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It’s Mother’s Day. And the emotions across the nations, wherever this is celebrated, range from peaceful, to defeated, to devastated, to lonely and confused, to hate and grif and everything beyond and in between. These emotions belong to the mothers. To the daughters and sons. And to the husbands. And we could add many more emotions… many unnamed emotions, both positive and negative.
Today is one of the best days. It is one of the most painful. It is forgotten. It is monopolized and commercialized, each market pretending to cater to the love of mothers, and helping those closest to her express that love well. When in reality it is about competing for sales and pressuring the husband, son or daughter to look the best they can, all so the particular industry – whether flowers, chocolate or binoculars (this was my delightful gift today, for bird watching) – can get their ‘cut’ on this emotional experience. And the mothers, most of us (I think… I hope…) really care little about that commercial expression. Or maybe it’s just a few of us, but mostly I doubt that. (Though, I dare say, Tim impressed me beyond words with the binoculars. I love birds! They bring me so much joy!) Even so, life is far to beautiful, too ‘real’, and too raw – both good and painful – for such a thing to begin to touch on the reality of motherhood.
The forgotten mother spends this day in absolute grief and defeat, having failed to win the hearts of her children. She compares with other mothers. The ones whose children all come home, offering hugs and love and affection – accompanied by gifts of flowers and breakfast in bed. She compares with the mother of the pastor who preaches a sermon honouring her, and his wife, because she’s just amazing and has it together – she observes her at church and see her children all behave ‘just so’; each playing some significant role in the function of the church. And she wonders how she went so wrong.
She recalls her failures. She remembers raising her own children, and the love she felt. She remembers the fear she wouldn’t do it right. She remembers yelling at her children and falling on her knees, begging God to fix her, to help her be a good mom. To “please, please, please help” her be the mom her children need to do well in life. And failing. Again. And again. And again. She remembers feeling forgotten by God… If He loves her so much, and wants the best for her, why won’t He fix whatever is broken inside and heal her, for their sake. Forgotten, abandoned by God.
She remembers her own mother, distant and disconnected. And wonders again, how the lot fell on her to never know the love of a mother, and fail at showing love to her children in a way they needed it, or winning the love of her children. She compares, and grows continually more defeated. The mother who was a drunk and on drugs… she knows that mom. Her children are home. The mother who left for years and came back. her children surround her.
On this Mother’s Day, she chooses to stay home. Alone. Her husband left her long ago. If not in body, then in soul and heart. The pain of facing all those ‘together’ people at church is just too much.
But she doesn’t know that the pews are filled with other mothers who feel just like her. The pastor’s wife listens to him preach and forces herself to stay composed. Last week he berated her, told her he wished he’d never met her, that she’s an unfit mother. Any godly pastor’s wife would support her husband, and be understanding of his porn addiction. Ministry is hard.
She doesn’t know that the woman whose children all come home with gifts and breakfast in bed, and hugs and kisses, do so out of tradition and obligation. They fear being cut out of The Will if they don’t cater to her. They’ve had this threat before. And on Monday they have their appointments with counsellors to work through the aftermath of a day filled with the same dysfunction.
She doesn’t know that even the mother who did it well, whose children are genuinely close to her, even she questions herself at times and compares. Because no mother is anything more than human and flawed. There is no perfect mother. There is no perfect child. There is no perfect husband. There is no perfect relationship. Each one carries scars – acknowledged or not acknowledged.
I usually write a Mother’s Day blog, but truth is, I don’t like writing them. I think of all of these things every mother’s day. Year after year. Every Mother’s Day I feel a range of emotions. I think of my ‘childless mother’ friends; those whose hearts are so motherly and the desire to be a mother so strong, yet never being blessed with children. I think of their grief. I think of the mothers whose babies died, either in miscarriage or through stillbirth or later in life, and who are left with empty arms. I think of their grief. I think of mothers who have abandoned their children, or been abandoned by them. I think of their grief. I think of my own mother. I think of my closest friends. I am keenly aware of my own story. And I think of the many reasons why Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for a large percentage of our population, while some live in the thrill of the day. And I don’t know what to write, what to say, that both honours mothers and acknowledges this reality.
