On Questioning Faith & God Because of University?

“Be careful in the Master Peace and Conflict Studies,” the woman said, most sincerely, “a few of my friends did it and came out questioning their faith.”
“Too late,” I said, “I already question…” And I was amazed how vulnerable it felt to say those words out loud, but paused a moment, because it is true, and then continued with explaining. “Given the work I do, and the horrendous things I hear and see in Christian communities, I’ve been questioning my faith for a good six years. Daily… It’s inevitable…. I’ve often said, ‘If it wasn’t for God I’d be an atheist.'”
I don’t know her well, the woman who spoke those words when we bumped into each other downtown. I even had to think twice about her name when we parted ways, and would have been clueless if her friend hadn’t walked by and called it out before we parted ways.
Truth is, I do question God. Not His existence. Not even His goodness. But God Himself, and how things are what they are with the suffering of little ones on the streets, being trafficked… and in His house… the molestation. No, there’s not a fragment of a doubt in my mind that He exists, and is good… But these questions about His household run deep, so I question. My faith has been taxed heavily, and I have questioned for years. And I hope I continue. Because there are a few simple ‘hard truths’ I cling to for dear life, but with everything I know of life and crime, in church and on the streets, I fear that by the time I stop questioning, I will have come to the wrong conclusion. So I question, and God listens. Sometimes He answers in ways I can cling to, sometimes He just listens. At least for a while.
It is not possible to know what I know, of darkness hidden in religious communities, of hatred (by some) for those who desperately want truth on all levels (not only convincing doctrine)… Of leaders so insecure in their calling that they write off and attempt to silence anyone who speaks into that hidden darkness…. No, these things are not possible for me (and for many others in the trenches) without questioning both God and faith, in some way. I’m sure there’s some easy religious answer to explain everything, and make it all look nice again, but I can’t do that, can’t go there. A few Bible verses, lengthy prayers or one hundred or even a thousand ‘Hail Mary’s’ just doesn’t make the hard reality go away, or even more bearable. Nor does booting out a few demons heal every inner trauma. Those solutions work much like masking tape on a wet surface. It sticks until it doesn’t. And when it no longer sticks, there is a need for deep, compassionate care. (For the sake of everyone who feels a sense of obligation to burn their candle at both ends until they suffer burnout, let me add… ‘Compassion with boundaries’, because Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout are real… and knowing when to step back is critical. Also, it may not be the hard stories that wear you down. Be aware of personal stress triggers, and set boundaries accordingly.)
Anywhere else I can reconcile wickedness, but not among the Jesus people. It violates every part of what He came to be and do. Especially when hidden and then protected under a guise of forgiveness, while the naked victims stand by, beaten with stripes they never deserved, just for admitting to pain. I can even reconcile wickedness happening among Jesus people, because of human struggle and scars of unhealed wounds, but when there is an agenda to hide or mask over without deep acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused, and care given accordingly… Not that.
So, yes, I question. And, yes, I have walked through more than one faith crisis in my six years of ministry. The one thing that has helped me refocus, is speaking truth over others, because there is truth that I cannot ‘unknow’ even if I wanted to, and that truth is the love of Jesus, and when spoken it has power. I fall hard on it’s simplicity. And in moments of hopelessness, I have grasped it with slippery fingers. Still that love remained, and remains still. I have grasped it when grief at what I see ‘among His’ washes over me, defying that grace-filled love, realizing it’s all I have…
Now, having nearly completed my first term, I find it fascinating that rather than causing me to question God, and the things He allows in this messy world, it has affirmed my faith. It has helped tremendously to take a step back from being so close to trauma in religious communities, and take a break from the harshness of it to study. It has been a good thing and a God thing.
That said, I know my journey well enough to know I will continue to question and wrestle as long as I work with victims and offenders of sexual violence. I wish at moments that I had suffered nothing of abuse in religious community… that I had heard none of it… that I was innocent of knowing the cover-ups… All so that I could walk in innocent, intoxicating-ly sweet love relationship with Jesus, oblivious to the messiness of crime and wickedness in church. The tired heart of six years of investing, at times thanked, at times cursed, struggles, but it is a rare and selfish moment that cries for this innocence.
Instead, I will continue to do what God has called me to do, pressing into His heart for answers when I question, wonder or wrestle. Because it is in those moments I realize how imperfect, inadequate and human I am, and how much it is His love that carries me. And that, alone, makes every question a faith-building one.
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

Why I Stopped Blogging Regularly & Attending “Church” Religously…

When the heart stops ‘feeling’ the truths God has promised,
faith stands in the gap for our feelings, giving us the courage to believe what we cannot see.

One day, the heart feels again, but it is faith, not feeling that carries us, even then.

In January 2013 I stopped ‘feeling’ much of what I know and trust about God, and I have continued, and will continue, to declare the truth that I know. I am so thankful for the authority and power of faith.

****

I received a few messages, recently, asking why I haven’t blogged much, and declaring how they miss reading them.  First of all, “That’s very kind. Thank you.” Secondly… I have been writing. I have nearly 100 blogs written, but I have not posted them.

Why, you ask? That is not an easy question to answer. A few of the blog posts are raw pain. That’s all they are. Several are all-out vent sessions, like the emails that you wisely never send, and serve only to offer therapeutic release for you. Others are revelations that I felt were not ready to be shared. Not new revelations, or anything, but old truth–things I rediscovered in Word of God. But mostly I didn’t share my writings because I wasn’t at peace with it, for reasons I cannot fully explain. The few I posted, were ones I felt peace about. And when I am not at peace about posting, I won’t do it. I intend never to be a slave to blogging, and this season of my life, that’s all it would have been, had I forced it.

It has been a heavy season in my life. ‘Heavy’ in the sense of carrying dead weight around, spiritually.  It began in January 2013. I managed to stay focused on God, for the most part, in spite of the heaviness. Throughout that year, in ministry, I faced intense spiritual battles with clients, and writing was both my outlet and part of ministry.

Telling the stories victims wanted me to tell, and breaking the silence surrounding sexual abuse in the church, is the single most dangerous thing I have done, spiritually. And I went in with naive faith and trust, having no concept of what that would mean, no concept of the cost. I reached out to several people, when I felt myself starting to drown, but neither they nor I recognized the extent of danger I was in. One foot in front of the other, I pressed forward, always able to keep my eyes focused on the One who called me, and presenting Him as the healer and restorer, when sitting with victims of abuse, or those struggling spiritually. I had nothing to give, of myself, but I knew with confidence that I could lead them to God for healing.

Admittedly, at times it felt as though my lips were parched, and I was dying of thirst, even while I held the cup for others more wounded than I, who had thirsted longer. And watching them come to life somehow quenched my own thirst. Somehow–even though there are areas I have long struggled to trust God, in practical ways–I trust Him without reserve, to heal and restore the broken-hearted. And that is the place where I stood in the gap for many wounded.

As is inevitable, when exposing darkness, the attacks and lies began, and ‘my people’, whom I trusted and believed to be born again believers, started to spread blatant, bold lies. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I knew about the sexual abuse hidden, but I truly believed it was a matter of ignorance–a lack of awareness of the problem, among leaders–and when they knew, I was certain they would rise up as godly men, and fight for victims, and offer help to perpetrators. Instead, I watched as perpetrators were protected, victims further abused, and lies spread to discredit my ministry.

The shock of this climaxed in early January 2014, exactly one year after the intense heaviness began, and I found myself in a state of spiritual shock, struggling to accept that Christians do these things, yet believing that Jesus is enough… enough for me, in my woundedness… enough for them for lying.

