Curse from Religious Cult Brings Blessing

Today I received an email saying I am being cursed by a religious cult because of my upcoming memoir, Between 2 Gods. If their intent is to unnerve me, shut me up, or scare me away, it won’t work. To the contrary, I felt, suddenly, peaceful. The past day or two I’ve been restless. Nothing I could put my finger on, but a gnawing feeling that started getting under my skin. I’ve been here before, a thousand times and more, and, eventually, I always figure out what it is, or it goes away with time. While it’s here I try to be in tune to my feelings and not let them take over, and focus, instead, on the ‘quiet knowing’ that God has my back.

canstockphoto7662088

When the email came in, it put a bounce in my step. It reminded me why I do what I do: to penetrate the darkness with light and hope. For a religious cult to be this threatened by what ‘Between 2 Gods’ will bring to the light, thrills me! It means the darkness is threatened and losing power. It also means that, by going to such an extent as to gather and curse me, the enemy also ‘shows his face’. That opens all kinds of wonderful doors and opportunities, not the least of which is people within that cult seeing it for what it is, and finding freedom. That’s one reason it doesn’t frighten me.

The other reason is because I’ve seen the enemy up close, in my darker days. One incident, which I share in my memoir, I experienced darkness so intimately that it made me shiver for years. Coincidentally, I shared that story a few weeks ago with a group of women in Michigan and told them how, to this day, that scene makes me tremble, to recall and tell it. It doesn’t ‘frighten’ me, but the emotional flashback to that day remains strong, the memory of staring the enemy in the eye.

What I didn’t have then, that I have now, is faith in Jesus Christ, and His power. A little black curse falls flat in His presence–and, yes, the biggest curse, in His presence, is but a shriveled and powerless worm. It isn’t my own strength that gives me courage to face curses; it is Christ in me. He has filled me so full of love, courage and hope, that even for those who curse me, I feel nothing but compassion. And given a chance, I’d sit with these folks and tell them Jesus loves them.

It’s only 22 days now, until my memoir is released. Only a few proofreaders, editors and publishing staff have read it, and already the darkness is threatened. On Amazon it has been on the Bestsellers list every day since the pre-order opened, which tells me people are reaching for hope, longing to be heard… and some are just plain old curious. And that’s cool too, because God can work with it.

canstockphoto14975727

So, to those in cults, cursing me: go ahead, hold your little curse gatherings and witchcraft rituals, if that’s what makes you feel powerful. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea, for your own sake, but there’s no power over me. None. The blood of Jesus stands between me and any evil thing you can wish upon me. In fact, I will begin to pray blessing over you, and ask the Father to bring confusion to your gatherings, and turn your curses inside-out, upside-down and backwards, so that they come back to you, in the form of a desperate desire to know God in intimate relationship, and reach for His blessing. I pray you will one day be on fire for His Kingdom, exposing the very evil you now worship in His name, and that you will be a great force fighting the things I am about to expose.

As for me… my Jesus has my back… I am at peace… I am loved… I am blessed!

To my friends and fellow warriors, who also fight this darkness in religious settings: we are at war. The area of sexual abuse and molestation has gone relatively unchecked and given the enemy power in the church, like few other things. The warfare and attacks that result from exposing it are a powerful indication that these things are not pleasing to God. The resistance has little to do with those who cover it up for the sake of their own religious pride and arrogance. It is a much bigger battle. God, through Jesus, brings light and hope; the enemy brings destruction, bondage, secrecy and tragedy. And the light is far more of a threat to the enemy than it will ever be to one pastor, or a thousand, who stand behind pulpits hiding sins, thinking it is about his image and reputation. It’s not.

Friends, today we have a voice, like never before, and we need to use that voice. There is a cry from the children–those who are now grown up, and those still being molested–for us to be the hands, the voice and the heart of Jesus. Let’s be Jesus to them.

Please pray for those resisting truth, spreading curses and holding these children captive. Pray for yourself and for me, for courage and boldness. Most of all, pray for the children… the vulnerable, stripped, voiceless children… Yes, pray for them!

Love
~ T ~

To pre-order Trudy’s Memoir:
(Paperback): Between 2 Gods_eLectioPublishing  (Currently offering pre-order discount)

(Kindle in Canada): Between 2 Gods_AmazonCanada

Kindle in USA: Between 2 Gods_AmazonUSA

© Trudy Metzger

Get updates on Between 2 Gods (Memoir scheduled for release on March 3, 2015)

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Why I Stopped Blogging Regularly & Attending “Church” Religously…

When the heart stops ‘feeling’ the truths God has promised,
faith stands in the gap for our feelings, giving us the courage to believe what we cannot see.

One day, the heart feels again, but it is faith, not feeling that carries us, even then.

In January 2013 I stopped ‘feeling’ much of what I know and trust about God, and I have continued, and will continue, to declare the truth that I know. I am so thankful for the authority and power of faith.

****

I received a few messages, recently, asking why I haven’t blogged much, and declaring how they miss reading them.  First of all, “That’s very kind. Thank you.” Secondly… I have been writing. I have nearly 100 blogs written, but I have not posted them.

Why, you ask? That is not an easy question to answer. A few of the blog posts are raw pain. That’s all they are. Several are all-out vent sessions, like the emails that you wisely never send, and serve only to offer therapeutic release for you. Others are revelations that I felt were not ready to be shared. Not new revelations, or anything, but old truth–things I rediscovered in Word of God. But mostly I didn’t share my writings because I wasn’t at peace with it, for reasons I cannot fully explain. The few I posted, were ones I felt peace about. And when I am not at peace about posting, I won’t do it. I intend never to be a slave to blogging, and this season of my life, that’s all it would have been, had I forced it.

It has been a heavy season in my life. ‘Heavy’ in the sense of carrying dead weight around, spiritually.  It began in January 2013. I managed to stay focused on God, for the most part, in spite of the heaviness. Throughout that year, in ministry, I faced intense spiritual battles with clients, and writing was both my outlet and part of ministry.

Telling the stories victims wanted me to tell, and breaking the silence surrounding sexual abuse in the church, is the single most dangerous thing I have done, spiritually. And I went in with naive faith and trust, having no concept of what that would mean, no concept of the cost. I reached out to several people, when I felt myself starting to drown, but neither they nor I recognized the extent of danger I was in. One foot in front of the other, I pressed forward, always able to keep my eyes focused on the One who called me, and presenting Him as the healer and restorer, when sitting with victims of abuse, or those struggling spiritually. I had nothing to give, of myself, but I knew with confidence that I could lead them to God for healing.

Admittedly, at times it felt as though my lips were parched, and I was dying of thirst, even while I held the cup for others more wounded than I, who had thirsted longer. And watching them come to life somehow quenched my own thirst. Somehow–even though there are areas I have long struggled to trust God, in practical ways–I trust Him without reserve, to heal and restore the broken-hearted. And that is the place where I stood in the gap for many wounded.

As is inevitable, when exposing darkness, the attacks and lies began, and ‘my people’, whom I trusted and believed to be born again believers, started to spread blatant, bold lies. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I knew about the sexual abuse hidden, but I truly believed it was a matter of ignorance–a lack of awareness of the problem, among leaders–and when they knew, I was certain they would rise up as godly men, and fight for victims, and offer help to perpetrators. Instead, I watched as perpetrators were protected, victims further abused, and lies spread to discredit my ministry.

The shock of this climaxed in early January 2014, exactly one year after the intense heaviness began, and I found myself in a state of spiritual shock, struggling to accept that Christians do these things, yet believing that Jesus is enough… enough for me, in my woundedness… enough for them for lying.

Even so, I continued to meet with victims, and offered them hope that can only come from Jesus. I was honest about my own struggles, and shared with them the hope that Jesus  is even in a dark place.  When I had nothing else to hold on to, I would say, “I know that He loves me, and that is enough”. When I could not pray, I could still whisper ‘Thank you for loving me… thank you for dying for me… thank you for having my back.’ And always He would come alive in me, sitting across from the broken, and prayer would rise from within my own broken place, offering Jesus to the people in front of me.

