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. 

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© Trudy Metzger

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Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: “My abusers are my church leaders”

canstockphoto7032676 BI received a message from a Mennonite reader who follows my column in the local paper. (She faithfully contacts me every time to say thank you for being a voice for those who have none, and to tell me how much it means to be understood.)  She had read the article, in last week’s paper , “Sexual Abuse: To Confront, or Not to Confront the Abuser”.

When I let her read this blog, before posting, she said, “I wonder what kind of response you will get. It means a lot to be understood.” I hope the response is compassion for victims, and outrage–or righteous indignation, if that makes you feel better–that this is hidden and protected in religious settings.

The reader’s message, that inspired this blog, was quite simple. It wouldn’t make any difference to confront at least two of her abusers, she wrote…. because they are church leaders. And she learned a long time ago that church leaders get to do what they want.

As a little girl, this woman lived in an environment with hired men, coming and going out of her world, using her as their own private little prostitute. She was ‘sold into the sex trade’, right in her own home, and when she tried to tell people, they told her she was lying. This pain, she says, is more difficult to forgive than being violated over and over again.

Her purpose for writing was to ask me ‘How do I forgive?”

But that’s not a question I am going to answer today. Today I am simply going to acknowledge her pain, and the damage done by the abuse, and the leaders who cover for themselves or others.

Forgiveness is so easy to preach from the front of the church, and I presume it gets even easier when hands, covered with the blood of innocent children, grab the podium for support while teaching it.

Even the demons, I expect, attend those mornings and delight in listening to the sermon of unrepentant men who hide sin while ‘guiding’ the children to salvation. Even demons, yes, I think they show up for church those days, bright and early.

And the women in the audience write to tell me how the demonic attacked them, and they wonder why they shake and tremble when certain men take the podium. And others write to tell me that the way some men look at them–men who are leaders, men who are bullies, men who have sin hidden–and they strip them naked, right there in church. And they wonder why, and they ask me, too, how to forgive.

And I could pull out old messages, just like the one I got yesterday, telling the same story, and I could line them up and count them…. and the questions they ask, about needing to forgive… But each person is an individual, and each story is unique, told for the first time, even if you’ve heard it somewhere else a thousand times.

As the messages trickle in, and the tears trickle out, I tremble too. And each time, my heart shatters for them… my heart, weak after the intense battle of last year, breaks again. Yet, with that breaking a new courage rises up. I will never lay down my Sword for these children. No, I will carry it… drag it on the ground if I must because of lack of strength, but I will carry it to the finish.

And in the face of the enemy hope will fill my chest because I know the One who knelt with those children… the One who keeps account of every little deed He saw, committed in the dark against one little one… And every one who silenced that child to protect image, family name or some other pride…

And I cry out to Him…

“God, we need your help!  We carry the Sword to fight against the enemy. But we need You to Shatter the Silence of sin hidden in the church… We need You to vindicate the children and acknowledge their pain… We need You to expose the corruption hidden behind titles and position… We need You to end this violence against children.”

***

And God rose up and went to war.

Every man and woman who had hidden sin was exposed. Everyone who had not repented, confessed and taken ownership of their crimes, was held to account.

And the heavens opened again in blessing on God’s people.  No longer did they believe the enemy’s lies and fall prey to his confusions and perversions.

The wounded were healed, the dead raised back to life again. And the soldiers, weary from the fight, fell to their knees in worship. The Warrior had come… Freedom, sweet freedom, had come…

The children went out to play in safety.

The angels watched over them closely, clapping their hands in delight. At long last, having witnessed many years of heinous crimes, the children were free to laugh, free to run, and free to dance.

Matthew 18:10 – Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

 

READ NEXT BLOG: “All Mennonites Are Not Sexual Predators”

© Trudy Metzger

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What to Do When Leaders Forbid Sexual Abuse Seminars?

On Sunday October 27 a local conservative Mennonite church made an announcement telling the congregation they should not attend our conference, specifically naming ‘Shattering the Silence’. This inspired me to write a blog, appropriately titled, ‘Local Preachers Forbid Attending Sexual Abuse Conference‘.

Even though I knew the day would come, it still punched me in the gut when it happened because of which congregation it was. I had already helped numerous of their congregants work through abuse, and had done so respectfully, with their leaders’ knowledge. As quickly as the punch came, I ruminated on what good it could possibly inspire.

