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~ T ~
That question. Why can’t I just shut up? I’ve been asked this question in various forms over the past several years, by a variety of people. I’ve been unfriended (both in the real world and on FB) because I won’t shut up. One woman, a victim herself, who claims it’s had no impact on her and “it’s not a big deal” had a most condescending way of telling me to give it up already and find something better to do with my life.
Here’s the thing. With my personality, my nature, or the way I was trained – (I don’t always know where the ‘born this way’ starts or ends, and where the ‘trained this way’ picks up) – but in any case I would rather shut up. Yes, you heard me. I would rather shut up and pretend that sexual abuse isn’t an epidemic. And I’d especially like to pretend it isn’t in churches and faith communities. But it is. And I can’t.
In part I’d like to shut up because it’s not a fun way to spend my life. And I like fun. I love laughter and doing fun things. And I’d rather do them all the time than to even once get my hands bloody and feet dirty in the messy world of sexual violence against children. I’d rather plant flowers and manicure my lawn and sit in my flower garden and sip coffee, tea and water all day long in frivolous conversation with happy people. (Okay…stroke the ‘frivolous conversation’ bit. I don’t enjoy that.) And eat fruit. Because in The Garden it was supposed to be that peaceful and nice. But we don’t live in that Garden and hell has invaded our worlds in ways our first parents never imagined when they took that bite.
So the thought of sitting in a garden chattering with friends, laughing and playing games is appealing. Not gonna lie. No one would threaten to sue me. No one would hate me. Everybody would love me. If all I did was sit in a garden with friends and never spoke another word of confrontation about sexual abuse and the agenda to cover up. Okay, they might hate me if I was super rich and if it was only an elitist group welcome in my garden. But if all were welcome and I simply served biscuits, treats and drinks, no one would hate me. Except maybe those who hate everyone and are always jealous. But mostly I would be loved. And that is my bottom line, based on my personality and who I am: I like to be loved and accepted. I am born for that. I am conditioned for it. Follow the rules. Don’t stir the water. Love everyone, and be loved back generously.
But I can’t shut up. And I can’t because every day children are conceived. Every day they are born. And every day they are molested, raped, brutalized and used. And every day I am aware that at any given moment, if I pause, a child enters the world, somewhere. And in that same moment another is being raped or molested in some way. And in that same moment an abuser, a church leader, a parent… someone, somewhere, is denying the horror that child lives. I cannot ‘un-know’ these things. They are as real to me as the breath I breathe.
But the real reason I cannot shut up is because I know there is hope for that child in spite of all that darkness and hell and trauma. And if just one child (whether an adult or still a child) hears that someone, somewhere is willing to fight for the truth and their hearts, then defying everything my heart longs for (peace, no conflict, Garden-kind-of-innocence, and to be loved by all) is worth it. Because that child might not commit suicide. That child might find the courage to heal and get help. And that child might not grow up to molest others, if that child knows that their story matters to someone.
So, go ahead, ask me if I can’t just get over it already, or move on or get a life. But first dare to picture the graphic truth of a toddler (male or female) being raped, an adult body forcing inside, and that adult getting away with it as a “member in good standing” because he said he is sorry. (Now recreate with a female offender). Too graphic? This is the reality of many children so we as adults better be able to handle it if we demand they live with it.
If you can physically step over that toddler, spirit torn and flesh bleeding, and keep on walking and literally ‘get over it’…. then send me your challenge to get over it and move on. But I can’t. And I won’t. Because I have ‘seen’ those little bodies left to bleed… I have seen them in the broken lives of struggling adults. I will continue to pick up those little bodies, wipe up the blood and bodily fluids that have left forever stains in their spirits – stains which remain, fluids which continue to spill, and blood which continues to flow from those scars for decades. And I will speak the love of Jesus over them, tell them who they really are and what they are worth. And I will confront boldly the dark sins hiding in our communities.
