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

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

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

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

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

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

If we were thus to deal with poor, repentant sinners, whose transgressions were done in secret, how many would keep from repentance, through shame. God forbid that I should ever agree with, or act upon such doctrine! Lastly, I understand, they hold, that if any one, in his weakness, transgresses, and openly acknowledges his transgression, that they should consider him, then, as a worldling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©TrudyMetzger

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A Week in the Life of… And the Things Humans Say…

What a week! I intentionally scheduled very little for Easter Monday, knowing that my children would be off school. And it was a good thing, since I ended up running a fever, and fighting a cold-flu bug. The rest of the week was filled with appointments, so I took it easy that day, doing little more than feeding my family and answering the phone.

Calls came in steady, asking about the conference, especially from the Old Order community, telling me they would like to come, and they’re hoping many of their community and surrounding Mennonite communities join in. It’s time for the silence to shatter. One of the leaders even called to ask questions, and told me he knows I am working with a client from his congregation. “Be encouraged,” he said, “you’re making a difference.”

Another woman called to to chat and share her heart, and talk about the passion she has for helping the local Mennonite community. We talked for almost two hours, and were encouraged by each other. It’s the beginning of a friendship.

Monday ended on somewhat of a calm note for me. After meeting with one client in the evening, I relaxed in my recliner. I had only a low-grade fever but otherwise felt quite well. A good night’s rest and I would be set to go for a busy few days…

On Tuesday I met a friend for coffee. We touch base once a year, or so, getting caught up on what’s happening in each other’s families, their businesses, and our ministry.

Immediately after coffee, I met with a client at a local church that has graciously allowed me to use their space, from time to time, for this purpose. And from that moment life became a whirlwind.

I learned that my client, a young woman in her twenties, the mother of two children, had attempted suicide the night before. She has battled through this before, but this time she lost hope, and acted spontaneously. Thank God that He spared her life! It took a while for me to absorb the reality, and I didn’t really until the day after. We spent our session talking, or just sitting quietly when words failed, and other times simply praying. At one point she fell to the floor, weeping in agony, and all I could do was pray quietly, and let my own tears fall.

I had another meeting scheduled, so I left for a time, and then returned later to meet with her and several other individuals, in an effort to bring safety, support and stability to her world. And, to an extent, we did. We talked, sometimes cried, and then prayed. At the end of our session as I prepared to leave, one of the individuals looked out the window and saw a heart-shaped cloud.

from phone April 2013 113

The last client I met that day, comes from the Old Order church, and I meet with a ‘team of two’ each time. We spent some time talking through ‘the stuff of life’ and current struggles, and I learned that someone had spoken harshly, and shut down their very spirit and heart. I went back to the deep identity we are given in God, and the position of authority we are given through Jesus, and affirmed them.

After I made sure my client was grounded and doing well, I returned home. I had walked out the door just after 8:30am and returned just after 10:30pm, exhausted, but fulfilled. Seldom are days that packed.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from another local newspaper, wondering if they could do a story, and would I meet so they could take my photo? Why not? It’s good advertising–the story that is–and the picture will help people identify me and hopefully create a connection when we meet in the grocery store.

The reporter asked me to bring any books I use in mentoring my clients. I told her I use only my Bible and conversation to help people, though I have several books I recommend they read. She asked if I would bring only my Bible then.

At noon I met the pleasant young reporter. I took my new Bible, since giving my other one to Abigail. The reporter took a half dozen pictures, and it was all over. Funny how it all worked out, because the rest of my week was jam-packed–except Friday, which was too late–and that short stretch was all the free time I had, just when she needed me.

I met with another client who is in a very difficult place. We worked through some things, but a heaviness and a sadness hung over her, making it hard to end the session. But commitments must be kept, and I cannot be a god to anyone, so I had to release her even when it was the hardest  thing in the world to do.

With a burdened heart I drove off for the evening…

I met Juanita, my super-sweet friend, with whom I go visit Aylmer Amish country from time to time. It was a refreshing conclusion to a busy two days. I love the Amish cooking, the sweet, beautiful kids, and the earthy feel of unadulterated country living. The Wagler families, and their friends, are kind and welcoming. (I think we need to create an ‘Amish Experience’ retreat centre.)

