True forgiveness leaves offenders in their own noose… And a sneak peek at survey results

We Anabaptists say that for a Catholic priest to forgive a penitent sinner is false doctrine. He has no such authority, we say, to stand in the place of God and forgive sins.

We then turn around and teach that victims of sexual abuse and violence must forgive their offenders. It is his/her Christian duty. And we teach that it brings freedom not only to the offended but also to the offender. Moreover, we have members’ meetings in which the guilty are singled out, and the congregation stands to declare forgiveness.

Tell me, if the Catholic priest has no such rights and authority, how can we say that we do? Do we not also stand in the place of God, and encourage victims to do so, when we make forgiveness about the offender? (I understand the priest ‘absolves’ the sinner, which sounds much worse, but only means to set free from guilt or responsibility. So, same thing as forgiveness. Same doctrinal practice).

Forgiveness is one of the most crucial aspects of *our own healing*. It has nothing to do with setting the other person free from their sins or wrongs. It sets *us* free from *their* sins and wrongs. It’s like it cuts the rope of the noose the offender placed around our neck, and allows us to truly live, completely released from him/her and the crimes committed against us.

Part of that noose is vindictiveness; entertaining the urge to retaliate. Part of that noose is vengeance; the act of getting even and letting them have it. Part of that noose is hatred; despising the person rather than the vile acts they committed. When we cut the noose, we release hatred for the person, and we release vengeance and vindictiveness. We are no longer obsessed with getting back at them. We trade those things for compassion, and maintain a desire for truth and justice, and to protect the vulnerable. The latter qualities do not evaporate with forgiveness. In this exchange, when we forgive, we become whole and the noose about our neck is severed.

When we cut that noose, however, offenders are no more free from their noose than before we forgave. He/she must come before God taking full ownership and in full repentance to be freed from the noose around his/her neck. Both ‘cheap forgiveness’ — the kind that quickly tidies things up to look good,  and lack of forgiveness — that keeps us constantly seeking vengeance, hold offender in bondage and do nothing for the freedom of the victim. It is a gift to the offender to be held accountable.

We are set free when we forgive, and we release them to accountability before God and the law.

In other words, forgiveness is an act of faith in God. Through forgiveness we recognize that the offender remains accountable before God for his/her sins/crimes, not to us. Vengeance is not ours; it is Gods.

Forgiveness also does not fulfil the demand of law and government. That is a separate accountability structure. (Romans 13). We have no more authority to ‘forgive’ the offender and ‘free them from responsibility to the law’ than we have to offer eternal life through forgiveness of sins.

False doctrine surrounding forgiveness keeps both victim and offender in bondage to the sin/crime committed. It keeps the victim in bondage to the consequences of the offender’s sins/crimes. We were not designed to carry the consequences of our own sins, let alone the sins of another. We can only choose to take ownership of our healing needs that result from those sins/crimes.

Forgiveness leaves the offender, right there in his/her own noose, before God. Because that noose has nothing to do with the victim. It has everything to do with his/her heart before God. It leaves the offender with the choice to reach up and cry out for forgiveness from God, and turn from the wickedness, or to slowly strangle the life out of him/herself. Our false doctrine of forgiveness leaves the offender to strangle, not realizing that’s what is happening.

True forgiveness, separated from the offender and his/her story, sets the victim free from the offender. It sets the victim free from the offence. It sets the victim free *from the consequences of the offence*. It releases the victim *from* being a victim *to* being empowered.

True forgiveness frees the victim to become an overcomer. And it frees the victim to take ownership of his/her own healing.

That’s what real forgiveness does.

***

SURVEY:

Currently we have a survey looking at Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.  We have 77 responses in under two days, which is outstanding. We are also collecting data on relationship of offender(s) to victims. Some of the results, as usual, are pretty much what we expected. Others are startling. For example:

SNEAK PREVIEW OF SURVEY RESULTS BASED ON 78 respondents:
• 40% of victims have been assaulted by their brothers
• 31%  of victims have been assaulted by family friends
• 27% of victims have been assaulted by their fathers
• 10% of victims have been assaulted by their mothers
• 15% of victims have been sexually assaulted by more than 5 offenders
• Roughly 57% of victims who suffered only SA or only DV left the conservative; When the two are combined — SA & DV — that number jumps to nearly 70%
• 30% of SA victims (no DV) who left the church say leaders played a significant role in their leaving the church; coincidentally 42% of all SA victims (no DV)  would recommend going to leaders
• 36% of DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 87% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support
• 42% of SA & DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 100% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support

NOTE: While the numbers are startling, it should not be assumed that 10% of all CA survivors (outside of this study) were molested by mothers. There are many factors that could contribute to this representation in this particular survey.
….

There is much more emerging, and when we have enough participants to feel fairly confident in the data, I plan to do a deep analysis and share some of the graphs and stats here. I’m hopeful that we will have around 200 participants with a bit of time. (Currently we are at 78, so climbing even since writing the last two paragraphs).

I have fine-tuned that survey, and will release the improved version on our new Survey’s Page shortly. (Hoping later tonight). I plan to update this page with new surveys as I get then ready, so check back. While this blog is the sole ownership and responsibility of myself, Trudy Metzger, the data gathered will be used by Generations Unleashed to better understand sexual abuse in our culture. I will also share surveys for other individual i trust, and who are researching sexual abuse.

I am hopeful that as the conversations continue, professionals and support persons alike will be equipped to give better advice and support sexual abuse survivors in our conservative Mennonite culture. For example, if professionals are encouraging victims to go to their leaders, but victims are finding their leaders to be abusive, then such advice should stop.

But it should not end there. Leaders should be trained and equipped to respond in more effective ways. Looking at the results above it appears (and has consistently throughout the survey) that leaders’ response to DV is even more neglectful than sexual abuse. There are many things that play into responses, including silence surrounding the topic. Respondents talked about ‘seeing change’ and ‘being hopeful’ that there is improvement. And some referenced ‘the last 10 years’.

This makes sense to me. The last 10 years is when we’ve started addressing sexual abuse more and more openly. It is anecdotal evidence that conversation is necessary for change. So let’s keep talking!

And, lest I’ve completely distracted you from good intentions, you can take the survey Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence and let your voice make a difference. Also, for more accurate results.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Forgiveness; Compassion; William McGrath a Conservative Anabaptist Leader and Sex Offender, and all the Things

FORGIVENESS
In all the Christian talk about the beauty of forgiveness, we have made the mistake of teaching and believing that forgiveness and justice are at odds. They are compatible. It is not ‘forgiveness *or* justice’. It is ‘forgiveness *and* justice’. God loves both.

The problem is that we really do not understand what forgiveness is and means, and we really don’t understand what justice is and means. (I do not propose to have the understanding either! But to think they are at odds is evidence we are missing something). As a result, most teachings on forgiveness are imbalanced, saying you must choose ‘only’ forgiveness. Many even teach that to forgive means “I am taking the consequences of your sin on myself.”

I would propose that we release ourselves from the consequences of their wrongs and sins when we forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of releasing my heart from the burden I carry as a result of the evils done against me. The greatest longterm ongoing consequence for most sins committed against me is what I believe as a result of that wrong. (There are exceptions. If a drunk driver kills my child, the longterm consequences is my grief, the loss of that child and all that goes with it. I speak here specifically to my experience and most wrong committed against me).

My forgiveness cannot free the other person; only God’s forgiveness can do that. In fact, if handled in such a way that the other person never truly comes to grips with their wrongdoing, ‘forgiveness’ (as taught by many) keeps that person in bondage. There is a kindness in a person being confronted with their own capacity for evil, when paired with compassion, mercy, grace and consequences that holds him/her accountable. If the offender is truly repentant, this encounter is life altering and a gift to him/her and those in relationship with them.

I believe in forgiveness. It transformed my life. It continues to transform my life. It is what set me free to live a whole life, to pursue my calling. And it is what breaks the power their actions had over me. It does not impose on me any code of silence. It does change the way I speak about it. I still call out evil. I still call out corruption and manipulation. I do not hate. I do not call for beheadings, literally or figuratively. I still support going to the law and ensuring offenders cannot continue to hurt people. That’s part of justice.