Even so, I continued to meet with victims, and offered them hope that can only come from Jesus. I was honest about my own struggles, and shared with them the hope that Jesus  is even in a dark place.  When I had nothing else to hold on to, I would say, “I know that He loves me, and that is enough”. When I could not pray, I could still whisper ‘Thank you for loving me… thank you for dying for me… thank you for having my back.’ And always He would come alive in me, sitting across from the broken, and prayer would rise from within my own broken place, offering Jesus to the people in front of me.

The final blow, overlapping with this shock, came in the form of a letter. I felt, in ways, as if I was ‘gasping for air’, when a letter arrived in the mail. Handwritten, I opened it eagerly. Until that day all handwritten letters had been encouragement notes, offering prayer and pointing my heart to the Father. It was what I expected and, quite frankly, longed for–some small sign that God had not forgotten me, that He saw my shock, and wanted to reassure me.  Yes, the letters and notes I received also carried challenges when a friend felt I was getting sidetracked, but challenges offered with love and care; always they drew my heart to God.

But that day the letter held harsh criticism, attacking my character, offering accusations about a case I was involved in–the one where I supposedly posed as a cleaning girl and lied to get in the door, and then stomped my feet and yelled at the perpetrator. The author of it attacked me, not having taken time to meet with me to ask any questions. Coincidentally–or predictably–it was a relative by marriage of the alleged perpetrator. I understood the defenses. They are characteristic of those who have an agenda to hide abuse and corruption, those who cannot come to terms with their own circumstance. But it was from someone I had known for years. Someone I respected. Someone with whom I shared a church pew. That day a part of my heart died.

In the weeks that followed, we continued attending the church we were trying to make our own, to be  ‘our family’. But we were not plugged in enough–being relatively new–and the aloneness of ministry, and this attacks from within, created a deep loneliness. Church became depressing, and draining, rather than life-giving. Having said that, the worship leader and his wife, the Lead Pastor, and, most of all, the wife of the Associate Pastor, offered a kindness and friendship that drew us in.

When another case in a sister church escalated , a few months later, and I was perceived to have been involved, even though I had nothing to do with it–though I would gladly have owned it, had I been involved–more resistance and attacks trickled our way.  It was then that we realized that with the ministry of working with sexual abuse in the church,  we didn’t stand a chance fitting making church our home, anytime soon, and, for the most part, support for ministry would need to come from outside of church.

Ironically, one ‘hate’ letter from someone in my cultural background, calling me a BEAST, among other things, finally broke the power the lies. The evil in that letter exposed the darkness from which the attacks came, as all ‘niceness’ was stripped, and I was finally able to see the attacks came from a place of pain and denial, and a lot of fear. Until that moment I struggled to call the attacks what they were, and tried to believe that most of the attacks were misunderstandings of well-intentioned people. Reading the harshest version of attacks, all in the name of God, exposed the darkness behind all of it, and I was finally able to make peace with the attacks. I can handle persecution from those resisting truth–even in God’s name–but attacks from the Body of Christ I cannot reconcile.

Now, months later, having taken a step back from Western ‘church’ culture, and removing ‘the noise’ of it, my heart has finally come to life again. The heaviness has lifted, and God is able to touch my heart again, and worship again rises from my spirit in a way it hasn’t in a long time.  We have continued to fellowship with believers–for those who might fear we are sinning in not ‘gathering with believers–we’re just not doing it regularly in the context of lining pews, and consistently listening to structured church services, at a specific time of day, each Sunday.

In the last few months, the greatest encouragement has been, not only seeing people break free from past pain and addictions as they begin to understand their position in with God through Christ, but hearing testimonies of the ripple effects of the ministry we did in the Mennonite community. When people break free from addictions, sexual sin, homosexuality, and move into a place of freedom, it makes the ‘hell’ of the past two years seem small, and it is humbling to think that God uses us, so broken and human, to bring the love of Jesus and hope to those who are hurting and struggling. It is amazing to me that, even though I was struggling to come to terms with my own pain, and the shock of what we encountered in church–attacks we might have expected from enemies of the cross–that God still worked, as only He can.

So, why have I not been writing? That is the long answer. I needed time to process, to regroup, to make peace with what I have experienced in ‘church’,  the attacks that have come from within, and most of all I needed time to refocus my heart before God. The past two years have showed me that, even though I have forgiven the church of my youth, I carry deep scars and wounds that, when ripped open, cause intense pain. I don’t trust church.  I don’t trust system. Even less now than I did two years ago. But, thanks to a few incredible men and women of God, I have learned to trust the hearts of more leaders than I have ever trusted before. I could have mentioned many, including several conservative Mennonite leaders. For this to be the end result in one of the most difficult ‘church’ experiences of my life, is astounding. There is a wonder and a grace in this for which I have no words.

In spite of those wounds and scars, in spite of the hate mail and attacks, in spite of my inability to fit in–and knowing the attacks will continue–I want to learn to trust. I want to connect with a church family. (I didn’t think I’d ever say that again.) I even want to learn to trust church leaders, and let them fail, be human, and I want to pray for them and forgive them in the way I wish to be forgiven when I fail. I want to fight for the Body of Christ–His bride–and partner with her, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. I am committed to continuing in ministry, because I believe it is not our perfection, or our ‘togetherness’ that offers anything meaningful. It is Jesus flowing through our brokenness, spilling out in love, that transforms lives. I’ve never stopped believing that, even in my lowest of lows. He is my hope. Besides my love, encouragement, and some practical resources, He is all I have to offer victims, and He is more than enough.

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Thank you to friends, mentors, pastors and leaders who have spoken into my life this past year, taking time to meet with me in my ‘darkness’, or speaking truth during ‘random’ encounters. Special thanks to  my faithful friends who have let me say, without judging me, things I could not say to everyone, but needed to get out of my spirit. Thank you to the many online ‘warriors’ who have fought tirelessly for me, through prayer. You are too many to mention, and some I would not mention because you are also clients, but each of you offered me hope at a time when I felt little hope in the Body of Christ, and had only my faith in Jesus to cling to, the support of my husband and family. Finally, thank you to my husband, Tim, who has loved me faithfully, lifting my weary heart in prayer when it was crushed, and holding me when sobs of grief racked my body. I am grateful for each of you, and pray God’s blessings over you.

If God hands out stars for positively impacting another soul, you will each carry a star for me.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Messy Grace, Dipped in Blood

My  new coaching client sat across from me,  suddenly distracted. Her eyes ‘popped’ in shock. She gasped. We had spent a bit over forty minutes talking, exploring her dreams, her talents, her desires, and the challenges to match. Unlike most of my clients, who are working through one trauma or another, she had come for career help, and I had asked her a question. The sudden diversion startled me.

Instinctively my eyes followed her gaze and I saw him, an elderly man, hitting the cement, then leaning up a few inches and dropping again. Did he try to lift himself up, or did his body bounce? I saw it and wondered.

The mind and body are fascinating, in a moment like that, when consulting reason is not even on the radar; they simply engage one another in reasonable and necessary action.  Nor does dignity or any other thing hold an ounce of importance, or factor in, in any way, in a moment like that.  I shot to my feet, and ran through the coffee shop, and before my mind had fully registered what it was I saw, I found myself kneeling beside the gentleman. He struggled, attempting to sit up. I put my arms around him, and leaned him slightly forward to lift his head from the unkind hardness, while asking him questions. He was coherent. I felt the cement under his back, and wished I had an extra sweater, a jacket or a blanket.  I had enough dignity that I wasn’t willing to sit there in my bra so he could have my sweater, but I certainly would, if needed, to save a life.  Most of us would.

