has taught me to embrace wounding, even while He continues to teach me healthy boundaries and extending grace with those boundaries. And by His grace He continues to give me compassion for all, as I learn to walk more and more in the love of Jesus, while acknowledging that which is wicked in the temple courts, and praying He will overturn tables once more.
Looking ahead in 2016, changes will continue. God has opened doors to influence and corroborate with individuals with authority and in positions of influence, who have a vision for changing how sex crimes are handled in religious communities. While the process will take time, our hope is to influence dramatic changes at a level that can and will have life-changing impact in the near future, and for generations to come.
On top of this, I’ve been dreaming for some time about returning to school and, God-willing, 2016 will be the year for this. I had several meetings in recent weeks, trying to determine what is the best starting point. As a result, if I am accepted, I will begin September 2016. Because I will attend as a mature student, hoping to enter a Master’s program, I will start with a 3-month qualifying term during which time I will need to maintain a minimum 75% average in all courses. If I am successful, this will be followed by 16 months of full time Masters program. The reality is I need ‘the official paper’ and credentials behind my name for the next phase of ministry, and to continue to move forward and grow in our community and beyond, and influence changes at the next level. One on one work is good, and it is effective for that one, but the truth is that more can be accomplished with a broader vision. And the need is massive.
I will continue, for the time being, to meet with clients one-on-one, whether local or international, and do what I have done for the past five years. It has been and continues to be something I love, and something that has taught me more in life than any other career or experience.
As these things unfold and develop, and as meetings start early in the year to explore next steps, I see 2016 as a year of preparation and strategic planning. This preparation, I pray, will bring to life a dream that has developed in my heart over a period of years. Granted, there is always that tiny fear that ‘it’s impossible’, and I push constantly through such fears.
A great man once taught me to ‘do it afraid’ and to never stop believing in impossible dreams. Particularly if those dreams can bring about good. And my God has taught me that ‘doing good’ is part of being a Christ follower, and to ignore good that He has called me to do is in fact sin.
So I will choose to believe in the dreams He has birthed in my heart, and trust that if it will bring good, then He will go before me, prepare the way, and bless me. Even if all hell rises against me, no evil thing can stand in the way, no religious thing can stop His plan, and no fear or threat will hold me back from following the purpose God set before me, before I was even conceived.
Before my conception, ere ever my frame formed in my mother’s womb, or even the world obeyed your command, You whispered my name. And in that whispering, my purpose donned wings. A destiny spoken in the shadows became the light that would guide me on the way. For it is Your Kingdom, Your purpose and Your plans that fill my days with adventure; the invitation to step into something greater than myself, to live beyond the walls of selfish expectation, and partner with the Divine, to change the world. (Based on Jeremiah 1:5) (Excerpt from When Abba Whispers Her Name, (working title), Trudy Metzger)
~ T ~
She begged for mercy… admitting she could not pay for her crimes and outstanding debt… Without a pardon, she would be sentenced to death.
The judge sighed as he looked at the list of crimes she had committed. He looked about the courtroom, then back at the woman. “Is there anyone who will pay your debt?”
On the far side of the room sat a large audience of well-dressed onlookers, pointing and sneering. She had it coming to her. They sat, straight and tall, noses turned up, looking down at her.
“A disgrace,” one man muttered.
“Our world will be better without her,” huffed a woman, looking away, as if the very sight of the woman might contaminate her.
A few among them looked uncomfortable, squirming. But not one spoke up.
A scraggly few supporters sat near the woman, silent. Tears flowed freely. It was almost as if each believed they were guilty, and deserved her sentence. One by one they fumbled through tattered bags, purses and pockets, pulling out what bits of valuables they might hold, if any.
One produced a pack of gum that appeared to have been carried too long in her coat. Another a comb, bent and with hair hanging from it. An old man pulled out a handkerchief but, alas, one corner was crumpled together, obviously used, dirty.
An old man, stumbled through the door, and walked forward. He looked like one of the filthy scraggly few. He held in his crippled hands a worn piece of paper.