As I contemplated all of this earlier this morning, I thought of Mary the mother of Jesus. And I wondered, Mary, did you ever feel like a complete failure? Did you ever wonder why God allowed you to be the mother of Jesus? And I wished I could pour her a cup of coffee and talk with her. Maybe if God’s mother told me she felt defeated, maybe I’d have something to write about that might speak to us all. Maybe if she said she felt like a failure the day her 12-year-old disappeared and they had to scramble to find him. Like, seriously! What mother loses her child in a crowd like that? Never mind… Jesus’ mother. And it happened to us too, at a store. Twice. Where one of our kids took off and scared the life out of us. And what mother speaks with pride of her homeless son who doesn’t even have a pillow to call his own? Right… that was Jesus’ mother again. He had no place to call His own, no place to lay His head. Jesus was a wanderer. He was despised by many. Rejected by the masses. He was eccentric. He disrupted the world, the religious community and broke the rules.
No pastor, if that was his son and he felt the mother was the influence, would stand up and preach how proud he is of how his wife encouraged her son in this path. No mother would feel deserving of honour, if image and church standards were the measuring stick. And without an awareness of His higher purpose, not one of us would compare ourselves with her and her Son and say, “I wish my son had turned out like that! I wish I had been His mother.”
A mother recently recounted her experience of praying for her child who seemed to be struggling deeply but not open to communicating. Over the years she had told God, probably a thousand time and more, how sorry she was for letting her daughter down, for failing to understand her, for being so messed up and broken that she was oblivious to what was happening to her daughter, right in front of her. And she had begged Him to pursue her daughter’s heart. Whatever it takes for her to heal, do it. Anything at all. And then the most excruciatingly painful thing happened. (The details of which I will not share). And this mother went to God, angry and feeling deeply betrayed by Him. “How could You do this! How could you let this happen?” Over and over she prayed, screaming at Him in her heart, wishing she could get up on His chest and beat God up…. literally, physically beat Him up. He deserved it, as far as she was concerned. After months and months and months of praying for her daughter and begging for some restoration, it seemed all hell had broken loose, and rather than get better, things got much worse. For several days she ‘beat up’ on God, offering the same broken prayer of anger and blame, until one day when she ended that prayer with “I asked you to heal her and pursue her heart… not THIS!” And in a moment of grief, she paused in stillness, and listened through tears as He spoke, “What do you think I am doing? I am pursing her heart. … And I am pursuing your heart too.” The I Am had spoken.
So, mothers, today don’t compare yourself with others. Trust the I Am to heal… to pursue and to restore. That mother’s story hasn’t changed, and the circumstances remain as they were. But God is pursuing her heart, and her daughter’s heart. Healing may not come in this life in the way a mother longs for and prays for, or in the way a child wishes. But God will pursue hearts. It’s Who He is and what He does. And remember that the ‘evidence’ you see – the smiles, the flowers, the many symbols of celebration – don’t tell the story of the tears, the fights, the prayers, the anger, the lostness. Nor do they tell the story of the I Am who is the Restorer. Cling most tightly to the latter. You are worthy. You are imperfect, yet Perfectly Loved. You fail, but are not a failure. You are forgotten today, but not abandoned.
Today you are honoured by your Heavenly Father who blesses motherhood, who forgives failure, who redeems broken stories and restores losses. He delights in you, and rejoices over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17). He called you for a purpose before time began, and that purpose cannot be silenced by your failures or any other thing; the I Am has spoken (Jer. 1:5). And His word, from the beginning of time, have never been empty and always bring Life. Invite Him into your joy today, and invite Him into your tears and grief. He loves you. He receives you. He blesses you.
To be blessed is to by filled with joy. This Mother’s Day, be blessed, no matter what your story.
Happy Mother’s Day!
~ T ~
~ T ~
Currently, the Cleason Martin case in Durham Ontario, shows how effective going public with evidence of sexual harassment can be. In the comments (in that link), family members are not covering for him, but are actually asking victims to come forward. (Who does that?! I’ve never seen such a response before! I’ve encountered all manner of extremes of defending perpetrators, even when there were eye witnesses to the crime, but this? All I can say is, good on them!)