Because Jesus would. And He would say a whole lot more than I have courage or boldness or words for. And it wouldn’t be laced with an ounce of self-preservation or fear or wanting to be liked.
I invite you to speak up. Educate yourself about the truth. And fight for the lost children, stripped of innocence, and born into the silent sex-trade of what we call church and faith community.
Rise up. Join in transforming our communities so children are safe and offenders are called out and held responsible. Together we will create an environment where image means nothing and truth means everything. We need you. Even if the only ‘speaking out’ and ‘fighting for’ you can muster is on your knees in your room. The children need you.
~ T ~
How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it. There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it. She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again. Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.
Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.
Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…
Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.
So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.
And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.
Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.
Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be. Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.
This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.
And, this Mother’s Day, if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.
Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.
Happy Mother’s Day!
© Trudy Metzger 2017
Denominational barriers, in my opinion, are a bit like a certain proposed wall between USA and Mexico; we build the wall, and the other side pays. We’re in; they’re out. It’s a divisive ‘us v/s them’ mentality, when ‘denomination-as-an identity’ is what we focus on, rather than focusing on Jesus, and rather than blessing our neighbours who also focus on Jesus, but do it differently. That said, I’ve read several strong ‘anti-denomination’ articles and comments ranging from general anti-denominational rants to calling all use of denomination identifiers demonic, to healthy questioning. (Observation would tell me that those who are totally anti-denomination, are very ‘pro-my-belief-system’ and create the same barriers without the denomination name associated.) And it all made me think below the surface of this problem.
Isn’t the real issue from Whom/whom, or what we draw our spiritual identity? Is it from a denomination? From a leader? (dead or alive) Or from any other person or thing other than Christ? To whom do we look for validation and affirmation? Denominations are an unnecessary thing in and of themselves, granted, but I’d hesitate to call them demonic, as there’s no biblical evidence, nor current evidence that they are. But there’s plenty of evidence that they can be problematic. And that problem is old as the idea of Christianity and church. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…” they said in Corinthians, and Paul corrected them, to bring it back to Christ, and that is something that popularly ‘followed’ or ‘idolized’ spiritual leaders sometimes fail to do, as they watch their ‘tribe’ grow in strength in support of them, lifting them up rather than bringing it back to the simple gospel of Jesus. Good spiritual leaders will turn that ‘lifting up’ back to Jesus, not in false humility, but humbly accepting thanks and redirecting glory to God. Less than stellar spiritual leaders will absorb that ‘idolatry’, and as their name grows, the shift happens from Jesus to a person. (I would know… I’m “MENNOnite” by cultural birth, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t a spiritual identity.) And as that name grows and if the identity becomes about a person or a set of beliefs held by that person, rather than about Jesus, divisions are inevitable. But the problem isn’t about the name, it’s about the position it is given, and the division it causes in the body of Christ.
That divisiveness is not good. But it goes deeper than denominational name, doesn’t it? Is the root not a baser thing than that? A thing of selfish ambition and fear of losing position if we don’t feed and absorb that place of being held high, or having our beliefs held high… even higher than Christ? We forget that the ‘positions’ we are given in spiritual leadership are sacred callings, and they are servant-hood; an invitation by God to do His work, and when He has called, He preserves our calling if we trust Him and humbly turn the hearts of people to Him. This is gracious spiritual leadership, honouring ‘the Christ’, whether with denominational ‘titles’ or not. And I have known men and women of great ‘position’, wealth, and wisdom, who have walked humbly with their God, and whose names hold significant ‘presence’ when referenced, yet always they hold their hands up, redirecting to Jesus, the worship, as did Peter and Paul on the streets, as told in Acts 14. These are men and women of various denominations, or no denominations at all, but they are true heroes of faith, and true spiritual leaders. Because spiritual leaders always lead the way to God; they are never an end in themselves.