“You intend to pay this woman’s debt with that… that… whatever it is you hold there?”
The old man smiled, exposing decayed teeth—the few he had—and raised bushy grey eyebrows. “No, shir, Your Honour” he said, mispronouncing ‘sir’. “I haven’t a penny to offer, shir, but I know Shomeone…
The well-dressed onlookers scoffed. One woman cackled, “He knows ‘shomeone’… I sure wonder who… probably ‘shome’ drunk ‘shtreet’ bum.”
“Order!!! Order in the court!!!” shouted the judge, his gavel pounding the block. He turned his attention to the old man. “Continue sir.”
The old man told of his life of crime, and the many lives he destroyed in that process, until one day, only a few years earlier, it all caught up to him.
“Your Honour, a man paid my debt that day, and I was pardoned. All He asked in return, was for me to share the good news, and tell others about Him. He will pay her debt.”
“And, just where might I find this generous man?” the judge asked.
“He’s waiting, just outside the door,” the old man said.
He shuffled to the rear of the court, opened the door and the generous man walked in. Jaws dropped throughout the courtroom.
Before them stood no ordinary man. He was the King’s son. With kind eyes and gentle smile, He walked to the condemned woman, and took her place, accepting her judgement.
She fell at His feet, weeping, too overcome for words. She was free. In one moment, she was released; thanks, not to some ability to correct or pay for her crime, but because of this man.
She stayed there a long while, weeping.
The King’s son looked at the scraggly supporters, then at the well-dressed, arrogant crowd. “Each of you owes the same debt this woman owed.”
The scraggly few bowed their heads, nodding. Some wept. The man pulled out his stained handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. A woman sobbed shamelessly.
“Some of you are familiar with your crimes, and carry that debt with great shame,” He said, looking at the scraggly few. “Bring me any debts you owe, I will pay them.”
One by one they shuffled forward, tears flowing, praying. Reaching for mercy.
The King’s son continued, looking now at the well-dressed crowd, “Some of you are oblivious to your debt, and choose to ignore it. You justify your crimes, and believe that as long as you present well, and hide your crimes, you are justified. What’s worse… you do this claiming allegiance to my Father and His country.”
The well-dressed crowd listened stoically… Most of them…. A few shifted in their seats.
The King’s son spoke again. “You were quick to judge, but every one of you, if you take off those fine clothes, will find a layer of tattered rags. Hidden in the pockets you will find unpaid debts. If you strip back those layers and acknowledge your need, I will pay your debts too.” He paused, looked over the well-dressed crowd.
The woman who taunted earlier, squirmed. The man who scoffed, looked at his feet. Several others shifted, unable to look the King’s Son in the eye. A few tore off their outer garments, exposing filthy, stained rags. In humble acknowledgement, they joined the scraggly few.
“Yes, I will pay your debts, but only if you strip yourself of image, prestige and religious pride, and acknowledge your need, as these have.”
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Often we ‘Christians’ judge others harshly, while hiding our secret sins. We proclaim the name of God, and yet defy the way and words of Jesus–Emmanuel, ‘God with us’–as we toss rocks in arrogant self-righteousness.
In the same church where a man has an affair and his wife is ordered by leaders to keep silent and never mention it again because he is repentant…. the same church where child molesters are treated with ‘grace’–aka cover up and their crime is down-played… there repentant sinners get the left foot of fellowship for some hidden agenda.
Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
The evidence speaks for itself. Too long, too many good men (and women) have done nothing. There have always been a faithful few, but it is time for the people of God to rise up together and stand for Jesus, and for what He taught and exemplified. He lived truth fearlessly, judged by the most religious and ‘self-righteous’ of His day, to the point that they sought to kill Him.
To be named with Him, we will need to be willing to face the same abuse and judgement from many religious folks–leaders and laity, alike–who live in pretentious holiness. If there is one place the devil has a stronghold today, it is with those who preach God, hell fire and brimstone, while defying Jesus Christ.