The final blow, overlapping with this shock, came in the form of a letter. I felt, in ways, as if I was ‘gasping for air’, when a letter arrived in the mail. Handwritten, I opened it eagerly. Until that day all handwritten letters had been encouragement notes, offering prayer and pointing my heart to the Father. It was what I expected and, quite frankly, longed for–some small sign that God had not forgotten me, that He saw my shock, and wanted to reassure me.  Yes, the letters and notes I received also carried challenges when a friend felt I was getting sidetracked, but challenges offered with love and care; always they drew my heart to God.

But that day the letter held harsh criticism, attacking my character, offering accusations about a case I was involved in–the one where I supposedly posed as a cleaning girl and lied to get in the door, and then stomped my feet and yelled at the perpetrator. The author of it attacked me, not having taken time to meet with me to ask any questions. Coincidentally–or predictably–it was a relative by marriage of the alleged perpetrator. I understood the defenses. They are characteristic of those who have an agenda to hide abuse and corruption, those who cannot come to terms with their own circumstance. But it was from someone I had known for years. Someone I respected. Someone with whom I shared a church pew. That day a part of my heart died.

In the weeks that followed, we continued attending the church we were trying to make our own, to be  ‘our family’. But we were not plugged in enough–being relatively new–and the aloneness of ministry, and this attacks from within, created a deep loneliness. Church became depressing, and draining, rather than life-giving. Having said that, the worship leader and his wife, the Lead Pastor, and, most of all, the wife of the Associate Pastor, offered a kindness and friendship that drew us in.

When another case in a sister church escalated , a few months later, and I was perceived to have been involved, even though I had nothing to do with it–though I would gladly have owned it, had I been involved–more resistance and attacks trickled our way.  It was then that we realized that with the ministry of working with sexual abuse in the church,  we didn’t stand a chance fitting making church our home, anytime soon, and, for the most part, support for ministry would need to come from outside of church.

Ironically, one ‘hate’ letter from someone in my cultural background, calling me a BEAST, among other things, finally broke the power the lies. The evil in that letter exposed the darkness from which the attacks came, as all ‘niceness’ was stripped, and I was finally able to see the attacks came from a place of pain and denial, and a lot of fear. Until that moment I struggled to call the attacks what they were, and tried to believe that most of the attacks were misunderstandings of well-intentioned people. Reading the harshest version of attacks, all in the name of God, exposed the darkness behind all of it, and I was finally able to make peace with the attacks. I can handle persecution from those resisting truth–even in God’s name–but attacks from the Body of Christ I cannot reconcile.

Now, months later, having taken a step back from Western ‘church’ culture, and removing ‘the noise’ of it, my heart has finally come to life again. The heaviness has lifted, and God is able to touch my heart again, and worship again rises from my spirit in a way it hasn’t in a long time.  We have continued to fellowship with believers–for those who might fear we are sinning in not ‘gathering with believers–we’re just not doing it regularly in the context of lining pews, and consistently listening to structured church services, at a specific time of day, each Sunday.

In the last few months, the greatest encouragement has been, not only seeing people break free from past pain and addictions as they begin to understand their position in with God through Christ, but hearing testimonies of the ripple effects of the ministry we did in the Mennonite community. When people break free from addictions, sexual sin, homosexuality, and move into a place of freedom, it makes the ‘hell’ of the past two years seem small, and it is humbling to think that God uses us, so broken and human, to bring the love of Jesus and hope to those who are hurting and struggling. It is amazing to me that, even though I was struggling to come to terms with my own pain, and the shock of what we encountered in church–attacks we might have expected from enemies of the cross–that God still worked, as only He can.

So, why have I not been writing? That is the long answer. I needed time to process, to regroup, to make peace with what I have experienced in ‘church’,  the attacks that have come from within, and most of all I needed time to refocus my heart before God. The past two years have showed me that, even though I have forgiven the church of my youth, I carry deep scars and wounds that, when ripped open, cause intense pain. I don’t trust church.  I don’t trust system. Even less now than I did two years ago. But, thanks to a few incredible men and women of God, I have learned to trust the hearts of more leaders than I have ever trusted before. I could have mentioned many, including several conservative Mennonite leaders. For this to be the end result in one of the most difficult ‘church’ experiences of my life, is astounding. There is a wonder and a grace in this for which I have no words.

In spite of those wounds and scars, in spite of the hate mail and attacks, in spite of my inability to fit in–and knowing the attacks will continue–I want to learn to trust. I want to connect with a church family. (I didn’t think I’d ever say that again.) I even want to learn to trust church leaders, and let them fail, be human, and I want to pray for them and forgive them in the way I wish to be forgiven when I fail. I want to fight for the Body of Christ–His bride–and partner with her, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. I am committed to continuing in ministry, because I believe it is not our perfection, or our ‘togetherness’ that offers anything meaningful. It is Jesus flowing through our brokenness, spilling out in love, that transforms lives. I’ve never stopped believing that, even in my lowest of lows. He is my hope. Besides my love, encouragement, and some practical resources, He is all I have to offer victims, and He is more than enough.

canstockphoto19501023

Thank you to friends, mentors, pastors and leaders who have spoken into my life this past year, taking time to meet with me in my ‘darkness’, or speaking truth during ‘random’ encounters. Special thanks to  my faithful friends who have let me say, without judging me, things I could not say to everyone, but needed to get out of my spirit. Thank you to the many online ‘warriors’ who have fought tirelessly for me, through prayer. You are too many to mention, and some I would not mention because you are also clients, but each of you offered me hope at a time when I felt little hope in the Body of Christ, and had only my faith in Jesus to cling to, the support of my husband and family. Finally, thank you to my husband, Tim, who has loved me faithfully, lifting my weary heart in prayer when it was crushed, and holding me when sobs of grief racked my body. I am grateful for each of you, and pray God’s blessings over you.

If God hands out stars for positively impacting another soul, you will each carry a star for me.

 

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Trudy’s YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Every Erection isn’t Lust…

… And What Does Modesty Have to Do with It?

Ezekiel 23:20 (KJV)
20 For she doted upon their paramours (illicit lovers), whose flesh (genitals) is as the flesh (genitals) of asses (donkeys), and whose issue (emission) is like the issue (emission) of horses.

canstockphoto11318857

I’ve promised several people I would write this blog, so here goes…   I started with the verse (above), simply to show that God is not afraid to speak about sexuality, and does so with language that makes us conservatives a bit skittish. Based on this, I conclude the notion that we should not talk about it, is not at all grounded in biblical truth. Especially using verses out of context, like Ephesians 5:12, “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” to justify covering up sexual sin and abuse, or to condemn talking about sexuality, in general. I’ve had that thrown my way too often by those wishing to cover up abuse in the church. It may be shameful to repeat what is done in secret, but it is not sin to repeat it, and putting guilt and shame on those who speak out, abuses that scripture.  Especially considering that the verses before and after talk about exposing and bringing to light those very things, . In context it says, “ And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” Surely, if the dark things of sexuality are to be brought to light, then talking about sexuality–particularly the ‘not dark’ aspect–is good. It is not evil, perverted,  or unforgiving to speak of the ‘dark thing’, nor is it in any way displeasing to God. And it  is not displeasing to God for us to take a good hard look at our misconceptions about sexuality. That established, this blog post is about lust–what it is, and what it isn’t–not about sexual abuse.

A variety of conversations influenced this blog post, not the least of which is the frustration of many women, and possibly a few men, regarding teachings on modesty in conservative settings. (To determine who I refer to by ‘conservative’, I would say ‘if the shoe fits–or the dress, as the case may be–wear it”. With the word ‘dress’ referring to’attire’, not ‘frock’, and serving as a figure of speech.)  Countless women, all being women who value modesty, have shared with me the pain and frustration of hearing, almost Sunday after Sunday, that it is their duty to prevent men from lusting. Some have messaged me, others have told me in person. Their heart cries go something to the effect of, “I feel raped…” or “I feel stripped….  as if I am only an object to be lusted after… when men preach like that… when they accuse me of immodesty, and I am already fully covered…” This coming from women with flowing skirts that reach nearly to the floor, and their hair tucked neatly inside a veil, women who are modest and beyond.

One encounter stood out, among all the conversations I’ve had, when a church leader’s wife explained how she felt, and how her identity had been lost in her culture’s teachings. “What do we (as women) have left? Who are we? We’ve been stripped of identity. We have no voice. We are treated like sex objects when all the focus is on covering us up….” She poured out her heart, asking deep questions about her purpose, and the purpose of every woman in church, and trying to reconcile her religion with the Word of God, and the prophecy in Joel 2 that God’s daughters will prophesy–speak out truth, boldly–and whatever personal wonderings she had. We spent some time talking about her feeling like a sex object, and feeling stripped of identity, by teaching that focuses on controlling every detail of a woman’s attire, rather than teaching modesty, self respect, and personal value.