My heart is sick for the family – wife, children and grandchildren – but I also applaud those who are taking a stand against their father’s crimes and sins. I try to imagine his wife’s grief, and my heart squeezes a bit tighter… it must hurt like hell, that betrayal. I don’t support or engage in dehumanizing perps, or name-calling, and my heart is never for vengeance or destruction; it is for truth and justice, with mercy. However, I will not judge the family as they go through this process and pick up the pieces from the wreckage of their father’s sins. They need space to grieve and work through the betrayal, and time process their anger without my judgement and without being marked by the father’s sins. (I know this too well. I am the daughter of a pedophile… or child molester, whatever term you choose.)
I am all for exposing perpetrators and their crime. And, seeing how effective this is, I wonder if we couldn’t be quite effective in exposing other perpetrators. Especially upstanding ‘spiritual’ people who align themselves with ministries to look good, and use them to gain access to vulnerable women and girls. They attend events, offer financial support, reach out to hurting girls and women, and then tell how the hurting are flocking to them. They portray a deeply spiritual ‘presence’ and then turn around and make sexual advances. If this is happening to you, or has happened, I urge you to speak out. If you have experienced sexual advances, whether verbal or physical, speak out. If your children have been enticed with money or gifts, be aware that this is predator behaviour. And if you have accepted gifts or money and feel bound to silence about sexual advances or sexual assault, because “surely I am the only one… a slip in the moment… a weakness in temptation”, I urge you to come forward. These are often predators who will sexually violate numerous (or many!) victims, and each one thinks he or she is the only one, because the perpetrator is so spiritual, “surely they wouldn’t…”
Odds are high you are not the only one, but rather one of countless victims.
When confronted, these perpetrators apologize quickly and profusely, desperate to know they are forgiven. This is how they convince themselves they have a ‘pure heart’ and good reputation, that they are good and righteous, even while they continue committing sins and crimes against the vulnerable. They also ask for forgiveness to silence you; if you speak, others will hear about it and their cover is blown, so forgiveness is vital to survival.
Their greatest fear, I believe, is for victims to find each other, though they would never call the people they’ve used ‘victims’; they have so thoroughly convinced themselves there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing. They have convinced themselves, too, that it is but a slip in the moment, too strong a temptation to resist. And, besides, they have boundaries; they would never rape someone. They stop short of rape, seldom (if ever) going beyond groping genitals and fondling breasts or buttocks, or possibly exposing their own genitals. But seldom if ever, do the go to full penetration (aka rape). So it’s not a ‘real crime’. Grabbing breasts, and buttocks and touching… they tell themselves these things are virtually harmless. And by repenting quickly and apologizing immediately, they convince themselves of their own spirituality…. Even if this means repenting several times a day for the same sin with different victims…
They don’t see the suicidal struggles of their victims. They don’t hear the tears cried alone at night. They don’t see the loss of trust in God… The God whom their attackers represented, sometimes weeping with their soon-to-be victims, praying over them, gaining their trust… and then violating them. One… and then the next… and the next and the next…
We, too, are accountable for the suffering and spiritual trauma of these victims.
One victim is too many. But turning a blind eye, time and time again, is inexcusable. Completely inexcusable. If you have been warned about these behaviours, take them seriously.
God has called me to be there for them in the aftermath, and it is a calling I carry at times with trembling, as I watch the deep agony of victims whose hearts are betrayed by those who pretend to represent God.
God forbid that hundreds of people see the signs and turn a blind eye, as victims turn their hearts away from God because we failed to pay attention. That is blood on our hands. I cringe at standing before God one day and giving account for it. It is inexcusable, the silence and ‘overlooking’ – because the abuser came to us weeping and repentant (some, time and time again) and therefore we must forgive. It must stop. That is not repentance. It is manipulation. If you are aligned with such predators, do the right thing. Break the alliance and expose them. God will not bless the alliance, and the cost to you will be greater than you could imagine, if it comes to light.