There is no justice in leaving children vulnerable to predators. None. Nor is that forgiveness. That is ignorance. But true justice never calls for the destruction (death or other) of the wrongdoer. Because true justice recognizes that I, too, am fallen humanity who deserves judgement, and the grace I have received is the grace I pass on. God did not remove this life’s consequences; I continue to live with those to this day. But He did offer me eternal life and removed from me the consequence of eternal death.  That is a gift I offer others, along with restoring their humanity, seeing them as having both capacity for good and for evil, and treating them with dignity even while holding them accountable for that evil.

***

Over my mother’s funeral several of my offenders showed up . One, in particular, stood out. He looks but a broken shell of humanity. Though he is not a family member, I’ve seen him at numerous family events such as weddings and funerals — I anticipate I will see him again tomorrow — and always what it stirs in my heart is grief. Not for what was done against me — I’m done with that grieving and am healed — but of what sin robbed him of. That’s not to say he hasn’t made his heart right before God. I’m not one to judge that. But the eyes tell a story…. and the story his tell… 

I saw him there… So I walked over, stood behind the gentleman talking to him and waited ‘in line’ to speak with him. When my turn came, I shook his hand, and thanked him for his expression of sympathy by coming to mom’s funeral. Admittedly, he looked relieved when my thanks was all I had to say to him.

Whatever he took from me when he molested me, it does not compare with what he lost within himself, and the consequences he has to live with for his choices. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not downplaying his crimes; they had a huge impact on me. Truth is, odds are high I would still be conservative Anabaptist if he had not done what he did. That is where and when I started feeling lost in the culture to such a degree that I knew I could not stay. I saw myself as a misfit who would never survive, and whose dreams would never come true ‘among them’. Trust me, I do not bemoan the outcome, but at the time, as a young teen who dreamed of marrying a Mennonite man — ideally a farmer — it was devastating. I saw only ‘old rejected spinster’ in my future, and that belief isolated me.

The greater harm was the sexual confusion it threw me into. Feeling things for which I had no words or teaching, and the ensuing years of deep shame it cost me. And because word got out, I had no idea who all knew. Every time a young man looked at me, I was sure he was thinking “slut”. So I would sit through special meetings at other churches, blushing and ashamed, whenever a young man looked my way. Yes, the cost was significant.

But I saw the consequences in his eyes at mom’s funeral, and felt only compassion. Since seeing him at mom’s funeral, I’ve said to Tim from time to time, “I think I need to go visit him and his wife. I need to have a conversation with them….”

We will see. If and when the time is right, I will do it. And that visit won’t be for my own good or healing; it will be for his redemption. Not relational restoration. That is not necessary. But his deep soul redemption and freedom.

If I do it, I do it of my own choice. And that choice has nothing whatsoever to do with forgiveness, other than to give me the courage to do it. Forgiveness is something I did in my heart before God many years ago. These things should not be confused with forgiveness, because they are not a requirement of the forgiving process.

COMPASSION
I felt that same compassion standing in the courtroom at Jeriah Mast’s hearing. First, and foremost, I felt deep grief for those whom Jeriah victimized. When the judge read the list of crimes Jeriah confessed to committing, it was all I could do to hold myself together and not begin sobbing. When the judge read how only weeks before the sentencing, Jeriah still said his sexual assaults (at age 25) of minors under 13 was ‘consensual’, I felt frustrated that he still doesn’t ‘get it’ how incredibly vile it is to use children and that there is no such thing as ‘consensual’ when adults take advantage of children. And when the judge handed down the sentence and explained why he chose the 9 years instead of a lesser sentence– because Jeriah is an ongoing risk to the public, in part because he doesn’t get it — I felt a mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that it is a judge who ‘gets it’, not the church, and gratitude that at least someone does.

And when I saw Jeriah handcuffed and taken from the courtroom before a numb audience (his church and family, by all appearances), I felt compassion and deep sorrow. Sorrow that Jeriah’s crimes caused so much loss and harm to the victims, his wife and family, and his friends. Sorrow that so much of religion doesn’t grasp the harm and rallies for the offender. (I was one of less than a handful of people – and that’s a generous number – who were there to support the victims in a courtroom so full that people were standing around the room). And compassion for Jeriah’s soul and the things that took him down this path. It came out in court that he had been sexually abused by an older brother. This in now way excuses his evil deeds. To commit them was a choice, and he must own that before God and man.

Some say he has owned it. I reiterate that his comments not long before sentencing, minimizing his crimes to ‘consensual acts’, are revealing of his lack of grasping the severity of his crimes, which means he isn’t safe around the vulnerable, but the rest — repentance and forgiveness — I leave between him and God. And leave it with God to fully break him and help him understand how evil and far reaching the crimes/sins are. And to understand that children should be protected by 25 year old men; they should not need to be protected from them. 

***

William McGrath. The name evokes many and various responses, depending who is in the audience. Those who hold him high, and idolize this cultural trophy with his charismatic (so some say) personality, it evokes high praise and reverence. For his victims, and those near them, who watched a religious culture idolize him, then (some) question him, followed by deafening silence and cover-up, the name is a reminder of loss and suffering without proper acknowledgement of truth, and certainly a lack of justice. For the Beachy Amish leaders who investigated and then fell short of being honourable, I imagine the name brings shame.

For the woman whose husband — a victim of McGrath — committed suicide… I cannot imagine the deep suffering she has experienced at the silence, and at not hearing McGrath’s name where it should have been spoken, and where his actions should have been unequivocally condemned. And I can’t imagine how healing it must be for her to know that someone has heard her cries.

And ‘that someone’ who heard is the author of Anabaptist Medical Matters, a Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Medical doctor who has recently written several articles addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in the CA community, including a current one on McGrath. He is forthright, gentle, honest, and — from what I see at a distance — seems to live honourably. (I have never met him, but still hope to one day).

In this article he tells of the case of William, and dares to speak to that which lies carefully buried. But the truth does not die with the body, and the consequences ripple throughout the generations, when sex crimes are left unaddressed. Especially when it is at a religious leadership level. To read the article, visit, “Blessed Are They That Mourn“.

(Warning: The article may be triggering for survivors. Trigger or not, I would read it for the gold that is in it. By giving you a heads up, I hope it will prevent extreme triggering and make it possible for you to push past the triggers. The first potential trigger is in ‘mourn for the offenders’. I agree with the author, but have worked long enough with survivors to know the general consensus is that offenders’ needs are always placed first. If able, push past this and read on. The second trigger is in addressing Jeriah Mast. The author may not be aware that only weeks prior to his sentencing, Mast was still defending/excusing his actions against boys as young as 11 — when he was 25 — as consensual. For those who know this, the author’s statement “By all accounts, he has sincerely repented, even expressing a desire to be rebaptized” could be very triggering).

I do not agree with everything written here, and that’s ok. I see a sincere and honest acknowledgement of deep failure in the CA community, in this writing, and bless the author for daring to go there. It is not a popular move in that culture.

Frankly, until survivors have permission to speak, and those who remain (whether family or culture) repent for the coverups and abuses, there is no changing the course of history. But God forbid that the abusers be the ones to ‘stand in the gap’ and repent for other offenders, if they have not first done so with their own offences. If you are godly, and if you have taken ownership for your wrongs and repented at a personal level, only then have you any right to stand in that gap without making things worse.

***

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. I feel blessed to be alive and doing so well. I’ve had some near-death encounters in my life — two in particular stand out — including numerous events this year that reminded me of the fragility of life. To have made it half way to 100 and thriving, is the mercy and grace of God.