From my vantage point there was no blood,  until I sat him up.  That is when I saw blood running down his temple, his neck and onto his chest and shoulders, and his hand dripping a steady pace.  I looked for something to use as a compress, at the same time as I asked my client, who had followed me out, to go in and find napkins or something  and bring them back, and to make sure to call and ambulance.

The manager came running and for the next twenty minutes, or so, we sat there, holding an elderly man’s hand and forehead.  There was blood on the ground, blood on his pants, his shirt and matted into his hair. It was all over our hands and arms, and a bit on my white shirt. Blood stands out on white.  My client sat behind the gentleman, providing a back-rest, while the manager held his forehead, and I held his hand–now gripping mine in solid tension. We chatted and laughed, as we sat there. He was so appreciative and said he was okay, that he had just lost his footing. It had happened a few days ago, too, and he had hurt his finger. He showed us his crooked finger, bent at the last joint, in an almost -perfect 90 degree angle.

As we sat with him, bleeding all over us and himself, people drove by. They looked. A few gentlemen came and asked if there was anything they could do. One was a fireman, the others made no indication that they had any training. They were just concerned.

Something else happened as we sat there, all covered in blood. In fact, two things. First of all, we bonded. We cared for him. We held his wounds. We connected. (Admittedly, I was afraid to ‘touch’ his raw wounds. Not because I feared being contaminated but because I feared contaminating them.  One never knows for sure what germs or bacteria we have come in contact with and the immunity of the elderly potentially being compromised, I assessed the extent of the bleeding. It wasn’t life-threatening, though steady, so I waited for the compresses. (Obviously, had he been bleeding profusely, I would have taken the chance.) And the second thing that happened was that we learned a bit of his story. He told us that he had a ‘weaker side’ because of a stroke twenty years ago and hence the recent tumbles.

By this time we had retrieved an umbrella from his truck, and sat there, in a spritzing rain, talking and still holding his wounds.  A staff member came with some forms and asked questions. What did we see? Who saw it first and what did we do?  Who were we all. Names. Addresses. Phone numbers. All those things.

The paramedic arrived and together we helped the gentleman stand up, and seated him on a chair, under the awning. We stayed a few minutes, answering his questions, then went inside to wash the blood off. The red stain on my white new sweater stayed. I hung my scarf over it, and returned one more time to the elderly gentleman, to wish him well.  That’s when I thought of his wife, at home, and how worried she would be.  Would it be okay if I popped by their home to tell her he was okay, but needed stitches and to get checked over? He thanked me and said how nice that would be.

I had just given my new client a good-bye hug–you do that after intense moments like that–and was almost to my car when the manager caught up to me. The gentleman had one valid concern. His wife would need the vehicle, but would have no way to get it. I said I would offer to drive her back to him, and to get the truck.

She met me at the door, moments later after I rang the bell. To make sure I had the right house I asked, “Are you Mrs. ____?”

“Yes….” she said, looking quizzically at me.

“First of all, your husband is okay, so don’t worry, but he did have a tumble at the coffee shop. He said you would need the vehicle–would it be okay if I drove you there?”

Moments later I dropped her off,  made sure she had everything she needed and headed for home. The rain had picked up, and I remembered that my car window was stuck… open.  My old Mazda had picked this day to malfunction with an open back window. How convenient. I tried half a dozen times, unsuccessfully.

I took to pleading with God, at that moment, about something as piddly as a stuck window, all because I didn’t want rain in my car. I tried again and, “Tada!!”  it went up. I whispered a thank you as I drove out  off of the coffee shop parking lot.

My mind got busy then, thinking about many things. Why does God answer little prayers about broken windows, and neglect big ones like a dying loved one, a chronically ill family member, those who desperately need jobs and many other things. And I had no easy answers. Just the awareness that God is God.

I saw the blood again, and the elderly gentleman’s eyes, as he thanked us and told us how nice we were. And then the awareness that his blood had been all over me, and I had hesitated to touch his wounds, afraid of contaminating them.

That’s when my mind wandered to church. To people who are bleeding.  And we sit there, like my client and I, in our coffee shops.  And I wondered if we get so busy with our coffee, and conversations, and whatever things we all do, while people bleed only feet away.  I thought of how I had my back turned, and my client–thank goodness she was ADHD, she said, and observing everything–was the one who noticed the gentleman, almost before it happened.  He could have been there an hour, with me only feet away, if she hadn’t been there.  And, while that wouldn’t have likely happened, I couldn’t help but think about, when I considered church. Or if, when we see the ‘fallen and bleeding’, do we even run to them, or do we get scared  and run the other way again.

I wondered what it would be like, in church, if we stopped being afraid of each other’s cuts, and wounds and scars. What if we weren’t afraid to get all bloody, and have stains on our new white clothes.  And if we put our hands on those gaping wounds without fear of contaminating, or being contaminated, and we held each other up, spiritually, even while we bled…  And sitting there, under an umbrella in the rain, we could get to know each other and hear the stories behind the pain… the stories about why we have ‘weak sides’ and stumble…

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And then, when the weak ones, with bleeding wounds, need help with walking to a place of rest, we who are stronger could square back our shoulders and let them rest on our strength until they are safe….  Until they find that rest in the One who Bled Love for us,  all messy and dipped in grace, when we were in that place of need and brokenness…

What if… Yes…. What if?

© Trudy Metzger

 

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(Part 3) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

Continuing from Part 2, we will jump right into the next heavy, yet freeing, topic in the battle against the darkness that so desperately wants to have power over us.

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FORGIVE:

Lewis B. Smedes wrote: “To forgive is set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” When it comes to forgiveness, and what it accomplishes, truer words have ne’er been spoken.

We think, often, of forgiveness as an offer of freedom to the perpetrator/offender. A ‘get out of jail free’ card, that says what they did doesn’t matter. It’s done. Over. Even if they are not repentant. And that’s not accurate at all. Forgiveness is first a gift offered to us by God for our sins and when we receive it and understand it’s value, it is a gift that we, in turn, offer to those who sin against us.

When God forgives us, the sins are wiped away, erased, forever and He sets us free. When we forgive, we don’t have that kind of authority to forgive in that sense of eternal freedom for the offender. They remain accountable to God for their sins; we merely release them from any kind of ‘debt’ to us, and any personal claim to vengeance or vindication. As long as those who violate us have a debt to us, we have a bond with them, and they have power over us. When we forgive, we say, in essence, ‘the debt is now owed only to God. Your account with me is cleared.”

This does not mean that there is never a time for legal action, after we forgive. We, as Christians, are not above the law. What the law requires of the non-Christian, it also requires of the Christian. So to avoid reporting sexual abuse, for example–particularly when there is any current risk–is to defy and break the law.

If I am the victim, I do have the right not to report it. There is no law, to my knowledge, that forces a victim to come forward. However if a child is violated, I have no right to ‘discern’ whether to report it or not. I must report it. If I am a pastor and I know of victimization, the law requires that I report it. This doesn’t mean that the pastor and I are not willing to forgive. For the offenders, forgiveness does not wipe away consequences in this life for sins, it merely extends grace from the person wronged. The law then determines appropriate consequences.

Regardless of those consequences, or lack thereof, when I forgive, I don’t carry that ‘debt to me’ in my heart. I am free. For this reason–to break any bonds and ties to the offender–forgiveness is imperative for our freedom. When I forgive I don’t spend my life thinking of how wronged I was. I think of how God will use that wrong against me to bring redemption. My focus shifts from the wrong, to my Saviour. And that makes all the difference.

