Spiritual Abuse Part 7_Scrubbing the Outside of the Cup (….Continued)

 We have to get back to the basics of the Gospel. God forbid mankind of eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil all the way back in the garden of Eden. For some reason we still sit at that tree, eating that rotting fruit, trying to figure out what is good and what is evil, instead of sitting at the tree of life, which is Jesus, and eating the fruit of life.

~ Merlin M.Troyer ~

(….continued)

The following evening found Wil & me, sitting side by side on top of Mom’s freezer, crying together and, in a way, discovering the truth of Jesus that runs deeper than religion.

The memories of the day are vague. The details, blurry. But the look I saw in Wil’s eyes, is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. The hope, the life, the purpose that he had the previous night were replaced by frustration, confusion and hopelessness.

When we parted ways the previous night, Wil had hair down to the base of his neck. Not long, not short. It wasn’t tapered. The church constitution said ‘hair must be short, tapered, and with sideburns no longer than the mid-point of the ear’, or something like that.

By the time I saw Wil, not twenty-four hours after his conversion, he was already ‘constitution approved’.  Someone had butchered his hair. Bad!

The previous day he had made it very clear that he would not return to the church of our youth. I told him Jesus is the answer, not religion, and all I wanted was for him to be saved, free. I didn’t care what church he chose.

One look and I could only assume he had changed his mind, so I took a playful dig at his short hair.

Immediately, the look in his eyes told me something was wrong. He was a young man completely emasculated, his spirit crushed.

“Want to go talk?”

And that is how we ended up, sitting on Mom’s freezer. Wil told me how, on arriving at our older brother’s home after church the previous night, two older siblings had set up a ‘barber station’ and told him to sit. In spite of resistance, they managed to get him to surrender to the worst haircut of his life.

My older siblings were merely trying to ‘seal’ my brother’s salvation, make it visually authentic for themselves. It was the way of the church, what they were taught, what they bought into. No one came alongside him to pursue his heart, to mentor him to wholeness. One quick cleanup of the external and all was well, as long as it stayed that way.

In its wake, this religious act left Wil deeply wounded. It is why, the following evening, he said, “Trudy, if this is what Christianity is all about, I don’t want it.”

He was looking for freedom, for life, for hope. And on Sunday night he found it, in Jesus. By Monday he almost lost it, through religious abuse.

This is not what happened when Jesus walked through town. When He showed up, He left a path of healing, of life and men made whole–not emasculated and purposeless. Men and women alike had courage, life and boldness when Jesus walked through town.

Why then, when religion touches lives, does it do the exact opposite? Should the church, the religious organizations that represent Jesus not have the same impact on lives as Jesus did? After their lives are touched by the church—the body of Christ–should men and women not rise up, have opinions, share boldly, love as shamelessly as Christ did?

Is it possible that we have missed the mark? Is it, as Merlin M. Troyer says, in the opening quote I share, that we ‘…sit at that tree, eating that rotting fruit, trying to figure out what is good and what is evil, instead of sitting at the tree of life, which is Jesus, and eating the fruit of life…”? Is it not our knowledge of good and evil that cursed us, that curses us still? That distracts us from Jesus and makes us spend all our energy scrubbing, washing and shining up the outside of the cup? And not to mention forcing others to do the same? Manipulating, bullying and coercing?

I look at Jesus and I can’t find, what religion teaches us, in His life, in His example. What if we were like Him? Imagine how the world would change… not to mention the church!

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to First Post In This Series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

Family Feuds: Redeeming the Moments

Finding God in the Chaos

Last night we had a situation in our home that stirred up chaos and turmoil. It felt for several hours as though all hell had unleashed its power on us. Out of respect for my children, I will not share details or names.

Having grown up in a home where unbridled rage had us all walking on egg shells, we have tried to make our home a safe place for everyone. Safe from violence and abuse, but also safe to be real, to struggle, to share feelings and express ourselves. What is stuffed down and bottled up has the most potential for destruction. What is spoken and addressed can be worked through.

Our home has an abundance of love. Each child has unique love language, unique needs and the desire to be validated. Hugs, tons of them, are what the youngest two prefer every day. Our older three children no longer like hugs all the time. We try to honour and respect that need for space, even though my love language is physical touch and hugs are an important part of communicating affection.