Until we are willing to face the wrath of the enemy and these people, by confronting this stronghold, exposing the evil–yes, even publicly–the body of Christ will remain crippled and ineffective. Jesus warned us about these false teachers and, unfortunately, they exist in every denomination. Coincidentally, the warning comes in the same chapter as the instruction on judging:
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
For those who will take the challenge, and turn to Jesus Christ, abandoning every other thing for His sake–including leaders and churches that blatantly misrepresent God and live for personal agenda–there is grace for the difficult journey ahead. (If you find yourself ‘stuck’ in such a place, don’t be afraid to search for a life-giving fellowship. None are perfect, but many are passionate about Jesus and biblical truth, and compassionate toward people.)
It is not easy to stand up against evil in religious settings–against spiritual wickedness in high places. But it is the way of true holiness, to set ourselves apart from the world of sin, as well as the sin of religious arrogance that all but replaces the need for the Atonement of Christ.
Rise up! Stand for Truth; Unadulterated, pure, simple Truth!
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This letter may come as a surprise to you, since our paths have gone separate ways and I have no ongoing relationship or connections with you. (No doubt we both remember well how that went down.)
I hardly know where to begin… My thoughts may be best expressed with splashes of ink, representing the tears I have cried. How to unravel those thoughts and share with you what is on my heart?
If you have forgotten who I am, I was the teenager, who was bound, bent and determined to defy you, and all leadership. At least that is how you saw it. In reality, and not to justify rebellion, but to help you understand other teenagers like me, I was confused. I knew that breaking your rules would get me in trouble. And it did. But I also knew that then you would see me, that you would know how angry I felt. Maybe, just maybe, then you would reach out and help me.
I was angry for so many reasons that I cannot tell them all. But there are a few very important reasons I would like to share with you. First, I was angry because I was always criticized. My dresses were too ‘edgy’, always pushing the standard, always ‘riding the fence’, as we were often told. My hair was never pulled back quite tight enough. My heels were a bit too high–even the ones I was given by your daughter. I talked to freely, and wasn’t ‘meek and quiet’, the way a woman should be.
I looked around too much when I entered a room. (This was said to be flirtatious, attention seeking. But if you had grown up in my home, where at any turn you could get hit, where your father threatened to kill you, then you too would learn to always be aware of your environment. And you’d pretend to be confident too, to make yourself feel less vulnerable.)
Alone in my room at night, I would sit on my deep window sill, sometimes for hours into the night, just looking at the sky, and crying. Fearful. Any sound in the night made my heart freeze.
What if it was Jesus coming back and He too found me unacceptable? I so desperately wanted to know God, back then. Wanted so much to know I was in His family. Accepted. Saved. Loved. But for all my prayers and crying, I felt as though I was never good enough. Almost every revival meetings I stood to my feet, fighting guilt, shame and rejection. Maybe this time would be the magic moment. It never came.
The church sang “Almost Persuaded”, and I was that… Almost Persuaded that I would never make it. They sang, “Just as I am…” but I knew that ‘as I was’ would never be good enough for God. They sang, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling…” and somehow my heart knew it was true, but all I could really hear was the loud screams of judgement… that I was a failure, destined to never know peace.
Meetings, after meetings, I fought this battle. Always ending with the same desperate hopelessness. Little did I realize that my guilt was false guilt. The result of memories deeply buried in my subconscious, that would surface many years later. And only after coming to terms with the sexual abuse and violence of early childhood, and the abuse that later happened in the church, would that guilt and shame finally leave me.
Only then would I sit through revival meetings in peace, with the confidence that I am a part of God’s family. I don’t need to measure up. Yes, I give Him the best that I can, because I love Him, but my salvation does not rise and fall, on false guilt, or when I fall into sin. He loves me. Accepts me. I am His. And when He shows me that I have sinned, I repent quickly, because I love Him.
More importantly, He loves me. He thinks I’m so special that He sings over me with delight. (Zephaniah 3:17) He has even written a book about me! Having discovered that love, I have learned to love Him, and love others.
And one of the things that His forgiving love has taught me, is to forgive others. Because of that love, I forgive you.