TAKE AUTHORITY:

Jesus came to save, redeem, and restore. The New Testament is full of promises, not to mention stories that show this ‘hope’ that Jesus offers. Wherever He went, we see radical transformation. The dead are raised. The sick healed. Those possessed and oppressed by the demonic are made free. But it didnt’ end there. He offered this power and authority to His disciples, and all who believe in Him.

John 14:12-14 (NKJV)
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

That’s a strong promise. Either Jesus is who He said He is, and this is true–meaning we have missed much of the power of the gospel–or the entire thing is a sham. If we don’t really have this kind of power and authority, then who is Jesus? I believe we have this power. Radical, untamed by man, an authority that sets people free.

What is the secret…. the key? To be so lost in Christ, so plugged in to the authority of the Father and surrender completely to His will and purpose. If my suffering benefits His Kingdom purposes, then I surrender myself to His authority and accept that suffering. (Yes, I have prayed this prayer. And, yes, I have paid a high price for it, at times losing sight of that prayer in my own desperate longing for ‘this-world-kind-of-peace’ because I am human and fear that suffering, the rejection, the attacks. Still, when the storms pass, I thank God for the suffering. It has made me stronger, and I have seen as He redeemed and used it for a higher purpose.)

It is impossible to surrender completely, and yet stay focused on myself and my suffering. For, when I have surrendered, my eyes are turned to the suffering Christ who walked the path before me, carrying the cross that I was destined to carry in eternity–the cross of death and eternal hell. When I see Him, scarred, bleeding and weeping, my suffering, though real and overwhelming in my humanity, pales in comparison, and I am suddenly lost in awe and wonder at such amazing love.

PRAISE:

Inevitably, when my eyes focus on this suffering Jesus, and I remember how He bought my sinful and selfish heart, my soul and spirit begin to worship God. He, a Holy, righteous and powerful Creator, chose suffering for the sake of my redemption. He chose suffering. Chose it… I cringe at any suffering. He chose it for me. That is my identity, this amazing love poured out by the Highest Being ever to exist. To grasp this, even in a small way, is to fall before Him in worship.

And, again, when I worship Him, I am not thinking of myself and my pain or suffering in the light of this life, in the light of time. I see a higher purpose, a higher calling. And, while it doesn’t make suffering easy, it gives me a reason to press on.

TESTIMONY:

Revelation 12:11(NKJV)
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

We underestimate the power of our words. We casually toss around words of defeat and hopelessness as though they are all we have to live by. And, in the process we suck the life right out of our spirits. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and bought us with His blood. Fact. Our testimony cannot save us. But the word of our testimony–giving glory to god for our salvation, for healing, for freedom–give us authority over the enemy.

We think of a testimony as that nice ‘story’ we tell after the battle is over. And that’s a part of it. But there is more. The testimony that gives us authority to overcome the enemy is the testimony that we share before breakthrough. By the time we tell the ‘after’ version, the battle is over. We need to declare victory in the heat of the fight. We need to claim the power of Jesus for that fight and in the struggle, long before we see the results. It takes away the power of the enemy.

The Israelites were commanded to put blood around the doorposts to protect their homes, and their firstborn sons, specifically, from the tenth plague. It was an old Testament type and shadow of the New Testament redemption through the blood of Jesus.  The significance, again, is that the blood was applied before the death angel came. It signifies being prepared before battle, before the enemy strikes. And when he comes, he will see the territory is marked and claimed. He has no power.

I pray the blood of Jesus over my mind, my body, my soul and my spirit. My husband prays over me. And when my heart is prepared this way, I do well, spiritually. Sometimes, though, I lose focus and find myself in mind battle against the enemy. And sometimes it takes awhile for me to be take my eyes off that fight and shift back to Jesus, in whom I have authority.

A WORD TO PASTORS, PARENTS, SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND MENTORS:

I’ve discovered that Christian leaders are quick to condemn ‘going back’ to the past, for healing. The arguments against it are varied. One of the most recent ones I heard is ‘it requires discussing ungodly things in an ungodly manner’. No it doesn’t. It requires talking about ungodly things through the eyes of Jesus and the blood He shed on the cross.

Is it uncomfortable to hear people share stories of vile abuse that they had to suffer as little boys and girls? It’s painful! It’s devastating. But if we, who are adults representing the heart of God, cannot hear it and point the victim to a safe place, then what have we to offer? When a  3, 5, 7… 13, 15… year old–or anyone in between, younger or older–is forced to endure sexual assault, or demanded to offer sexual favours of the most vulnerable sort (I’ll spare saying it, but I’ve heard it all) are we really willing to say that we cannot handle what they as toddlers, children or teens endured?

What do we communicate with that message?

“You are too much! Your pain is overwhelming! I am disgusted by what I know about your childhood! Keep it to yourself, no one wants to know!”

And then what do we say on the heels of that?

“Forgive, forget and move on! Take it to Jesus! Let God be enough! Jesus died for their sin, let it go! … ” And whatever other cliché lines we can think of to distance ourselves from them their pain and their stories.

And when they walk away, they take their false guilt, their shame, their pain, their torment with them. And they struggle. They try desperately to work hard enough to be free. The cry out to this Jesus, but all they hear is our cliché lines, echoing in their hearts and their minds. And they believe this Jesus sees them the same way. They are too much, too messy, too broken. They become more hopeless for having tried. They entertain thoughts of death, and ending it all.

All while we stand beside Pilate, washing in his bowl, drying with his towel, because there’s nothing we can do to change things…

That’s not my Jesus. My Jesus sat with the lowest of society. He touched the unclean, and they were made clean. He brought life and hope in every situation. That, my friends and fellow ministry workers, is what we are called to do in every life we touch.

If we do not offer this hope, when we have spent time with the broken, then I hesitate to believe that we truly know Jesus as we ought. And if we offer this hope, there will still be rich young rulers who walk away disappointed at the cost of freedom. But we will have offered it. We will have spoken truth and heard hearts and acknowledged stories.

TO THE STRUGGLING WHO FEAR GOING BACK:

Many people fear going back to the past because they fear they will stay stuck there forever. My encouragement is, walk through it for the sake of healing, but don’t build a permanent residence in the past. Find a mentor, a counselor or some other person who won’t judge you or silence you, but will point you to hope in Jesus.

Through that person, let Jesus show you what good He brought into your life and spirit, through the hard things you faced, and listen to His promise that He will make all things beautiful–in His time–and will make all things new. Find that voice of hope and, if you need to, create some distance between you and the negative voices clamoring for your soul, often in the form of well-intentioned, but terribly misguided, people. You need uplifting truth and healthy perspective. You need affirmation and hope.

When I look at what happened in childhood, and focus on it, things can get pretty dark. When I look at it and see how God used it to stir my heart to compassion for the wounded, and passion to make a difference, then suddenly it looks very different, and I begin to thank God for my story.

Perspective, and what we focus on, is critical. We need to focus on purpose, redemption and hope in Jesus, while grieving (in our humanity) the experiences. To thank God, is to disarm the enemy. To praise God is to silence the enemy. And, to do all that, while allowing our hearts to grieve and weep–giving our brokenness to our Heavenly Papa–is to tell the enemy he has no power over us.

These are only some of the ways we overcome the enemy, and the power of darkness in our lives. From practical–finding a mentor who will hear us without judgement–to the spiritual aspect of forgiving those who sin against us, and repenting for our sins, we have been given keys to overcoming the power of the darkness. I would love to declare that all mental anguish will vanish if you do these things, but that is not a promise I can make.

