On Rejection & Whistling Cheery Tunes…

It has become a thing of habit, posting daily, but also a thing of thinking about the forgotten ones, the rejected ones, and the abandoned ones. Like the lepers in Bible stories, the religious people of today see many victims as ‘untouchable’, fearing their stories… fearing the exposure of their own pain and hidden secrets.

While the fear is understandable, the result is that many victims feel unnecessary rejection, and those who reject them out of fear of facing their own pain, miss out on the wonder of freedom.

Other times victims are rejected is a result of the person(s) needing to protect an offender. To acknowledge the pain of the victims would require acknowledging the consequence of hidden crimes. And in these cases, the offenders miss out on the help they need, and again victims feel rejected. But in this case it is the best interest of victims for these kinds of people to stay far, far away from them. The poison they offer is deadly, and serves only to further victimize and violate the hearts of wounded people. The rejection still bites, if the victims believe it is about them, but it is a gift.

When victims tell me about people rejecting them, my instinctive first response is compassion. And on the heels of that, I explain that rejection is never about them; people are far to self-serving to reject us because of us. They reject us for their own benefit, their own comfort, or their own self-preservation. They hate us because what we stand for or represent offends something in them. They speak evil of us because they have to defend themselves. And the more vehement their attacks or rejection, the more likely it is that our stories and our voices come too close to home, and their controls are threatened.

Again, in cases where it instills fear in victims who are hiding their stories out of shame, I offer nothing but compassion and understanding. And where it is the fear of some perpetrator being exposed, or needing to acknowledge those crimes, I have compassion but all I can say is thank God they stay far away. There is grace in that.

And as for the pain of rejection, it remains for those at the receiving end, and it is hard for most not to take it personally. Especially at first. With time, experience and seeing these patterns, it’s easier to let it ‘run off’ and chalk it up to the realization that these people have issues. But until then, it is a draining experience, and one that takes time to heal from and work through.

Counteracting rejection requires intentionality. Surround yourself with at least a few good and supportive people whom you can trust. Step outside of your own pain and story; a constant and repeated reliving of it is difficult even for those who love you, and does you no good. Find a mentor or counselor who will help you work through the hurt, and help you refocus so that you recognize you are not the problem; these people have issues. And, because I write from a Christian perspective and for Christians, get grounded in your true identity and who you are in Christ. The childish or fearful responses of those around us hold little weight when we know who we are, and Whose we are.

With the love, acceptance and approval of God, the Creator of the Universe, the rejection of a few fearful, angry, bitter or selfish people pales in comparison, and their approval means nothing.

Finally, if it is a close relationship, rather than some distant judgment pronounced by judgmental people who haven’t bothered to hear your heart, take time to have a conversation. If you have wounded them, hear their hearts. If they are afraid, encourage them.

But if it is that distant heartless judgment from those ignorant ones who are hell-bent on bringing you down–and especially the religious ones who misrepresent Jesus and who have not heard your heart–just pick up your boots and keep walking. Whistle a little tune, breathe in the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss your face… and celebrate Jesus, life and hope.

It’s a good day.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Why Canada Should Welcome Every Refugee

She walked into Tim Hortons, just after I ordered my coffee; I stood off to the side, waiting for it. With nothing better to do, I entertained myself with people watching, discreetly of course, and she inevitably caught my eye. She looked like she came from ‘that’ part of the world; Middle-East, somewhere. I noted she didn’t quite look the girl taking her order in the eye, quickly glancing down as she dug in her purse. Then up again, but not quite in the eye. She looked shy; nervously uncomfortable. We got our drinks at the same time, and she was now a few steps ahead of me, and seated herself at a lonely little table, tucked in beside a wall. I had a booth not far away. Her eyes, I noted, looked sad or ‘down’. And then I caught myself wondering, What would it feel like to be that woman, to be anyone from the Middle East right now, in a restaurant full of Caucasians… or to look like maybe I was ‘one of them’, regardless of my birth place? And I concluded it must be unsettling, even frightening or shameful; shame for ‘my people’ and atrocities committed by them. My heart was stirred with compassion, and I wished for a moment I could ask to sit with her, but I had a client coming in minutes, and besides, it would be beyond awkward for both of us….

****

The title of this blog works much better as a question than as a statement. Why should Canada welcome every refugee? Why should we? Why should USA, for that matter? Or any other country? The truth is, no one should. Because national security is a matter not to be taken lightly, by leaders of a country. And our leaders should think it through carefully, before making decisions.