This teaching is not only in her church, it is all around, this belief that how women dress makes men lust, or prevents it. And that teaching is utter nonsense. Modesty isn’t utter nonsense,  but that teaching is. Keeping in mind that what is perceived as modest varies drastically, from person to person, church to church, culture to culture.  Modesty is more about respect for ourselves, than respect for others–though that is a part of it–and with the best of intentions and most modest attire, there may well be someone lusting.  And the men preaching it every Sunday would be the first I would be uncomfortable around, as their minds are clearly already there.

In these conversations with women, about modesty and lust, the one thing I started to realize is that, for many of us, our understanding of what lust is has become about as skewed as the notion that women are responsible for that lust. I left these conversations asking, “What is lust, exactly?” and that got me thinking….

Is lust the physical response–natural, God-given response, I might add–to beauty? Is lust the desire a man or woman has, to be loved intimately, sexually? A desire that exists, even before marriage, simply because we are human? Is that desire sin? Is it shameful? Or is it, in fact, a God-given desire that should be ‘blessed’, rather than cursed, and brought under ‘management’ rather than suppressed, it’s existence denied, and made shameful?

When my husband sees a beautiful woman–modestly clothed, or not–he has a choice to make. Will he ‘look on her, to lust after her’, or will he see her through the eyes of respect, as God looks on her? Will he ‘ogle’ her, with sexual intent and impure thoughts, or see her as God’s beautiful creation, worthy of honour, respect and protection? Whether she is a prostitute, and scantily clad, or a woman covered head to toe–Christian or not–or a woman in church looking like the prostitute, he has a decision to make. And, regardless of her self-respect or lack thereof, she is worthy of his respect. Each one is God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, and ought to be treated with the same level of respect as if it was Jesus standing in front of him. And he does.

Is he human? Yep. Pretty much. Is it possible for his body to respond to visual stimuli? I expect so. Does that threaten me? Not at all! I trust him, as a godly man and loving husband, to handle his sex drive well, and be intentional about how he  responds to temptation or opportunity.  It is his responsibility to deny what the flesh desires, and live out his commitment to holiness. And, like King David, he has to make a covenant with his eyes, and a commitment in his heart, to live with integrity and honour. And if the beauty that stands or sits before him, triggers a bodily response, causing an erection or stirring some sexual desire,  he has to make that choice again, to look away,to walk away, or do whatever it takes in order to honour and respect the woman in front of him.  But that bodily response is not lust, it is not sin, it is not shameful. It is human reaction to sexual desire and stimulation, and it must always be mastered and brought under personal authority–authority God has given each one of us. And the desire, itself, is part of how we humans are wired–not just the men–and that makes it sacred, not perverted. The sin is not in the desire, or the temptation, it is in our response and our handling of it.

Lust is a deliberate indulgence in, or pursuit of, impure sexual gratification, or ‘unrestrained sexual desire’ , as one dictionary puts it. I once read a quote that went something like, ‘Lust is sexual desire that dishonours the object of its desire, and has no regard for God.’ And that ‘objectifying’ of the person being lusted after, says it all.  It is wrong to treat someone as an object to obtain, conquer or dominate. And making a person feel like they are only a sex-object does just that. This over-sexualizing is done through using someone sexually, and it is done through teaching with an over focus on modesty to extremes the Bible doesn’t address. Tacking on the notion that men can’t help themselves, sexually, takes it to a whole new level, as does adding warped personal judgement like, ‘You might as well be naked if …’ when a person is not covered neck to ankle or doesn’t wear cultural attire. That is perverse, and it is not biblical. It says something about the warped mind of the teacher, and turns the audience into sex objects to be lusted after. Rather than promoting holiness, it promotes lust and perversion. It is for men like this, that I wonder if God does not feel compelled to draw a curtain over the mountains, lest they should imagine breasts and wander down a path of sexual lust. (If elbows supposedly look like breasts, and must therefore be covered to keep men’s minds pure, how much more the mountains!)

These misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what lust is–condemning even natural God-given responses–and imposing guilt on women for men’s responses to that desire–has done great harm to the body of Christ. It has heaped shame on young men and women unnecessarily–and likely older ones too–and left them struggling in their faith, believing there is something wrong with them. They feel defeated, fearing they live in lust when, in reality, the things they feel are natural, God-given desires that they are managing well.

The young woman who longs to be held in the arms of a loving husband, desires a beautiful thing. For her to desire sexual love as part of that experience, in marriage, is natural and wonderful. Even biblical. The young man who longs for a wife to hold and love, isn’t a pervert, nor is he lusting. He is acknowledging that God created him with the desire for relationship, and sexual love as part of that relationship. There is nothing evil  about it, and it isn’t lust. To say we didn’t have those desires before marriage, for most of us if not all of us, would be blatant lies. For those who lived in denial and pushed those desires into oblivion, the same truth still applies–the desire was there, we just lied to ourselves about it, and that is not noble either.

When God made us sexual creatures, in the Garden of Eden,  He blessed us as sexual creatures. “Male and female created He them, in His image….” or something like that, it says several times. Our sexuality does not frighten God. He said ‘it is very good’, and blessed us, sexually. To teach anything less is a slap in the face of the Creator, and a disgrace to us, as His image bearers.

It is time to reclaim the wonder and holiness of our sexuality, and consecrate ourselves to God, teaching our sons and daughters the truth about holiness and purity, including how to respect those who do not respect themselves, or don’t live up to our standards. When we lift the burden of false guilt from our children, they will find it easier to walk in holiness before God.

I understand that my views are conservative and outdated to those who accept ‘anything goes’ in the area of sexuality. And my views are liberal, bordering on blasphemy for those who have a list of man-made laws they like to tout as ‘scriptural’. I am not offended by either disagreement, nor do I believe I have the ‘best’ and ‘most right’ understanding. It is simply the understanding I have, and I embrace it. To pretend anything more or less would by hypocrisy. What I do know is that what we have had isn’t working. Holiness in the church, as it has been presented, is a myth, going by at the percentages of people who struggle with sexual sins and addictions–and it is time to acknowledge that. For us to pretend it’s ‘out there’, and judge harshly, when we are as human in the struggle, is deceptive and serves only to keep us in bondage.

I have watched people break free from addictions, and abandon homosexuality simply by adopting a biblical view of God-designed and God-blessed sexuality. By recognizing who they are in Christ, and discovering they are unconditionally loved by God, many have overcome the depression that goes with sexual struggle. Therefore I speak with bold confidence in this regard, and I do so without judgement for those who disagree–you are accountable for you, I am accountable for me. And I speak without apology for my beliefs, no matter who is offended.

Change does not come without disturbing ‘the way things are’, and it does not come without offence.

Messy Grace, Dipped in Blood

My  new coaching client sat across from me,  suddenly distracted. Her eyes ‘popped’ in shock. She gasped. We had spent a bit over forty minutes talking, exploring her dreams, her talents, her desires, and the challenges to match. Unlike most of my clients, who are working through one trauma or another, she had come for career help, and I had asked her a question. The sudden diversion startled me.

Instinctively my eyes followed her gaze and I saw him, an elderly man, hitting the cement, then leaning up a few inches and dropping again. Did he try to lift himself up, or did his body bounce? I saw it and wondered.

The mind and body are fascinating, in a moment like that, when consulting reason is not even on the radar; they simply engage one another in reasonable and necessary action.  Nor does dignity or any other thing hold an ounce of importance, or factor in, in any way, in a moment like that.  I shot to my feet, and ran through the coffee shop, and before my mind had fully registered what it was I saw, I found myself kneeling beside the gentleman. He struggled, attempting to sit up. I put my arms around him, and leaned him slightly forward to lift his head from the unkind hardness, while asking him questions. He was coherent. I felt the cement under his back, and wished I had an extra sweater, a jacket or a blanket.  I had enough dignity that I wasn’t willing to sit there in my bra so he could have my sweater, but I certainly would, if needed, to save a life.  Most of us would.