I am a firm believer that out of everything intended for harm, God already has a plan for good in place if we will but ask Him and reach for that good. Sometimes it comes almost immediately, sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it takes weeks. This time it was barely days.

The thought that went through my mind that night, as I contemplated their announcement, was, “If we can’t get the people to the message, how do we get the message to the people?”

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I already write a blog, but many of the people I want to reach, locally, don’t have computers. I could write a book–which I have, and am working on a second one–but that takes a long time. After writing it, I have to publish it. If I self-publish, I have to raise the money first, and if I don’t self-publish, I have to find a publisher. That takes a very long time. And, furthermore, I believe the message God has given me is needed now. As in yesterday. Sure, the book will be good, when it’s ready, and it will be helpful. But in the meantime how do I get the message out there?

And then it occurred to me…

I sat down at my computer and I composed a message to a local paper…

“Does the Elmira Independent ever look for guest columns to be written? If so, I would be interested in doing this, from time to time, or regularly. [insert explanation about abuse and what I do]… I cannot sit back … without at least attempting to get a message of hope (to abuse victims), so I will nudge every door I can think of, to see which ones will open. And I will become bolder and bolder until those who desperately want help find it. If (writing a column) is not an option or an avenue of speaking into the issues of healthy family life, abuse etc, that’s okay. I am not afraid of closed doors. But they definitely won’t open if I don’t knock.”
I hit ‘send’ and waited. A day later I received an email asking me to write a sample column to see what I have in mind. Immediately I sat down at my computer and tapped the keys for an hour or so, before sending my sample column to the editor. And then I waited.
Several days passed. An email arrived. It was an apology. The editor was sorry she had not been able to find time to read the sample column, as she was sick. She would get to it as soon as possible and let me know.  Again I waited.
A week and several days passed, still I waited, until moments ago when an email arrived saying she had finally had time to read the article and, yes, it is definitely something their paper could use! Would I consider letting them use a headshot photo with it? And what about contact information and a little blurb about what I do, would I be okay with that? And could I have the columns to them a week in advance? And the first one will be printed the first week of December. As for restrictions on what I may say, or write about, how about ‘none’ to start?
Wow! How amazing is that?! I’ve dreamed for years of writing a column but never had the courage to put myself out there! One negative experience, forcing me to ask the question, “How do I get the message to the people?” took me to a place of pursuing another dream.
Over and over I am amazed by God. When I speak locally at conferences, I speak to an audience of under 200 several times a year. Now I will write monthly, for an audience of over 4000. And who knows what doors that will open?
More and more I am learning to trust God when it feels like those who oppose our work have an upper hand. It is impossible to get the upper hand on God, and it is impossible to stop His truth from spreading. When things seem to go against us, and that thing He has called us to do seems impossible, He will make a way if we are willing to listen, and step outside our comfort zone.
And so begins another great adventure with God, as a columnist for a local paper, taking the message of hope out to the community…
Maybe that ‘Christian radio program’, or that ‘Christian TV program’ dream lies just around the corner… Who knows? And it doesn’t really matter. For now I am going to embrace this phase with all that I am.

© Trudy Metzger

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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…

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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.”

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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.”

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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

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MENNO SIMONS… (Part 4): Excommunication, Love & Compassion

My intention is not to belabour Menno Simon’s teachings, but his views on Excommunication deserve further exploring, in my opinion.

The most outstanding, and maybe even astonishing, things I found was Menno’s views on how sin should be handled, when an individual comes forward in repentance. (The only exception to this, which he addresses first, and I will address after, is in a case of a criminal offence.)

When an individual sins (privately, as Menno calls it, meaning a sin that is not known publicly) Menno urges the church to deal gently and privately with the sin. If the individual confesses a sin to a ‘brother’, it is not to be taken to the church for discipline, with the exception of a criminal act.

“I understand that […] brethren are of the opinion that if some brother should secretly have transgressed on something or other, and, in sorrow of heart should complain to one of his brethren that he had thus sinned against God, that hen this same brother should tell it unto the church; and if he should fail to do so, that he, then, should be punished with the transgressor. This opinion is not only absurd but it sounds in my ears as a terrible one. For it is clearly against all Scripture and love, Matt. 18: Jas. 5:19-20.

Excommunication was, in one respect, instituted for the purpose of repentance. Now if repentance is shown, namely, the contrite, sorrowing heart, how can excommunication, then, be pronounced against such. O, my brethren, do not put this doctrine in force, for it will lead to sin, and not to reformation.