Emotion-driven ‘help’ and hype-driven ‘compassion’ isn’t compassion. It’s guilt. And it’s not about the refugees. It’s about us. If a moment of emotional response, at seeing a toddler washed up on shore, is the sole driving force for me–as an individual or leader– to say, “Bring them in by the masses!” Then we are utterly selfish, not to mention entirely foolish. Because we are merely trying to assuage our guilt by an act of kindness toward someone who doesn’t have the luxury of peace we have.

And guilt-drive act of kindness that could well have been custom designed to captivate Western Society, according to some. And it’s true, we don’t really know the real story behind that drowning. Children drown in Canada, USA, and around the world, and it is always possible that such a thing could be used for manipulation, to gain access, or to draw compassion. We may never know that. But regardless of the details, a child drowning is tragic and yanks at every parent’s heartstrings, every aunt, every uncle, every grandparent, and pretty much any compassionate human being. And it should stir us. It better.

And even if, worst case scenario, it was a manipulative act and a set up to draw compassion from Western culture–as numerous individuals have surmised, wondered and suggested, and a question that wondered through my own mind that very first news broadcast–it doesn’t make the crisis any less real. And it doesn’t make the need any less legitimate. Syrians are suffering and displaced, and they do need help. But the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and logistics of it are not matters for impulsive action, from the perspective of a country. World leaders will need to exercise great wisdom in making the right call. And only the future will declare which avenue was the ‘right’ one, for good outcomes. Whether Putin’s locked and guarded gates, or Canada’s open door, or any leader in between, only time will tell.

I’ve read opinions pieces by both secular and Christian writers, declaring colliding views with confidence, certain of one move or another. I would suggest that certainty of anything, in a time like this, is as reliable as blowing smoke rings. They are most certainly there, until they are not. And then you have to make new ones. Just like bubbles. Blow them, and they exist, until they don’t. Likewise with the ‘right moves’ in this… until they are not.

Not one of us can be certain of the outcome of this thing. And our country’s leaders, like every other country’s leaders, must determine what is the best action for those under their care and protection as a nation, while extending compassion. My hope is that they don’t throw caution, common sense and discernment to the wind, and that they act in the best interest of each country while not abandoning the truly needy and destitute.

So what is the Christian response at this time? I hear some cry out that the country should close all borders–surely God would–and others that it should open them wide, even at risk to our country. Maybe it is reflective of a broader societal shirt, and broader shift in Christian thinking, maybe not, but at the very least it rings of insisting that leaders–Christian or not–are not called first to protect responsibly, those in their care. And there seems an inability for some to separate the responsibility of the state, from the responsibility of each individual Christian, and Christians collectively, to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, and to love sacrificially.

And when I think about how I would want to be loved, I can say with certainty I would want to be rescued from the hell some suffer. But I can say with the same certainty that I would want it done wisely so I don’t land in the same hell somewhere else. Otherwise I have gained nothing and they have lost everything. Wisdom is crucial in the ‘how’, and I pray our leaders use that wisdom and discernment in this process.

I certainly don’t see grounds for the place some Christians are taking it, to declare that Jesus meant we are to rescue every refugee across the world, and if we are not compelled to try, then we have somehow failed to love as Christians should love. That’s a popular and unreasonable judgment on social media these days, offered by some driven by emotion and the need to put everyone in their own box of what love is and should be.  We are created uniquely, each one of us, and we love differently. But we can love well, differently. Some of us love by swinging hearts and doors wide open, throwing caution to the wind, with a short sustainability, and others love in more calculated (and sometimes more responsible) ways that are sustainable longterm. We need both views for balance.

The opposite response, of hate and closing our hearts to compassion is not the solution. What I do know with certainty, is that my role as a Christian is to be like Jesus. That is not a matter in question. Whomever God brings across my path, is who is my neighbour today. and Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour, so that is the person I will love in this moment in time, while I am with them, and embrace as my neighbour.

Should that person violate my trust and put my life at risk, I will never regret having loved them. And should they prove to be a friend, and one with whose heart I connect, and whose values–if not beliefs, religion and lifestyle–at the very least offer respect, then I will also never regret having loved them. And if they meet Jesus in me, whether they ever embrace Him or not, I will never regret having loved them.