From my vantage point there was no blood,  until I sat him up.  That is when I saw blood running down his temple, his neck and onto his chest and shoulders, and his hand dripping a steady pace.  I looked for something to use as a compress, at the same time as I asked my client, who had followed me out, to go in and find napkins or something  and bring them back, and to make sure to call and ambulance.

The manager came running and for the next twenty minutes, or so, we sat there, holding an elderly man’s hand and forehead.  There was blood on the ground, blood on his pants, his shirt and matted into his hair. It was all over our hands and arms, and a bit on my white shirt. Blood stands out on white.  My client sat behind the gentleman, providing a back-rest, while the manager held his forehead, and I held his hand–now gripping mine in solid tension. We chatted and laughed, as we sat there. He was so appreciative and said he was okay, that he had just lost his footing. It had happened a few days ago, too, and he had hurt his finger. He showed us his crooked finger, bent at the last joint, in an almost -perfect 90 degree angle.

As we sat with him, bleeding all over us and himself, people drove by. They looked. A few gentlemen came and asked if there was anything they could do. One was a fireman, the others made no indication that they had any training. They were just concerned.

Something else happened as we sat there, all covered in blood. In fact, two things. First of all, we bonded. We cared for him. We held his wounds. We connected. (Admittedly, I was afraid to ‘touch’ his raw wounds. Not because I feared being contaminated but because I feared contaminating them.  One never knows for sure what germs or bacteria we have come in contact with and the immunity of the elderly potentially being compromised, I assessed the extent of the bleeding. It wasn’t life-threatening, though steady, so I waited for the compresses. (Obviously, had he been bleeding profusely, I would have taken the chance.) And the second thing that happened was that we learned a bit of his story. He told us that he had a ‘weaker side’ because of a stroke twenty years ago and hence the recent tumbles.

By this time we had retrieved an umbrella from his truck, and sat there, in a spritzing rain, talking and still holding his wounds.  A staff member came with some forms and asked questions. What did we see? Who saw it first and what did we do?  Who were we all. Names. Addresses. Phone numbers. All those things.

The paramedic arrived and together we helped the gentleman stand up, and seated him on a chair, under the awning. We stayed a few minutes, answering his questions, then went inside to wash the blood off. The red stain on my white new sweater stayed. I hung my scarf over it, and returned one more time to the elderly gentleman, to wish him well.  That’s when I thought of his wife, at home, and how worried she would be.  Would it be okay if I popped by their home to tell her he was okay, but needed stitches and to get checked over? He thanked me and said how nice that would be.

I had just given my new client a good-bye hug–you do that after intense moments like that–and was almost to my car when the manager caught up to me. The gentleman had one valid concern. His wife would need the vehicle, but would have no way to get it. I said I would offer to drive her back to him, and to get the truck.

She met me at the door, moments later after I rang the bell. To make sure I had the right house I asked, “Are you Mrs. ____?”

“Yes….” she said, looking quizzically at me.

“First of all, your husband is okay, so don’t worry, but he did have a tumble at the coffee shop. He said you would need the vehicle–would it be okay if I drove you there?”

Moments later I dropped her off,  made sure she had everything she needed and headed for home. The rain had picked up, and I remembered that my car window was stuck… open.  My old Mazda had picked this day to malfunction with an open back window. How convenient. I tried half a dozen times, unsuccessfully.

I took to pleading with God, at that moment, about something as piddly as a stuck window, all because I didn’t want rain in my car. I tried again and, “Tada!!”  it went up. I whispered a thank you as I drove out  off of the coffee shop parking lot.

My mind got busy then, thinking about many things. Why does God answer little prayers about broken windows, and neglect big ones like a dying loved one, a chronically ill family member, those who desperately need jobs and many other things. And I had no easy answers. Just the awareness that God is God.

I saw the blood again, and the elderly gentleman’s eyes, as he thanked us and told us how nice we were. And then the awareness that his blood had been all over me, and I had hesitated to touch his wounds, afraid of contaminating them.

That’s when my mind wandered to church. To people who are bleeding.  And we sit there, like my client and I, in our coffee shops.  And I wondered if we get so busy with our coffee, and conversations, and whatever things we all do, while people bleed only feet away.  I thought of how I had my back turned, and my client–thank goodness she was ADHD, she said, and observing everything–was the one who noticed the gentleman, almost before it happened.  He could have been there an hour, with me only feet away, if she hadn’t been there.  And, while that wouldn’t have likely happened, I couldn’t help but think about, when I considered church. Or if, when we see the ‘fallen and bleeding’, do we even run to them, or do we get scared  and run the other way again.

I wondered what it would be like, in church, if we stopped being afraid of each other’s cuts, and wounds and scars. What if we weren’t afraid to get all bloody, and have stains on our new white clothes.  And if we put our hands on those gaping wounds without fear of contaminating, or being contaminated, and we held each other up, spiritually, even while we bled…  And sitting there, under an umbrella in the rain, we could get to know each other and hear the stories behind the pain… the stories about why we have ‘weak sides’ and stumble…

canstockphoto5339896

And then, when the weak ones, with bleeding wounds, need help with walking to a place of rest, we who are stronger could square back our shoulders and let them rest on our strength until they are safe….  Until they find that rest in the One who Bled Love for us,  all messy and dipped in grace, when we were in that place of need and brokenness…

What if… Yes…. What if?

© Trudy Metzger

 

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Losing Religion & Finding Community

“You know you’re supposed to do it? How long will you fight it?” He looked deep into my soul. At least as deep as I would let him, and then a bit deeper, as my defenses broke. Just as quickly I did the only thing I know how to do when I’m too vulnerable, when my soul is bared, and I would rather hide and retreat; I laughed.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it though, I promise,” I said, still laughing. His challenge, urging me to start a group/meeting for the broken and hurting, came at the end of a lengthy conversation about the brokenness of people. Particularly in churches.

Having suffered much, he has wearied of how Christians present as ‘Happy, Happy, Happy’ all the time. Because, with few exceptions, that’s what nice church people do. And say. And are. Happy, victorious, healed, and ‘fine’ Christians.

canstockphoto13947014

If you don’t agree, try it sometime. Go to church and when asked how you are, if you’re not in a good place, be real. When they say, “Good morning! How are you?!” with a big smile, and warm handshake, respond with transparency. Don’t bother to smile, or say “I’m fine, thank you.” Forget about social graces for just a moment. Look them in the eye. Look longer, and deeper than is comfortable. Pause awkwardly before saying a word. They’ll squirm and you’ll want to run for dear life. But don’t let go of that hand because, odds are, you’ll both turn and run, if you release them.

When the awkward is about all you can handle, still looking them in the eye and holding their hand, which they, by now, are most likely trying to wriggle free, say, “I’m really not doing well. It’s been a hard week, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it. It feels like hell!”

If they ask “May I pray for you?” say, “Sure, if it makes you feel better, but it would mean more if you helped clean my house. With the time I’ve spent caring for my dying mother (or whatever hardship you’re going through), even basics are neglected. My bathrooms, especially, could use a good cleaning.”

If they have stopped smiling, and don’t simply mumble, “God will provide”, before apologizing that they need to run, then consider yourself in a good place. If that person says, “When can I come clean your bathrooms?”, know this, you are in an exceptional place. If they acknowledge your suffering and share how much they struggled with anger, loneliness and feeling as though God abandoned them, after some great tragedy, they are extraordinary. Most have excused themselves by now.

We withdraw because we fear people’s pain and suffering. But, as my friend pointed out over coffee that day, suffering is an opportunity to connect. It is the single universal experience all humans share. Every person on earth suffers. Some experience joy. Some success. Some happiness. But everyone suffers. Eventually.

Why, then, are we so uncomfortable with suffering? Here, my friend pointed out, it is our faulty view of God that rams a stick in the spokes of our bicycle at most in opportune moments; our ‘vendor machine’ view of God, if I pop in a prayer, out should come a miracle, an answer, a solution. And the world should be made right and perfect and wonderful.

But we do. And it doesn’t. Our prayers rise. And our miracles fall with a splat. Our faith gives way to questioning. Eventually it grows tired and we wonder… Does God care or even listen? And, as Christians scamper away from our broken pains, we conclude He doesn’t. Because they don’t. And suddenly God makes no sense. He should have done something. But didn’t. He let us down. And answers don’t match the questions.