I have no personal needs but have many in my life who do have needs, so to celebrate my 50th, I invite you to support the following:

  1. THE GATHERING, our second annual event offering survivors of abuse a safe place to gather and connect, a place to find hope, safety and healing. This year we were able to offer attendance considerably below cost, thanks to donors. It is our hope to continue making this event affordable through donations. To donate, visit Generations Unleashed Donate and scroll down to The Gathering 2020.
  2. Support for victims of Jeriah Mast in Haiti who did not accept payouts from Christian Aid Ministries. We started this fund just prior to my mother’s decline and death, with a team of people willing to help oversee it, and with reports. To date we have received two donations — one for $200 and one for $20 — but unfortunately holds were placed on both donations (presumably because it was a new PayPal account, since we could not put this through GU). One hold has now been lifted. Furthermore, the tragic events in Haiti have made it impossible for us to set up vendors where these survivors can go for prepaid supplies, whether groceries or other. As of this week, that has changed for some survivors who have relocated. We will now work toward arranging for their needs to be met, where they have relocated, but will require considerably more funding than the $220 we presently have. Donate: Here and scroll down to Haiti Victims.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019

Religious community urges forgiveness after ‘foot shooting’ spree

To the pastor whose wife was shot in the foot:
A man wearing a navy hoodie walks into your house one night, shoots your wife in the foot. You read a few bible verses and pray for her. No hospital. No doctor. Just a simple bandage. No police officer.

The next night a man walks in, shoots her in the foot. You respond precisely as the night before.

The third night, same thing.

Each night you urge your wife to forgive. You suggest reading her bible and praying more. You ask her what she might have done to make the men shoot her in the foot. There must be some explanation. Men don’t just walk into a random houses and shoot women in the feet without cause.

Your wife tries to continue with her normal duties. She hobbles about on the festering wound, limping and wincing. It is an ever present reminder of the traumatic events.

You urge your wife to forgive. Once she has truly forgiven, her foot will stop hurting, and the limp will go away. With each improvement, you are relieved to be one milestone further from the shootings.

Some time later, your wife — still hobbling, foot still infected — sees a man walking in the lane wearing a navy hoodie. She freaks. It turns out to be a neighbour. You chide your wife. You tell her she’s overreacting. She must not have forgiven the other man if she’s reacting so strongly to the neighbour in his navy hoodie.

A broader epidemic & proposed solution:
At church you learn that other men’s wives have been shot in similar fashion. But it doesn’t end there. You learn that this has been happening in other churches too. It’s at epidemic levels. And women are freaking out at the sight of hoodies for no reason. What’s more, you discover the men doing the shooting are fellow church members. Several are even fellow leaders; pillars of the church who would never do such a thing! Now you are certain that the women are causing this!

Troubled, and uncertain what to do with it, yet not wanting your church to fall apart, you address it by preaching a series on Forgiveness. Five Sundays in a row you preach on Forgiveness. Surely, if all of the women who were shot could only forgive, things would not be as they are.

You then preach on what the women may have done to trigger such an epidemic. You point out that every woman who was shot was not in the kitchen at the time she was shot. If each had been in the kitchen, none of this would have happened. You urge the women to take ownership of their failure, thus protecting the oncoming generation from having their feet shot. And, though your message this Sunday is not about forgiveness, due to the critical role forgiveness plays, you put in a gentle reminder to forgive.

Following this you dedicate a Sunday to speaking against seeking attention. You point out how they are using emotional responses at the sight of hoodies to control the men and dramatize their experiences. You gently let them know that their exaggerated limping is a tool of the devil to shame the men and bringing great harm to the church.

A few good men and some wounded:
You meet with the men,
including those who did the shooting. Some admit to having at least held a gun and considered shooting, a few admit to pulling the trigger. Other insist they have never even seen a gun, let alone held one. The allegations are absurd! False allegations, most are! It is the women sticking their feet in front of the guns, asking to be shot, that is the problem.

Some who had no part in the shootings speak up in defence of these honourable men, echoing their sentiments; the women were wanting their feet shot. Others suggest that maybe it isn’t the women’s fault at all. The latter are asked to be silent or leave. Most of them leave.

Good riddance, you think to yourself… no one needs their bitterness and negativity. Until they see how divisive they are, it’s better they are gone.

And no one notices that half of the men who leave are limping. They too have been shot in the foot and have festering wounds. 

A gentle reminder to forgive:
You wrap it up with one final message on forgiveness. You share how meaningful your meeting was with the ‘brothers’. Some admitted to having thoughts of shooting feet. Yes, a few were guilty, but they are deeply sorry. Having learned from their mistakes, they are now more equipped than before; better men for having sinned and repented.

You cannot emphasize enough the importance of allowing the men in the navy hoodies return to leadership. God has called us to forgiveness and unity. We should receive them in full fellowship, restoring all relationships and supporting them in their positions, and trust they will never do it again.

You remind them of the Apostle Paul who murdered. He didn’t just shoot women in the feet. He murdered God’s people. Surely, if God can forgive him and have him preach, there is still a place behind the pulpit for men who shoot feet. 

And nothing has changed:
Women’s feet are still bleeding. Festering wounds are turning gangrenous. Slowly they die. The men who were shot, too.

The men who shot them, keep on shooting. Shooting other men. Shooting women. Shooting boys. Shooting girls. All in the feet so they must find some way to live, while they die slowly.

And then you hear that women are shooting boys and girls in the feet.

The children are shooting each other in the feet.

People are dying. Slowly. 

What went wrong?
You go back to your notes on Forgiveness and wonder what went so wrong. Why didn’t it heal everyone? Why didn’t it stop the shooting. The bleeding. The gangrene. The epidemic.

It never occurred to you to kneel down and get your own hands bloody. To pour ointment gently on their wound. To wrap her feet tenderly, and offer her a footstool. To teach your congregation to tend to her needs while the wounds heal. It never crossed your mind to lay aside your sermons for a few weeks, and instead pull up a stool and lean in to hear her heart. Truly listen. To wipe her tears, look her in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry. You did not deserve this. It is not your fault.” 

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A wounded bride, dying children and the Jesus who wept
And Jesus weeps. His bride’s wounds have become a cancer, slowly killing her soul. 

His bride’s tears flow uncomforted. Her infants lie scattered, lifeless at her feet. 

Jesus cries, again, from the cross, “I thirst!”

And the best we have offered Him is vinegar and gall, served on a hyssop branch — to numb His pain and purify His lips.

When all His heart cried for was that we love His bride enough to protect her, and care for her children; that we love Him.

 

***

The preceding story is a parable.

Sexual abuse continues, an epidemic in church. Allegations, carelessly labeled false without ever leaning in and listening to the victims.

Mothers are blamed for their children’s traumatic experience, and sometimes fathers. Unless the parents are ‘model’ members, then the children somehow removed themselves from protection.

Excuses abound. Forgiveness is treated with the care of a cuss word. Hearts even less gently.

And a few godly men rise up with their sisters, and wipe the tears of the Christ, in the eyes of the children, and the oppressed.

To those honourable ones, “Thank you.”

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

Laying my Mother to Rest, and processing forgiving my Father

Farewell Mom:
When I wrote my last blog before my mom’s death, on September 25, I didn’t know that only two days later I would stand by her bedside as she stopped to take her first breath of eternal life. One deep breath of the eternal, and she slipped away from us.

It is a strange and sacred thing to have been birthed from her womb, with my grandmother coaching her through the encounter, and to now stand beside her fifty years later, coaching her through her birth into an eternal world we cannot grasp. A world we feel inside, but are not privileged to preview. “You’re almost home. Soon you will rest,” I whispered

I wished for one moment that I could see through her eyes, the glorious world beyond, as her final heartbeat faded… I felt it, the dichotomy of a ‘farewell’ and a ‘welcome here’ happening all in one sacred moment as we watched her slip away, while in another place I imagined past heroes cheering at her entrance….

“She’s gone”, we whispered, as those in the Great Beyond cheered, “She made it!”

The last heartbeat lingered on my fingertips. Mom was asleep.

And then I stepped out of the hospital room, and doubled over weeping. Weeping for the loss of that moment. And the loss of a lifetime.

I will write more one day, I expect, but not right now. It is raw. It is sacred. It is broken… this story of my life with her. Above all, it is redeemed.  And when the time is right, I will tell that part of my story, because forgiving her was the right thing to do and brought healing to my heart.

For now, “Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad you discovered the real Jesus and could say with confidence that you are ready to go Home.”