If love means requires me to ‘lay down my life’, then that is what I need to do. And if it means to jump in front of  train track to save someone, at the risk of my own life lost, I need to do it. And if it means putting boundaries in place to protect, then that is what I need to do. Any particular and strongly touted ‘belief’, when taken to it’s ultimate end, falls flat. Some who declares ‘open the borders wide’, will not be the one to open their front door and displace their own children. And yet, that belief, taken to it’s inevitable end would require just that. And some of us would. Who is the true hero, and offers the ‘best’ love is something time will tell….

And keeping in mind that even Jesus didn’t disregard danger when confronted with it. He removed Himself from those wishing to stone Him, in John 8:59, rather than choosing to stick around and prove His love. There has to be a time for common sense, even in love. The same Jesus who said, “I send you out like sheep among wolves, so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We’ve got the ‘harmless’ down pat, some of us non-resistant ones, but could focus on the wise as serpents part. And some have the ‘wise’ part mastered, but wish to resort to fighting with the sword.

Love is a powerful force. It is a Kingdom of God kind of force that does not fully make sense to the human mind, yet is not intended to function without thought. And each of us must express in the moment-by-moment, as believers, in the place where we walk with God today, if we want to live in the Way of Jesus.

As for Canada, and what it should do…. until I am Prime Minister–which currently looks to be a bare minimum of 4 years away, since we just had an election–it’s not my call to make. As for personal opinion–which I’ve mostly avoided throwing out there strongly–I do have strong opinions. They are somewhat true to the tone of this article; help the Syrian refugees, but at the same time use common sense and caution in the process, which I hope and (somewhat) trust my country is doing. All risk cannot be eliminated, but closing all doors to helping the most needy is a bit too self-preserving for me.

And functioning out of fear goes against my nature. From the first day, when the little boy washed ashore and I saw the hype, I said, “Even if it is a ploy to get inside the hearts of people, and thereby into our countries… and even if it is for ill-will by some, I would not say we should not help them.” But I am, by nature, a risk taker. Somewhat calculated, until I’m not. Then I just do what I believe to be right in a spontaneous moment. Which is why I even tackled this topic… because ‘calculated risk’ told me it is not wise to go there. And then when several friends called me out, I put on my mudding boots, and now here I am with my head stuck out, waiting for the hail to begin.

Nonetheless, for now I will focus on loving my neighbour… Including the Christian who sees it differently than me. That love is the only thing that will convince the world that we are the disciples of Jesus. And that love seems a lot harder to exercise than loving the refugee in a far away land. It seems less noble, less ’cause’ worthy. But it is the trademark of our relationship with God through Jesus. All other actions taken, from a faith perspective are but a racket, and a loud noise, if we don’t first exercise love in the Body of Christ.

****

The young woman left Tim Hortons. I was lost in a world of my own by that time, hearing a client’s heart; her story. Compassion easily shared with someone from my own culture, the Mennonites. We are a strong group, with powerful beliefs; some that we would be willing to die for, others not so much. And we’re divided on which ones are worth dying for, when it comes right down to it.

My day went on, as usual. Except for moments when her face flashed through my memory and I again found myself wondering, again, What would it be like to be one of them, or look like one of them, but with no desire for bloodshed and hate…. What would it be like?

And compassion awakens again in my heart, and I whisper a prayer for wisdom for our leaders to do the right thing, the compassionate thing, and also the wise thing.

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Love Heals

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We avoid entering the messy stuff of people’s lives because we fear we won’t know what to say, what to do, how to ‘help’. Trauma and its aftermath frightens us, because it is hard to watch people suffer, and stand helplessly by, with nothing practical to offer by way of support.

In the past five years I have seen things I didn’t know were possible, of people in pain struggling against it, and wrestling with darkness and fear. I have had more moments of questions without answers than ever in my life.

And if there is one thing I have learned when working with victims of abuse, it is the importance of embracing awkward moments, and being comfortable with not knowing what to say. Because in those moments, all the victim needs from me, is to sit quietly and know that I care. Words will come later, when the time is right and the words bring healing. But in moments of deepest trauma, when the mind cannot even absorb words, caring presence is all that matters.

The silent support of one true friend at a loss for words offers more hope and comfort than a thousand right answers from a heart without compassion. Love heals.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Homeless Hearts, Living The Gospel of Jesus & Healing from Abuse

“I had a rather exciting event,” I said to Tim, soon after walking into the kitchen, having returned a bit later than planned. “And it cost me just over $14!” I added a bit later.

