A Universal Problem

A recent conversation with a teen proved again how normal sexual promiscuity has become. Having been through several failed intimate relationships, she shared with me what it’s like to be a teen in the mainstream evangelical churches today.

Two or three of her church friends are virgins, and intend to protect their virginity until marriage. The rest are sleeping around and started as young as age 12 and 13. She shared bluntly and graphically what she had done, and what her friends were into, and even how they talked about it.

She struggled with anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies, guilt and shame. She still believed in Jesus, still attended church, still wanted what is right, but is trapped in her story. Fourteen is too young for this. We owe it to our kids to give them a better future by walking them through their developing years. It is not fair to them if we don’t teach them appropriately.

Another young woman contacted me yesterday, sharing her story in detail, of being abused in a Conservative Mennonite church, time and time again, by an older female. The abuse carried on for years before she had the courage to say something and before she stopped it.

Children should not have to live with the pain and trauma of guilt and shame. These years should be sweet, fun and innocent. A time of maturing. Whether it is abuse, like the second story, or by choice–albeit uninformed choice–like the first story, these years should not be consumed by sexual perversion. (Yes, I still use that word. I know it offends some, but the abuse of what is good and right and true, is still perversion, even in 2012.)

Every now and then people tell me that my sensitivity in the area of sexuality has more to do with my strict religious upbringing than anything else. They tell me that teaching sexual purity, and abstinence before marriage, is out-dated, and unrealistic. And in today’s culture it’s ‘normal’ to be sexually active.

The last part is true. In today’s culture it is normal. And if I would not see people in non-religious settings grieving that loss, I’d probably believe this to be true. Few people teach on it, or support and encourage abstinence, openly.

*Kamille, an international model in her late twenties, sat in front of me, album in hand, with tears in her eyes. She had just shared with me pictures of various photo shoots in USA,  and should have been overjoyed and so proud. The pictures were gorgeous.

She ran her fingers over the album, outlining a photo. Her regret? She wished someone had told her the truth about life, sex, her body and marriage. Maybe, just maybe, it would have saved her the current heartache and grief.

She was abused as a child and made some pretty bad choices in her teens. When we spoke, her marriage was falling apart. They simply were not able to trust each other, because past lovers played havoc with their minds and memories.

In the process of trying to rescue her marriage, Kamille had fallen in love with her female counsellor, and become more certain than ever that her marriage would not survive. She didn’t even love the man–she loved a woman.

Kamille told me that she knew the truth, based on God’s Word, but in her mind it was too late. (She was not a professing believer, but was learning the Bible through friends.) She felt too much damage had been done and she could not retrain her mind and let go of what had transpired.

What intrigued me most was when Kamille told me that she believes if she had known the truth about sex, it would have changed the course of her life. And though she regretted her life, she didn’t have the will to change.

“If I could change one thing,” she said, “I would have saved my virginity for marriage and not have all those memories.”

Kamille was wealthy. And incredibly beautiful. She appeared, on the surface, to ‘have it all’. But below the surface a battle raged. She struggled with anorexia and bulimia. She told me she fantasized about having other lovers–including her female counsellor–and her self-esteem ran dangerously low. She felt trapped and victimized by her own desires and shamed by her story.

Each of these stories are very different in cultural context. From a mainstream evangelical church, to a conservative Mennonite church, to an atheistic/agnostic background. Yet each of these women carried the common thread of guilt, shame and regret, in one form or another.

The desire to be informed, equipped and protected is universal. Culture, upbringing and life experience will influence our feelings and desires, and even how we recover, but they cannot change how we are wired.

Before our birth, before our conception, God says He knew us. He created us with a  desire for Him and truth, for a connection with our Creator, to function within His design for us. When we move outside of that design sexually, whether by force, by choice or by ignorance, something in our spirit knows something is not right, that is not what we were created for. And that awareness triggers grief and depression.

We are a generation who desperately need to know truth, and teach truth. The years of silence have brought destruction and it is time to reclaim and redeem.

We can hand out condoms til we’re broke, and teach kids how to put them on, using bananas to illustrate–the way they do in school–and we can foot the bill for abortions. We can tell them it’s normal and it’s okay to explore, experiment and be sexually active. We can disregard their broken hearts, and cast them aside, by making the surface ‘acceptable’.But nothing in the world can heal the broken hearts, undo the damage, the trauma and the emotional aftermath, except the truth.