***

Trigger Alert (Forgiveness):
Forgiveness has been used and abused in religious communities as far back as I recall, and no doubt long before that. For people who have been traumatized and had their suffering disregarded, and then are guilt-tripped into ‘forgiving’, it is the Christian F-bomb. (Keeping in mind that what some teach forgiveness to be is not what forgiveness actually is). Therefore the warning. The following is a snippet of my story, involving my dad, which I usually tell at training.

My dad spent his life abusing his family emotionally, spiritually, and physically, at least into his late 50’s to early 60’s, and blatant sexual assault into his 40’s. There was one incident in his mid-50’s of crossing boundaries without blatant sexual assault.

That’s the backstory.

As he aged, in his late 60’s, dad mellowed out. And somewhere in there he was diagnosed bi-polar and put on meds; a detail most of his children only learned after his death. In his 70’s diabetes got the better of him and dad ended up in hospital, eventually having his leg amputated.

During his hospitalization, I chose to drive the 90 minutes once or twice a week, to sit by his bed. I usually went in the morning when no one else would be there. I had learned that when it was just the two of us we could go deep. Sometimes I sat and held his hand. He wept on numerous occasions, a broken old man (not that old, really, at 71, but older than his years), discovering God’s grace. Always I gave him a goodbye hug and told him I loved him.

When dad asked me to forgive him, I told him I’d forgiven him many years ago. I had done so for my freedom, not wanting to pass on the generational cycles to our children. (I broke many chains, yet failed our children deeply with my anger and emotional disengagement). The violence, death threats, name-calling and sexual abuse were never part of parent-child relationships. The cost of my failing still huge for my family.

Even though I had forgiven my parents, Tim and I made the choice to keep our children safe. None of our children had a relationship with my parents. We attended gatherings and tried to watch them closely. (In hindsight we wonder if we did enough). It never felt right to put them at risk. Even so, I chose to have relationship with my parents. I talked often on the phone with mom – especially after dad passed away – and occasionally chatted with dad. He wasn’t one to spend time on the phone with us. And I chose to pursue his heart in the hospital in his 70’s, and when he was arrested for uttering death threats in his 60’s. That was my choice. But boundaries for our children remained to the very end. With no apology, and no regret. I know with confidence my father never had access to our children.

Having shared this snippet at one of our training events recently, a delightful young woman contacted me not long after. She was happy for me, that I had been able to forgive so completely and sit there holding dad’s had. She’s not there yet, she said, but hopes one day she will be. 

Here is the thing, by the time I held my father’s hand, I had spent more than ten years healing from the damage he did to me, and had been away from home for over 15 years. By that time he was a vulnerable old man, broken by his own sin. I extended forgiveness many years earlier, but he remained a trigger for me at every family event we had while he was strong and healthy. I never trusted that he wouldn’t grab a gun one day and shoot us all. That fear never left until he was old and frail, and the nightmares haunted me even after his death.

Holding his hand had nothing to do with forgiveness, in and of itself. It did not make my forgiveness complete, though I could not have done it if I had not already forgiven him. It merely said, “I now feel safe enough to do this.”

Did it potentially help him grasp my forgiveness? That is possible. Even likely. But I was just as forgiving when we set up boundaries protecting our children, as I was when I hugged him and told him I love him, and when I held his hand.

Boundaries are not at odds with forgiveness. They should be part of it. That includes protecting our children from evil, and not putting ourselves in unnecessary harm. To force myself to hold his hand when I was in a place of trauma would have been a dreadful disservice to Tim and our children. They paid a high enough price for my journey. 

We all walk the path to healing differently. To be truly free from the offender’s grip, forgiveness must be part of that journey. Not the forgiveness taught by too many religious folks. The kind that looks the other way. That allows abuse to continue unquestioned and unchallenged. That silences victims and shames them. Forgiveness that lends a free pass to offenders, while sentencing victims to a life of bondage and guilt. Bondage to secrecy, and guilt if they dare to speak.

Not that kind of forgiveness at all. But the kind that says, “Your crimes/sins will not dominate my mind and my life. I choose to take back my ‘being’. I choose to heal. I choose to believe I have value, and the thing you did against me will not define me. So I forgive you, and set myself free. Free from your crimes, and free to speak truth without apology. And I leave you to stand accountable before God and the law.”

To forgive, when you go back to the original text in Matthew 6:12, means “send away, discharge, release, a separation…”

It’s time to reclaim forgiveness. The real kind.

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Mennonite-raised man with EXTREMELY strong ties to wealthy Mennonites threatens to sue me with their backing… and advice I gave his wife

THE THREAT:
On Sunday September 22, 2019, a man contacted me in a bit of a sour mood. Initially he was irritated about a status I posted, in which I wrote: “If a man had molested his own daughters (or anyone else, for that matter), in the past, is he ever the right choice to be in leadership (board of directors or other) for an organization offering support for troubled young women? To give context, he has only been dealt with quietly and has never been reported.” I don’t know context for his frustration, exactly, but he’s entitled to his opinion. I’m entitled to mine. And I’m entitled to post what I wish on my FB, as long as it does not violate FB rules… or my own conscience before God.

In any case, whatever bothered him about this status, his response was to launch into an attack on me for allegedly wrecking their marriage with the advice I gave his wife. (Advice that I have posted below). In reality, I listened to his wife, and was careful not to give advice, as you will see below.

The man then launched into threats to sue me: “If you continue to communicate with my wife I will sue you. That’s not a threat it’s a statement. [Ummm…No… It’s a threat]. You have caused enough unnecessary drama and I have the backing of a lot of plain people and major funds. Have a good life and I hope the Lord works a miracle with you.

Baffled by the allegations and not able to recall what advice I gave, beyond my usual, “I care… you’re not alone… seek professional counseling…”, I went back through my conversations with his wife to see what ‘drama’ I had created. The only ‘drama’ I can figure out is that I gave her a place to share her fears and concern…

THAT DAMNING ADVICE:
The following is the kind of counsel I gave, (with all identifying information removed, and removing all comments except my own):

I went through [something similar to what you’re describing] and didn’t even think to discuss any of it with my doctor. [identifying information redacted]. It might be good to talk to your doctor about it […]

You are not alone. Many of us have pushed through these same struggles. It is hard, but worth fighting through. Twenty-five years later, Tim is my best friend. And to think we almost didn’t make it a few times, if only because I felt I couldn’t push through anymore. I felt unloved, abandoned and worthless.”

Do you tell him he’s a good dad, and all the other qualities he has?

[Tim & I] pushed through the ‘waves’ and ‘cycles of confusion’ [in our marriage]. I tried always to build him up and speak to his strengths, and he is by nature very faithful. That helped a lot. But eventually we also had to learn to ‘fight well’ and really get to the bottom of the main hurts. There is a right time, and right way to ‘fight’ and there is a right time and right way to get to the bottom of key issues. We Mennonite women have mostly not been taught to do that well.

You can get through this, and be best friends again. I’m not going to lie. It is hard work. But it is so worth it!

Do you know each other’s love languages?

(T)he the more depleted each partner gets, the harder it is to meet the needs of the other. Hang in there. I will pray for you

So here are the professional counselors my friend would recommend:
[redacted to remove location and identifying information]..

I can’t give advice, per se, but I can encourage you to keep seeing your counsellor and hopefully get the support you need to get through this. I will pray for you.

I’ll keep praying for you, trusting God to heal and restore what has been lost.

I’m so glad [they] are healing, and I trust God will move in unexpected ways for you and [your husband], healing you individually, and relationally. I’m not a fan of ‘formulas’, but have heard couples who were transformed with the guide of Love Dare (a book). I don’t know if it would be beneficial and supportive for you, or not, but I’ll leave that with you to contemplate.