I will grant it, I don’t like the whole ‘denominations’ thing much, and find it particularly unnecessary as a frame of reference as to what ‘kind’ of Christian I am. I’m either the Jesus kind, or I’m not one at all. But I can extend grace for the idea of it, because it dates back to the beginning of the church, from what I can tell, though often associated with cities, and now associated with beliefs. I don’t think it will keep people out of heaven, so I come back to the argument that strong labeling or condemnation of denominations seems a bit over zealous.
Revelation addresses unique church identities well, pointing out that each has something to offer, but with areas of deep need for transformation. So I question whether ‘ridding the world of denominations’ is the answer, or even possible. Rather, tearing down the invisible divides we create by holding high our own positions, or this person or that one, rather than lifting Jesus high… now that’s a mission I’m into. Because when Jesus is lifted high, people are drawn to Him. And when He is invited in, the demonic flees and people are made whole and the body of Christ is made whole, not divided. We humans tend to focus on solving a problem so the Christ can be portrayed accurately and we try to rid ourselves (or each other) of the demonic to invite Jesus in, but the reverse is the answer most times; when Jesus is invited in, the darkness scatters. Darkness cannot exist in the light. And Jesus does not fear that darkness. In His darkest hour, He opened His arms wide, welcoming the whole world into grace.
And that’s the problem with us… We tend to cross our arms and close our hearts, but Jesus opened His arms wide, and His heart wider. If we stop ‘fixing the problem’, and rather invite a broad shift in focus away from the denominations that exist, and away from the people who lead them, and collectively lift Jesus high, and walk in the way of His love, transformation will come. Barriers will come down. Walls will crumble.
Announcement: For those interested, the cover of my book, Between 2 Gods, just came out this week. Last night I set up a Facebook page where you can join, and be part of prizes and giveaways that will be announced after the book is released, March 3, 2015. I am going to try to be creative about prizes, and go beyond giving out free books… so don’t miss out! On the BETWEEN 2 GODS page you can also get updates and share your thoughts and comments, or ask questions. (Click on the photo or the red link to visit the page.)
It’s happening! It is really, truly happening! The dream I dragged around, from place to place, at age twelve– in the form of lined-paper-leftover-school-books, hoping one day to publish my very own book–has become a reality, at long last.
I mentioned it casually, a time or two, in past blogs, I believe, but now we are doing the countdown. I’ve spent much of this past year writing my book, and now, here we are, only 45 days from the release date. That’s six weeks and three days. I’m sure I could find the minutes and hours if I wanted to do a Google search. But, hey, who’s counting? There are so many things I need to do, between now and then, that sitting here ‘counting the time’ isn’t really an option. Every now and then, however, it hits me in the gut, that feeling of anticipation, fear and everything else in the mix: It’s almost here!
And I am most definitely excited. One doesn’t have dreams at twelve, that come to life at forty-five without feeling that excitement. The part of the dream that I would never have imagined at twelve, is the content in my book: my life story… the stuff I was living, right then. I tell it as it was: raw. Though i have tried to buff up the edges a bit, and withhold a bit of the harshness without altering the accuracy. Of the people who have read it, the response has been positive and encouraging, but feedback has consistently come back with the truth that it’s a lot to take in. Captivating, they tell me, yes, but jolting.
I’ve been honest in my telling of it. Most readers will go through a whole gamut of emotions. One person, who does not come from a background of abuse, wrote about the anger she felt. She raged at abuse, done in God’s name. It was the fist such response and it shocked me, and scared me a bit. Some wrote how they couldn’t stop laughing at certain places, in spite of harshness in other places. Yet others expressed grief and sadness. But all found the thread of hope intertwined with what could be a very dark story. And then my heart was happy!
I would also caution that my memoir is not ideal for a young audience. While I have written discreetly enough to disguise particularly heavy scenes, relating to sexual abuse, it is still too much for the young reader. If I had my way about it, no one under eighteen would get their hands on it without supervision, if at all, But, then, the Bible is full of some pretty difficult reading too, so I will leave this in God’s hands. I know I read things in the Bible, knowing good and well it was x-rated information and, in hindsight, I only wish I would have had someone safe to talk to about it. So, more than withholding my book from those under eighteen, my prayer is that they will find someone safe to talk to, particularly readers who identify with my story, and work through their own pain. And, given statistics, that identification will be the higher percent of the population, either from personal experience or a loved one close to them.