You are welcome to email me and I will help you. Alternatively, if you’re uncomfortable sharing with me, feel free to ask, and I’ll forward contact information for law enforcement professionals who can help you. I have established contacts in USA and Canada who will offer such support.
In any case, the abuse must best stopped. We are no longer voiceless.
~ T ~
One of the worst things about being sexually assaulted is the power the offender has, both in the moment of the attack and after. Especially if that offender ‘presents well’ spiritually or socially (or both), in which case he/she has even more power, and the word of a victim is easily dismissed. Especially where there is little evidence, or where victims didn’t keep evidence they had, and present with anger and ‘issues’. No one wants to believe that good citizens and spiritual men and women would victimize the vulnerable, so it is easier (less messy) to protect the offender and write off the victim.
And often victims think they are the only ones, but truth is, when offenders self-report, they often have over 100 victims, and the average offender has 117 victims. (To those who only have one or two, for heaven’s sake don’t use this to make yourself feel good. One victim is 100% too many).
If you’ve been molested, raped, or sexually assaulted in any way, report it sooner than later, whether it is rape, sexual groping, perverted phone calls or any other thing that victimized you. The more influential, powerful or ‘spiritual’ the person presents, the more critical this is. The more you fear ‘No one will believe me’, it is especially important to document, as soon as possible and with as much detail as possible. People who do these things should not be in ministry or leadership. And the ‘spiritual’ ones will make it appear as though people are flocking to them in droves for spiritual support, when in reality they manipulate things behind the scenes to entice the victims and then abuse the ones who are most vulnerable. If you are a victim of such a person, odds are high that you are not one, but one of many victims. The average offender has 117 victims. This number is based on self-reporting on how many victims offenders in prison have. Think Larry Nassar. That is highly skilled victimization, and I know of others who are as skilled and still moving through churches but until victims rise up *together*, they will not be stopped. So let’s do this. Document, document, document…
You can do this by:
• Save all communication – screen shots of conversations, emails, copies of voicemail etc, copies of pictures sent etc (Keep *everything* that is evidence.)
• Mailing yourself a letter that is date-stamped. Don’t open it. Store it in a safe place.
• Report it to police, even if you don’t want to press charges. At least it is documented.
• Email someone you trust who will keep if confidential… or even email it to yourself.
And if/when you are ready, report it. If you need help reporting, find a trustworthy support person and do it. If you don’t know of anyone who will support you, email us at https://www.generationsunleashed.com/contact-us, and we will do our best to support you. You don’t have to do this alone. (Where feasible, we will physically have someone present with you as you report. I’ve traveled many miles to support a victim reporting, and if possible, will do so for you, or where we have contacts in your area, will connect you with someone trustworthy and supportive.)
By the time a powerful person becomes your church leader or political leader, if the sexual assaults are not previously documented in thorough detail, exposing it will re-victimize you more likely than it will stop them from moving into power. Or it may do both, and you both lose credibility because there’s no evidence that the assaults were previously documented. And, let’s face it, false allegations do happen, when there is an agenda. They are documented as far back as the story of Joseph in the OT, and by the time people rise to positions of power, they are usually surrounded by those who idolize them and see them as victims of heartless attacks. And in their eyes, you are the villain, fighting with hate and anger against the Kingdom of God, or against the beloved politician or church leader.
So document. Document. Document. Keep a journal. Talk to a counsellor. It is a tragic thing when evil hides behind the guise of goodness (wolves in sheeps clothing, as they are often called in New Testament) and the victims are publicly slaughtered. Jesus has some choice words for this type:
Matthew 23:27-28, 33
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. […]
33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
The grace of Jesus is great enough for every sinner, but the one who hides sins and crimes behind the cloak of spirituality casts that grace aside and invites condemnation in its place.
Victims, document, report, speak out as you are able. Together we can help stop this madness and crimes against children.