There, with props yanked out… faith and religion having failed us… abandoned by the God of religious obligations, we are finally free to meet the true God. He sees us in that gutter, filthy, weary and faithless. And He doesn’t run. Or fix. Or pray it all away. No. He gets down on His knees and crawls into the gutter with us. Unkempt. Looking worn and haggard, bloodstained and naked–His garments having been stripped by the religious rulers who despised Him too. And suddenly we are understood. Nothing is fixed. Nothing has changed, circumstantially, but we feel hope. Because that’s what happens when someone enters our pain, offering only love.

canstockphoto0266130

That is what community was meant to be. And it is the community we hope to create, a place where the broken Jesus is welcome, and imperfect people are loved.

If you are local to Elmira, Ontario, and have suffered spiritual abuse or feel misunderstood and long for a safe place, a community where the broken are valued, and all are invited to contribute, regardless of class, race or gender, send an email to info@generationsunleashed.com for more info.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in you.”  The Kingdom of God is not some distant goal we strive for, it dwells within us.  (Luke 17:21) Everyone of us was made with a ‘Kingdom purpose’. And that is not a religious statement. It is an invitation to love, as Jesus did, and offer others an encounter with divine grace, regardless of circumstance. Together we advance the Kingdom of God, by loving our neighbour.

canstockphoto7841097

(Written for the Elmira Independent, September 4, 2014. Ending has been revised.)

 

© Trudy Metzger

 

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Trudy’s YouTube Channel

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

All Mennonites are Not Sexual Predators…

…any more than all Christians are hypocrites,  all Germans are Nazi’s, all blacks are gangsters and all priests are paedophiles.  Those statements are stereotypical and false.

But it is difficult to write about the crimes and cover ups in a particular people group, and be a voice for the victims, without making the whole lot of them look party to the crime, without naming names, one way or the other. If the telling of every story is required to justify those who are not party to the crimes and cover ups, it is just another way of downplaying the pain of victims, and taking away their voice. And that, in my opinion, is just as corrupt.

I wrote this blog in response to very particular ‘challenges’ I received, privately, from several ministers in conservative Mennonite settings concerned over how I make the Mennonite church look by sharing the stories of Mennonites. Both were respectful, for the most part. And my response was intended to validate their views, that all Mennonites are not Sexual Predators, and the stories I post misrepresent the culture.

My most recent blog post “Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: My abusers are my church leaders” , which received almost 4000 views in just over 24 hours,  was met with a sprinkling of similar criticism while many messages of support, appreciation, compassion, concern and identification poured in. And I say ‘sprinkling’ because, less than a handful of messages expressed frustration at the misrepresentation of the culture also arrived. Even ‘sprinkling’ is exaggerated.

So this blog, which was originally inspired by several church leaders–appropriately follows the most recent blog exposing abuse in the culture. (Though I challenge readers to take note that, beyond mentioning the victim to whom I am giving a voice, the culture is not mentioned. It was, and still is, intended as a challenge to ‘the church’, not ‘a culture’.)

Reflecting over the past several years of writing, in telling my story, I am keenly and painfully aware of this in my writing, that sharing the stories of Mennonite victims, and giving them a voice, casts a shadow over the entire culture. (And have been aware as I wrote. It is not a new thought.)

I have tried to balance the harsh realities with the good in the culture, and the beauty of certain aspects of it–particularly the sense of community. I have also shared of how my healing began at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, when Howard and Alice reached out and helped me, and Glen Jantzi, one of the ministers, reached out to my one brother. This care, on behalf of my brother and myself, had a powerful impact on my healing journey.

Furthermore, while I was always ‘different’, and never fit into the cultural mould, I felt loved and accepted by many friends at Countryside, right up until the time we left, and even after.

It was at Countryside where I first felt I had something of value to offer, and that I could make a difference in the Kingdom of God. This was thanks to the bishop’s wife, Florence Martin, who saw something in me, after she and I had a shared incident, in which she encouraged me to reach out to a young girl. She gave me a card with a thank you note. Placed inside was the calendar page from a little inspirational calendar from that day, it read: “November 9  Who knows but that may want to use you this day… ” and I don’t recall the rest. (Though I do have the note stored with memorabilia, because it had such influence in my life.)

Lena Martin, the deacon’s wife sat with me in a  coffee shop and answered hard identity questions, when I first started working through abuse. I can’t think of anything more she could have done. Years later, while watching a video of Lisa Bevere with a handful of other women, she said, “Trudy, I could see you do this one day.”  To which I responded with a laugh, “In a light blue suit?” because that is what Lisa had on at the time.

Countryside was, for me, a very safe place to begin healing. We loved the people, we appreciated and cared for the leaders–all of them. Not once did I feel unkindness, even when Joe and Esther had to ask me to tone it down on the make-up, and Glen and Elly asked me to scale back my heals, and Leighton sat me down, in a most fatherly way, and asked me not to skip service and go cruising with a bunch of rambunctious youth instead of attending special meetings.  In fact, Leighton, the bishop, spoke with such understanding and gentleness, even when chiding me, that my heart-felt completely safe.

Yes, some tragic events took place, rocking the church we knew. And we all grieved. Many of us, if not all of us, went through inner chaos and confusion. Why did God let the accident happen, and allow three children to be orphaned? Why did it seem no one knew how to handle the tragedy and grief left in its wake? There were no answers. Only pain, turmoil and disappointment.

Still our love for Countryside, and all the people we knew there, never faded. It lives on to this day, and always will. Because it was the place God took me, in a culture that had deeply wounded me–though a very different ‘brand’ of Mennonites within that culture–and began to reveal himself to me. I sat in that church, in God’s presence and shed many a healing tear, as I discovered a God of grace. And it was only the beginning of that discovery of God’s love and grace.

I didn’t get to know many of the other churches much in the Midwest setting. Only a few, and only a little.  Tim’s aunt and uncle served as leaders at Woodlawn, Abner and Almeda Martin and, to this day, are among the Mennonites I respect most for their genuine faith.

None of these realities have escaped me, or lost appreciation in my heart during this past two-year stretch of addressing sexual abuse in Mennonite and plain cultures.  And  those who have taken time to read the blogs I wrote before focusing on exposing the corruption, will know that I have said many, if not all of these things in the past. Hopefully you have not lost sight of them. I could not, however, go back to constantly reaffirming these things, while speaking the truth about the corruption.

And then there is the small matter of knowing people I respect would not necessarily wish to have me applaud them here. It creates a tie to me, and establishes in the mind of the reader, a relationship with them, and they may not wish to be identified in any way back to me. (There are those whom I admire and respect from my time in the Mennonite church, who would as soon not be associated with me, and I try to honour that, though I may have crossed that line in this post.)

I am not sorry for exposing the things I exposed. I’m mostly not sorry for how I said them, most of the time. (There’s a time or two, when a deep breath and a long pause would have served me well, when leaders refused to face truth. I regret not taking a deep breath and a long pause first, but also trust God to redeem my humanity. Therefore I will not live in regret.)

I am sorry that some wonderful people in the culture, who sincerely love God and fight for truth, were hurt in the process and feel their name and identity have been tarnished with my telling the truth of victims, and being their voice.

It is the thing with ‘carrying a name’, that becomes the price tag for that name. We hold it dear, even idolize it, until the image crumbles because too much corruption lies buried by those whose hearts are evil. And then we struggle to deal with the consequence of that name. That is true whether the name is Menno Simons, or Jesus Christ. Whichever name we carry close in our hearts, that is the name that will cause us the greater anguish, when not held up to the extent that we revere it. 

Even Jesus generalized and spoke out against the Scribes and Pharisees for their corruption as leaders. He didn’t go about saying things like, “a few of you… or ‘some of you’ or some other softening of the blow. No, He said it boldly, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees!”  And then each one had to decide in his own heart if he was guilty.

Amazingly, some of them were His inner circle. How could Jesus do this so boldly, and not risk losing the hearts of these men? Or were they so lost in Him, that the truth of the evil attached to their ‘other identity’ no longer frightened them? Even when it came so close to home that it could have been interpreted as an attack on their own identity? Had the name and title lost its meaning, with no idolatry left in their hearts, so that they no longer worshipped that identity? 