“Let me guess,” he said… “You met a homeless person and took them out for a meal?”

“Ah, you know me too well!” I answered. “But you’ll have to wait until I write a blog about it to find out if you are right.”

*****

She was short and hunched over, at the far side of the register, wearing an old coat, multiple clothing items, layered. Unkempt her framed her wrinkled face and empty eyes spoke of hard times. Her crooked fingers fumbled awkwardly with something.

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A man stood beside her, younger and more put together, bagging a few grocery items. I wondered at the unlikely pair, as they stood there in close proximity. And then he walked away, leaving her behind. That’s when I realized they were not together, and with him gone, I saw her more clearly. She fumbled with money; several stacks of coins were held together by plastic wrap, others were loose in a plastic bag. In front of her lay her meager purchases; a bit of fresh fruit and not much else.

The girl between us, young–maybe in her early to mid twenties–had purple hair, multiple piercings and gorgeous eyes and smile. A smile she had shared generously when I first appeared behind her. She reminded me of our daughter’s one friend; sweet, yet edgy, and all around a likable girl. She looked at the old lady fumbling with her coins, not appearing the least bit impatient.

The cashier a middle-aged woman with compassionate expression, watched too. She repeated the amount the old woman owed her. It was $14 and change.

The scene unfolded quickly; much more so than writing it out or reading it. And in that moment, when the clerk told her what she owed, I realized the little old woman was trying to scrounge together a few dollars for groceries. Until that moment I thought she was tucking things away, trying to get her money in place.

“Excuse me,” I said to the cashier, “is she trying to pull together enough money to pay for her groceries?” The cashier nodded, “Yes.” The young girl looked at me quizzically. “I would like to pay for that,” I said. It wasn’t some halo moment, and didn’t feel like a big deal, really. It just popped out of my mouth, and the compassion I felt when I said it, was familiar.

I was four again, and mom was in the house with not enough groceries to make a decent meal… then five and the Mexican gypsies appeared, holding out empty bowls, begging for soup. We had so little, still my mother with a bit of fear and fretting offered them each a ladle of her hard work; our meal. Those things stay fresh in the memory forever. And they always come back in moments like this, or when I see a homeless person begging. And I don’t really care at that moment how they got there, and why they are in such a destitute place. I just care that they know someone cares,  and I do something if I can.

The cashier looked momentarily shocked. “You’re sure?” she asked.

“Yes please,” I said. “I’d like to do that.”

The old woman shuffled over then, holding out her fistful of money, just as I prepared to insert my card, and with the cashier trying to explain, “She’s paying for you.” The old woman couldn’t speak English and stared in bewilderment, eyes squinting at me. I motioned to her groceries, pointed to myself and said, “I will pay.” She raised her hands in question, as if to ask a wordless ‘why’. And I couldn’t explain, so I put my hand on my heart. She did it again, and I put my arm around her shoulder and said, “Merry Christmas”. It was all I could think to say that she might understand as a gift. Still she squinted at me.

The debit machine acted up and things were taking a bit longer. I looked at the pretty young girl with the purple hair, who was next in line between us and said, in true Canadian style, “I’m sorry.”

She put her hand on her heart then, and said, “Oh no! Please…” Not knowing what to say, but clearly not bothered by the disruption.

The old lady then tried to hand me her money, but I pointed to her and said she should keep it. She still said nothing, but shuffled back the her bags. And I returned to my place in line and started to put my groceries on the conveyor. I heard the clerk ask, “Are you okay? Are you crying?” And I looked up to see tears in the cashier’s eyes, the young girl choking with emotion, saying she was okay, and a little old woman still staring at me with disbelief in her squinted eyes.

She shuffled out the door, tears in her eyes too, and I blew her a kiss and said, “bless you”, because I didn’t know what else to say or do as she waved one gentle, timid farewell. And the emotion hit me deep inside for a moment, remembering that time long ago.

I don’t know who said what, but somehow between the cashier and the young girl, they started talking to me, and it all took me off guard. Finally the cashier asked, “Do you know her” And my answer was, “No. I don’t know her. But I know about poverty.” And they asked if I had been ‘like that’–presuming they meant homeless–and I said, “No. But my parents….”