Offenders, I encourage you, don’t hide your sins and crimes. We (the church) have paid a high price for hidden sins among us, and have carried the curse of criminals being applauded and lifted up while victims are shamed and blamed. Just as in Joshua’s day, when innocent men fell dead because of the hidden things under Achan’s tent, many innocent victims today have turned their hearts away from God because of what you did against them, betraying their trust and blaming them. Your hidden sins have pierced the Bride of Christ through with a sword and left her bleeding. I urge you to repent, turn yourselves in, and bring an end to the haemorrhaging church. There is grace for you… there is forgiveness, but you cannot and will not access it as long as you hide behind a facade, and protect yourselves from the consequences while you let those you’ve wronged carry the burden of your sins in silent shame.
~ T ~
Recently, in the middle of a crazy situation involving sexual abuse, it struck me how blessed I am in our marriage. I told Tim that. Again. Our marriage isn’t not perfect, and we’ve had moments of ‘gasping for air’, so to speak, just to get through. Times it felt like we wouldn’t make it. But, thank God for grace, determination, forgiveness and the kind of love that fights through when feelings are weak and life is hard. And thank God Tim is so respectful. I’m blessed.
I’m blessed that with all the sexual perversions I see, that I can still look Tim full in the face and think, “What a sexy man of God!” (And I love his beard!) I add the ‘sexy’ part, not flippantly or even sensually, but because I truly am blessed that God has protected that ‘appeal’ in spite of all the sexual corruption I encounter when supporting victims. That is a real gift, because God intended sex to be a wonderful part of marriage, and I’ve heard of people becoming asexual when working closely with this kind of thing, or becoming so repulsed that it wrecks their marriage. So I am thankful that Tim is every bit as appealing to me today as he was 24 years ago when we made our vows.
The other thing that struck me, though, is that I see men as generally good-hearted, respectful and kind. A compliment gets a thank you. And a man who holds the door open also gets a thank you. There are gentleman in this world, who remember chivalry, and they deserve my respect and appreciation. (I also understand why some men are hesitant to hold the door). Even in my teens, a rebel among other things, I appreciated a sincere compliment. (That said, when compliments were sexualized, I responded with the lift of a finger. Just being honest.) When I think of the men I know and/or encounter, I feel respected and my general perception is that most are not corrupt to the core. I think most struggle sexually, with few exceptions. And those ‘exceptions’ are, no doubt, still tempted but have learned to turn their eyes away. Being tempted doesn’t make a person perverted or evil. It makes them human and dependent on grace. Falling into temptation also doesn’t make them perverted and evil. It makes them human and in need of grace. Excusing such behaviour, that’s a different ball game.)
That all got me to thinking about what it must be like to be a man. A few men in one community, church or club, can make the whole seem perverted and not trustworthy. If a sex predator aligns himself with that church, club or community to gain credibility or access to vulnerable people, then the whole lot become a bit suspect because victims really are not sure about their affiliates. Using those affiliations to gain public trust and respect of people and get access to vulnerable people is pretty low down. Because it makes them well buffered and virtually untouchable, and leaves victims 100% voiceless.
That is, until a few find a voice… and more find a voice and eventually the truth is revealed. But by that time the church, organization or ministry – and especially the other men there – will pay a high price for not having been more discerning and for (apparently) turning a blind eye. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t look the other way. Sometimes they were just too trusting.
Being a man suddenly isn’t that appealing. (In spite of the fact that, as a little Mennonite girl I desperately wanted to be male and thought surely God could still do a miracle and transform me into a male. If he can make babies from scratch, surely turning a girl into a boy wouldn’t be that hard. Boy, am I glad He didn’t, because it would be hard being a male in today’s world.) It isn’t appealing to me, but it is honourable when stewarded well. The strength of character it must take to be a good and honourable man, when those who are brutal and abusive shape how women see you, must be immense… and discouraging. That really struck me. And I thought about men, how I generally view them, and realized that percentage wise, they have a very good track record in my life.
In my ‘close’ experience the greater percentage have been kind, gentle, empowering and value their wives, and respect women in general. And then there is that small percentage who are cruel, controlling, abusive and demeaning. Some with strong religious affiliations and presenting a spiritual image, others with no such claims. But men, in general, are blamed and shamed, because to many victims all men represent what was done to them, so they trust none.