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.

This, again, is an absurd doctrine; for, if the transgression was done through weakness, then, let us not be arrogant and too hard on the poor soul, lest we commit a worse fault.

Not the weak, but the corrupt members are cut off, lest they corrupt others. Of such unscriptural doctrines and practices I want to be clear. I desire that excommunication be practiced in a sincere paternal spirit, in faithful love, according to the doctrine of Christ […]

My chosen brethren, guard against innovations for which you have no certain, scriptural grounds. Be not too severe, nor too lenient. Let a paternal, compassionate, prudent and discreet heart, and the Lord’s holy word, actuate you.” (Exceprt taken from the Third Letter by Menno, “An Epistle […] to the brethren at Frenekar.)

In a nutshell, Menno discourages running to the church with every sin confessed to us. In other writings he instructs that relational issues, where ‘brother sins against brother’, reconciliation and forgiveness is to be pursued according to Matthew 18. He distinguishes between a sin against God, and a sin against each other, in that we cannot forgive a sin against God. An individual must seek forgiveness from God, but we are to forgive a sin against us. Where these relational offences, sins, and hurts can be resolved without church involvement, and the offender takes ownership, it is not to be handled at a church or public level.

All public sin, however, in Menno’s teachings, needed to be confessed publicly, but, again, he distinguishes between sin and offences that are not sin, if I understand him accurately.

Where a crime is committed, Menno does not allow for warnings and second chances before discipline. He addresses this, in the same letter, in response to having heard that there is a ‘violent dispute’, between two opposing views on excommunication. One would like to see church members get three warnings before discipline, and the other insists on heavy-handed, no warning excommunication. He speaks against both views.

His advice, to the one looking for three warnings, is, “I cannot agree with this doctrine. For there are some sins […] which require summary punishment at the hands of the (law). If we were to admonish transgressor thrice, in such cases, before they were punished, then the sweet bread of the church would be changed into sour bread, before the whole world. Therefore, act with discretion, and do not treat criminal matters, especially if they are public, the same as you would other carnal works, which are not considered, by the world, as requiring disgraceful punishment.”

To the other man he writes, “That doctrine is, according to my humble understanding, erroneous and against the world or Christ, Paul, and James. For averice (or, greed/pursuit of wealth), pride, hatred, discord, defamation and quarreling are carnal things which work death, if not repented of, Gal. 5:19-20; James 3:16; notwithstanding, they are not punished until after having been thrice admonished as the Scriptures command. I wish that it were taken into consideration, that, as “the wages of sin is death,” so also, the repenting, converted heart brings for life…”

There is no indication, anywhere that I have found, that Menno Simon endorsed the careless and quick excommunication over things that having nothing, whatsoever, to do with sin. In most cases I have seen, apart from the ones involving sexual immorality, or drunkenness, excommunication has been exercised over issues of opinion and rules not being followed, or some label such as ‘bad attitude, which usually comes back to a rule that is in no way connected to the word of God, the ten commandments, or any other sin.

For many years I have found this troubling, and believed that this way of operating was based on Menno Simon’s teachings. It has been healing for me, though I disagree strongly with Menno’s view on shunning, to read his writings and see how strongly he sought to honour God. No where can I find any indication that he made decisions based on protecting church image, hiding sins of the prominent, or any other perverse and selfish control.

It seems he tries earnestly to follow God’s word, while exercising his understanding of it, with fatherly compassion, a heart to restore, and no desire to wound or control.

His prophetic word or questioning, that if repentant sinners are dealt with harshly, then how many will avoid repenting for fear of being shamed, has come to pass. Every adult with whom I meet as a coach and mentor, as we work through the aftermath of abuse, we also go through a time of confession and repentance for hidden sins. Most, if not all, share sins of which they cannot repent at church, for that very reason. Many have looked at me, tear flowing down their faces, as they tell me they wish they could have that kind of openness at church.

I sat with a young woman this week, not yet nineteen years old, who had told me she is looking fora church. I asked her what she is looking for, what it is her heart longs for and seeks.

Her answer took me off guard, coming from one so young. I might have expected, ‘no strict rules’ or ‘no man-made rules’, even ‘a lively church that is fun’. But she said she wants a place she can go and confess and repent when she has sinned, without fearing shame or judgement. She wants to live a life of purity and holiness, and have accountability, fellowship, and prayer support.

“A place where I can go and confess when I have sinned…” No shame. No harsh discipline, unless it is a matter of crime.