I learned many years later that you knew of the abuse I suffered, and did nothing. You covered it, to protect your family name… because the perpetrator was your son. All the while you excommunicated congregants for bad attitudes, for listening to the radio, for not wearing the right clothes, among other things that you labelled sin. But the sins of your sons, and other church members, you kept carefully hidden for the sake of image. How that wounded my heart!
This taught me that God does not care about my pain and suffering, but cares very much that I look right and act religious. And it affirmed the belief that God loves other people more than He loves me. How desperately I wanted His love and acceptance.
I spent years trying to earn His favour before I finally fell to my knees and begged Him to remove every lying voice, and show me who He really is. I wept for days, as I read the stories of Jesus and the church in rest of the New Testament, as though I was reading them for the first time. And then I felt secure.
I knew other preachers who did not do what you did, and I thank God for their kinder examples. But you had the greater influence, and somehow I couldn’t see past the confusion you brought into my life, to see that Jesus is more like them…
So I forgive you. I forgive you for turning a blind eye to the abuse I suffered. I forgive you for judging me harshly, while protecting sin in your own family and household. I forgive you for spiritual rape… by using God’s name for personal agenda, and telling me that what you do is God-blessed.
And each time I remember what you did, I will choose to forgive you, again, and again, and again.
I pray that you will repent, find mercy and get to know intimately the true God… the God of love, justice and mercy.
~ one broken teen ~
© Trudy Metzger
There is a cost associated with hiding corruption, or turning our heads the other way, and plugging our ears, so that we can say, We did not see, did not know. Not the least of the cost is the ongoing sacrifice of our children on the altars of Molech.
And, having done so, we are shocked, confused and horrified when our children abandon God. We fall on our knees and cry out, heartbroken, that they would leave their faith–not to be mistaken with leaving their cultural upbringing–and worship other gods.
Many turn from the living God because we have corporately misrepresented Him in leaving them willingly vulnerable by not exposing sin and protecting them. We have hidden the evil done against them, while judging harshly their failures, regardless of their efforts. Failures that are often born out of struggles resulting from the very sins committed against them. And until we acknowledge that we have sinned against them in this, our prayers will continue to echo from the walls of our homes and our churches, empty and meaningless.
But if we repent, and cry out to God for forgiveness for our sins, and if we stop hiding behind cloaks of righteousness that have holes exposing our own evil, then, the God of heaven will hear our prayers for our children and our nation. Only then will we see revival of spirit and soul.
New King James Version (NKJV)
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I urge us to repent and stop stuffing our filthy laundry in a corner, in pretence that it does not exist. It stinks to high heaven, creating a stench before the very presence of God.
New Living Translation (NLT)
65 The Lord says,
“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
to a nation that did not call on my name.[a]
2 All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.[b]
But they follow their own evil paths
and their own crooked schemes.
3 All day long they insult me to my face
by worshiping idols (of greed, religion, image, lust and pride) in their sacred gardens.
They burn incense on pagan altars.
5 Yet they say to each other,
‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me!
I am holier than you!’
These people are a stench in my nostrils,
an acrid smell that never goes away.
6 “Look, my decree is written out[c] in front of me:
I will not stand silent;
I will repay them in full!
Yes, I will repay them—
7 both for their own sins
and for those of their ancestors,”
says the Lord.
“For they also burned incense on the mountains
and insulted me on the hills.
I will pay them back in full!
8 “But I will not destroy them all,”
says the Lord.
“For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones
(and someone will say, ‘Don’t throw them all away—
some of those grapes are good!’),
so I will not destroy all Israel.
For I still have true servants there.
9 I will preserve a remnant of the people of Israel[d]
and of Judah to possess my land.
Those I choose will inherit it,
and my servants will live there.
On behalf of ourselves, our fathers and mothers, and the generations past, we must repent. And for the sake of the generations to come, we must stand and break the silence of corruption, and pray that God will have mercy on us. Not only on those who have committed these heinous acts, but on us for our silence, and not fighting to the death for the little children. For this evil, I pray that God will have mercy.