These are examples of the kind of advice I gave. And he claims I gave damaging advice that caused drama, and is threatening to sue me if I don’t stay away from his wife… even though she is the one who reached out to me! (While he has the privilege of asking me to stay away from his wife we don’t live in a country where a man can sue someone for responding to their spouse when she reaches out. It isn’t 1819. And this is USA and Canada..) Should the wife ask me not to contact her,  I presume there might be some room for harassment charges…. except that I wouldn’t contact her. Also, there’s always the ‘unfriend’ and ‘block’ or ‘block messages’ buttons on FB. That would be another option if it’s drama he is trying to avoid.

CONSERVATIVE MENNONITES AND LAWSUITS:
Back to the issue of lawsuits…
The man initially threatened to sue me if I contact his wife again. Later, in a moment of of sanctifying his threats, he told me it would be to help others….

He also told me that he is not a Mennonite, but claims to be an advocate for them. Fair enough. Being a ‘not Mennonite’ is neither here nor there to me, though, last I heard he still attends a conservative church, with his wife in covering …. so he’s ‘culturally’ a Mennonite. His father is a conservative Anabaptist leader, last I heard. And he alleges to have the backing of wealthy conservative Mennonites in his endeavours against me.

I took this to mean he was saying the threat of lawsuit doesn’t reflect badly on Mennonites, though I’m not sure what his point was, because he claims to have the backing of wealthy Mennonites to sue me, and a list of 10 people who want to sue me. (And those communications could all be subpoenaed for court. That would be fun). That, if true, puts it all right back on people in the conservative Anabaptist culture.

Following are some of the comments he sent. His messages are italicized. My response are plain text, and my added thoughts are in brackets:

“I have the backing of a lot of plain people and major funds.”

(I… SEEE-EEE…!)

(I’m constantly reminded that by taking crimes to the law I am not a forgiving person, and I obviously don’t believe in redemption. But suing me? That’s okay because, well, exposing sex crimes disrupts … well, a whole lot of things. So suing me is non-resistant? Forgiving? Turning the other cheek? Or has life really become all about money and power?  All of these threats might scare me if money was more powerful than God, or a prerequisite for getting into heaven. But…. Well…. The good news is that God is still in control and if He sees fit to use a lawsuit against me to unearth more buried corruption, so be it. I am His servant. And He will take care of me. Of this I am confident. Losing everything would only scare me if I didn’t have Him. And I don’t have that much to lose, so there’s that.)

He continued:

“I got other people talking to me about you and you know as well as I do I have EXTREMELY strong ties to the plain churches. Heck I have relatives in about every one.”

(I… SEEE-EEE…!)

(What more can a person say? Is he actually saying having “EXTREMELY strong ties to the plain churches” is a threat? What are they in his mind, the mafia?)

AND THEN THE RANDOM COMMENT WITHOUT CONTEXT:
“I was told to talk about it to you along time ago but I never did because I don’t wanna be that guy. No need to go into detail. Your a smart person and you know.”

(No I don’t know because I don’t know who said he should talk to me, or why.  And like it or not, you are “that guy”, whatever that means, because you just did it).

AND THEN THERE WAS THE POLISHING OF THE HALO:
I don’t care about myself. I care about others that are being hurt.
The Lord has blessed my business and I intend to use the funds to help others. I wouldn’t do that if I only cared about myself. God bless

My response:
“And suing blesses people how? There is nothing of Jesus likeness in your messaging today. And then end with “God bless”? Don’t use His name in vain and try to spiritualize the profane.”

His comeback:
Protects the innocent
Even if I go to hell I’ll at least have protected some people

My response:
“You don’t have a leg to stand on. I have done nothing to you or your wife, and to sue me makes no sense.”

His comeback:
It wouldn’t be on behalf of me and my wife. I would be supplying funds to someone else that has contacted me. Oh well if you have done nothing wrong then you don’t need to worry

My response:
I’m not worried. Feel free to provide funds for others. But initially you said if I continue to communicate with your wife you will sue me. So which is it? Suing on behalf of someone else or because I respond to your wife?

His comeback:
It can be either.
That’s on you

(So it seems he doesn’t care so much what method he uses to get at me, or whether his own behalf or someone else’s. He just cares that he finds some way to sue me. That should stand up well in court. “Yes, Judge, I am determined to somehow bring harm to this woman who was there for my wife when she was going through a hard time. I don’t care how. I just care that I get it done. And, as you can see, Mr. Judge, her advice is terrible! She encouraged my wife to find my strengths and praise me. She recommended speaking with her family doctor and professional counselors. She also connected her with a woman who had contacts for professional counselors and a pastor she thought might specifically help our marriage. And then she had the audacity to tell my wife she and her husband walked through similar struggles and came out as best friends! Unbelievable! So, yes, Mr. Judge, I’m going to sue her, and I’m going to give money to other conservative Mennonites who want to sue her! I’ve had quite enough of this!”  (SIDE NOTE: If you are conservative Mennonite and want to sue me but need funds to do so, let me know. I know a guy with deep pockets and a pile of money who would help you)).

But the whole thing didn’t end there. He returned with more bullying a day later, after I posted a status saying that after I posted about getting lawsuit threats, I had learned of three conservative Anabaptists wanting to sue me. That inspired the following:

His message:

“you only know of three. I have written proof of at least 10
But it wasn’t right of me to say everything I know yesterday and I apologize.

My response:
“I can’t recall a thing you said that amounts to ‘everything you know’ or what others might have told you. No need to apologize. And I’ve updated the status to include the 10 🙂

His comeback:
Basically I got derailed for the things you told my wife. You have only heard her side of the story. [Redacted for confidentiality and protect their marriage]. You made it worse. Even if you can see that you will never admit it. Also you have no respect for men otherwise you wouldn’t feel the need to text me wife to cover your tracks when I asked you not to. Good day

[Redacted for confidentiality and protect their marriage]

[Redacted for confidentiality and protect their marriage]

My response:
“I went back and read all conversations between me and your wife. I don’t know what you think I ‘advised’ or told her, but you have it very, very wrong. I didn’t text your wife to cover my tracks [yesterday after being accused of causing drama and bad advice]. I messaged her to apologize for anything I did to cause harm, and I asked if she could point out what I did/said to cause that harm so I might learn from it. How you think that is me covering tracks is beyond me. You sound paranoid, at best.

His comeback:
I’m not paranoid. At all. We are currently doing a roof for the retired police commissioner of Chicago and he went down over your timeline, you should here what he has to say…..oh wait you would probably call him paranoid also.”

My response:
lol! I’m talking about [being] paranoid over my conversations with your wife and what advice you think I gave. I have hard evidence of what kind of advice it was, and I would comfortably post it on a blog. [as I have now done here]

As for the police commissioner… I shared the stage with an LAPD Sex Crimes Officer (currently off due to injury) this weekend who does the same work I do [of confronting and exposing sex crimes]. And I have lawyers, doctors/psychiatrists and other professionals on my friend list who give me feedback on my writings. And I would welcome hearing the Chicago commissioner’s words and opinions.”

(COMMENT: Interesting fact. What is public on my profile would not raise any concerns for any law enforcement officer. This was a power play. So, yes, Mr. Retired Commissioner, please forward your concerns about my Facebook Posts via my Contact Page).

His comeback:
Well you definitely made our marriage worse. *Everyone that reads our texts agrees.”

My response:
“Take some ownership, [name redacted]. You haven’t read the advice I gave. If you did, you’d know it was good advice.”

His comeback:
“You got a big head. You made a mistake and you can’t own up to it”

My response:
“Own your wrongs. Stop blaming other people. Don’t use your “I’m rich and powerful” to attempt to intimidate people.”

[insert “deleted comment”]
NOTE: I shared the advice I gave his wife — same as above — but decided to delete and share on my blog instead as I was not interested in further private dialogue with him. He opened the next comment before I was able to delete it:

“Those are direct copies of advice I gave your wife. [referring to same as above]. I’d tell her all of those things again. Shame on you for trying to blame your failure in your marriage on me.”

His comeback:
There is a special place in Hell for people that wreck marriages. No fingers pointed. Only cowards remove messages. No fingers pointed

(A day ago he was the one who deleted messages. Of course the rules are different for other people in the lives of bullies).

My response:
“Then stop wrecking your marriage and avoid that special place in hell. Take ownership.
I removed the messages because I decided it can go in a public blog instead.”