I had left my phone in the car earlier, and by the time I returned at the end of our visit, to head home, I had numerous messages. Two stood out in particular, in stark contrast to each other, each leaving a powerful impact.

The first was a message from a young woman who identified herself as a former classmate of one of our daughters. She shared some of her struggles, but more than that she thanked me for being a voice of hope… a light in her world. It was an honour to hear from someone so young, and an encouragement to discover that God is bringing hope to her through the blog. She specifically mentioned Abigail’s story, and how much it has helped her.

The other message was disheartening. Many of the people I work with have suffered much abuse–emotional, physical, sexual, and sometimes even spiritual–and therefore many of them struggle with depression, suicidal tendencies and cutting. Percentage wise it is probably over sixty percent that deal with some form or self harm or suicidal ideation. Most of them are Christians who desperately want to be free, and are slowly gaining the tools to overcome. One truth at a time they discover their true worth, their God-given identity, and with that they overcome the lies.

It takes little to be the undoing of that truth, early on, when clients are still vulnerable and weak. And that is just what the second message was about. One of my clients had received yet another message laced with guilt-tripping, and reminding her, harshly, that her struggle was a slap in God’s face after all He had done for her.

I felt sick. Physically. I didn’t question the intent, but I knew it had the potential to push my client to a place of darkness and struggle against suicide. It is so counter-productive, and find myself constantly undoing the damage of words spoken. It feels at times like a step forward and a dozen backward, all because of words spoken when clients are too week to handle them, or to process them. And I think to myself, what if Christians actually stopped to ask themselves if Jesus used that kind of verbiage and manipulation… what if they spoke only the way He spoke, and used only His methods, His way? Wouldn’t it change things for those struggling?  

After touching base with my client, and letting her know that God loves her and has not forgotten her, I returned to my ‘present’. I told stories, and even did some reading to entertain Juanita as we drove home. She is a saint of a friend! (Granted her halo is probably a bit bent out of shape, possibly thanks to my influence, but she is an amazing friend!)

It was late when I returned home….

Thursday morning I awakened to our son visiting our room. It was his birthday. Kordan turned eleven, my little boy not much longer, as he grows into manhood. It is almost shocking how quickly it all happens.

In the morning, after the children were off to school, I met a friend for coffee. Later I had a meeting at the bank with Tim, and then home again to get the birthday supper made, complete with a ‘Starfy’ birthday cake. It’s all my little guy really wanted for his birthday–the Starfy game for his Nintendo DS, so we got that, and a few other little things, and I made a cake to match.

from phone April 2013 145from phone April 2013 137

And here it is Friday already. I’m still fighting the bug I picked up on Easter weekend, and my back has been bothering me ever since, which is weird. I never have back pain. Only once every couple of years. So to be walking around with my back all stiff and feeling hunched over is kind of strange.

I have no plans, no meetings, no appointments throughout my day. It’s been an intense week, and I’m happy just to be home, and rest my body. There are things that desperately need my attention here, that may or may not get done. So far, at 1:25pm, I have spent my day on the phone answering questions about the conference, and responding to texts and emails. For the rest of the day I anticipate getting more calls about the conference, and hopefully I will get a bit of writing done…. (At least enough to get this blog posted!)

And that is how one week slips into the next, in my life. If I learned anything at all this week, it is to double check my words, my tone, my message and my motivations.

When I see the trauma well meaning words bring into the lives of my clients, I stop and wonder if I do that to others around me. Do I communicate the love of Jesus, and inspire deep conviction to live for God, or do I tear down, through control, through manipulation, through condemnation? It struck me more powerfully than ever, this week, how humans destroy the spirits of those who are struggling with their words, even though often well-meaning.

As my life touches others, I pray that the love of Jesus shines through, and they walk away a bit stronger, more encouraged and with more hope than they had when they came. I pray they long to know the Jesus I love, because they have seen and felt His grace.

And I pray that you, too, will check your words, guard your heart, and ask yourself the question, “Do my words give life, because they reflect Jesus, or do they shut down the heart and soul of those I meet, through condemnation, manipulation and guilt-tripping?”

© Trudy Metzger

Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One

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Worship God With Your Tears

Confronted daily with the harsh reality of the epidemic of sexual abuse, and violence all around, including in Christian cultures, one of my prayers is that I will not become calloused, cynical, or ‘untouchable’ at a heart level. I pray that God will give me a tender heart, that has the capacity to feel for others, while still remaining strong enough to not be overwhelmed or destroyed by pain.