Many of us fight depression, darkness and spiritual attacks for many years. I have. I do. And, given the work I do, I expect I will continue to fight. But I am not a victim of it. Through Jesus, I am victorious. When I fail, I am forgiven. It is about Him, not about me, or about performance. And that alone is reason to rejoice! So today I choose joy. I choose hope. And I choose to focus on the One by whom I am defined.

What choices will you make… what steps do you need to take  to move into freedom?

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© Trudy Metzger

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(Part 2) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

I’ve got to admit that I’ve been stalling with posting ‘Part 2’ and ‘Part 3’… and I have had mild regrets for not ending it some other way with Part 1. Parts of this post, and the next, were very difficult to write and express, but the real problem is in posting it. I am apprehensive. Not because of the content as much as the concern over how it could be interpreted, and how a misinterpretation could impact some readers. Those who are angered by it, which is in the realm of possibilities, don’t worry me so much. They’ll be fine.

It is those who heap silent guilt upon their own heads–because someone else has been heaping it on for them most of their lives–and view this as a ‘to do if you want to be free’ list, or some guilt trip… They are the ones that concern me. So, if you find yourself struggling with what I write, and feeling guilty or oppressed, then my message is not communicating what I desire to communicate, and I welcome private messages via my ‘Contact’ page. I will do my best to respond personally and privately to you, though not likely before early March, as we have a conference in Chambersburg Pennsylvania at the end of February, and it is claiming my spare time.

Note also that Part 2 & 3 were intended to be one post, but since it became so lengthy, I have broken them up in two, but will post them both at the same time, for those who want to continue.

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I ended Part 1 with this paragraph:
“If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…”

In the scenarios I share in this post, it is critical that anyone reading this, who is in a place of turmoil, recognize that not every scenario applies to you. There are some steps we can take toward freedom, but not every step will apply to ever person or help every person. The second scenario, for example, can seem terribly harsh to someone who is caught in a place of emotional chaos that has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to be stuck. (No one wants to be stuck, you say, and I agree that no one typically deliberately and intentionally chooses to be stuck. Sometimes, however, we choose it subconsciously, as in the case of the second example I will share.)

Each of us is on a unique and personal journey to healing, and what heals one person, destroys another. I am cautious in sharing examples for this reason. And yet, because they were effective in these situations, I share them in hopes that someone who is stuck might find answers.

FIND A SAFE MENTOR, COUNSELOR OR BOTH:

Every abuse victim needs someone in his or her life, who will listen with an open heart, and believe every word without judgement or condemnation. If you have never had that someone, I encourage you to make this a priority. Life has already offered you enough judgement and condemnation, in your own mind, if not from people around you. You don’t need any more of that.

A question I’ve been asked many times by other individuals working with victims is, “How do you know what to believe?” or “What if they are not telling the truth?” or “What if they are lying and making things up?”

My answer is the same every time. My role and commitment is to believe every victim’s story. I never worry about whether I am being lied to. That is not mine to carry. And, to be honest, I’ve never had a reason to believe any of my clients are conjuring up fake memories. Why would they?

And that is what you need, if you are a victim of abuse–someone who will listen to your heart, validate your pain, and care for you with compassion, not trying to figure out if every word you say is true.

Along with offering that kind of care, you need someone who will invite you outside your comfort zone, even gently nudge you, rather than leave you stuck. There is nothing worse, no torment greater (in my mind and experience) than to feel helplessly trapped in the chaos of the past. I needed someone to care enough to say the hard things, and ask me the tough questions. And then I had to be willing to ask myself those questions.

ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS:

“Do you really want to be free?” I asked the young woman sitting in front of me. She looked startled. I expected it. Because I’ve asked this question countless times, with many clients who seem helplessly stuck. But I know they are not helpless. At least none that I have worked with. They may feel that way. They may even appear that way, for a time, to everyone looking on. But every one has eventually moved to freedom. Often sooner than expected.

“Of course I want to be free!” she exclaimed.

“What prevents you?” I asked.

She looked at me with the same shocked look. “What do you mean?”

“May I ask you some really hard questions?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, looking puzzled.

“What do you get out of your bondage?” I paused to let the question sink in, then asked a few more questions. “Are you afraid of who you will be without the baggage? Afraid you won’t know how to act, or how to function if the emotional chaos is gone?” I paused again and let these questions sink in.

She started to cry. Not angry tears, but release.

I continued. “Are you afraid that if you heal, you will be abandoned? That no one will care for you? That you will be lonely?” I spoke softly… kindly… gently. No accusation, just hard questions born out of deep compassion for her struggle and frustration.

The young woman sat and wept for a while.

“You’re right,” she said, at length. “I’m terrified of being free. I’m terrified of being lonely and abandoned. I’m terrified of not needing people all the time and I’m terrified of who I might be if I was free. But I desperately want to be free.”

“Are you willing to do the hard work? Willing to risk that process?” I asked.

She nodded.

The questions are offensive. I get that. And I wouldn’t ask them in every situation, or with every person. Not everyone can handle the directness of that interaction. For some it would be destructive because they are not ready. This young woman was desperate for freedom and, having worked with her for almost a year, I had good cause to believe they would change her life. They were painful for her, but they were also the beginning of  one of the most amazing journeys I have watched anyone embark on, in overcoming emotional chaos and trauma.

We all need care, compassion and a listening ear. Every single one of us. Especially if we have suffered abuse, neglect or violence at the hands of someone we trusted. But along with that we also need someone who will love us enough to empower us in overcoming that past. Someone who is willing to ask the hard questions, sensitively, yet with a directness that frees us to confront our own fears and move beyond them. I had a rapport with the young woman, and had her deepest respect. I knew I could go to that place of confronting her fears, and not destroy her.

If I had believed there was any other thing standing in the way of her freedom, I would have gone there first, but it was the last door to open. And it worked. She found hope.

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REPENT: 

Oh… that’s harsh. Repent? Yes. Repent. Nothing has brought more freedom into my personal life than repentance. It’s terribly unpopular in today’s Uber-grace Christian culture. (And I believe in Uber-grace as powerfully as I believe in repentance. Don’t run away with that statement and presume I limit God’s grace. We are saved through Jesus, not performance. Period.) I stand firm on the fact that grace and repentance go hand in hand, for the purpose of our freedom. They are not in conflict.

Before I take the thought of repentance any further, let me say what NOT to repent for. Don’t repent, apologize, or take any kind of ownership for the thing that brought the trauma into your life if you were victimized. It’s not yours to carry. Lay it down. That sin and guilt is for the perpetrator to bring to God in repentance. Too often victims are made to feel guilty for what was done to them. That is wrong. Don’t repent for how the violation made you feel. Feelings are a gift from God. They tell my heart when something is wrong, when something (or someone) is not safe. They tell me when I have been wronged. They alert me to danger. Feelings are a gift. We don’t want to let them rule us, but we need to feel. Don’t repent for being tempted because of what was done to you… tempted to hate… tempted to murder (yes, I hear these confessions)… tempted to lie and say it never happened… tempted to deny and defy God. Temptation is not sin. Sin is sin.

Many victims of abuse whom I work with carry as much shame over what was done to them as they do for their own choices. They are entangled with false guilt, respond at every revival meeting, and wonder why they can’t get rid of that feeling through repentance. The answer, to be direct, is because you are not guilty. The thing that will bring you freedom is the knowledge that it isn’t your fault and there is no need for repentance on your part.

Repent only for sin. Often the choices we make, because of being sexually abused and the premature sexual awakening that results from the abuse, are on-going, and leave us feeling defeated and frustrated.  But because of shame we cannot tell anyone.