The next generation is already paying the price with the prevalence of sexual immorality, in the guise of abstinence, and abortions, and homosexuality, and more sexual abuse. All this, and more, is happening right under the noses of leaders who chose to look the other way. That blindness has empowered evil. And, were they to discover it, the sword would fall swiftly.
But that is not the biblical response of leaders. A true leader does not judge harshly and quickly the sins of those he or she leads, while shouting, “You have sinned!” A true leader falls to his knees and asks God, “Where have I sinned that your people are doing this under my leadership?”
We see in Ezra 9, when sin is revealed in the congregation, how he responds by taking personal ownership, as though he was the one who committed the sins. Only after personal repentance does he call for public, corporate accountability for those sins. Oh how such leadership would change the Body of Christ!
King James Version (KJV–with edits)
3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.
4 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,
6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we… been delivered into … confusion of face, as it is this day.
8 And now for a little space grace has been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
© Trudy Metzger
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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series
For some time I’ve been contemplating the right time to share about the impact my childhood had on our marriage. Thinking about it gave me writer’s block for a while, so I laid it aside and told first of the journey of healing and forgiveness with my father.
Most of the ‘block’, I presume, is in my hesitance to tell someone else’s story. Even though Tim has given me permission to tell these stories–especially in the book(s) I’m writing–I still am cautious. I live my life and open book, and don’t really know just how it came to be that way, other than I believe it is what God has called me to, but I recognize that this kind of openness feels much more vulnerable for some people. And Tim is one of those people.
Tim is, by nature, reserved, private, calm, peaceful, serious, gentle, kind-hearted and strong. He needs his space, his quiet time, and is easily exhausted by crowds and attention. So for hundreds of people to read about our marriage daily, is a bit more daunting for him than for me. I don’t mind the spotlight, if it is for a good cause, though I don’t much care for it spontaneously. I like to have a plan, a goal and a purpose.
When it comes to sexual abuse, that plan and purpose is always in motion, so to share any part of my journey is nothing to me any more. Ten years ago it was not like that. I still physically trembled most of the time when I referred to it, and felt much more scattered. The purpose was not yet fully defined. As ministry in this area grows, and drawing from my story becomes part of the healing process for others, my fear about sharing has all but disappeared.
Still, I want to be sensitive to Tim, as well as to my audience, to share discretely the things that need to be told. To tell appropriately how abuse affected our marriage as I struggled to come to grips with the violations of the past, while embracing intimacy in marriage, emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually.
Not everything is appropriate (in my opinion) to share on the internet, that I would share in a book written specifically for adults, and targeting married couples. Because of this, I will not be able portray fully the struggles it caused and how we overcame it, but I will share what is appropriate.
Since I have already received very forthright emails, asking some pretty tough questions, I know that many of you can handle the truth. I welcome questions at any time, if, in my effort to be discrete, what I write is vague, or unclear.
Tim and I have fought hell and high water to have a strong marriage. We have been open, honest and transparent through some ‘inner secrets’ that would have been easier to hide. The hard times, including working through the abuse, and having permission to grieve what I lost, has created a strong bond between us. It has given my heart a safe place and there is nothing and no one in the world that competes with him.
As I share the hard times, including times when he did not know how to be there, I do so with utmost respect for the man he is and for his willingness to work through those things. I hold him in highest honour in my life, next to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.
I have learned to trust him completely, emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually. He always has my best interest at heart. Even when we go through difficult times, and even when he fails me, I am confident of that one thing. And when I fail him, he knows that I love him. We’re human, and as I share our story, that will be obvious. It is the love and grace of God that have brought us to this place, and we share our story with gratitude to Him for that.
With that I will begin to tell our story, tomorrow….
© Trudy Metzger
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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Serie
This is one of the most exciting posts I have written to date… but I struggled to know what title to give it… A dozen went through my mind, falling flat without making an impact. I thought about this one, but without ‘Jesus’ and using ‘the Outsider’ instead of ‘I’, but that sounded like one of those lame ‘St. Peter’ jokes, and this isn’t really that kind of post.