Only truth, only Jesus, can bring healing to that inner place. And we are the messengers of that hope–His hands, His heart, His feet, and His voice in this generation.

What will you do to bring redemption within your sphere of influence?

Jeremiah 1:5

New King James Version (NKJV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you…

© Trudy Metzger

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When Should You ‘Tell All’ to Your Teens About Sex?

One of the hardest things about tackling the topic of sexual abuse, and breaking the silence and advocating for survivors of abuse, is that it requires constantly staring the past in the eye, one way or another. This can be wearing, if not managed well, and requires introspection to ‘nip in the bud’ any negative impact being in this kind of ministry can have.

I am blessed to have a supportive husband, who also is tuned in to the impact ministry has on me, and together we try to stay balanced. But for all the balance in the world, it is faith in Jesus that keeps me strong and focused, without being sucked into the horror of the stories I hear, let alone my own past.

Yesterday I took a day off of my series on Sexual Abuse and Violence, to honour a friend who died suddenly and tragically, in a crash. The thought of what his family is suffering right now quite overwhelmed me. When I hear of tragedy such as this, and the painful aftermath, I realize again that this is not what we were created for. This pain and trauma, caused by sin and death, is more than the human mind and body are created to handle. That is why we need Jesus.

It is this comfort, that Jesus is willing to carry for us, those things that we were not created for, that helps me shift my focus. I shift from the tragedy of death and sin, to the triumph of the cross. From the  wounds I carry, to the battle I need to fight. And from the battle I need to fight, to the Saviour who already conquered sin on the cross, and took authority over death.

With that in mind, I dive back in….

Training our children about sexuality has been (mostly) a fun journey, after we made it past the initial awkwardness. Okay… that is my opinion. Tim, who is reserved and private, would hardly describe it that way.

On her twelfth birthday, after all the action had settled down, I was on our bed studying when Alicia joined me. I was finishing my Grade 12 studies, having determined that a GED was not satisfying. I wanted to work for my diploma. I wanted actual exams and classes to attend, and reclaim what I had missed out in my youth.

I laid my books aside to chat with Alicia, when she asked why it is important for women to cover up and dress modestly. (I had said ‘no’ to an outfit not long before this)

I explained that it is good and important to cover our bodies out of respect for ourselves and people around us, but that balance is important. We don’t want to not be so hung up on it that it becomes all-consuming and a religious ‘measuring stick’ to determine salvation. She wanted a better answer. The ‘why’ it even mattered. What was wrong about exposing our bodies.

Ah yes, that little bitty detail… Perfect material for a bedtime chat.

I can’t tell you exactly what trail led us there, but enough questions later, Alicia knew about erections, penetration and how men are wired to be visually stimulated.

Her eyes about popped out at the penetration. “It actually has to go inside?!”

I assured her that it’s all part of God’s plan, that it’s not painful as it sounds it could be.  I told her that by the time you’re married and in love, it’s a God-blessed relationship and it is all ‘right’ and good.

We were wrapping up the conversation when Alicia asked in a whisper, “Mommy, where’s Daddy?”

Playfully, I answered in a whisper, “I think he’s hiding in the bathroom.”

“I would hide too!” she exclaimed, “if someone was telling all that about my body!”  No sooner had she spoken the words than Tim walked in the room. He got that look on his face that said, ‘I don’t think I want to be part of this conversation.’

“Am… I…. interrupting something?” he asked.

“Not at all! You’re welcome to join us, if you wish,” I answered.

With a grin he declined and said he’s heading downstairs, leaving Alicia and me on our bed, giggling.

When I went to teach Nicole about these things, when she turned twelve, she calmly told me, “Mom, I already know that stuff.”

“Don’t you want me to explain it just to make sure?” I asked.

“No.”

Okay then. No need to waste words.

With the boys we explained nocturnal emissions, and how that wasn’t something to be ashamed of, or worry about. Even random ‘leaking’ or spills were nothing to feel bad about, just a matter of ‘covering up’ in public. We told them of other changes their bodies would go through and the need for good hygiene. (That hasn’t always worked…. ) And then we told them about the female cycle and the importance of being gentle with their sisters, explaining the rise and fall of their emotions.