Is this the biggest problem many in the culture have with me?  That the painful truth of buried sexual abuse and sin, connected with my cultural background, is too personal because too much faith has been placed in a name–the name of a man, Menno, who would be mortified at that idolatry–and that identity has been a source of great pride, but is now a source of shame? (And this could also be said of Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Fellowship, Non-denominational, Inter-denominations, and every other religious identity where corruption lies hidden, and the name is protected.)

Is it possible that God wants to unravel that cultural pride, and bring us all back to one identity–Jesus Christ?

If we were to embrace His identity as the only one that matters, and openly acknowledged the wickedness within, would that not open the door for healing, restoration and allow the Body of Christ to thrive? I would no longer be a threat with my truth-telling, but an opportunity to rise up. And only if I defamed the name of Christ would there be any need for personal offences, hurt feelings and emails challenging my message.

The truth is that the name of Jesus is the answer to this problem. Many a Christian has left me wanting for another name to identify myself by, because of the damage they have done to the name of Christ, and still, I carry the name of Jesus Christ with honour, boldness, and without apology. Because His is one name that, no matter how close I carry it to my heart or how wrongly people use it, does not bring shame to me. Christians shame Him. Religion does also. But not Jesus. He restores my honour, just by embracing His name, regardless of how He is misrepresented.

That is a name worth holding on to. 

canstockphoto7397539 B

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church  (Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

A Kind Word or 2, a Bishop, a Commitment & a Thankful Heart

Sunday evening, after the Stutzman Family Concert, a middle-aged Mennonite gentleman approached me. He shook my hand enthusiastically, and thanked me for the evening, and for the conference, which he had attended.

“It was good! Very refreshing after all the negative things I have heard about you!” he said with a chuckle. He wasn’t sure what to expect, he told me, with what all he had heard, but he wasn’t going to believe what people were saying. Not without checking for himself.

“Thank you!” I said, “…thank you for having the integrity to check it out for yourself rather than believing the lies. Not many do that.”

He chuckled again, and said he understands. He thanked me one more time, and said he feels encouraged, from the weekend, and ready to face life.

I didn’t really know the man, though I’m quite sure I met him and his wife some years ago, or maybe saw a picture of them. Though I didn’t ‘know’ them, I certainly knew of him. In my mind, based on what I have heard, I believe he’s got something to him. And that night he proved it.

When I went into ministry, I made a decision to do what God calls me to do, regardless of the opposition, attacks or rejection I get. After what Jesus has done for me, that is the least I can offer to Him as a gift of love. Still, the words of an honest encourager, who dares to acknowledge the negative he’s heard and still speaks positive words over my life, and the ministry we do… Well, I’m human. It goes a long way.

Then, on Thursday, I bumped into a family at the grocery store, who attended the concert on Sunday night. The one son, who is at least in his mid twenties or older, smiled broadly each time I met them in an aisle. But, each time, he didn’t say a word. Not until I rounded the corner and saw him, away from his family.

He smiled again, and this time immediately started a conversation. I asked him how he enjoyed the music Sunday night.

“It was good!” he said, enthusiastically, then added, “and I really enjoyed your speech… or topic… or whatever that was!”

In reality I had shared a bit of an overview of our ministry, and our purpose, and how healing is only found in Jesus. I said how I work mostly with victims of sexual abuse and that we revisit the trauma of what happened back there, acknowledge it and work through it, but we don’t stay there. We move forward and find healing.

I thanked the young man, and he just stood there and couldn’t stop smiling. We talked a bit longer, before he disappeared to find his family again.

It was a brief, but beautiful moment! I know a bit of his story, through the ‘intertwining’ with other stories, and understood at least a glimpse of the depth of that appreciation. And somehow a sincere thanks, from a young man who has tasted of that hell, goes so much deeper than the rejection of those who hate me, fear their own exposure, or resent the truth of their family members being exposed as perpetrators. Or simply don’t know what to do with me. It goes so much deeper.

Not an hour later I was in Shopper’s Drug Mart when I met Bishop Henry Martin. I shook his hand, greeting him by name, and chatted for a few moments with him, asking how Irene is, and how they are. His smile is still as broad as ever, his eyes as friendly as I recall them. Did he know who I was? I have no idea. He never said my name.

Still, I would have expected nothing less from him than kindness. And that is true of all of his family, for that matter, regardless of their feelings about me. Being ministers, bishops and such–many of them–I anticipate at least some ‘mini message’ from time to time, but always kindness. At least to my face. That is more than I can say for some others who will look me in the eye and not say ‘hi’ when I greet them, or will turn and walk away after making eye contact, only feet apart.

It is refreshing, every now and then, to run into people who I know don’t agree with what I do, or at the very least don’t agree with the way I live my Christian life, but still have the character and personal honour to look me in the eye, and speak to me with good Christian character. It is my hope to always do the same.

As I walked away, after that chat with Bishop Henry, tears threatened to spill over. Deep emotion bubbled to the surface, as I recalled time spent in their home, always cared for with great kindness. I’m not here to say he is ‘right on’, but I have never heard a word spoken against him, in all my dealings with people. That says more than my personal opinion will ever say. Still, I hesitate to mention leaders by name, even in kindness, because more than once, having done that, I have received a personal story of horrific abuse and I can only imagine the pain of that. In my life, I can say with honesty, he and his children were kind and my memories are pleasant ones.

But the emotions were much deeper than fond old memories. I found myself overcome with grief at what I know of hidden sin, hidden abuse. On the same day, in a different store, I spoke with another woman and casually mentioned a very friend of mine. She looked at me and said, “You know her husband is an abuser as well, don’t you?” When I told her that no one had told me before, but that his wife had shared concerns over her husband’s past, the woman added, “My son is one of the victims.”

I asked if the man has ever taken ownership and apologized to her son. She shook her head. He had been confronted, she said, but denied all allegations.

Walking away from Bishop Henry, I wanted to believe that if he could have seen inside my mind… if he could know what I know, that he too would be devastated…

…I desperately want to believe more people would be, especially leaders, and change would come…

But that collides in every way with what I see, hear and experience with so many, and I am very aware that it will take Divine intervention for that revelation and change to come. And for some it will.

For now I will continue doing what I do, even as the attacks and rejection deepen. Because those who long to be free, those who are ready to find help, need a safe place to turn, where they will not scolded, blamed, silenced or otherwise abused.

My place is firmly rooted in the Kingdom of God, and the ‘religious powers’ of this world have authority in my life only as their authority is submitted to Christ, rather than being dominated by a system of religious controls. My identity is found in the former, not in the latter.

I am blessed to have mentors, friends and ‘voices of authority’ in my life in various denominations, including Conservative (and small c conservative) Mennonites, Missionary Church, as well as Brethren/Chapel churches. These individuals bring balance into my life in so many ways.

And I thank God for these men and women of honour, in my life, who dare to embrace and speak truth–even when it doesn’t accommodate me but, rather, confronts my blind spots and short comings. I am thankful for others who also love Jesus more than life, and see beyond the idols of image, culture and power, even while embracing their particular cultures. These are truly men and women of God.

****

As an aside, I am so thankful for doors that open. Starting next week I will write as a monthly columnist for the Elmira Independent. I will cover a variety of topics surrounding sexual abuse & violence, family life, religion and cultural issues. I’ve given them fair warning that they should expect ‘letters to the Editor’ that don’t necessarily applaud my work and what I have to say. So far that hasn’t detoured them from the column.

canstockphoto0587255 b

They will also share this blog address to offer the community more resources in understanding abuse and its impact. As doors open, resistance seems to heat up. To the many friends here who pray for me, for us, Thank you. I appreciate your private notes and emails letting me know that you are encouraged, that you find hope in the doors being blown off of the darkness that lies hidden. Many of you have expressed your love for your culture, for those of you who are Mennonite, but you are torn inside because you know the darkness that lies buried. Your words of encouragement, though I may never have met you, are very meaningful. Never give up hope for healing to come. Stand strong in faith in Jesus Christ. Together, through Christ, we are more than conquerors!

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Should Women be Silent… or Prophesy… or Both?

That one topic I was sure I would never address… now here I am, letting all these worms out of a tin, all because someone took the lid off…

Recently a man encouraged me to study the scripture on a woman’s place in the home and in the church. (Well, that was a less than subtle hint at his personal opinion!) He wasn’t being offensive or manipulative–at least I didn’t take it that way–and I didn’t take offense. It was, I believe, done with good intentions. A bit misguided, maybe, but no harm done.