The previous paragraph, that’s a ‘warning’ that some of my readers will almost certainly be offended by some of the content in my book. To be honest, it was a battle for me too, to tell it as it really was. So much so that one day I said to Tim, “That’s it! I can’t do it! The book is off!” Tim calmly supported me, and gave me some time to reconsider. When I ‘recovered’, I spent some time asking God to help me say it in a way that is not destructive… to tell the truth, but not harm or destroy anyone in its wake. And then I found peace. The verse, in Titus 1:15, plays in my mind: ‘to the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled”, and I realize it is not all on me.
If you find yourself offended by the content, I’m glad. You should be. I am too. And when it makes you feel sick to your stomach, imagine the little toddler who lives it, whose very spirit is offended by the darkness, and who has no voice to fight back, and no one to tell about it. Never mind words to express it. (If I had told someone safe at three, the things I saw and experienced, I might well have had a different story! But God had a redemption plan!) Unlike you and I, who get to make adult choices, these toddlers and children simply absorb that offense, deep into their spirits, and carry it with them through life. I plead with you to be offended for their sake, and educate yourself for their sake. And please don’t tell me, or others like me, to not tell the truth. Don’t silence us, because it silences the voices of others like us–babies, toddlers, children and teens–who today suffer what we suffered back then. And then fight for them. You can yell at me, if you need to , to express your frustration with my bold telling of my story. I’ll work through that pain. But they have no words, no voice and none who will hear them. Many, if not most, lack the gifts I have–people who care and listen, and a way to form words, in black and white–to get the darkness out of their spirits.
Instead, it tangles itself, like untamed tentacles, around and into the very fiber of their spirits and identity, forcing them to believe that ‘this is who I am’.. that ‘this thing done to me, defines me’… ‘this is all I have to offer’… and so they remain in bondage to that pain. Not long ago, again, a young woman looked at me and said, “I start to feel as though I was made to be used”. That’s the darkness speaking! You were made for so much more! We were made for so much more! I was made for so much more! That truth has to become personal, for freedom to come!
And that’s the darkness against which I cry in my memoir. That’s the voice I try to share–the unheard toddler, the lost teen, the wandering adult–because they cannot speak. And with their cry, told through the eyes of my own experience, I tell my journey vulnerably, offering Hope. I share with the world the wonder of the One who never lost sight of who He created me to be, even when I had lost all sense of connection to Him, or the child He created.
It has not been easy, telling the truth and reliving it, but I’d do it again, no matter what lies ahead, knowing it will bring hope and freedom to even one person. Just one. If a million strip me for it, and one writes a ‘thank you for helping me’ note–and someone will–then I am committed to thanking God for this incredible opportunity.
You, my friends, have been a source of encouragement through 2014, as I plodded through the ‘muck’ of that writing process. You carried me through your notes, your prayers, your love. And, speaking of prayers, a few of you wrote to say you pray for me every single day!! Can I tell you how much that shocked me and blessed me?! To pray, now and then, is truly a blessing! To pray every day… every day!… That’s breathtaking. Thank you!
My prayer for each of you is that God will bless you in ways beyond your wildest imaginations and expectations in 2015. For many of us 2014 was a difficult and painful year, for various reasons. Some of us it was the emotional strain of life–in my case ministry and writing–for some it was the loss of jobs, and finances, and for quite a few it was loss of family and loved ones. I could list a lot of friends who suffered such loss in 2014, and whose grief spills generously into 2015. Yes, it was a hard year…
My prayer is for blessing, peace, healing and restoration in the midst of the ‘stuff of life’, for each one of you! Thank you for blessing my life! My prayer is that in 2015, more than ever, I will be a blessing to you!