His comeback:
Btw I’m not a Mennonite. Just a advocate for them.

My response:
“You are abusive. And you are a bully.”

“You’re mennonite.
It’s a culture. And you are definitely in it.
Now you can stop harassing me.”

His comeback:
Thanks for that one message calling me names. Libel lawsuit grounds.

My response:
“You mean calling you a bully?
Libel, my friend, is not based on a private message.
It is based on public statements.”

With this, I closed comments so he could no longer message me. I can take a lot, but there’s a point where the bullying is a waste of time that could be spent elsewhere. As for libel, there’s not grounds for a libel suit even with me posting all of this publicly. For one, I have not named him, and he is not identifiable. Besides, it is truth I’m posting, and not lies. I have quoted his own bullying here, and how he uses his money as power to destroy. Money is fleeting. By tomorrow morning, if God saw fit to let some tragedy befall any of us, we’d be a pennyless beggar. I do not wish that for him or anyone. But I do pray God gets hold of his heart and he uses his finances for the Kingdom of God not the work of the devil.

Having blocked his messages, he wasn’t done. He went to my other account and sent the following:
70608893_2379340202393682_2696355712237305856_n.jpg

My response was to block him there completely. As for how many people he has spying on me, I really couldn’t care. Spy all you want…. bring in an army of spies. I’m used to be watched. I’ll still tell the truth.

I told him to stop harassing me — because he was the one reaching out to me, and he follows that up by telling me not to harass him or his wife? He’s been hounding me, and I’m asked to stop harassing? (Gaslighting much?) And he includes more litigation threats. That’s harassment. He reminds me again of how much money he has. (Yeah, yeah, buddy, I heard you the first time. You’re filthy rich. So?) And he ends by saying money goes a long way in the judicial system. Huh? Is he saying the system is corrupt and he will use their corruption in partnership with his own corruption to try to sue me unjustly? Like… is he saying US judicial systems are so corrupt that he can use money to win a case against me that’s not legit?

Even if true, here’s the problem. I’m Canadian. An American would have to sue me in Canadian court because Canada has jurisdiction over me. And, frankly, I don’t believe our judicial system is so corrupt that an American can come prancing in here with a lawsuit (based on what, again?) and a bag of money to buy favours.

So, dear Mr. I-WannaSueHerPantsOff, you should start by researching how to sue a Canadian who has broken no laws and committed no crimes, and brought no harm. And then you shouldn’t tell me you plan to sue me. You should just do it. That is, if you can find a lawyer desperate and crooked enough to take your money when the case has no grounds for a lawsuit.

Never play poker with your cards facing the other players.

And never ever use empty threats to bully people. In particular people who would reveal in court that, in fact, they were helpful and supportive to your wife, and encouraged her to get professional support and advice. That giving such advice is such a threat to any husband is very concerning.

In closing, I know you are wealthy. No need to remind me.

Truth is, for me ‘stuff’ in this life is not that important. I’m halfway to 100. Anything God needs me to do in the next 20 to 50 years (or week or two, since we are not promised long life), He will provide. Unencumbered by ‘stuff’, usually makes people more passionate and committed to their calling. And passion and commitment to a calling makes stuff less important. Win/win.

My prayer is that those who are offended at truth telling and exposing wickedness take a step back, and check their hearts. What is it about telling the truth that offends you so deeply? What about it makes you hate me and wish me dead? What about it makes you want to sue me?

To those threatening lawsuits… Some of you claim to know Jesus. Some claim to be non resistant. If war should arise and you would be drafted, you would seek to be excluded on religious grounds. And some of you stand behind a conservative Anabaptist pulpits preaching Jesus on Sundays. (Or is it Him you preach?) Yet, Monday through Saturday you think about suing me and even talk about it? If I am so far gone astray, should you not reach out to me to draw me to Christ? And if you are not interested in the Jesus Way, why bother holding on to a culture and religion that claims His name, and defame both Jesus and the religion?

I will unapologetically continue to expose sexual abuse and violence. No amount of empty lawsuit threats will stop me from my calling, and bullying and threats will be called out publicly. I am careful to speak truth. If ever I get things wrong that I have posted, I apologize. I never function out of hatred or a desire to destroy people, but rather to stop abuse and corruption.

If that is so wrong, then go ahead and do what you need to do.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Events and Announcements:

Dayton Virginia: Training and conference, October 9-12, 2019.

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To read a recent 5-part series addressing victim healing and forgiveness for offenders, click: HERE.

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ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

***

JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

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November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and heal another layer, together.

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

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

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

(Part 4 of 5): What about forgiveness? (The Christian F-word?)

…Continued from Part 3

WHAT ABOUT FORGIVENESS?
Ah… forgiveness. The Christian F-word, and used almost as ruthlessly, sometimes even more so, than the F-bomb. The message it sends in the way it is often used, is not unlike flipping the birdie.

The thing is that, the F-bomb’s dreadful misrepresentation of what sex is intended to be — an expression of intimate love, not a weapon — makes intimate sexual love no less wonderful. It remains a deeply bonding act of love and intimacy. And that, in spite of it being used as a weapon by abusers.

The same is true about the way forgiveness is used and abused. It is a dreadful misrepresentation of what God intended to be one of the most freeing choices we can make. Forgiveness, when chosen by the victim without coercion, forced silence, or other religious manipulations — like the famous “you’ll go to hell if you don’t” — remains one of the most critical and beautiful steps in the victim’s healing journey.

I am asked why I don’t talk about it more in the public domain. The answer is quite simple. Because of further abuse imposed on many trauma survivors through false teaching on forgiveness, it is a topic best addressed in relationship when it comes to the intertwining with sexual abuse and victims’ healing. (This is also true of domestic violence and some other abuses of which I have less understanding). It is complex to address it in a way that is meaningful to them, so that their spirits do not shut down due to triggers and past trauma.

Sitting face to face, and speaking heart to heart creates space for interaction, exploring, inviting dialogue so that they can discover the beauty of forgiveness in safe relationship. To do it any other way is much like trying to convince a rape victim that sex is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It can’t be imposed on them. Through safety of relationship many rape victims discover safety with a spouse, and learn to love sexual intimacy. They may have ongoing flashbacks or nightmares and triggers, but in the safety of that relationship they are free to weep, to struggle and to find deeper emotional intimacy with their spouse in the process of the struggle.  I speak from experience. The emotional trauma of the past was very present at various times in our marriage, and it wasn’t unheard of for me to weep in my husband’s arms after intimacy. And it was ok. It was part of the healing for him to hold me, knowing I love him deeply while reconciling past trauma to a similar act.

When we walk victims through to a place of being able to extend forgiveness, that same gentleness, that same compassion and tenderness is necessary. To avoid sexual intimacy in our marriage would have served no good purpose. To have it forced upon me would have destroyed me. To avoid the discussion of forgiveness also serves no good purpose, but forcing it on the victim for whom it has been weaponized is deadly. Inviting victims into forgiveness is a delicate and relational process. And the trust to get there in a meaningful way requires deep listening, assuring them that what was done is wrong, and that we are willing to walk gently and patiently with them.

Forgiveness is not what most of us have been taught. It is not a commitment to silence. The Bible is full of bad stories we should know nothing about if it meant silence.

Forgiveness is not a commitment to reestablishing a relationship with the offender. Some victims choose relationship, and sometimes it is healthy. But forgiveness without reestablishing relationship is possible, and sometimes the healthiest option for the wellbeing of a traumatized person.

Forgiveness is not a promise to avoid reporting crimes to the law, or keep the offender out of prison. If a victim reports to the law, in most cases — in fact, all but one that I have been involved in — it is to prevent further victimization. I’ve heard one victim say they’re doing it to get back for the pain inflicted on them. That, in my experience with victims, is the exception. The thought of more children being victimized is overwhelming to victims, and is often the thing that drives them to report, knowing they will likely go through hell all over again, in the legal process.