In parenting we try to set healthy boundaries while still encouraging age-appropriate independence. My guess is we err on the side of caution, without being totally over protective. We try to encourage our children, communicate with them and stay in touch with them through the various stages of their young lives.

Our home is normal. We have disagreements, spats, and days when we wouldn’t mind space and distance from each other. Sometimes the spats get out of control, though not often.

Last night was one of those nights for several children. We went out for dinner as a family and were enjoying ourselves when it started. A little teasing, a little antagonism here and there, gradually escalated to hostile behaviour between two siblings.  Tim & I took turns playing ref and coach, trying to get them to see things differently, getting in the middle when necessary–not literally, as it would have been rude to get on the table–and hoped for a peaceful resolution. When Tim went to pay, one of them had to accompany him. On the drive home, one sat in the front seat of the van with Tim, the other in the very back. I was in my own car, which, even though my A/C wasn’t working, was a pleasant and peaceful drive.  I played my favourite music, at my favourite volume—loud. (Some teenage habits die hard… especially if you lived through them in the 80’s.)

We dropped the children off and I joined Tim in the van to head out for about an hour on our own. Things between our ‘Cain and Abel’ were not entirely resolved, but there was no reason to be concerned. We’ve walked this way before and wouldn’t expect things to escalate to a dangerous level.

Sitting in the living room near the front window, when we returned home, was one of the two feudists, looking like a violent thunder-cloud in human form.  One of our youngest sons ran to me and announced that the other child had run away while we were out.

That’s a jolting announcement when you return home from a quick outing. My mother heart immediately prepared to abandon the rest of the world in order to find my child in the dark. Tim tried to assure me that there was nothing to worry about and if I waited, our child would return soon. Not easily detoured from my agenda, after calling out a few times, I jumped in my car. I’ve had friends lose their children for months at a time. It can happen to anyone.

I was barely out the lane when I saw a shadow running barefoot toward home down the sidewalk. Relief. Pure, relief.

I backed into the driveway, parked the car and headed for the front door. We were barely on the porch yet when our second youngest son flew out the front door, tried to grab his sibling. At first I thought it was a wrestling move—his way of handling the stress. Just as suddenly, he turned, ran toward me, threw his arms around me and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That is when I realized just how terrified he had been.  After we spent some time exploring the emotions and fears, saying bedtime prayers and doing good-night hugs and kisses, I asked if they were ok and ready to sleep.

They nodded. “But I was really scared,” one said.

“I know. It is scary,” I said. My own childhood memories were pushed aside, needing to deal with the situation, but I was very aware that this would be a trigger. I’ve learned to recognize the signs, to lay them aside so that I can be there for my children and support them in their own struggles.

Fighting for the Next Generation

Back downstairs the real battle was waiting. We had not yet heard the details of the story. We took them, one at a time, to hear them out and explored their hearts, the triggers, and their feelings about what had taken place.

Both of them have been bullied in school and the way they have chosen to deal with it, the vows they have made, played powerfully into the events of the evening.

We asked a lot of questions, helping them to understand their own responses but also helping them understand the other party’s needs and perception of what had happened.

Partway through the first conversation, our second youngest son reappeared, holding his Bible. He is quiet by nature, a very deep thinker. He held out his Bible and showed me the verses I had underlined when I gave him the Bible for Valentine’s Day.

Hope and release welled up inside of me as I read the verses, not to mention that my heart burst with pride. He had turned to truth, to his Heavenly Papa, when all seemed so wrong in his little world. He found peace and comfort in the Holy Spirit. I knew he would be ok.

1 John 4:16,18-19
16 God is Love… 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b]because He first loved us.

Something happened to my heart, as my little guy turned and disappeared, as quietly as he had appeared, and went back to bed. The tears started and would not stop. We have fought hard for our children, so that the chains of generational darkness I come from would not be passed on. That the violence, aggression and hate would end with us, and not destroy our children and the generations to come.

I was overcome with grief and yet just as powerful was the awareness that the love of God is the answer.

After we discussed the events of the evening, we asked three main questions, and together explored the answers.

  1. What do you think God thinks of you?
  2. What do you think Daddy thinks of you?
  3. What do you think Mommy thinks of you?

We followed the same process with the second child, affirming each of their identities as God’s children and ended with Tim and I each praying a blessing over each of them.

They apologized to each other and the older one went to the younger siblings and took ownership for the fear and trauma brought on them by the evening.

