Safe From the Accusing Tongue

I opened my text messages at approximately 9:30 this morning. Only one message from a client. It said, quite simply, “Job 5:21  Psalm 31:20”. I opened my Bible app, searched for the verses.

Never in all my life had anyone sent me more appropriate verses, without knowing how they fit into my life at that particular moment. She knew nothing. I had only told Tim….

***

It was 5:30am, earlier this morning…

The lightning flashed. The thunder rolled, moments later. I didn’t really want to be awake. I value my sleep. And need it, really. If I want to invest the best of me into the women I meet with, daily, to walk through the ‘trauma and hell’ of life–whatever that trauma or hell may be–then I have to stay caught up on my sleep.

And this week especially so. Each day was filled with appointments, even the days I usually set aside for my family, and our home. And, whether I like it or not, there’s always the administrative ‘stuff’ to do. Not my favourite, but it has to be done, and I’m good at it. Besides, a ‘change’ is good in my line of work. It brings balance.

Fortunately, most nights, when I crawl in bed, my brain is  ‘off’ before my head hits the pillow. I sleep, uninterrupted, for 7 to 9 hours, on any given night. That, I recognize, is a huge blessing. Especially now that I am ‘middle-aged’. (Funny how 40’ish isn’t nearly as old as it used to be.)

When I awakened, thanks in part to the thunderstorm, and in part to the fact that I drank too much water at bedtime, I wasn’t impressed. I rolled over, willing the storm to end and my body to pretend there was no need to get up. Sometimes it works. (I know… not healthy…)

Almost immediately, however, my brain started up. At will, I can often turn it off. A short silent lecture about the hour of the morning, and a reminder that the day will take care of itself, and I’m usually off to sleep. But not this morning.

The thoughts that tumbled through my head, were the words of a client with whom I have worked, for the better part of the year, very consistently. She was quite vulnerable when we met, working through a lot of stuff. But within the year I watched as she became strong, secure and ‘healthy’.

She was in the Mennonite church then, and still is. If ever she indicated any interest in leaving, it was brief. I don’t recall that it was more than a passing thought, even though she had people in her life who had left, and more who wanted to leave. If ever I had wanted to influence her strongly to leave, that is when I could have done so, and would imagine I would have, most likely, been successful.

Because of her age, I encouraged her to wait to make a decision like that for a few years.

The ‘yo-yo’ that comes with that kind of decision is not easy. (I left home just before 16.) The world is a harsh place. And unless there are solid people to help you really ‘plug in’ and find a safe place, and connect with a supportive church, it is a very lonely journey. Not to mention the risk. The reality is that our Mennonite lifestyle leaves us ill prepared to face life in a harsh world. We are not, usually, very street smart, and the risk of getting lost, and terribly hurt, is very high. There are other factors, but these are the ones I usually mention.

When we met, yesterday, she told me that she had been cautioned–or warned–about meeting with me.

I smiled. Amazing how you can get used to these ‘warnings’, and not take them personal, for the most part. “Are they worried that I’m going to lead you astray, away from the culture?” I asked.

She explained that supposedly I was very bitter toward the Mennonite people, and she was to be very careful of my influence.

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If I’ve heard the accusation once, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. And usually from someone who has something to protect. So the words fell flat. But the source cut deep, and the betrayal that it brought.

A minister and his wife, with whom we met a few months ago and shared, heart to heart, and in whom we invested a deep trust. We spent time in prayer that night, and left, amazed by God, and profoundly impacted by the meeting. That she would accuse me of bitterness shocked me.

I returned home from that session, delighted to see how well the young woman was doing, yet bewildered by the accusation.

‘Like water off a duck’s back’ came to mind, and I knew I should let it go, just like that, as I often do, but I couldn’t. This time it was personal, far more so, than any other shallow accusation I have encountered. Most often they come from people in whom I have invested very little trust, if any, and who have family members I know are perpetrators. (Though they often have no idea I know this.) This was different. I had invested my heart, my trust, personally.

As I thought about it, I began to pray for the minister and his wife. And then I sent a text, telling them I am praying for them, the church they lead, and the broader Mennonite church. I told them that I hold no bitterness in my heart toward them, or the Mennonite church. And then my heart released the burden. I was at peace.

As the memory of their accusation tumbled through my mind at 5:30 this morning, my heart again felt sick, and sad. I have searched my heart, and asked God to search it as well, for any hidden bitterness, and I cannot find it. So I prayed again. And again I asked God to bless them, determined that every time the enemy attacks me with lies, I will simply turn to prayer and blessing. I will not be controlled, intimidated, held back, or made bitter by lies. I choose, instead, to live a life of forgiveness and blessing, and that was and remains my prayer.

Eventually I fell asleep again, peaceful, and encouraged by God.

***

Hours later I opened that text with only two references. The verses held promise, hope and encouragement, as if God himself had sent me the text, and I knew that He had not neglected to notice the false accusations, and affirm that, indeed, they are false.

Job 5:21

New King James Version (NKJV)

21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.

Psalm 31:20

New Living Translation (NLT)

20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence,
safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence,
far from accusing tongues.

As I read them, gratitude flooded over me. And in that moment, I knew I had learned a profound lesson, in the preceding 17 hours. A lesson that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

When false accusations had cut like a knife in the preceding hours, and the enemy had tried to discourage me, I had turned in prayer to the One who knows all things. And in Him I found hope, in Him I found protection.

He is my Rock, my safe place, from the accusing tongue. Nothing, and no one can touch me there, in His Presence.

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©TrudyMetzger

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A Public Reponse: Do I Really Hate Mennonites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©TrudyMetzger

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