Forgiveness is not saying “It’s okay”, and it certainly is not a commitment to giving a ‘second chance’ that puts others in danger. And it is not overlooking the wrongs committed. It does extend grace for the soul of the abuser to be redeemed, and even wishes that redemption for them.

Forgiveness is not a one-time choice. It is a struggle. It is choosing, day after day, with every nightmare, flashback and trigger, to say, “I forgive.” It is being honest about the depth of suffering the wrong has brought, without hating the person who wronged us. It is about acknowledging truth, and the severity of the violation.

Forgiveness is saying, “I refuse to be in bondage to the offender.” It is saying, “I release him/her from my retribution and I will see no revenge.” And that is something you can do even while sitting with a law enforcement officer to report. Because reporting to the law and doing what you can to stop the violence against the vulnerable is the right and responsible thing to do. It is not at odds with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing in the life of the victim. So beautiful that it should not be thrown around carelessly in such a way that it only serves to further traumatize them and increase the struggle. Through relational exchange is the best way to invite survivors into a journey of forgiveness and a place of freedom.

Leaving anyone stuck in a place of bitterness is cruel. And, sometimes, throwing teachings like forgiveness at victims without relationship or without understanding of victimization — or even forgetting out own journey and struggle to get there — does exactly that. It serves to lock them in more deeply than before because they have not yet had their pain acknowledged and have not had opportunity to grieve.

That, my friends, is why a careless command to forgive, or a thoughtless criticism of victims who we perceive have not forgiven, is never welcome in my space.

My goal is always to move victims toward healing. Jesus confronted arrogant religious folks boldly. He never did so with the brokenhearted. And until we have tended to their broken hearts, we have no business preaching at them.

Continued… (PART 5)

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

***

ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

***

JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and heal another layer, together.

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

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

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

 

(PART 1 of 5): Should abuse victims sue? And what about healing & forgiveness?

SHOULD VICTIMS SUE?
My previous blog “Why Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Awareness (ASAA) Founder Hopes Conservative Anabaptist Church Gets Sued…” left some questions unanswered, I’ve learned. In it I addressed a conversation with ASAA founder, Randal Martin, and his wife, and him saying he hopes the conservative Anabaptist church gets sued, as he believes it is the only way they will take the ongoing problem of sexual abuse seriously. What was unclear in my blog, and left people with questions is my position. Where do I stand on victims suing abusers?

I’ve worked with survivors for nearly a decade. None have ever, to my memory, expressed interest in launching a lawsuit. And I have never suggested such a thing. But I do tend to agree with Randal’s statement, and am concerned the issue will never be taken seriously by some churches and communities until such a thing happens. Will it then? Possibly. Or will they revert to the cry of, “We’re being persecuted for righteousness sake.” The latter is more likely, but, Sunday after Sunday they will think about victims when they pass the offering plate to cover the lawsuits, I imagine. They won’t think kindly of them, or compassionately… but they will part with their hard earned dollar and remember…

I’m also fairly certain if the problem of sexual abuse hits the wallets they will have a vested interest in functioning differently, going forward. So, while the heart wouldn’t necessarily change, the methods might, and children be more protected. I mean, how often can you afford a massive lawsuit? A recent case against the Jesuits, whose missionary Mr. Perlitz abused around 150 victims in Haiti, cost them a whopping $60 million. The similarities to the current Jeriah Mast case are uncanny. I’m suspicious the Jesuits will be screening their missionaries better, going forward. And that, I would expect, will happen with our culture too, when a massive lawsuit hits. It seems that might be a positive outcome, regardless of anyone’s personal opinions about suing.

While suing has never come up with my clients, if one were to express interest in launching a lawsuit, I would definitely not interfere or try to talk them out of it. And I would continue to support them as I did before. They’ve been robbed of their voice and thrust into deep struggle against their will. Finding their way back out is messy.  And whether they sue or not in that process is none of my business. I trust God will allow what needs to be done to bring accountability to the church, and bring the people of God to their knees in true repentance. And that may well include this kind of thing, given other cries have been long disregarded by religious communities.

That said, what I would tell any client is that the lawsuit will not bring you peace. It can’t. It might provide the funds to afford the help you need, but it won’t heal you. It might make it possible for you to relocate to a new start. But it won’t remove the hell you must walk through. That hell will follow you. It may distract for a while, but sooner or later you will have to face the truth and walk through the healing process. Much like grief, it comes in stages and phases.

There will be anger, for most. There will be tears and sorrow over the loss. There is, most often, phases of denial. There is despair. There’s the overwhelming sense of lost identity.

Money doesn’t address any one of those things. It can’t. But that doesn’t mean God won’t allow – even orchestrate – a series of events to shake up His people through lawsuits. He’s been known to do things like that and use uncomfortable means and methods to call His children back to truth and what really matters. And right now money and power matter too much. Don’t be surprised if God strips those idols.

So I let those things play out as they do, knowing God has a higher purpose, and in all things He pursues all hearts. That is who He is, it is what He does..

HOW THEN DO WE HEAL?
Every victim has his/her own journey to walk toward healing. I’ve not met two people whose stories were identical. None that could be turned into a calculated formula to apply to every individual. There are steps and layers. And how they bringing healing, or what order, is dependent on so many things, such as temperament, the nature of the crimes committed against the victim, and by whom.

Sometimes it is non-victims who offer more compassion and understanding than other victims. It is easy for victims to get down on each other for how the other is not healing their way. I see comments and statements by victims directed at other victims that are not helpful. And when I ask the nature of their stories, the one may have been a rape victim at the hands of a father, pastor or brother, the other had someone pull down their panties and looked at them.. sometimes touched. Or, they may not have suffered sexual abuse at all, but suffered emotional abuse, and somehow feel all healing should follow the path that worked for them. And, sometimes, once victims are healed, they forget their own struggle and have no grace for others to walk the journey they themselves walked.

It isn’t realistic to expect victims to arrive overnight where we took 20 years. Not even if we impart our wisdom. Is it possible they can avoid 20 years of agonizing struggle with healthy support and guidance? Yes, by all means! This doesn’t mean they will never struggle or have tough moments even after healing, but there is a far cry between living in that dark pit and slipping over the edge at moments, or being triggered. But, no matter what, they still deserve space to walk the messy process of healing.

While there is not a formula, there are certain steps that must be part of that process, for deep healing to be achieved. …

Continued… (PART 2)

 

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

***

ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

***

JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and heal another layer, together.

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

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

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

 

What I Wish You Knew About Childhood Sexual Abuse (A Husband’s Perspective)

In the past few weeks I’ve posted blogs written by my friends and readers. These were writings shared with me that I found helpful and thought the public may benefit from, so I asked each of them for permission to post what they wrote to me. 

I have a few more that I’m hoping to share but still need permission, and several lined up that have granted permission. Some choose to be anonymous while others are comfortable using their names. I respect the wishes of each individual. Some of those sharing I’ve interacted with for years, some I just ‘met’ recently. 

Today’s blog is the voice of an Anabaptist husband. It is powerful, tender, touching, challenging… It is a call for understanding and compassion, and awareness of the incredible damage done to children (for life) when they are sexually assaulted. In his wife’s case, as you will read, she was raped in childhood. 

TRIGGER WARNING:
While the following is an incredible read, please be aware that the content may be triggering for trauma survivors and those who feel deeply what they read. This is not all bad, as facing triggers is part of the healing process for many. And for non-survivors, it creates deep understanding of the victims’ suffering. Each reader should be aware of what you can tolerate.

***

I get the feeling that people think childhood sexual abuse is not as bad as it is painted – that there are few long term effects.

But I know that’s not true.

I know, because I am married to a survivor of childhood rape.

I know what it’s like to get married but not be able to have sex because grown men decided to rape and abuse my beautiful bride when she was a little girl.

I know what it’s like to lay my hands on my wife of nearly 3 months and beg God to heal her vaginismus – and see Him do so instantly.

I know what it’s like to have her burst into tears in the middle of sex because something triggered a memory of the rape – and for this to be somewhat a “normal” occurrence.

I know what it’s like to hold my wife in my arms, and as she shakes with grief and anguish, hear her ask, “What did I ever do to deserve that kind of cruelty?”