Sexual abuse creates, for many if not all victims, sexual struggles and/or addictions that often begin in childhood and carry on to old age. (I have sat with couples in their 70’s, still fighting addictions that started before age ten, and speaking of them for the first time in their lives, because they’ve never had anyone willing to hear their struggles.) Many cry out to God for many years, desperately longing for freedom, but trapped in that world of shame and silence.

From sexual immorality, to pornography, to masturbation (yes, I know, it’s a touchy and controversial subject, that one, but I’m addressing addictions here) or any other form of sexual experimentation, many victims find themselves lost in addictions. Keep in mind, in reading this, that I don’t profess to be a counselor. And, quite frankly, have no desire to be one. I help people overcome the things they struggle with and achieve the results they long for, mostly in their faith journey and healing from past pain. I work from a biblical perspective, using a coaching method. So if you come to me because you struggle with pornography, we will work through that from a biblical perspective, looking at God’s plan and intent for us, as well as looking at where the addiction was ‘birthed’ and the root problem. If it is cutting and self harm, we will look at that from a biblical perspective, focusing on the root, not the symptom.

I won’t quickly slap a ‘sin’ label on these things and appropriately condemn you and send you on your way, because there is always something deeper going on.  Labeling sin is easy. Anyone can do it. But digging deeper, and inviting Jesus to heal and restore at a deeper place takes relationship. (Jesus did not come to bring condemnation, but to offer salvation in every situation, every struggle. John 3:17 And He came for relationship.) It is important to remember that an addiction is never about the addiction. Ever.

We need to identify and work through the cause–whatever pain and trauma is there, and the lies we believe as a result–but we can’t blame our choices on those things. We need to take ownership for our sinful choices. Regardless what my childhood was, or wasn’t, the choices I made in the past and make today are mine. Where those choices lead me into sin, if I really want to be free, I must repent.

I cannot count the number of times someone has shared with me some dark, even demonic, struggle… Or the oppression of suicidal ideation, the temptation to cut, or extreme hopelessness that overtake them… And, when we go back and trace where that darkness started, almost without fail it started after one sinful behaviour or another.

The most common addiction that brings this darkness, that I have worked with, is pornography. A woman shares with me that she has demons attacking her mind and spirit, that she awakens to a suffocating feeling and the sensation of hands around her throat, strangling her. She suffers through explicit and horrible nightmares and feels completely helpless. We talk about when it started. She remembers the first night it happened.

“What changed that day? What did you do before bed?” I ask a series of questions that might shed some light.

“Nothing,” she says. Moments later, having paused to think back, she says, “Oh… wait… yeah, there was something.” She hesitates, avoids eye contact.

“What is it?” I ask, but still she sits silently.

The game of a thousand questions it will be. I can see she wants to share, but can’t get it out, so I will do what I’ve done with many clients before, and help her .

“Is it something we’ve discussed before?” I ask. She nods. “Did we discuss it last time?” She shakes her head. “Is it pornography?” She nods. I wait in silence for a few moments. “Do you think there might be a connection?”

“Maybe,” she says. By the third time this happens, where the dark and demonic attacks begin with exposure to pornography, she will recognize it, but today is the first time she makes the connection, and it startles her.

“So, now what?” she asks.

“You repent. If you want to break the power it has over you, that’s what you do,” I tell her. “That’s it. Nothing more. You’ve confessed it to me, but you need to repent before God, accept His forgiveness and move on.”

“Will that really help?” she asks.

“I can’t promise that there won’t be any struggle, but I can promise that you will be forgiven, and that it will break something in the spiritual realm.”

Immediately she bows her head, prays and thanks God for His grace and forgiveness, and asks Him to help her overcome temptation. I pray for her too, and together we take a stand against the enemy. We meet again two weeks later. She is excited to tell me that she has not touched pornography, and the dark demonic attacks are gone, for the most part.

For several months she does well, then the darkness comes back. The attacks are more fierce than ever, she tells me. Again we go through the process of taking it apart, and again it comes back to pornography. This time she sees it more quickly, and repents again, breaking the power of sin in her life. And again she overcomes the temptations, this time for almost a year.

So why do I teach repentance? Because we were not created to carry sin. It has negative power over our mind and spirit, that will destroy us, if we don’t repent. If being told to repent offends you, I am willing to risk being unpopular for the sake of your freedom…

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Does the Darkness Ultimately Win? (Part 1)

“Will this ‘hell’ ever end?”… “Will this darkness consume me and destroy me completely?”

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I have asked these questions and hear some variation of these questions from most of my clients at some point. I have also seen many times on Facebook, whether via private messages, group discussions, in status updates or conversation threads. Likely the most common fear among victims who are working through past trauma and the impact of sexual abuse and violence, is that there is no hope.

To those who are struggling, I can tell you that it does get better. We do overcome the darkness–or, more accurately, the darkness has been overcome for us on the cross, and that gives us authority over it. Jesus restores, heals, breaks through our darkness and brings us joy, Without question, that is truth. We are not destined to ‘live’ in that place. This truth is a ‘living hope’ I share with all my clients.

Having said that, I have watched amazing warriors fight through ‘ups and downs’ time and again, even as they ‘matured’ in faith and in age. They have done hard battle. People of rock solid faith, who live passionately for Jesus, forgive past offenders, and love God. I have seen them wrestle with God over the evil…. Because of this, and because of my own journey–even if the darkness only strikes once in 2 years… 4 years… maybe  even 10 or 20…the reality is we have a harsh enemy out to destroy our souls.

While the power of the past darkness is broken–and we are no longer bound to it–the enemy who brought the pain and trauma into our lives is most interested in our destruction. It seems to me that it is more important to believe and understand that Jesus is more than enough in the battle against darkness, and through the storm, than to believe the attacks will end and go away forever.

When clients ask me if they will struggle for life, I often respond with things like, “This darkness will end/break… You will not be a victim forever… It will get better… But I can’t tell you that you won’t have to fight these things again. I can’t promise you it will never come back–albeit maybe wearing a different mask.

Just how the attack plays out, and how we handle it, depends very much on personality, maturity in faith, as well as skills we have already developed, and so much more! For example, I recently had a woman tell me she doesn’t understand why some victims struggle so much, she simply hasn’t. I didn’t know her well, but told her  of a testimony I had recently heard, of a woman whose struggled with explosive anger at home. When this woman went for help, and worked through her own childhood of pain and abuse–forgiving her abusers, her parents and her church–the power was broken and her rage ended. “Oh my!”, she said, “I do that too! I had no idea it might have something to do with the past!” So it is important to recognize that everyone struggles differently.

For some, the attacks come in powerful and oppressive demonic attacks. That is not something I have experienced frequently. And never to the extreme that some have shared. But I have had many attacks in other ways. Often it is in relationships, or in my identity–areas where I have been more wounded and vulnerable, historically. For you it may be completely different. But regardless how he strikes, the enemy will attack if we are of any use to the Kingdom of God. It is a reality we need to be prepared for.

In spite of this, what I know from experience is that Jesus is more than enough for every struggle, and He will use our testimony powerfully, if we let Him. I tell victims the truth about the battle because if he or she thinks it will miraculously disappear for life, then they feel like a failure when hell strikes and they are blindsided. The more they feel they have failed in fighting that darkness, the more they will be defeated. It leaves them utterly hopeless because they think, “Trudy said…” or “Trudy doesn’t struggle…” and they begin to wonder “What is wrong with me that I cannot be forever, completely free.”