This post is a celebration of the things God can do, when human beings lay themselves aside, lay aside their religious beliefs–both sides of the equation–and focus on what really matters.
Today I’m sharing *Tracy’s story, with her permission. Tracy is one of the people I meet with, to mentor through the ‘stuff’ of life, and to find Jesus in day-to-day experience. Even in the tough situations.
Tracy and I connected first a year, or so, ago. Briefly. Superficially. The kind of friendship that is common on Facebook, where you ‘friend’ someone, but don’t necessarily engage in relationship. You interact from time to time, but don’t often go deep. Nothing wrong with that.
Our relationship changed, however, some time ago, when Tracy started reading my blog and my story began resonating with her. She contacted me, just to ask a few questions, and that led to more interaction, and finally our first face-to-face meeting.
Tracy is conservative Mennonite, and knew that I am not. One of the things I do, when I meet someone with different beliefs than my own, is talk about what my goal is, and isn’t. My goal is never to pull anyone out of their culture, or undermine their culture, though I do mentor from a faith perspective, but with neutral position on practical beliefs. My goal is to hear hearts, and heal hearts, through restoration and a healthy understanding of, and relationship with, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Having had that talk, we moved into the ‘stuff of life’. Tracy shared some of the struggles and conflicts in her life. Church rules, though rigorous, were bearable. Family dynamics were difficult. We talked about specifics and could only conclude that her parents love her deeply, but struggle with being over-protective, to the point of controlling.
In conversation I commented, “They simply want to protect you, possibly from something they, or a friend, went through when they were young. That doesn’t make it right to be controlling, I told her, but it helps understand them. “I’m suspicious they want to protect your virginity,” I said, when the discussion of dating came up. I sensed hesitance. I don’t remember what I said next, but I recall her answer.
“I’m not a virgin,” Tracy said. Too late for that.
Being a spiritual mentor, who predominantly helps people work through sexual abuse and violence, while establishing a healthy relationship with God, I reacted accordingly.
“Have you taken care of it? Asked God to forgive you?” I asked. “Are you free?” She said she had and it was forgiven, in her past, so we moved on.
Tracy and I have met numerous times in the past few months, always connecting at a heart level. From time to time, in between meetings, I would get that ‘niggling’ in my spirit, that I should send a note or a text, asking how things are, and we’d set up a meeting within a day or two. Frequently something had just happened, and she was in recovery mode, or something happened within a day. Often just before our meeting.
That is what happened last week. I messaged Tracy to see how she’s doing. To make sure she’s getting through things okay. Later that evening we spoke on the phone, and she was quite upset. Her bishop had asked for a meeting and she didn’t know why.
I asked if she would like to meet for coffee and talk through it. She did, so we met at Timmies. We talked through a lot of ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen ‘if” scenarios, bringing the fears back in check.
Before we parted she said she would like if I joined her for the meeting on Monday, with her bishop and his wife. She said she was nervous only because she didn’t know what to expect, but that they are very kind.
I’ve often told Tracy that any time she needs me for support or mediation, I will be there, if I’m available. When she asked, I knew I needed to prioritize it, because she doesn’t ask easily, or lightly.
Tracy and I stood outside the church, on Monday night, waiting for the bishop and his wife to arrive. We had agreed to meet a few minutes in advance and connect before the meeting. Her body trembled, her voice carried an edge of nervousness.
“We’ll probably meet in the minister’s room,” she said. We talked about how intimidating the room is. Laughed about it, concluding it’s because that’s where all the big decisions are made.
The bishop and his wife arrived.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m Trudy Metzger, and I’m here on Tracy’s invitation, to support her as she shares with you. I am the first woman with whom she shared her story, and have been her mentor through it. If it’s okay with you, I would like to be her support today.”
They shook my hands warmly, welcoming me, assuring me that was not a problem. “Why don’t we go to the minister’s room,” the bishop said, “it’s about as good a place as any.” He paused. We started up the steps. “Hopefully it’s not too intimidating,” he continued.