I know what’s it’s like to pull the covers up over her head as she curls up in a fetal position – trying to protect herself as yet another flashback appears out of nowhere.

I know what it’s like to lead my wife in prayer – hundreds of times – to forgive the “Christian” men who did this horrific evil to her.

I know what it’s like to see her disassociate while giving birth, and wonder if I was going to lose her.

I know what it’s like to call my boss to say that I will be an hour or two late for work because it is not safe to leave my wife at home alone.

I know what it’s like to get home from work and meet a teary eyed wife with many hard questions, and after much listening, discussion, and prayer, realize that the house looks worse than when I left in the morning.

I know what it’s like to hear our chiropractor tell me that my wife regularly visits the office with her back, neck, pelvis, hips and ribs out of place – and “she walks like nothing is wrong” because her body is still in shock from trauma that happened 20 years ago.

Don’t tell me that sexual abuse doesn’t affect people in real ways. Don’t tell me that forgiveness takes care of the pain.

I know better.

Spare me all the usual idiotic things said about abuse. The little girl who is now my wife did not ask for it. She was not dressed immodestly. Yes, she said “no”. (She even cried out to Jesus to help her!) No, it’s not something she can “just get over”. No, she’s not bitter or unforgiving. And no, it’s not just “all in her head.”

Furthermore, please stop saying ignorant things about the beautiful concept of forgiveness. She has forgiven these men more times than we both can count, but flashbacks still come. Memories are real and cannot be controlled. Forgiveness does not mean she (actually, “we”) stop paying for the consequences of the sin done to her.

These men are not “brothers in the Lord”. You cannot do this kind of evil and be a Christian. It is the opposite of everything Jesus is. Jesus implies that anything less than death is mercy for an offender. And there are days when only the mercy of God keeps me from taking justice in my own hands.

If all of this surprises you, you’ve never sat close enough to hear a victim speak. You’ve never listened without judgement. Contrary to what you may think, abuse victims are not looking for attention. They just want to be heard and seen as people whose pain and voice matters.

I know, because I am married to one.

If you want to see a victim of sexual abuse blossom and heal, you have to be a safe person. Listen instead of trying to “fix” them. Do not put healing on a timeline. The broken parts of them are not something you can fix anyway. Just love them like Jesus loves. Lay down your life like Christ laid His down.

Believe me, it works.

I know, because I am the husband of a childhood rape survivor.

***

Tomorrow the blog will be from this gentleman’s wife, sharing some deep soul musing and struggles. Those who dare to enter the raw struggle of the soul are especially misunderstood in church.

Observation has taught me that those who wrestle most have deepest faith. It takes no faith to speak of, when life is a breeze and everything makes sense. But when nothing makes sense, we either run, or we enter into an intimate struggle.

It is in this wrestling with God, in struggling for answers, in asking the hard questions that we draw most near to Him. It is in this wrestling, like Jacob did in the night. (And as I type this, I recall a talk I did some years ago that was recorded that some who fear the struggle may find encouraging: Invitation to Wrestle with God).

When you read her blog tomorrow, remember this. She is a woman of incredible faith who has inspired me, challenged me and encouraged me. She is a warrior. She is a child. She is an outstanding woman of God.

***

Remember the victims! Remember Haiti! Pray for their redemption and healing.

Pray for the church, for eyes to be opened, for truth and justice with mercy to matter again. For an awakening to the depth of depravity we have allowed in church so that genuine repentance will rise out of this darkness, and children will be protected.

Pray for Jeriah and CAM, to truly, completely come clean and repent, without self-preservation driving the process. What is money in light of the wellbeing of children? What is humanitarian aid with the misrepresentation of Jesus, and without the protection of children? Pray that these realities would sink deeply into the leaders of CAM.

***

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

***

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

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

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

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

***

 

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Haiti: A concerned Anabaptist’s letter & my response

A concerned Anabaptist sent the following message, but used an email that cannot be replied to, and my response to him bounced. Therefore I will respond here in the public domain:

Name: JAY YODER

Email: anonman030612@gmail.com

Website:

Subject:: HAITI

Comment: Trudy

I simply want to pass on my condolences to you. Just in skimming over your blog posts, I see a cynical, embittered person who is desperately lashing out at people. I truly sympathize with you because in your frantic attempts to condemn all people that may differ in their views from your own, the true motives of your heart are revealed. You have much less interest in helping anybody than you do in simply swiping and clawing and hurting all the names involved in this situation. There are no winners in this situation, Trudy, and the biggest loser of all is the person that you are negative about the most, Jeriah Mast. Why in the all-is-forgiven worldview that you endorse is there no room for forgiveness for people whom you decide are wrong?

I challenge you to do this: For the next 24 hours, when you think about this situation, pray fervently for Jeriah Mast as if he would be your son. Instead of blindly condemning him and all of us despicable Anabaptists, pray for him as if he would be a person that looks like you do and shares your worldview. If you can do this, I believe that your heart can rest from it’s current misery. You have no idea what kind of pain this situation is causing and your blatantly condemning remarks will not in any way ease anybody’s pain. May your bitterness find rest and peace that only God can provide

***

Dear Mr. Yoder,

Thank you for your Christian concern. Most of what you have written requires no response, as it is clearly your anger lashing out. What level of knowledge you have of the present situation I do not know. I will leave that and your anger between you and God.

It may be of interest to you that I do not know the people involved in this situation. There is no reason for me to be “swiping and clawing and hurting all the names involved in this situation”. My involvement has come at the request of Anabaptists who care for the victims.

As for considering how I would feel if it was my son… I would be devastated. That, however, would not change what is the right thing to do. I urge you to consider if it was your children who were raped, how you would feel about giving such a person access again and accepting a fourth ‘repentance’ as trustworthy and the ‘all clear’. … or your grandchildren, depending on what stage of life you are in.

As for my ‘all-is-forgiven’ views. You are right, I do believe that God is generous in His grace and forgiveness. Whether Jeriah Mast is repentant and forgiven or not is entirely between him and God. Whether he is allowed to continue the crimes of the past 23 years is the responsibility of many. Some of us have taken that responsibility seriously. I offer no apology for this.

“All is forgiven” does not mean there are not consequences for crimes. It would be arrogant of Christians to believe they can murder, steal, rape children and expect no legal ramifications.

We have a crisis of offenders continuing to molest children under the guise of ‘all is forgiven’. Many Anabaptists agree with this, and openly reject teachings that cause this, as they have watched countless family members and friends molested by repentant abusers. Many Anabaptists also take a firm stand against abuse, and the silence that accompanies these situations too many times.

It is concerning when, repeatedly, as in this case, the concern is not for the countless victims, but rather protecting the offender to whom you say I have done greatest damage and made “the biggest loser of all”.  That, my friend, is one of the biggest contributors to the problem we have at hand. I would suggest that the offender who violates countless children is responsible for his own loss when finally someone has the courage to confront such evil and ensure it is not just another repentance that allows the crimes to continue.

Exposing evil is not harmful. According to Ephesians 5:8-13, it is the thing that makes freedom possible. All harm is brought on the offender and his/her loved ones by his/her own doing. Responsibility for that harm does not fall on the one who points out that evil.

It is my prayer that transformation will come on many levels, and children be protected.

I wish you peace,

Trudy

***

To my Anabaptist friends, prayer warriors, and family who stand for justice,

I don’t need to tell you this if you are on that list who stand for justice, but I want you to know that I do not believe the vast majority of Anabaptists accept the ‘forgive and forego accountability’ mindset.

Thank you to those who stand for truth and justice, while still extending freely the incredible grace of God. While offering forgiveness to the repentant, you also expect accountability and compliance with the laws of the land. While honouring leaders, you do not bow to corrupt power.

Thank you for the countless messages, prayers, phone calls, and encouragement. Thank you to those who have made donations as well, so that our work can continue. Your kindness will not be forgotten.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***

PS. Plans are coming together for the next two trips, to take place shortly. Thank you to all who have donated.

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work, you may send funds (via PayPal or etransfer) to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019