The reality is, even if I am 100% free from the bondage of darkness,–meaning that I am no longer content to live in it and get out of it what I think I need, and I have invited Jesus in, and forgiven those who hurt me–the enemy will still try to blindside me in another way. And he will use the darkness from the past to attack me. It is all he has. If he didn’t know my past, he’d have nothing on me. So he has to go there. Even in a struggle that I currently find myself in, which is 100% disconnected from my childhood and isn’t about our ministry, the enemy has used the past powerfully to attack me, and tried to disqualify me for ministry. He’s lying. And that is the very thing that creates the battle. He is lying in ways that emotionally connect me to past insecurities and past pain.

In the battle my heart, at times, screams (silently, for the most part) at God, and struggles with Him over the impact of sin in my life, in the lives of my family, or the lives of friends. It is okay to feel abandoned or betrayed by God, and to tell him so. King David did. 

Psalm 13

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

King David’s cry is pretty intense. “How long, God? Are you going to forget me forever, and leave me feeling as though you are intentionally hiding from me so that I am not able to get even a glimpse of Your face?”  Without question, he felt abandoned by God, in a very dark and lonely place. He goes on to express the depth of anguish in his heart, that it’s a daily struggle. Clearly this is not an hour of battle with the Almighty, where he feels lost due to some moment of confusion. This is ongoing, with no hope in sight.

“How long will my enemies be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me… Enlighten my eyes…” Help me to see something I cannot see right now, so that I have some hope, “lest I sleep the sleep of death”. Do something… I fear this sorrow is threatening my very life…. I feel like I cannot make it, and it will take me to my grave, and be the death of me! Then what will my enemies say? They will rejoice because they have won, when they see me shaken, and lose my faith in You….

That raw heart cry, before the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, shows more trust than I have seen in any other human. But what amazes me even more, is where King David takes his conversation from here.

Psalm 13:5-6

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

 

In verse 5 he ends his dialogue with God, by declaring his trust in God, and making a promise to rejoice in His salvation, and he does so before salvation has come! Then, by verse 6 he turns and takes authority over his own mind, as if commanding it to shift to that deeper truth. “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” And, just like that, the ‘rant’ is over. He has vented, dumped all his feelings–which has taken up most of the Psalm–and then turns his heart to a deeper truth, and takes authority over his own mind and soul.

Yes, I will struggle with God in hard times. When I see people like King David, and his writings in the Psalms–a man after God’s own heart–whining at times, if you please, or shouting, weeping until his soul is raw, or some other intense and real emotional moment with God about how bad things are–and he does it over and over and over again–it gives me hope in my struggle. When I see Elijah under a tree, begging God to take his life, I find hope in my struggle. When I consider Jonah being heaved–literally–onto dry land after his juvenile little escapade of running from God and swimming with fish, I see a God who goes with us through the storm. And when I hear Jesus telling Peter to ‘feed My sheep’ after cursing Him, then I find hope, in my struggle, that God truly uses us broken. Hope to believe that God is with me always and has a purpose that may actually include my struggle.

When I ‘get’ this, it doesn’t matter so much if I battle perfectly. Because I know that in the darkness, He is with me and has my back. Then I don’t fear the attacks, the battles, the pain… and I don’t fear the darkness because my future doesn’t depend on it ‘never happening again’–it depends on the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

Yes, we need to know it will get better and we are not victims of the darkness. (Even if it seems only to get better because we are stronger and more rooted in Christ, giving the enemy less access.) But we need to know that if it happens again, and the darkness doesn’t stay away forever, we are okay. And if we react poorly, there is nothing need to retreat in shame. No reason to hide our struggle. It is a stepping stone to deeper faith, and personal growth.

The greatest men of God, of all time, are recorded in His Word as acting in ways we would hardly accept from church leaders today. And yet they were key men of God. That is an amazing thought to me. And they behaved that way, as far as we know, without even having experienced sexual abuse and fighting those demons on top of these struggles.

We need permission to struggle, with the hope that it will not destroy us, and that maybe, just maybe, the struggle plays a part in God’s Kingdom.  King David gives me courage. He has showed me more of the heart of God than any other human in history, (not including Jesus) because he dared to struggle publicly. Even Jesus Christ–fully God and fully man, wrestled with God in Gethsemane–albeit much more gracefully than King David or I–and gave us permission to go there.

By being vulnerable we will give another weary soldier heart to ‘drag on’ with a bloody torso, broken limbs, and gouged out eyes… Because sometimes that is just what it feels like. And it would be easier to cover ourselves with a heavy blanket and smile at the passing soldiers, as if all is well and we are merely resting. But when another soldier crawls past, bleeding and weeping, but pointing the way to the cross, and speaking words of encouragement, we are inspired to press on. Far more so than if we see soldiers marching by, not a cut, scrape or spec of blood, declaring it can be done.

It takes courage to expose the wounds, especially years into healing, when we should be way past that–at least so we believe. But we need to do it for the sake of others who are hopeless and struggling.

If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Bearded Men, Religious Views, Gay Rights & Free Speech in a Duck’s Dynasty

Everyone else is chattering about it, I decided I might as well too. Usually addressing these ‘trending topics’ doesn’t interest me too much, so I stay away from them, even if I have an opinion.

And that was my plan this time too, but somehow I got drawn into this Phil Robertson saga. And it’s not because I watch Duck Dynasty. Mostly I haven’t the patience, the interest, or the attention span to watch anything on TV, including the news. Maybe especially the news. Most definitely, if it isn’t on CTV and free–which Duck Dynasty is not–I certainly won’t pay to watch it. Some day, however, when it shows up in second-hand stores, I’ll purchase Duck Dynasty and watch it at my leisure. Of that I’m quite certain.

The purpose of that little anti-TV rant? To establish that I have no vested interest in what happens to Phil Robertson, based on the show. Of course it is possible that I may change my mind after I find it in the used goods store, and ‘fall crazy in love’ with it. For now, I could care less about the show.

What got my interest is the hype on FB. Admittedly, when I first saw the ‘bring Phil Robertson Back’ status updates and invitations to ‘Like’ pages about it, I ignored them. Didn’t even know who the man was. After a day, or so, when I saw his bearded face and read his name in context with Duck Dynasty, I got curious and started clicking links and reading.

Part of me wonders what the big ‘social media deal’ is and why the fuss, even now that I know what happened, and what caused the ruckus. Didn’t Jesus give us a heads up that truth would not be appreciated? Is anti-Christianity not prophecy fulfilled? We should expect a bit of rejection. I get it all the time for speaking truth, and I get it from ‘within’ for exposing sexual abuse in churches, so this doesn’t shock me at all. If the religious, who have hidden sin, can’t handle truth spoken because it offends them, why should the secular world respond with more grace?

Acknowledging this ‘conflict with truth’ and the reality that we should expect rejection, is one side of the equation from a blatantly Christian point of view.

On the other hand, some Christians protested loudly to the war on freedom of speech. While I understand it, and have no problem with people actively standing for freedom, it is a view I can’t fully agree with. Both sides clearly spoke their minds, and neither was thrown in prison for it, so freedom of speech wasn’t taken from them.

Phil Robertson had freedom of speech. He did precisely what I think he should have done. He said what he thinks and believes with no apology. He is a Christian and, as such, embraces the Holy Bible as his authority on matters that collide with secular society. That’s what he said and it got him in trouble with his employer who has a different view. If he had been hateful, that would be a different thing. To believe something to be sin, and say so, isn’t hateful. It’s being honest.