I think Menno would have applauded her. And I think he would have done his best to give her such a church home.

Menno does address the issue of a person repenting, but not producing ‘fruits unto repentance,’ and says there is a time to discipline when the follow-through is not there.

In such a case, my heart tells me to come alongside that person, struggle with them and understand them, disciple them, teach them, and they are far more likely to walk in victory. I know this because of the number of people I have discipled, who have overcome addictions after months, and years, of strongholds. 

While I don’t see eye-to-eye with Menno Simons, I have appreciated the wisdom in his writings, and can’t help but wonder where the church would be, if the passion for biblical truth, practice and understanding had remained as sincere as his writing portray….

He addresses numerous times, in his writings, the sin of materialism and the pursuit of riches, among other ‘sins’. As I read that, I thought of the church today. Almost any denomination. What has more power, more pull, more prestige, than materialism and riches?

Changing the church, like any other transformation, begins with personal transformation. So my prayer to God is, “Give me a hear that loves You, more than anything else in the world. Give me a heart that understands your commands, and your desires, and the courage to live them. Create in me a heart that is clean, pure, true and tender, and fill that heart with compassion. And let that compassion flow to every person whose life I am blessed to impact, so that they will know You, through me.”

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©TrudyMetzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

“God Told Me To…”; Sexual Abuse in the Name of God & a Million Bleeding Hearts

WARNING: This post contains sexual content, though not explicit, it may be triggering for survivors of sexual abuse. The purpose is to break the silence, create awareness, and offer hope to the Body of Christ …. Healing comes when silence is broken.

It’s mid-morning, and I’m in ‘my chair’, in the corner of the family room, listening to worship music, with tears literally pouring down my face.

It is the kindness of God, that ‘paces’ the things I am confronted with, and exposed to, so that I am not overwhelmed or consumed by darkness. Sure, there are moments I weep–I’ve had those off and on since I started into ministry–but I am never consumed. But every now and then, when I encounter abuse stories that leave the mind in shock, it takes me a bit of time to absorb and process. And that is what has happened recently…

In the last few weeks I have seen things, heard stories of things done in the name of Jesus that are absolutely crushing. As in, ‘squeeze the life right out of the chest’ kind of crushing. Things that, in all my days of ministry and talking with people since age 21, I have never encountered before, in my cultural background…

I’ve heard of things in the news that feel similar–like the Waco Texas case–when David Koresh, claiming to be a prophet, used and abused many women. The group went up in flames, on April 19, 1993 during an assault, at the end of a fifty-one day siege. Coincidentally, April 19, 2013–20 years later, to the day–the door began to open to the situation I currently am involved with, and continues to unfold.

And then there’s the Amish case, involving Sam Mullet, that comes closest to resembling the current case, because of the religious control and using that position to abuse. Somehow Sam managed to get women in the church to have sexual relationships with him, by playing the ‘women need to submit’ card. And they fell for it.

However, what I have encountered in the last few weeks is yet another twist of abuse and perversion.

Part of our purpose for a recent trip to Pennsylvania was to meet with a variety of people–ranging from therapists, to victims, to counsellors–to ask questions and learn more about this abuse. The things we learned were jolting and yet very helpful.

A Christian ‘therapist’ meets with clients and introduces ‘treatments’. It is a blend of various things, including massage, ‘counselling’, and some entirely unprofessional behaviour, disguised as ‘treatments’.

The various treatments are blended with ‘ministry’, creating a naive trust.  (Each case will have unique variations of how this plays out.) Part of the treatment releases memories and, with those memories,  intense emotions, making the client vulnerable. The therapist might pray (or prey, as the case may be) and speak in the name of Jesus, or God, as the treatment takes place. He or she may say ‘God has told me to do ____’–and then proceed to violate the person sexually. In some cases certain ‘techniques’ may be introduced as a beneficial part of releasing stress and ‘healing’…

And that stress release, in these cases, involves things such as internal massage–meaning vaginal massage and working in the genital area of the client. The release does not always involve sexual orgasm, but may well include it. I asked blunt questions of a few therapists and clients–with clients being more appropriately named victims– if the desired outcome or goal is sexual climax, and at least one was honest enough to admit that it that was the goal of the ‘treatment’.

The client is told that the treatment will bring release from stress etc., along with the ‘God told me to…’ manipulation. To which I responded, on several occasions, “Of course it will release stress, so does sex between husband and wife, the way God intended it to be.” Tragically, many marriages have lost that intimacy, making them even easier ‘prey’.