“Well they must already have that,” Bryan said matter-of-factly when we explained the mood swings to him. I guess that part is obvious.

It’s a wonderful thing when children are respectfully informed. I also believe it is biblical. But that’s at least 500 words worth, so I’ll save that for another day. In practical day-to-day living, things run more smoothly, and boys are very understanding when their sisters are not well, and they know why.

The past few days one of our daughters has been in a lot of pain because of menstrual cramps. Last evening our whole family was watching the Olympics and she moaned around a bit, then looked up and asked, “Bryan, would you mind getting me a cup of water please?”

Without hesitation, and with a look of compassion, he did it for her.

When Tim prayed at dinner, he prayed that her cramps would go away and that she would feel better.

I am convinced of this, when my boys get married, they will be sensitive and caring. They will be prepared for what goes with a woman’s monthly cycle and will treat their wives well.

It is no wonder that the enemy loves silence in Christian circles. There is so much power in the truth! Yes, every family needs to be discerning in the ‘when and how’, but to not do it at all, because of fear and awkwardness, is a cop-out and a tragedy.

Have we done it perfectly? No. I doubt it. But the door is open and our children know we’re available. They know God thinks they’re pretty awesome, right down to their sexual identity. It was His idea after all, the way He designed us just before He said, “It is very good!”

© Trudy Metzger

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Breaking Chains: A New Legacy

Yesterday our family spent the day at Goderich, on the beach of Lake Huron, with some of Tim’s uncles, aunts, a few cousins and family friends for our annual ‘Beach Day’–a thirty year, plus, tradition. Tim and our children enjoy the water and spend their day swimming. I enjoy the sounds, the scenery and watching the waves–the bigger, the better.

Tim and I managed to get away for a walk, just the two of us, and wander over to the breaker, climbing over rocks to watch the waves for a while. The waters were quite rough, causing the waves to crash and splash over the rocks. It was lovely to watch, but I had no desire to be in it.

It made me think of life. Of the rough waters Tim & I have come through, many of which were caused by my responses to life, due to my background. I thought of the emotional struggles I went through because of those things, and how it impacted us in training our children. Some good, some bad.

As we stood there, high above the ‘storms’ in the water, holding hands, I realized how much our love and commitment to each other has played a role in breaking chains and building a new legacy for our family.

The one thing our children know, always and without question, is that their mommy and daddy are very much committed to each other, and still crazy in love. We display affection in front of them. Contrary to popular belief in some cultures, this does not damage children. (I recall being taught that physical affection should only happen in the bedroom. )

One of our children, at about age thirteen, commented, “You and daddy are kind of mushy.”

I was a bit surprised because we are discreet, never making out in front of our kids, or anything like that. We hug a lot. We hold hands. We kiss, but not super intimately–just sweet, gentle kisses. Still, that was her take on it so I asked, “Does that bother you? Do you wish we wouldn’t?”

Her eyes sparkled as she shook her head, “No.”

We talked awhile about it and she told me it makes her feel secure, that she finds comfort in knowing her daddy and I won’t abandon each other, leaving them with the aftermath.

Training is a big part of breaking the chains of sexual abuse and violence, or any other generational chains, but what we show through example is as important. Our lives should exemplify the things we teach, reinforcing the words we speak into our children’s lives.

To teach truth, and live a life of purity, commitment, love and hope, leaves our children with a new legacy Where we fail, we need to take ownership and then release it, trusting the same God who saw us through our parents’ failures, to walk them through their disappointments and the scars of our failures.

If we have shown them how to forgive those who have wounded us, and if we have demonstrated how to love and stand with our spouse in commitment, we will have equipped them to make wise choices.

One day, when they are adults parenting their children, they will remember, and hopefully they too will break the chains we carried forward, unwittingly, and leave their children with a stronger legacy than we gave them.

Last evening, as the day was wrapping up, I went for a brisk walk along the board-walk, enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean in the background, and playing worship music on my iPod. When it’s all said and done, it is God who redeems, God who gives strength resilience and courage, and it is God who breaks the chains, offering us a new legacy for our children.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to 1st post in Sexual Abuse Series