I didn’t go into any detail beyond that, but knew my parents had experienced such desperate times that they had lived in a barn with missing barn boards when my second oldest sister–first daughter of dad’s second marriage–was born. Times were hard, many times, in childhood.

The young girl looked at me, immediately after paying, placed her hand on my arm and said, “Thank you for making my day!”

It all happened ‘without a thought’, really, and kind of made my day too. There was the subconscious awareness that Jesus has really blessed my life, and if I can bring practical love into one life, now and then, I am honoured. And I expect this woman, like Rick, another homeless ‘friend’ I’ve met several times in Kitchener, will wander through my heart from time to time for many years to come. And I will pray for her just like I pray for Rick, not out of religious duty, but a sense of deep personal gratitude for the goodness of God in my life.

And it strikes me that as individuals who have suffered sexual abuse we often ‘fumble through our bags, and wallets and paraphernalia’, trying to pull together enough resources to survive.  We see it in front of us, the nutrition we need to survive and grow strong, but most of the time we haven’t the wherewithal to acquire it on our own. So we pull together what little we have, and pull through another day, just getting by emotionally.

Then, one day, someone sees our struggle and looks beyond the exterior, which can be quite unpleasant and certainly in many layers, and they reach out to meet our need. We awkwardly accept, feeling unworthy but deeply moved by the compassion. And we walk away from those moments, recognizing we have been forever changed.

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Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Your Feelings Are Valid & Open the Door to Healing

Western culture, particularly stoic Christian culture, has robbed us of the gift of grieving, and the release of weeping. The wailing wall created opportunity for ‘realness’ in agony and pain that would land the average westerner in a mental institute, or at least labeled. Trapped emotions, suffocated feelings and buried pain contribute to emotional breakdowns, depression and anxiety. When we learn to feel, to weep, and to grieve, we begin to heal…

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…and out of our healing, life flows to those around us, offering permission to feel, permission to grieve, and permission to heal.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Why I, a Conservative Christian, Sold Bridal Gowns to a Lesbian Couple…

lesbian coupleSome years ago, before the hype about LGBT rights and the wars over it were so intense, I worked in a bridal shop. As a stay-home mom, with five children ages 4 through about 11, I wasn’t looking for work when it happened…

How it started that I went shopping for bridal gowns with a few soon-to-be-wed friends, on several occasions, I don’t recall. But after visiting one bridal shop numerous times, the owner approached me and asked if I’d like to work Saturdays part time. She had observed me when I brought friends in, and felt I would be a good match.

Starting a week later, I tried my hand at sales in bridal wear and did quite well in both sales and connecting with customers. Trying to get inside the head of a bride is… well, interesting and dangerous. You don’t want to go in too deep; just enough to understand her wants and needs.

One thing that had not even crossed my radar, is the potential of a lesbian couple coming in for dresses, or how I would handle such a thing. It never occurred to me ahead of time…

Two women came in, each trying on dresses. One was easy enough to ‘fit’; she had that ‘perfect’ bride body. The other was more difficult, with a figure much harder to accommodate. (Why are most dresses made for fairytale brides, with fairytale waistlines when we come in all shapes and sizes?) Option after option was turned down. Finally we found one or two that landed on a ‘maybe’ pile, but she asked us to put them on hold while she continued her search elsewhere, as she was still unsettled. And with that the two friends were off.

As the door closed behind them, the owner commented that they only have a few weeks until their wedding,  and went on to explain that as a Catholic, albeit not the most devout one, she didn’t agree with gay marriage.

“How do you know they’re lesbians?” I asked. I hadn’t heard either of them mention it. The owner said this was certainly not their first time in shopping, and they had told her on a previous visit.

I thought then about the dresses on hold…. I thought about my own faith… I thought about my family and marriage values…

And when Sarah returned with her soon-to-be-bride in tow, I pulled out the dress, helped her with fitting, and marked the alterations. I spoke with her just as I would have, had I not known. And when all was said and done, Sarah had a dress for her gay marriage.

That was me. That was my response. And if I was confronted with the same scenario today, I would probably do it the same way again. And I’d think about my faith, and my family, and my marriage values and probably breathe a silent prayer for her. And when they would leave, I would hug them like I would hug every other enthusiastic bride who just bought her dream dress… if they initiated such a hug. And I would do this because I don’t feel it violates my faith in Jesus, or undermines my (very strong!) family values, or challenges my personal belief in the Jesus-definition of marriage.