These treatments are taking place between male therapists and their female clients, and there are also female to female ‘treatments’. Some therapists maintain ‘pure intent’, and that they in no way intended to violate anyone, while others are very repentant, saying they didn’t recognize it at the time, but in hindsight it is very clear to them that they abused clients. Some try to downplay their sin, and place guilt on the victim for such vile and exaggerated accusations, while others are completely broken.

There seems to be an associated ‘blindness’ that prevents some victims  from seeing how violating this is, until we talk and ask a lot of hard questions. (Some ‘therapists’ claim similar ‘innocence’, which I will neither affirm nor deny, regardless of personal opinion. They stand accountable before God.) When I ask the victims bold questions, such as, “Was the outcome orgasm?” or “Did they touch your genitals?” and similar questions, they begin to see how inappropriate such ‘treatments’ are.

Only then, gradually, do some recognize to what extent they have been used and abused. (And how do they go home and tell their husbands that their therapist–whether male of female–brought them to sexual climax?) This leaves some victims trapped in denial, silence and secrecy, and others sharing only with a select few, not willing that the greater truth be exposed of the corruption taking place.

Some therapists eventually acknowledge or recognize that what they have done is actually sexual abuse. They have violated their clients, and have to take ownership for that, a process that takes time and what seems to be a ‘gradual awareness’, if for no other reason, then for the shock. Most will acknowledge, in hindsight, that they knew something was wrong, and yet they insist that it was not intentional sexual violation. Several have been honest about their sexual intent.

The result is that we have groups of women in various churches, gathering for worship on Sunday, and meeting for ‘treatments’ throughout the week, in what can only be called, accurately, group orgies. There are, at times, more than two individuals present, and the ‘technique’ is being practised by non-therapists as well. Or, in other cases there are those who worship on Sunday, where a therapist is present, and groups of women in the church have been ‘helped’ by the therapist, each failing to recognize that his ‘help’ is a violation of their very identity.

Another abuse, that is separate from those treatments, consists of counselling and using a ‘holding technique’ that has, in many cases led to adult women ‘breastfeeding’ each other. It is presented as a way of ‘healing’ early childhood rejection and abandonment, and representing God in that pain.

What I find in many of these abandonment, and rejection ‘revelations’–supposedly from God–there is no balance with God’s truth. The individuals receive the revelation of abandonment, rejection and countless other dark and depressing realities, but there is no balance with a revelation of God’s truth that they were loved by Him, accepted by Him, embraced by Him and even carry His DNA–their first identity.

These ‘revelations’ leave the counsellee empty, lonely, depressed and vulnerable. And that vulnerability, combined with the bond they develop with the counsellor, leaves them easily victimized. I can only presume that the ‘revelations’ are a lot of ‘half truths’ being used by the enemy for incredible destruction. When God reveals our brokenness, He also, simultaneously, reveals our worth and accepted-ness. Whatever dark thing He reveals, whether it is our victimization or our own sin, He also always reveals hope.

Any voice that does not reveal both sides of truth, any voice that does not offer hope, conviction, purpose, life, affirmation, invitation to something better, and a positive outcome, is not the voice of God. It is the enemy.

The enemy offers half-truths to take away our identity, our security. He’s always about condemnation, stealing hope, death of the spirit, beating us down, and guilt and shame.

That’s the difference between the voice of God and the voice of our enemy. It is critical that we recognize that difference.

At this time I am choosing not to identify the type of treatments being used, because I am doing in-depth research into it, and don’t want to speak impulsively. But if you recognize any part of this type of ‘treatment’, and carry the dark feelings of victimization, I welcome you to touch base. I have contact information for counsellors who are able to help, and some who are familiar with this specific abuse.

I am aware currently of approximately 30 victims, some of whom I have connected with directly, and I expect there are many, many more. I am willing to do whatever I can to connect both victims and perpetrators to appropriate help, and to mediate victims confronting their abusers.

To contact me privately, and share your experience or to request connections with counsellors, visit my ‘Contact Trudy’ page. The message goes to my private email address and will not be visible to the public.

It is my heart and my goal to help bring healing to victims and to expose this dreadful phenomenon taking place in the church.

Abuse is vile… an evil thing altogether. And adding a ‘God told me to…’ is disturbing, at best. It must break His heart. It breaks mine. Still, He offers grace, healing and forgiveness. Because that is Who God is. He is good.