A similar ‘concern’ was brought to my attention by another gentleman not long ago. He, too, was very kind.

And a minister mentioned it as well…

My husband, on the other hand, encourages me to do what I am doing. Oddly enough, he is the only one with the ‘authority’ to speak into my life. And he says ‘do it’. He is my leader. My spiritual protector. And I respect him. From the time God spoke to me and I shared that with Tim, on October 20, 2001, I waited until Tim gave me the blessing to  ‘go ahead’. And that took a long time.

When I first told Tim, he immediately blessed me and affirmed what God had spoken. But he also said, ‘Not now. The time is not right.’ A line he would continue to say for almost ten years.

A week or two after I told Tim what God had put on my heart, I received a phone call. It was Steve Masterson, a mentor, friend and spiritual-father figure in my life, and he asked me if I had ever considered going into ministry.

I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. We talked about it. I shared my heart, and what God had showed me the previous weekend. He shared how God had laid on his heart a vision for ministry to the abused, as a call on my life.

The two most influential and most godly men and leaders in my life affirmed what God had already spoken. I knew then, without a doubt, that one day it would happen. I also knew that it wasn’t up to me to force those doors open.

It is ironic that I now have people with no authority or influence in my life, encouraging me to reevaluate God’s call. Some boldly declaring that what I do goes against scripture.

One woman, whose husband and two sons have all sexually abused children, gently told me that she fears for my children if their mother is out like that day after day.

Mostly I listen and file those comments. God has spoken, and I will obey. End of story. It will take more than human persuasion to convince me that God has not called me. And most likely if God was to ask me to leave ministry, He would speak through Tim and to me, not random people who have preconceived notions about what I do.

I can hear it already, the criticism: “But how can you say God asked you to do something that violates scripture? Didn’t He say women are to be silent?”

To answer that question, with absolutely no twisting of scripture, I will simply post what my Bible says, and then post a few thoughts and questions for you to contemplate. Too often we take what someone says, or follow what a church’s constitution says, and make it ‘Bible Truth to stand on’, without ever searching the scripture for ourselves. And sometimes the answer is there, in black and white, with no agenda to accompany it. Simply God’s truth, unadulterated by mankind, and with no personal agenda or human control.

Joel 2:25-29

New King James Version (NKJV)

25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,[a]
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

In the context of these verses, it is interesting to note that the prophetic word, stating that God’s sons and daughters will prophesy, is directly connected to God’s promise to bring healing and restoration…

canstockphoto9269425 (1)

The same prophesy is given again in Acts, as this outpouring of the Holy Spirit begins.

Acts 2:17-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

I’ve heard arguments that God merely allowed women to speak, and be in places of leadership in the Old Testament, as though it was some hardship for Him. But on the heels of that is a quick explanation that in the New Testament this is strictly forbidden.

Irony of all ironies, the verses above are Old Testament verses speaking to end times–seems to me we’ve never been closer to the end than we are today. And tomorrow we will be even closer. So to say that the prophesy was not for today is, well, twisting the Word of God into human agenda.  Not to mention that these verses are quoted again after Jesus returned to heaven. Clearly they were not meant for a time prior to Christ. These verses speak prophetically to the role that men and women will have in the end times, proclaiming the truth of God, of Jesus Christ.

How can the idea that ‘women must be silent’ be enforced as a ‘biblical law’ in these last day, and the truth of scripture still stand, rock solid, when the Bible plainly prophesies that men and women will prophesy? Either the verses on end time prophesy must be cast aside, and it be determined that God’s word is not reliable, or we are missing something. The fact that there is room for God’s ‘daughters’ and ‘maidservants’ to prophesy, to speak, is in direct conflict with what many churches teach…

Acts 21:8-9

King James Version (KJV)

8 “And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.”

They ‘did’ prophesy, the author writes. They ‘did’, did they? One might almost understand this to mean that they actually did it. Actually spoke the truth of God with authority, out loud. As women. Females.

The word ‘prophesy’ says it all. The verb means “to speak out of divine inspiration; to give instruction on religious matters; to preach.” Prophesy refers to foretelling and forthtelling. Foretelling is what Jesus did when He warned of what would happen to Jerusalem. And it did happen. But more commonly prophesy refers to ‘forthtelling’, or speaking the truth in relation to present circumstances.

It is 100% impossible to be prophet or prophetess and be silent. Speaking is the key ingredient to prophesying. How do we reconcile this, that a prophetess must speak, and be female, and yet all women must be silent?

I believe that God has designed us with unique purpose in mind, and that purpose is His, not ours. He has left room in His own Word for us to function ‘outside the box’ of what is acceptable, or even enforced, by religion. (And there’s indication that Phoebe, in the early church, also had a role not in keeping with strong religious teaching.)

One of the references given me to consider, by several, was in 1 Timothy 2. So I read it. Again. I’m familiar with it. I embrace it. I believe it. I believe it as powerfully as I believe the verses I quoted previously in Joel and Acts.  To quote those verses, however, I’d like to back track a few verses to verse 8.

1 Timothy 2:8

King James Version (KJV)
8 “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

canstockphoto3691644

I read that verse and realized that of the men who told me I should be quiet and not speak publicly, not one, to my knowledge or witness, has ever lived in obedience to verse 8. I have not seen one of them lift holy hands in prayer, without wrath or doubting. This is a direct command, if it’s commands we’re looking at, and it directly precedes the command that women in silence. And it even says ‘every where’, a detail missing in the verses addressing women and silence. That’s an interesting biblical fact… (Wonder what a message would sound like where all men are emotionally and spiritually ‘spanked’ for not walking in obedience to this visible, external evidence of obedience to God? But I digress…)

1 Timothy 2:11-12

King James Version (KJV)
11 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

canstockphoto3934845

In verse 11 Paul says women are to *learn* in silence.,(also interpreted as ‘don’t interrupt’ the speaker) and then goes on to say not to *usurp* authority over man, but be in silence. Within context, that’s pretty plain reading. I doubt a prophet or prophetess of God would interrupt honourable men of God while teaching. Only overbearing, and obnoxious behaviour would inspire that kind of rude response to godly teaching.

The word ‘usurp’ means to ‘take by illegal force’ and speaks again of being overbearing, and not functioning in submission to God-given leadership. Overpowering our leaders and demanding they let us have control, stands in stark contrast to releasing control while submitting our vision to the leaders God has placed in our lives. (And when our leaders are not following the Word of God, we best not stay, but run for our dear lives!)

I believe in living a life of submitted vision. I believe in functioning under the blessing of those whom God has given authority in my life. That means there are times that I am silent on topics Tim is not comfortable having me address. It means that I don’t always respond to people who attack or antagonize me. If Tim says, “Don’t do it,” then I don’t do it. He is my leader, my protector, spiritually and physically.

On a church level I have always done ministry under the blessing and leadership of my leaders, elders, pastors and mentors. I believe this is biblical, and if I force my way into what I want to do or fell called to do, without being released by my leaders, then I am in direct violation of scripture.

There have been times when the burden of this ministry has been overwhelming. There have been times when I cried in Tim’s arms and said, “Honey, I just want to quit… I can’t do this anymore…. I can’t take the attacks…” or some other struggle.

I have looked at Tim and said, “You speak the word, and I will turn and walk away from this ministry, and never look back.”  And I have done it at times when we struggled together because of the ministry, because it cost us more emotionally and financially than we felt we could handle. I expected him to say, “walk away”, on at least one occasion.

Instead, every time, he has held me and reminded me what God called me to do, and encouraged me to keep doing it. Only once did he even begin to release me to stop, but in the end we couldn’t. That support has made me stronger, more resilient, and more deeply committed to God and His call on my life than I have ever been.

I live in obedience to Joel and Acts, when I speak out the truth of Christ, prophesying the truth He asks me to speak. And I live in obedience to 1 Timothy when I am silent out of respect for my husband. And God is blessing us for it. We feel His spiritual covering over us. He provides when we don’t have it in us to keep going. And He is changing lives. We’re not doing it. We couldn’t’. He is. And we praise Him for it.

Whether I speak, or am silent, my life is God’s. I surrender myself to Him daily and desire only to lift Jesus high, because when He is lifted up, He draws all people to Himself. And therein lies healing.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

A Public Reponse: Do I Really Hate Mennonites?