~ T ~
Get updates on Between 2 Gods (Memoir scheduled for release on March 3, 2015)
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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…
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?
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Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”
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Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series
Having been granted permission by the local Independent, for whom I write a monthly column, I am now posting my columns here, on my blog, rather than having the editor upload them on their site and me directing readers there. It’s easier for everyone, all around. That said, the following is my July column, published Thursday, July 3, in the Elmira Independent.
There is no end to barriers for healing in victims of sexual abuse. The layers seem endless to someone caught in the apparent time warp of trauma and past pain. No amount of ‘appealing to logic’ and pulling victims back to the present makes that trauma disappear, or convinces him or her, that ‘that’s the past’. It is in peeling back layers, revealing truth, and correcting faulty belief systems that freedom is brought within grasp of these tormented souls.
To go through the many layers, and try to expound on each one, would produce somewhat of a text book of information that would take years to write and no one would read. So I will touch only on guilt and the need to protect people we love from truth.
A wise man—one considered to be a great prophet by some, a rebel by others, but better known to me as the Son of God—Jesus, once said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We misquote it frequently as ‘set you free’, but He says, ‘make you free’. Inevitably we humans look for ways to be set free from burdens so that we can released from them and not face or carry them. But to ‘make free’, is a different thing entirely. Freedom becomes a thing that you ‘are’ in spite of burdens…
That in mind, I see many victims of abuse carrying the burden of protecting loved ones from the truth. The fear that ‘it’s all too much and they won’t be able to handle the knowing’ or ‘it would be devastating for my family’, is a powerful guilt these victims carry when they think about telling family—especially parents—of the crimes committed against them in childhood.
But all the while, as they struggle to protect their superiors, this dreadful role reversal—of a child protecting parents–creates a sense of distance and isolation, pushing the victim further into despair. At the time of the event, a child may have been a toddler, a teen, or somewhere in between. A time when parents protect their children from harm. Or try to. Yet, somehow these children, at that young age, find themselves carrying experiences they think their parents, or other trusted adults, cannot handle knowing.
This message is reinforced when victims of abuse are emotionally, spiritually or psychologically ‘punished’ for coming forward. The bullying that goes on, at times, when a victim speaks up, is shameful. It is tempting to encourage the silence out of a desire to protect victims from further abuse and victimization. But to remain trapped in one darkness to avoid another is merely empowering the darkness.
So when a victim asks me what he or she should do, I fall back on the words of that wise man, ‘The truth will make you free’. And the truth will make the people around you free too, if they will receive it. The rest will keep wrestling to prevent light from shining into the place of hidden things. They will wrestle against the truth for personal agenda, one place or another, whether a particular victim speaks up or not. The only thing that changes is that speaking up draws the wrestling into the light.
I warn that it could get messy. Really messy. And encourage using discretion and wisdom in the process, but I never encourage silence. It is only fair that they know the cost for one level of freedom could potentially cause as much fresh pain as the old pain they release. Still, the healing from the past is empowering and strengthening in the present, as victims find their voice and establish boundaries.
A victim of abuse, while exercising sensitivity in what is said, and how, should not carry the burden of protecting adults from trauma they’ve carried since childhood. That is simply not appropriate. Someone said recently that ‘these things are not appropriate to discuss and should not be talked about’…
My response to that dysfunctional belief is this: Are we actually willing to say that we, as adults, cannot bear the reality that our children, as young as two.. four… six-years-olds, carry through life? How is that?
If children must suffer the mental, psychological and spiritual consequences for these crimes, we adults better be willing to give them permission to talk, and someone be available to hear the gory details. To forbid it is the most selfish, abusive and irresponsible act, next to the original abuse.
In a nutshell, it’s time we adults grow up to the strength and resilience of toddlers, so that victims are not isolated, and forced to carry the horrific memories alone.
Truth makes people free. And truth protects the next generation.