And I wonder if that is why He created those little flowers that hang in clusters, called ‘bleeding hearts’. Is there one little flower for every heart that is broken in His name… And another for every one who breaks a heart in His name…

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And, in the end, do they all reflect His heart, bleeding for us all? Bleeding Love… Bleeding Hope… Bleeding Grace… Bleeding all over our wounds, so that we can heal, and be whole?

©TrudyMetzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

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Do You Know Who You Are?

NOTE: (Used by permission from client.)

She seated herself across from me, at the coffee shop. If walls could speak, everyone in the cozy little shop would have known her story. We had been there before. Her tears, her pain, her words, had all been spilled in this place, where coffee spills would be expected.

As her mentor, my goal is to help her find her voice, build confidence, and break free from the bondage that has had her trapped for many years.

It is humbling… even daunting, to mentor someone my senior. Some would say it’s inappropriate but I have had a mentor younger than myself, and it was good. Then, some time ago, when a nearly-seventy year old woman told me, “Today you became my mother,” I decided I would mentor people older than myself.

Sitting across from her at the coffee shop, I no longer concerned myself over age. She was stuck and insecure, and I was committed to walking her through that. Mostly we would explore her life story, and her faith journey. She is a believer, but struggling. In opening up her story to me, and by offering her grace, love and no judgement, we would work through the trauma of the past, establishing healthy identity. In her faith, we would explore her belief systems, and replace lies with truth.

“What does God think of you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, speaking with that, ‘haven’t a clue’ tone of voice. She said she had never really thought of it before. After some thought these words tumbled out…

“Irritating…. not worth the bother…. undisciplined… lazy…. weak… wimpy… ”

Since meeting her a few weeks ago, as a complete stranger, I have learned a few things about her. She has a heart of gold. She loves truth and justice, and has suffered extreme emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. Though ‘religious’, by all outward appearances, her perception of God when we met was so scarred that I could visibly see her spirit close when I said the word ‘God’. She could not go there. But her spirit was not closed in the sense of wanting help. She desperately wanted to get ‘unstuck’, and have help in her faith journey, by working through the deep spiritual wounds.  I asked if Jesus was ‘safe’, and He was. We started there.

But in working through the journey, if we truly want to be free, there comes a time when we have to return to the place of deepest pain, and start healing, and uncovering the core lies. Lies about who God is. Lies about how He sees you. Lies about personal identity. And that is what I was pursing in my client when I asked the question.

Knowing this, it didn’t surprise me when her answers were mostly negative. The one positive she gave me was, “He’d say I’m honest.” Even that answer fit with the rest. She was honest enough to say what she really believes He thinks of her, rather than answering with all the ‘right’ answers. We were talking heart stuff, not trying to pass an exam, and her honesty was key.

I wrote down the list as she gave it. And then I did something I’ve ever only done a few times… I wrote her a note from God:

Dear Annette,

I think you are irritating. The way you persist, on and on… It’s just not worth the bother. You are undisciplined… lazy… weak… and wimpy. Why should I care about you, or help you?

~ GOD ~

When I completed it, I laid it in front of her and asked, “Do you really believe God would leave you a note like that? She read it. Shook her head.

“I don’t think so either,” I said. “I think it would look more like this,” I said, placing a new note in front of her.

DEAR ANNETTE,

I can’t stop thinking about you…. Long before you were born, I wrote a book about you. I recorded every day of your life in it… It’s going to be tough sometimes. (You already know that!) But I can’t wait for you to get to the end…. then it will all make sense. It’s such a beautiful story.

BTW, I have a son… He thinks you’re pretty amazing too! (Worth dying for, He said!) He asked me to adopt you… So I did!

~ Love, Your daddy ~

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Tears filled her eyes. A God she longs for. A God she desperately wants to believe exists. The God of the Bible, whom so many of us have misrepresented–including me, far too often–but the only true God. The loving Heavenly Papa who sees our struggle and, rather than judging us, visits our planet, in the form of a little baby, to experience our pain. All so that He can say, “I understand. I will die for you.”

Slowly… One painful baby step at a time, Annette is getting to know this God. The note didn’t quote scriptures verbatim, but every message in it came from the Word of God. All I did was make it personal, and help her grasp God’s love for her, without the ‘oppression’ of a religious tone.