I don’t prefer to write in response to accusations too often. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Menno Simons lately, and am starting to follow his example of writing publicly, in response to attacks… Whatever the inspiration, I’m actually ‘going there’.

canstockphoto5132753 b

In the past few months I have been accused numerous times of hating Mennonites, or despising my heritage, or some other absurd attack. These accusations come, predominantly, from leadership and some who have stories of their own to hide. Mostly these accusations are like water on a duck’s back. Little impact to actually penetrate. But it does leave me with a whole lot of ‘feel sorry’ for everyone else getting soaked.

I never thought I’d actually address this, publicly, because, quite frankly, I’d rather disregard it and not give it space in the world wide web. Still, the last few weeks, as the rumours and attacks escalate, it has tumbled through my head too frequently to ignore. And, besides, usually when I write it out, it leaves.

I’m still not bothered by the accusations. They come from ill-informed attackers who have taken no time to really get to know me, and who have neither the character or the courage to sit down with me, one-on-one, to say what they are willing to say behind my back. The attacks are cowardly, at best, but if they help the other persons sleep at night, having done their religious duty to try and discredit me, so be it. Sleep tight.

And that’s about all I have to say about that part of it. Those of you, who are Mennonite and know me well, having sat with me, sometimes for hours at a time, know I do not hate Mennonites. You know I am not out to damage the church’s reputation, and that my goal is to help hearts find God, and experience healing through Jesus. (And I don’t spend time dreaming up memories that don’t exist, or creating scenarios that are not real, just for an excuse to attack innocent Mennonite men… or women. In fact, you know that I discourage putting energy into trying to remember things. Somehow this is a most popular accusation, and equally lame.)

On the contrary, I encourage clients to take what memories they have, or don’t to the foot of the cross. We talk, we pray, we cry… sometimes. And whether clients choose to confront perpetrators is always 100% their call.

It is not hatred, but love and compassion that compel me to do do what I do. I know what it is like to be trapped in shroud of silence and secrecy, having been victimized sexually, where crimes are covered up for the sake of reputation. I also know that my Mennonite background is not the only place this happens.

My heart, however, has the strongest connection to the Mennonite culture, because of my experience, and therefore I reach out to the Mennonite people. I understand the culture and, again, because of experience I have a very personal passion and compassion that I have for no other culture in the world. I have passion and compassion for others, but experience makes it personal with Mennonites. I will do ministry in any culture, with any people, anywhere God calls me. But I will never understand and identify as personally, anywhere else in the world, as the Mennonite people.

Common sense should be the authority on it, regardless of either side of the argument, that if the accusation was true, and I hated Mennonites, I would hardly invest my time and energy in helping. And, at the very least, I would put every effort into convincing people to leave the culture, if I hated it that much. But I don’t.

Only in one case have I done so, and only after the client indicated a desire to leave. In that case the client experienced demonic attacks, and horrific trauma, each time she was confronted with cultural connections. I believed then, and I believe still, that the connection needed to be broken, for her to discover any element of trust in God. And even in that case, I said I would help her transition back, if ever she wished to return.

In several other cases I encouraged individuals to consider attending one of the other Mennonite churches, because I knew they wanted to stay Mennonite, but the abuse and dysfunction of current situations was doing more harm than good. Churches that are more interested in covering up sin, and presenting a pretentious image of holiness and perfection, that is neither possible nor realistic, will never have my support, and I will never encourage anyone to stay. (And Menno Simons wouldn’t stand for it either!)

Holiness isn’t about excommunicating as quickly as possible, nor is it about silencing sinners (yes, it happens! And not only with Child Sexual Abuse cases. The truth is carefully kept under wraps, and controlled so as not to spill out, in some cases, because it would taint the image!)

That, my friends, is not holiness either. It’s not about  making sin invisible, denying it exists, or ‘making things go away’, so you don’t have to look at them. It’s about acknowledging it, and inviting the blood of Jesus into the sin, the mess, the ugliness and the horror of it, and letting Him remove the stain of sin. Any other method leaves the sin to multiply, and the stain a glaring testimony that the church is not about Christ, but about empty religion.

Holiness is about giving God all that we are and do, including our sinfulness. (Remember what happened when Adam and Eve tried to hide their sin? God didn’t approve. He still doesn’t.) And it is not possible to give God our sinful selves, apart from repentance. 

I despise pretentiousness, cover-ups, lies and false accusations. I despise them a lot. I also despise manipulations, whether in personal relationship, or in religious control. I despise when everything revolves around system, any system, and Jesus Christ is all but lost, if not lost entirely, and replaced by controls that have nothing whatsover to do with Him.

But I love people. I love helping the wounded. I love functioning in mutual respect with those with whom I disagree. And I love when another Christian culture makes Christ the centre of their culture, even if the culture itself is not something I would choose. I love focusing on Jesus Christ, and taking my eyes off of the stuff of life, and the opinions of my religion, or yours. That’s what I love. I love to have connections to churches that I feel confident will help their congregants.

A young woman, discontented with her church, recently told me she ‘wants out’. She’s ‘done’, and wants a new church.

“What are you looking for in a church?” I asked.

“A place where I can go and confess when I have sinned, without fear of being shamed,” was her answer.

And the prophetic words of Menno Simons have come to pass when he warned that punishing the repentant would encourage people to hide sin: “If we were thus to deal with poor, repentant sinners, whose transgressions were done in secret, how many would keep from repentance, through shame. God forbid that I should ever agree with, or act upon such doctrine! Lastly, I understand, they hold, that if any one, in his weakness, transgresses, and openly acknowledges his transgression, that they should consider him, then, as a worldling”

How far we have strayed from truth, while pointing fingers at, and stabbing in the back, those trying to wipe up the blood spatters, those trying to help the wounded in the aftermath of spiritual slaughter.

I have always wished to work with churches, in respectful relationship, in spite of our differences. And I still wish to do so. But it cannot be a one-way respect. It has to flow two ways.

I don’t wish one day to receive phone calls of support and encouragement, wishing me God’s blessings, and sitting in the homes of bishops, deacons, and ministers, only to hear criticisms and false accusations they made to others in the next breath, or the next day.

Tell me to my face the negative things you think, feel or believe. Call me what names you will, to my face, and not behind my back. Don’t thank me, and then stab me in the back.

Be direct with me, and whether you love me or hate me is of little consequence to me. At least you will have my respect because I value truth. I value honesty. I can work with it, even if it is negative. But two-faced attacks only serve to convince me that there is nothing trustworthy, nothing holy, and nothing safe in relationship. You wish for me to not go to the law (which, in some cases I am compelled to do), and yet, when I do, I am attacked left right and centre. It cannot be both ways. Work with me in mutual respect.

I do want to thank one CMCO minister, who have at least had the integrity to be honest with me. I respect deeply and appreciate very much that integrity. They acknowledge–and the husband in particular–concerns over the differences, in my views and practice, to theirs and they say it to me, in their home, on the phone, or wherever it comes up. They don’t harp on it, condemn me, or preach relentlessly. But when it comes up, they are honest. Them, I trust. We don’t agree. We don’t see eye to eye, and I’m sure we could both expend much energy being critical, but we don’t. And I know this, that we both want to help victims of abuse, and we both want truth.

For those who must label me, to feel better about themselves, I have no difficulty being referred to as the ‘Apostate Woman’. Jesus was the apostate and rebel of his day too, so I consider it somewhat of an honour, really. (And my response to that is that I may have apostesized from Mennonitism, but I have not apostasized from my relationship with God, and love for Jesus Christ.)

Having said that, I understand the mentality, and the need to label. It doesn’t offend me in the slightest, and if I were to meet those who I know call me this (or worse) I would greet them warmly. I know that some of these things come, at the very least, from a sincere conviction and it becomes a matter of conscience for them. So be it. As long as it is not a shallow attack, it influences no disrespect on my part.

Cowardly backstabbing and unkindness, however, are not at all Christ like. They don’t inspire confidence and I can’t encourage anyone to stay under that kind of leadership, nor am I willing to work with two-facedness. If you’re reading this and recognize it, and I know some who attack me do read this blog, all I ask for is mutual respect.

Help your people, and make it easier for me to help them. I prefer not to spend most of my sessions exploring what should be done about church  membership because they don’t feel safe, have no trust.

Make it about Jesus Christ, and His example, His pattern, His healing. I will try to do the same.

©TrudyMetzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series