Even so, having responded this way back then, and assuming I would again, I think not one of us should be forced against our wills, to do that which violates our conscience, and therefore I support Kim Davis. (Personally, I would probably resign if it was that offensive to me, but that, again, is me. It’s obviously not Kim.) She was elected, if my understanding is accurate, to sell marriage licenses before this conflicted law was imposed on her, and her conscience doesn’t allow this new requirement.  Of course, when her term is up, this can be revisited and she will likely be looking for work elsewhere.

Personally, while I chose to help the lesbian couple, I also understand those who choose not to for conscience sake. And while I understand those who choose not to do as I did, I also understand how ignorant that must seem to those who see the world through a very different lens than conservative Christianity. Whenever every person is offered freedom of speech–or people assume they have the right to be honest–there will be a collision of beliefs and someone will be offended.

Both sides have valid points. As a believer I don’t expect the world around me to live up to what I believe, and am not surprised they are upset when such standards are imposed on them. I expect their beliefs and lifestyles to be different than mine, and I expect them to want to be ‘respected’. By the same token, those with a conscience against certain things want to have their religious freedom granted and conscience respected. They’re as determined to live at peace with their consciences as the homosexual community is determined to have their rights met. Inevitably, this ends in stale-mate pretty much every time. One is unwilling to offend their conscience, and the other often hell-bent on being served by that particular person or organization. (And whether, for the Christian, it really is ‘for conscience sake’ or seizing an opportunity to ‘make a statement’… or whether, for the gay couple, the determination to be served is driven by that particular business or individual being the best in their field, or whether it is intended to create a scene, is a matter only the individuals can speak to.)

My personal goal is to be charitable and compassionate, even when it is unpopular in my Christian culture, and always to remain true to my conscience and never compromise what I believe, for the sake of comfort, approval or the popular vote.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Sexual Abuse, A Pair of Sunglasses & my friend Danette

A friend from days gone by in the Midwest church, whom I consider a friend still, though we don’t really see each other any more, messaged me. She still had my book ‘Growing Up Amish’, which I had loaned her, and how would be the best way to get it back, she wondered, or when would it suit for her to pop by.  I was coming that way a few days later, I told her, and would stop in for it.

It was intended to be a quick  ‘stop, grab a book and go’…. I rang the door bell, and waited for Danette to answer, expecting her to have the book in hand. “Do you have time for coffee?” she asked, instead.

There were things I could be doing, I knew that, but it had been years since we sat and chatted and I really do love conversations with her, and her heart… it’s beautiful. Like, really beautiful. And even though our lives have traveled worlds apart and we don’t talk often, when we do, I trust her with things I don’t entrust to everyone.

“I’d love that!” I said, ignoring that niggling that I had things to do.

We sat for the next while–it must have been almost two hours, or more–and talked. Danette is passionate about helping women; mentoring them in faith and just being there for them. She didn’t share how her compassion for abuse victims was birthed, and I didn’t ask, but clearly her heart is there for victims. She asked a lot of questions about my healing journey, and I spoke candidly. Not having experienced abuse herself, she admitted it is hard to understand, fully, the aftermath.

“Is it almost as if people who have been abused, are handed a pair of sunglasses, and from that point forward it is as if their world is tinted a different colour? And to the rest of us, the world is clear and we can’t even imagine what they see?” she asked, presenting an analogy that works well for me.

“Yes,” I nodded, thoughtfully processing the word picture, “but it’s not only that. It’s as if each victim is given his or her own shade of sunglasses, and while we can understand or imagine, to an extent, what another victim experiences, there are always things that are unique to that person. So we can’t even fully understand each other.”

Having said that, I recognize that this diversity is also real for those who see the world without the ‘tinting’ of sexual abuse. However, the aftermath of abuse is complex enough, and adding our unique way of processing to that complexity does not make it easier. We talked at length about how abuse ‘messes us up’ and how damaged we feel, and how confused our spirits are, and the struggles that go with it. She asked me a question then about how I overcame that ‘broken’ reality.

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“I didn’t, really,” I said, “I accepted it.” Danette looked surprised. And we talked for some time about what it looks like to be broken and messed up, but living full of hope with that knowledge. And I wished, in a way, that I could say things like “if you love Jesus, and know that He loves you, He’ll take it away like magic, and one day your mind won’t process through that filter”, but I couldn’t.  I still can’t.