Freedom comes when we know God. (That’s in the bible too!) When we understand who He really is, apart from religious guilt and obligation. Apart from performance. When all we are, and all we have, is all we give, and He looks on us with love. Because Jesus died for us.

Freedom is being who God created us to be. When we know God, we see ourselves as He sees us, and we are free to be that person. Through Jesus, God restores all things, including our identity.

That’s the journey Annette and I are on. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see God’s children free from oppression and lies, free to know who you really are.

Today I leave you with these questions… How does God see you? What does He think of you? Are there some lies, deep in your spirit, about who God is… or isn’t? Lies about who you are… or are not? Are you willing to get to know Him, to see Him as He really is, so you can see yourself, as you are in His eyes?

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

It feels odd to write You a letter… Odd, yet appropriate. It’s different than prayer, or ‘just chatting’ about life stuff…. Strangely more personal, more vulnerable. Makes me wonder if it’s how King David felt when his prayer were written out for others to read.

There is so much in my heart. So much that I feel, but cannot say easily. I feel like You truly have prepared a table for me, in the presence of my enemies. They wave their swords all around, but their threats and rants fade into background noise, as I eat the spread before me, and gaze into Your eyes. How beautiful, and filled with love, those eyes are. I could gaze eternally…

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How different from the days before I knew You… When I thought of God as a harsh and distant ruler. One who judges quickly, irrationally, and rejects those who fall. The one who allows men and women to use, abuse and violate little children. How different from the days when I thought He loved me less for what I had been through, that He had even allowed it because He loved me less.

God. The very word made me cringe.

And then I met you, Jesus. You told me that you are God, that if I know and love You, then I know and love the Father. That You, Jesus, and Your Father, and the Holy Spirit are God. That You came to be ‘God among us’. And then I understood. You are kind, loving and healing. You loved sinners and even let harlots cling to your feet, weeping. No disdain. No rejection. And you invited children to come to You, to be near you. Safe.

That’s when I saw the real God. The God I longed for. I understood, then, that those who had represented God, as a harsh taskmaster, had misrepresented Him terribly. That those who used, abuse and violated children, also violated God. And those who covered for them, were no less innocent of the evil. And I knew that God must hate that violation.

When I saw Your healing touch, in Your loving hands, and heard His voice when You spoke… then I knew I had fallen in love with my Abba Father–my Papa–for the very first time. All those years of distant mistrust fled, and I fell into His arms, safe, for the first time, in His presence.

Oh, I know…. I’ve thrown my fits. I’ve had my tantrums. I’ve yelled into the night. I’ve screamed at the pain, and wondered why He would let me suffer…. why He would let others suffer so much more than me… I’ve raged against the corruption and injustices, committed in His name, by His children… I’ve all but shaken my fists at Him in that blackest of nights…

I’ve not been the ‘princess’ at His side, all dressed in frilly dresses, neat and tidy and proper….

No, it’s often been more like sitting down in mud puddles, while throwing tantrums, and staining that pretty dress….

But still I know that am accepted. Still my Papa loves me and delights in me. He looks at me, and, as if missing the stains on my dress, He lifts me into His arms and begins to sing.

Love…

Pure…

Sweet…

Love…

And He begins to dance, spinning me round, and round. There is no one else in the world, nothing else that matters… I am held and loved…

So, Jesus, my letter is a simple thank you. Thank you for showing me what love is. That it is kind, redemptive, healing and forgiving. That it lays down even life itself, for another–even those who don’t deserve it.

Thank you that You did not come to condemn, but to save. And thank you, thank you, for showing me who Your Father really is, by showing me who You really are. You bridged the gap between my heart, and His. I love Him more than life, and the fear is gone. In it’s place is reverence and awe, that He–so Holy and Just–would love me. I come reverently, yet boldly, to Him, knowing His sceptre of blessing is already extended, just waiting for me to receive it. He was a stumbling block in my life, but You made Him my friend.

In knowing You, I have met and known my Papa. And in knowing Him, I have found myself. All the lies that life–with it’s pain, abuse and violence–screamed so vehemently at me, are gone. They have lost their power. Because now I know that God is good, and I am loved. Those truths have made all the difference.

Thank you, Jesus. I love you!

~ one healed little girl ~

“You dance over me… while I am unaware… You sing all around…”
~ Lincoln Brewster, ‘Amazed’

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© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to The Preacher

Dear Preacher,

This letter may come as a surprise to you, since our paths have gone separate ways and I have no ongoing relationship or connections with you. (No doubt we both remember well how that went down.)