I was blessed. Men invested deeply in my healing. As much, if not more than women. But they played a different role. They didn’t ‘hold me’ to ‘give back’ what had been taken. (That wouldn’t have worked!) Sure, a few of them gave me healthy hugs, but they pointed me to Jesus, to God as my heavenly Papa, for Him to restore that brokenness, rather than trying to be that for me. They showed me I am valuable and worth caring for. They listened, but they let God be my Hero. And most of all they loved and respected their wives and daughters.
So, to every man who is honourable (even if imperfect), to every man who does not take advantage of vulnerable women, and every one who honours his wife and respects women in general… to every one who handles his sexuality well and does not use it against women and children: Thank you. (Even if you struggle and are tempted.) I respect you. You are noble. You are the unsung heroes of our time, and I can only imagine how hard it must be to not bow to shame and defeat on behalf of the abusers. I encourage you, hold your heads up, and don’t give in. We need you. You are the healing many of us need. We see you love your wives and children well. You give us hope for our children and grandchildren.
To honourable men: I am sorry I even need to write the blogs I write, speak out about the abuse…. I’m sorry for how that must, at times, make you struggle with your manhood. Know that I honour you, and I believe there are more of you (by far) in my world than there are abusers. And if I am wrong and you are outnumbered, I honour you yet more.
As always, and with deep honour for these men…
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2018
EDIT: (Since posting this and the previous blog, I discovered several websites doing the same thing we started here. As a result, and since there is no good reason for a few of us to do the same thing, I am updating the info for reporting abusers. Please forward all requests to the contact info here: https://www.themaplist.org/#contact and check out the list already started here: https://www.themaplist.org/the-map-list/. This group is posting publicly, which we were not prepared to do.)
Our goal is not to bring destruction, but healing, hope and accountability. This accountability includes accountability to the laws of the land, and also includes a willingness (even preference for) working with Restorative Justice initiatives where victims voices are heard and included, and where offenders are offered support to help them overcome their addictions and remain accountable to a team of people upon release from prison.
We are not targeting ‘our people’ to destroy anyone (not even the culture), to shame anyone (not even the leaders or the culture), but to give victims who are terrified to speak out a safe place to be heard. The power under which many victims function is suffocating. And in a purity culture of silence, the shame and consequences for speaking out make it all but impossible for victims to break free and find a voice. Advised to take medications (by leaders, family and friends) while held in that silence, is deadly. The spirit dies. The soul dies. The mind goes insane. Or numb. Everything goes numb.
Medications have a place, but they are not the answer, and the number of victims barely surviving, popping pills but speaking to no one, is tragic. It is also unnecessary to suffer in silence. If you are a victim, I encourage you to find the courage to speak out. We will support you as much as possible in helping you find the supports you need. Those who want people ‘on the inside’ (leaders and lay people in the conservative Anabaptist church) we can connect you to these leaders. We trust them, and we are confident you can too. Those who wish for support only outside of the culture, we will honour that.
But you need to know, there are conservative leaders (none on our team, as that would prove intimidating for many victims) whom we know are 100% supportive of you and who will fight for you. They are amazing, godly men and women who are real ‘Jesus people’. Yes, in their straight-cut, plain suits, and black hats, and their wives in cape dresses, white coverings and black bonnets… they are there rooting for you and fighting for you. They pray and they care. They don’t ever need to know what you are going through (nor will we disclose your info to them) but you need to know that they are among you. That is true in Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and beyond. We are not asking you to trust them, or have any interaction and (it bears repeating) we won’t leak any info to them. But you deserve to know there are those who sit in your pews who bless the work we are doing, as Generations Unleashed. (Those who oppose and hate people who work with sexual violence in the church are often (eventually) exposed for sexual sin and/or hiding it for family or friends.)
God is moving on the inside… He has heard the prayers and cries of many, many wounded and their families, and is keeping His promise in Habakkuk, that he will do a thing that we would not have believed if someone had told us. Early in ministry, a conservative Mennonite woman sent me those verses and said God showed her that in relation to our ministry to victims. I still have her note. And I still believe that God is doing just that.
To this end, I pray…
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2018