I resisted the urge to snicker. Funny that, only seconds before they arrived, we had talked about it.
“And we have nice plush chairs in there,” he said, trying to make things as comfortable as they can be when you have a Mennonite Bishop and his wife, a young girl who is struggling or perceived to be struggling, and me–an outsider.
In the early school days, I remember the worksheet that had four items and you had to identify one that didn’t belong. Well, this one would have been easy. I was definitely ‘that’ item. The one that looked different. The duck in a line up of flowers, The motorbike in a row of cars. I chose not to feel out of place, in spite of this obvious detail. And they really were trying to make me feel safe, I could tell.
On my way to the meeting I had prayed the blood of Jesus specifically and individually over each person’s mind, body, soul and spirit. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would have free rein, not held back by our differences in cultural practice and Bible interpretation, and that we would lift our eyes to Jesus, and not the stuff of life, or our beliefs. I had called my friend and mentor, Anne, to ask her and her husband to pray. I knew we were well covered. And I didn’t doubt that the others had also prayed.
We engaged in small talk for a few minutes before opening in prayer. The bishop then opened the conversation, inviting Tracy to share her journey, specifically addressing some of the family stresses she faced. How was she doing? What was her side of the story?
Tracy shared from her heart. Raw. Honest. Bold. And yet gentle. She has a very sweet, gentle spirit and a deep thinker. Very deep. She is very open about her desire to know God, to serve Him with all that she is, and to pursue His plans for her. This came through.
Tracy paused, looked at me, as if asking a silent question. I’ve learned to read her. “Are you going to share some of the past stuff we talked about?” I asked.
“Should I?” she asked.
“It’s up to you.” We had agreed at our meeting on Friday night that it would be best if they heard it from her. The odds of rumours leaking out–now that she was breaking silence–and things becoming twisted was high. Truth, directly from the individual is always best. “Shall I share how we arrived at you telling me, and then you can pick it up from there?” I asked.
She nodded. “Sure.”
I shared about our initial meeting and how our conversation about family dynamics and her protective parents had led to her making a confession. There I stopped. The bishop and his wife looked at her. I looked at her. I could see the anxiety but with confidence she spoke the words, “I am not a virgin. My first boyfriend and I had sex.”
Shock as it registered on their faces, yet gentleness. The bishop looked tender and sad, not upset or angry. No judgement. His wife choked back tears, but held the same tenderness.
“Thank you for being honest and telling us,” the bishop said.
She went on to say that it wasn’t just a one time thing, that it started early in their youth and carried on until they broke up some years later. The boyfriend had promised a future… a life together…. downplaying how wrong it was. How could it be that wrong in a committed relationship, if they were to be married one day?
We talked at length about the ways we had worked through it. She said she had asked Jesus to forgive her, and had left that life behind, but had never cleared it with her boyfriend. They had shared the secret alone for years, just the two of them, and now one other friend, and me. She wanted the power of the secret to be broken, and she wanted to make things right with her first boyfriend.
The bishop asked us both some questions, and we spent some time just talking, heart to heart, exploring appropriate next steps. Breaking ties and the power of that relationship got most of our focus.
The bishop applauded Tracy several times for her honesty, and her willingness to share the truth, no matter how hard.
“Tracy speaks very highly of you,” I said, hoping to reassure them that she does, in fact, have a healthy respect for them, and their desire for her, and the church family as a whole.
The bishop’s voice held emotion as he spoke, gently, tenderly, “So you trust us, Tracy?” His eyes filled with tears.
Tracy choked up. She nodded. The tears began to fall. I saw then, more than before, the depth of their relationship. Tracy is friends with the bishop’s children. She has spent plenty of time in their home, and has told me how much fun she has had with them. How the bishop has a great sense of humour, and his wife is ‘just the sweetest woman’.
“I love you, Tracy,” the bishop said, eyes glistening with tears that would not spill. “I really love you.” He looked at his wife, who could not speak, for the intensity of emotion. “She really loves you. Don’t you?” he said, now addressing his wife. She nodded. “We really love you.”