People need to know that we have compassion, but they also need to know that we are not destroyed by their pain, when they share. I try never to react strongly, and never overreact, when confronted with shocking stories. This gives the individual permission to ‘tell all’ and be free, without my emotional responses or reactions.

A victim’s greatest fear, when telling their story, is, “I am too much. My story is too much. No one can handle it. No one can handle me.” That is the last ‘lie’ I want to affirm by my body language, gasps or other ‘horror’ reactions.

But I don’t want to learn how to react to such a degree that I bury all of the emotions that are inevitably touched through people. I fear that could harden my heart.

So sometimes when I debrief with Tim about an abuse case, or the tragic aftermath, I get emotional. Sometimes I cry. Even when I work on writing my book, telling my own story, there are times I cry, even though I’ve worked through it. Tears are good. It doesn’t mean I’m ‘falling apart’, or I’m not coping emotionally or psychologically.

It means I am human and I still have the capacity to feel pain and trauma. When I am faced with the extreme–the things that shock me to the core–I try to find time with God because I trust Him with my emotions, my anger, my grief and my tears.

Last week was one of break through and miracles. But it was also a week of feeling and absorbing more than I usually do, for many reasons. One of the reasons was the conflict between the thrill of seeing miracles of healing in some, and hearing the tragedy of another’s struggle. Another was seeing close up the life and death struggle this becomes at times for people.

Early in the week I spoke on the phone with a woman I had never met, a 41 hour drive away. (That’s assuming I would travel at the speed limit.) And that equates to over 4000 kms. She is going through extreme trauma because of things that happened in her childhood, and ongoing family dynamics that resulted from that. She reached out because she’s struggling to find meaning and purpose through the struggle, even though her life is filled with purpose.

Almost the same distance from this woman, another individual who has suffered recent trauma struggles with finding purpose and hope. Religion–not the good kind–has loaded with guilt, over things they did not choose. Again it has become a life and death struggle. A fight to survive, literally.

Closer to home I met with another woman, old enough to be my mother, and then a bit. A sweet conservative Christian. Her story spilled out. Pain, after pain, after pain. And through that pain shone faith. Solid faith.

In each situation my goal is to really hear their stories, their hearts. Every individual needs to know that their story has value, that they have something to offer not only in spite of the bad things, but even because of the bad things that happened. God redeems and allows people to change the world because of bad things that have happened. But most of all my goal is to help every individual discover their worth, their value, their purpose in the eyes of God, as we work through their experiences.

One of the things I strongly encourage is to simply release the tears that have been trapped, often since childhood, or since some traumatic event. But don’t stay there, learn to worship God with your tears. Don’t just cry. Cry out to God. Cry on His shoulder, His chest. Listen to His heartbeat in that place of trauma and grief, and you will hear that it beats for you.

Then ask Him to take your pain, to suffer with you, to hold you. Be like King David. Rant if you must. Rage if it makes you feel better. But always remember that God is on your side. He is your friend, not your enemy. He does not cause or create these painful experiences. Sin does that. The sin others choose when they victimize you.

See God as He is, and you will see yourself differently. You will see value, purpose, beauty and hope. You will see yourself as having value.

 

Share your pain and tears with Him, in worship and trust, and you will be transformed through His love. You will see things differently, little by little. He will unravel the lies of life experience and show you things as you have never seen them before.

This week I spoke with one individual who struggles with suicidal thoughts. I was connected a few days later, through an online friend, with another woman who struggles. We hear it in the news all the time, but that contact makes it personal.

There is a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of disappointment in our Christian communities, just like the rest of the world. We cannot turn a blind eye and claim to be the body of Christ. Jesus Christ has eyes. To be His body, we have to see, hear, feel and touch.

And to work in this pain effectively, my heart must remain tender and  not become calloused. And that also requires feeling. So I choose to feel. I choose to grieve. To be touched by pain.

I will continue to weep shamelessly for our churches, our communities, our nation, and the nations around. I will continue to weep for you, if this is your story. So when you see me cry, I’m not ‘losing it’. I’m not overwhelmed. I’m simply trusting God to carry what I cannot. I will worship God with my tears.

© Trudy Metzger

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