And that’s not meant to squash hope of healing. I am healed. I am happy. I am whole. I am loving. I am life-giving. Because of Jesus in me. And I am broken. Because of what life was, the ongoing scars and memories. And the moments that catch me off guard, resurface these realities. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve accepted it.

Truth is, there was a day when I realized that one event, abuse, actually changed who I am. And there is no undoing it; it can only be redeemed. I am messed up, and I will always be. It’s just the way it is, and has to be. Extreme trauma changes how our minds work. I have quirks as a result of it. I have struggles. And I have strengths. These all work together to make me who I am; weird to some, heroic to others, judgmental to those wanting to cover or hide abuse, obnoxious and bold to those who don’t understand my passion and don’t know my caring heart–those who have never asked question and have, themselves, simply judged. But I am incredibly loving and compassionate to all who dare to get to know me and push past the shattered edges of my heart. Even offenders. Even those who cover up. I am always kind.

I am learning to not only accept this person I am; I’m learning to love me, by focusing on Jesus and loving Him. The more I see His love for me, the more I love myself and, yet, the less I focus on me. It’s an irony and a beautiful thing! Jesus says we are to love others as we love ourselves. And, well, it’s a bit hard to love anyone else at all, in the way Jesus said, if we hate ourselves. If I hate myself, and who I am as a result of life, then I will not love others with a genuine love ‘as I love myself’. (Here the question randomly pops in my mind; is that where the pretentiousness comes from in some people, when they act all ‘loving’ but come off as being not authentic? Is it them, trying desperately to love–out of themselves rather than allowing Jesus to flow through–while hating themselves? Are they sincere, but lack the ability to express love, because of that self-loathing? )

But back on track… The reality I contend with is that the ‘sunglasses’ I was given are pretty dark. Sure, the light of Jesus has healed my broken heart, but I can’t ‘un-know’ the things I experienced. So no matter what healing comes, that ‘knowing’ will influence my awareness of evil in the world, and maybe especially in the church. I am sensitive to it, and feel things before they ever get exposed, in people. I hear of some abuse case, in people I once knew as a ‘youngun’, and no great shock wave strikes, most times. It’s as if I knew it all along, and that’s why I felt ‘creeped out’ around them. That’s my shades.

On the bright side, my awareness of redemption, hope and overcoming is far stronger than it could have been apart from having encountered abuse. It is because of those very sunglasses that I can turn and look the Son full in the face, and tell every other suffering person, “He’s here. He loves you, loves us. He really does! And we can make it! We’ll do this thing together, hand in hand,arm in arm,–(figuratively speakings, since I’m not much for touching more than a quick hug with anyone beyond family and closest friends)–and you will live again!”

Yes, tainted sunglasses, smeared and smudged by the sins committed against God in my childhood, changed how I see this world. But they now also keep me a little less focused on it. I’m a little less attached to religion because of it. And I hate sin a whole lot more.

But my Jesus… How I love Him. Tainted shades and all, I look Him in the face and know I am loved. And the dirty smudges of sins ? He wipes those away, little by little, as He reveals more of Himself to me. I’ll always see the world through the shades of what I know to be true of its darkness. But I will always see the reality of this world through the truth of Jesus.

It’s a beautiful day! Bright and sunny. Thank God for sunglasses!

Love,

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Sexual Abuse and Violence: From Victim to Healer

Thursday, February, 13, 2014 – 2:02:56 PM
Trudy Metzger

For the Elmira Independent

It was November 1990 when I first started opening up about the sexual abuse and violence in our home. That journey began when one couple, in the Mennonite church I attended at that time, reached out to me with compassion. In one moment they changed my world, when they asked if I had been sexually abused. That one question opened a door that led directly through the deepest ‘hell’ and, with much time and healing, into the sweetest ‘heaven’ I have ever known.

Initially the trauma threatened to overwhelm me, and destroy me completely. That was the ‘hell’ of the journey. For just days shy of 21 years, I had buried those memories. Way, deep inside. Far from the conscious mind. That’s where I hid the truth.

But we never truly forget. The body remembers. And what the mind blocks, the subconscious lives out of. And, because I lived out of the terror and trauma of the past, my life screamed of victimization. (Continue reading at The Elmira Indpendent)

© Trudy Metzger

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A Public Reponse: Do I Really Hate Mennonites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©TrudyMetzger

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