A&E took action against Phil, based on their beliefs and views. They also exercised freedom of speech. And well they should. If it is their organization’s stand that homosexuality is acceptable and anyone who takes a stand against it publicly doesn’t reflect their views, then are they not being true to themselves to act as they did?

I’ve worked for a Christian organization that got rid of an employee for living in homosexual sin, and wasn’t willing to repent. To keep the employee, who clearly no longer embraced the values of the organization would have had huge ramifications had that truth leaked out. Without question the organization would have lost financial support from many sponsors and donors. They couldn’t afford to keep the employee. And, truth is, there was a collision of views and, in my opinion, that organization had the ‘right’ to get rid of the employee if it’s freedom of speech we are arguing for.

If that story had leaked out, I can’t imagine there would have been a ‘cry for justice’ regarding freedom of speech. And, had the individual taken it to court or gone public, there would have been an outpouring of prayer support. We can’t have it both ways, folks. Either both sides have the right to stand for personal beliefs and convictions–or lack thereof–or neither side has the right.

Granted, the whole thing falls apart right about there. Because if the fired gay individual goes to court, they’ll win. Hands down. Every time. The law is a donkey, at times, when it comes to justice for both sides. It leans heavily in favour of certain views.

Nor should we expect anything different. Life is a battle between good and evil, right and wrong. It has been since the fall of man, and it will remain that until the return of Christ.

We should not expect secular society to embrace, endorse, or support our views, unless we want to embrace, endorse and support their views. We should expect there to be a gap, some sort of ‘consequence’ for taking a stand, rather than buying into the worldview that is so popular, that all should live in perfect harmony. It can’t happen. Jesus prophesied that He would bring division.

Furthermore, God gave us all freedom of choice and we should, therefore, extend the same to the world around us. I’m not saying we should not speak out against sin, crime and all ‘darkness’, but we shouldn’t expect to be appreciated or even ‘accepted’. Prophets in days gone by were murdered for speaking truth. That didn’t stop them. We should speak out, respectfully, and pay the price.

Whether it is calling sin ‘sin’, or actively proclaiming the evils of murdering unborn babies–cleverly disguised as ‘freedom of choice for women’–we should be bold and firm in our stand against darkness. But in all of that we should never try to make the world ‘accept’ us, or walk in the light. Nor should we be hateful or obnoxious about it. That’s counterproductive. Ignorant, really.

If freedom of choice, given us by God, is something we want to exercise, then women should get to decide whether they have an abortion or not. Homosexuals should get to decide if they want to live in same-sex relationships or not. Secular governments should get to decide whether they endorse gay marriage or not. That is their God-given ‘right’ to freedom of choice, lifestyle and speech. Why should I take from them the right to choose between a life that honours God or glorifies sin? God gave me that choice.

And while they’re busy making those decisions and living out the consequences for their decisions, I should stand firm in the truth of Jesus Christ. I should speak His truth. All of it. Without apology. And I should love them, without justifying sin.

That truth will collide with their lifestyles. Truth is, this battle is over no duck’s dynasty, after all. It is a war between good and evil, God and Satan, right and wrong. If that were not so, then our truth would not be such an affront to people living in sin would. They would simply shake their heads at us poor misguided souls. But, even kindly spoken, and gently lived truth is an enemy.

We should always remember that until people know God, through Jesus Christ, intimately and personally, the truth about bearded men with biblical views, the truth about sin, and the reality that freedom of speech is two-sided should not make any sense to a lot of people. Why should they value the things that matter to God, when they have no understanding of God Himself?

Maybe, if we live the life of Christ boldly, fearlessly, regardless of the outcome–even if it means getting kicked off TV, which most of us need not fear–and speak the truth of Jesus… maybe, just maybe, the world will come to know our Saviour.

© Trudy Metzger

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When Life Disappoints

It’s an easy thing to write about trusting God, and share all kinds of happy thoughts, when life is good. But what about when life disappoints? When you’re fairly certain God opened a door, and just as suddenly it swings shut. Maybe even pinching your fingers, or slamming you in the face

That’s when trust requires faith.

For the past several years I have wanted (almost desperately) to study. But always the doors have closed, before they even opened. The advantage to that was that it never hurt too much. No fingers caught, no bruised nose. Eventually, I laid that dream down, intending not to revisit until my children are fully grown.

And then it happened… the door cracked open again, and I stepped in. Yes! This time I actually got in the door. Just the front door, but in the door none-the-less. I signed up to ‘audit’ a class, with the option of completing for credit, on the condition I register for full time next year.

This would have been completely impossible, financially, except for one thing. The Seminary will fore-go (or cover) one third of the tuition cost, if one third of the cost is sponsored, and as long as the student pays one third. On top of that they have payment plans that don’t rip people off, and that’s how they help students follow their dreams in ministry.

That’s a bit more manageable, for someone like me, being in ministry and raising a family. I felt hope rise up. But there was one catch….

They encouraged me to enroll for one class and see what I think. In the meantime they would see what they could do about ‘the catch’ in the plan. The sponsor must be a church, not a person, not a business. I have businesses, and individuals who believe in me enough to sponsor me, from time to time, and I have not exhausted the list of possibilities. I was quite confident I could raise $7000. No problem, I thought. So they said they would see if they could work something out.

I started studies, and immediately fell in love with it. I knew I would. I’ve always loved studying. Even exams. As long as I get to choose the topic. Throw some trigonometry or calculus at me and my tune might change, or I may doze of altogether. But anything to do with English, Science, Religion/Faith, or Politics, and I’m right there.

So when we jumped into studying Second Temple Judaism, and learning about Alexander the great, and how he ruled from 356BC to 333BC…. and how he conquered from Mesopotamia to India with an army of 35000 men… and how those men trusted him with such loyalty that they would line up and march over cliffs to show that allegiance and strike fear in the hearts of kings… and about Josephus… I was so excited. Several years of intense study for a Masters Degree. Yes! Couldn’t wait!

That’s when the door swung shut, suddenly. I learned, that, having looked at their policy, the Seminary cannot accept donations from people willing to sponsor. The donation must come directly from a church, to them. A local congregation has to believe in me enough to put up $7000 for me to have them sponsor a matching amount, and leaving me with the same.  My heart sank.

First off, many churches don’t want to touch a ministry like mine. It’s probably the most awkward ministry that exists, and it disrupts ‘image’. No, the work I do, thrives in the secular world, far more readily, where social justice is fought for, than in ‘the church’, where acknowledging such things is still quite scary for many, if not most. (God bless the churches who dare to go there–I am connected to a small handful.)

(I learned a few hours later that they would also accept multiple churches going together to sponsor that portion. But it has to be churches, and one church would need to be willing to collect the money and send payment.)

I ran the list of churches that I know who are comfortable with this topic. I had a few. They exist. But not many that I know. And to follow all the CRA rules and make it happen ‘above board’ is the next hurdle, with no easy solution.

It’s hard, when life disappoints, and the dreams you could almost taste and feel, wake you up to a new reality. I haven’t given up. Not yet. Not even on the sponsorship thing.

They say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.” But I say, “Where it is God’s will, there is a way.”

And since I believed with every ounce of my being that this was God’s will, and that He was opening a door, I can’t let it go ‘just like that’, without another step forward, and another prayer. I will see what creative ideas God sends my way, and give them all I have.

Then, when I have done everything in my power to follow this dream, if the door still swings shut, then I will let it go. But not a moment sooner. Because even when life disappoints there is reason to give our best, to go as far as we can, and not lay down and die.

But always, always, we must choose to trust God, no matter the outcome, if we want to live in the fullness of His blessing.

©TrudyMetzger

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