I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

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The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

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