Tears fell from Tracy’s face. When she cries, tears spill, one at a time and drop. It’s quite beautiful, really. They don’t pour like a stream. It’s as if each one has a unique identity, that it is not willing to let go of. And so they fall, one at a time, splashing, wherever they land, into countless little sparkles, testifying to the purity of the heart, from which they came.
The moment held a sacredness. An intimacy that was almost tangible. There was a few moments of silence. The bishop’s wife started crying, her face sweet and beautiful, eyes filled with compassion.
I sensed a powerful Presence in the room, and I knew we have not met to tell stories and gather facts. We had met with Jesus, the Healer.
The bishop broke the silence to present the dilemma. The church ‘tradition’ is to confess in front of the rest of the congregation, when caught in sin. At least sins of ‘this nature’. He admitted he wished he didn’t need to even propose such a thing, not wanting to shame Tracy or make a spectacle of her. But he believed it is best. It would allow her to share her story, her repentance and forgiveness with the congregation, rather than having rumours spread, without truth. For her to share her testimony would put the power where it should be, in redemption and healing.
It is a big deal, in the Mennonite church, where the sense of community is so strong, when something like this happens. Some mean well. Others, well, they love to sensationalize the stories. It’s their way of adding a bit of spice to life, often at the expense of others. Some are true saints about it all. Extending grace and forgiveness quickly, marvelling at the goodness of God, in spite of our fallen nature. Regardless of intent, the one thing not likely to happen, is silence, once the cover is blown, or the truth leaks out. Gossips and rumours, prayer chains and concerns. Whatever the method, word will spread in such a tight-knit community. That is the downside to a beautiful and powerful sense of community, that in many ways has advantages others lack.
Tracy and I had talked about this the Friday night prior to the meeting. Biblically, we agreed, according to Matthew 18, that if she confessed and repented it was finished. No need to get up front. But, relationally, and for the sake of all the others in the church, who were hiding the same sin, we agreed it could be advantageous for her to do this. So when the bishop reluctantly broached the subject, she was prepared.
Biblically, she said, she was free. It was done. But her heart was willing, if there was any chance it might help someone. It would be her testimony to the goodness of God, to His forgiving grace, to His healing of broken hearts and lives. And that’s where we left it.
The bishop said he would need time to pray. To make sure what’s done, is done scripturally and for the benefit of Tracy and the church body.
The time came for the meeting to wrap up. It was good. There was peace in the room. A powerful sense of the presence of God.
“Why don’t we pray,” the bishop suggested. “Maybe we could stand, and form a circle. I believe there is power in prayer, power in agreement.” He looked at Tracy, “Would you be willing to pray, out loud, with us? There is power in that too.”
Tracy nodded. We stood to our feet, and followed the bishop’s lead, meeting to the side of the room. There, in the once-intimidating minister’s room, the four of us huddled in an intimate hug, praying to God, our ‘Abba Father’, our ‘Papa’.
Tracy stood between me and the bishop, our arms wrapped around her in a secure embrace. His wife stood between us on the other side, also held in a firm embrace. Our heads were bowed, The Bishop was emotional, his wife wept quietly.
The prayer ended with the bishop blessing everyone, and thanking God for ‘brothers and sisters in Christ who are willing to step in…”
He hugged Tracy again, saying how much they love her. His wife held Tracy for a while, reassuring her.
The bishop shook my hand warmly, “Thank you, Trudy. Thank you. We really appreciate this” His wife gave me a warm hug, also thanking me. And then it was over.
We had gone in, feeling uncertain. For several months Tracy had been meeting with other church leaders, about other things, only to leave frustrated and feeling misunderstood. Not heard at a heart level. Because of this she had been especially worried about meeting with the bishop and his wife.
We left having encountered Jesus and knowing they too had encountered Him. No cultural barriers. No debates, but heard from the heart. And with a common goal, to lift Jesus high and bring His healing to His children.
Tracy and I left, ecstatic! It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and been part of.
© Trudy Metzger
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