 

“Remind Me Who I am”   ~ Jason Gray~ 

When all was said and done, I thank God for last night—all of it—because it opened the door to doing battle at a new level for our children and the next generation. Everything that came out, we discovered, had been there for many years. It would have gone with them for life, but instead God allowed healing to begin.

Superficial ‘niceness’ does not compare to the bond that is created by going to the next level, unearthing the lies that are hidden there, and finding our true identity in God. I am so proud of my kids for being willing! I saw their hearts at a whole new level last night!

Don’t fear the hard times in family. Behind each battle lies territory that we are meant to reclaim. If we look beyond the battle to the reward, and dare to fight for our children rather than with them, it’s the best thing that can happen!

© Trudy Metzger 2012

I Am Loved, Accepted

(How Should We Receive One Another? Faults and all!)

Romans 15:7

Receive one another as Christ received you. This will honor God…

(How Does Christ Receive Us? Broken and Imperfect)

Titus 3:5-6

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Today I thought a lot about what makes us accepted. It all started with breakfast in bed. Well, sort of in bed. I came downstairs to find my two youngest sons already awake.

Todd, who is almost 13, was a bit disappointed to see me, but not because he doesn’t love me. “Aw… I was hoping Daddy would come down first,” he said. “I wanted to make you breakfast in bed.”

I told him I would quickly finish what I was doing and then go back to bed. This pleased him and immediately he set out to make my breakfast. He scrambled several eggs with cayenne pepper in—he knows I love spicy food so decided to be creative—and neatly arranged grapes, cheese and half of a pear on a plate.

I was just wrapping up what I was doing, and was ready to run back to bed when he decided to make a cup of coffee for me. I didn’t realize he has never used our Tassimo with the new disc holder so I didn’t offer any assistance. Almost instantly I heard a hiss and a sizzling sound.

Fortunately I was still downstairs and immediately I ran to the Tassimo to find coffee grinds everywhere and a mess on the counter. I cleaned it up, showed Todd how to use it and then went upstairs and pretended to sleep.

Minutes later Todd appeared in our bedroom, gently ‘woke me up’ and told me breakfast was ready.

Much picture taking and fussing later, I enjoyed a lovely meal.

Kordan, who is ten, walked into our room and disappeared into our closet. Moving a stool along the closet so that he could see the top level, he carefully studied my clothes. At length he arranged a selection of four tops that I could choose from to wear for Mother’s day. And in his favourite colours—three had predominant colours in various shades of blue, and one in red and black. I tried them on, one at a time, posing for Kordan so he could pick his favourite.

When all was said and done, his favourite one was a bit too snug and we had to go with his second favourite…. a top I don’t wear often. It’s one of those tops that I loved at the store and then it never quite made it to my favourite list. But Kordan gave it a ‘thumbs up’, so I wore it.

It occurred to me, as I thought about these special Mother’s Day moments, that sometimes our love for God is like that. We offer Him our service, broken by humanity, tainted at times by selfish motives. Our imperfect love is more about us than about Him. It’s like we serve Him coffee with grounds spilled everywhere, even in His cup. And the outfit we dress Him in is more to make us feel good, than to represent Him.

As a mom I was delighted with breakfast, even though it left a mess. I loved my outfit, even though it wasn’t my favourite top. I loved both of these gifts because I saw the love my sons poured into the offering. It wasn’t their perfect presentation that made their gift acceptable.

Only two things made these gifts so special this morning. They are my sons. That alone is enough. And their hearts desire was to bless and honour me. That was the true gift.

We struggle sometimes to see that God accepts us and loves us because we are His children. We fail and fall short and then fear rejection. We doubt His love and acceptance based on our shortcomings. When I lived my Christian life that way, it was all about me, and I missed the blessing of the unconditional love He offers His children. In my lack, I also placed these expectations on my children.

They say we live out in our lives what we believe about God, and there is truth in it. In the days when I felt God demanded perfect service, the mess would have overtaken the purity of the gift and my clothing preference would have overruled my son’s love. I would have been frustrated, maybe even angry.

How tragic to go through life that way and miss the wonder of the love in a child’s heart—messes and all!

The wonderful thing is that it’s never too late to change how we think. It is never too late to accept the purity of our children’s love. And it’s never too late to receive the love and acceptance God offers us, on His terms—Jesus—and not based on our perfection.


What adjustments do you need to make in how you see God’s love and acceptance?

© Trudy Metzger 2012