I hardly know where to begin… My thoughts may be best expressed with splashes of ink, representing the tears I have cried. How to unravel those thoughts and share with you what is on my heart?

If you have forgotten who I am, I was the teenager, who was bound, bent and determined to defy you, and all leadership. At least that is how you saw it. In reality, and not to justify rebellion, but to help you understand other teenagers like me, I was confused. I knew that breaking your rules would get me in trouble. And it did. But I also knew that then you would see me, that you would know how angry I felt. Maybe, just maybe, then you would reach out and help me.

I was angry for so many reasons that I cannot tell them all. But there are a few very important reasons I would like to share with you. First, I was angry because I was always criticized. My dresses were too ‘edgy’, always pushing the standard, always ‘riding the fence’, as we were often told. My hair was never pulled back quite tight enough. My heels were a bit too high–even the ones I was given by your daughter. I talked to freely, and wasn’t ‘meek and quiet’, the way a woman should be.

I looked around too much when I entered a room. (This was said to be flirtatious, attention seeking. But if you had grown up in my home, where at any turn you could get hit, where your father threatened to kill you, then you too would learn to always be aware of your environment. And you’d pretend to be confident too, to make yourself feel less vulnerable.)

Alone in my room at night, I would sit on my deep window sill, sometimes for hours into the night, just looking at the sky, and crying. Fearful. Any sound in the night made my heart freeze.

What if it was Jesus coming back and He too found me unacceptable? I so desperately wanted to know God, back then. Wanted so much to know I was in His family. Accepted. Saved. Loved. But for all my prayers and crying, I felt as though I was never good enough. Almost every revival meetings I stood to my feet, fighting guilt, shame and rejection. Maybe this time would be the magic moment. It never came.

The church sang “Almost Persuaded”, and I was that… Almost Persuaded that I would never make it. They sang, “Just as I am…” but I knew that ‘as I was’ would never be good enough for God. They sang, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling…” and somehow my heart knew it was true, but all I could really hear was the loud screams of judgement… that I was a failure, destined to never know peace.

Meetings, after meetings, I fought this battle. Always ending with the same desperate hopelessness. Little did I realize that my guilt was false guilt. The result of memories deeply buried in my subconscious, that would surface many years later. And only after coming to terms with the sexual abuse and violence of early childhood, and the abuse that later happened in the church, would that guilt and shame finally leave me.

Only then would I sit through revival meetings in peace, with the confidence that I am a part of God’s family. I don’t need to measure up. Yes, I give Him the best that I can, because I love Him, but my salvation does not rise and fall, on false guilt, or when I fall into sin. He loves me. Accepts me. I am His. And when He shows me that I have sinned, I repent quickly, because I love Him.

More importantly, He loves me. He thinks I’m so special that He sings over me with delight. (Zephaniah 3:17) He has even written a book about me! Having discovered that love, I have learned to love Him, and love others.

And one of the things that His forgiving love has taught me, is to forgive others. Because of that love, I forgive you.

I learned many years later that you knew of the abuse I suffered, and did nothing. You covered it, to protect your family name… because the perpetrator was your son. All the while you excommunicated congregants for bad attitudes, for listening to the radio, for not wearing the right clothes, among other things that you labelled sin. But the sins of your sons, and other church members, you kept carefully hidden for the sake of image. How that wounded my heart!

This taught me that God does not care about my pain and suffering, but cares very much that I look right and act religious. And it affirmed the belief that God loves other people more than He loves me. How desperately I wanted His love and acceptance.

I spent years trying to earn His favour before I finally fell to my knees and begged Him to remove every lying voice, and show me who He really is. I wept for days, as I read the stories of Jesus and the church in rest of the New Testament, as though I was reading them for the first time. And then I felt secure.

I knew other preachers who did not do what you did, and I thank God for their kinder examples. But you had the greater influence, and somehow I couldn’t see past the confusion you brought into my life, to see that Jesus is more like them…

So I forgive you. I forgive you for turning a blind eye to the abuse I suffered. I forgive you for judging me harshly, while protecting sin in your own family and household. I forgive you for spiritual rape… by using God’s name for personal agenda, and telling me that what you do is God-blessed.

And each time I remember what you did, I will choose to forgive you, again, and again, and again.

I pray that you will repent, find mercy and get to know intimately the true God… the God of love, justice and mercy.

Sincerely,
~ one broken teen ~

© Trudy Metzger

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