(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

Pedophilia; a sexual orientation? And if churches protect molesters, should society overlook pedophilia?

Next Thursday I will lead a discussion in my Sociology of Deviance class. Our prof has given us an extensive list of readings from which to choose, as discussion leaders, out of which we choose two for our class to read and discuss. One of the two I chose addresses whether pedophilia is a sexual orientation, versus a crime. My interest in the topic is self-explanatory. My father was a pedophile. But my interest in this slant to the subject is not so straight forward.

I’ve long taken issue with church protecting pedophiles in the name of forgiveness, and then fretting over how they can protect their children from predators ‘out there’. The same holds true with the prevalence of homosexuality and lesbianism in our Anabaptist culture, and then being all horrified at the ‘sexual perversion’ that exists ‘out there’. Or, as one elderly conservative Anabaptist woman told me a few months ago, they knew ‘back in the day’ that if you missed your period and were not ready for another baby, that you just purchased naturopathic products to cause a miscarriage. But abortion is met with extreme judgement against those ‘out there’. (I understand that some readers will find this shocking and hard to believe, as I did also, at first. Now I have enough stories documented from eight years of working mostly with ‘my people’, and by that I mean conservative Mennonite, not the people of my birth culture – that the shock factor is lost on me.)

Of all of these, pedophilia is the only one that is blatantly and openly ‘protected’ in our culture, by many at the leadership level, as well as lay members. And, I shudder to say this out loud, but in my experience women more actively cover for men than men cover for themselves, many times. Homosexuality/lesbianism, premarital sex and abortion are present aplenty – albeit, with much denial all around – but harshly condemned, whereas pedophilia is openly and actively protected. Yet, not one person in my experience has ever expressed that pedophilia ‘out there’ should be overlooked. In fact, when such news comes to light ‘out there’ all the appropriate gasps escape lips in church.

This double standard ‘because we are sorry, so we must be forgiven and not face consequences’ boggles my mind. I would think that if we are so sorry, truly, deeply sorry, then we would face the consequences with humility. (I also know if I was a sex offender looking to hide, I’d put on some cultural attire and adhere to the strictest rules possible, and look as holy as possible.) It has been my observation that many times when society pushes for a particular agenda – ie; same-sex rights and marriage – that church has already long lived that very thing in some form and hidden it. Same holds true for abortion. It was in church, secretly, long before it was legal at a political level. So who are we to judge?

Pedophilia is no exception. It has not only been present in church for ages, but there’s the blatant protection of those who engage in child molestation. It is only reasonable to expect (and dare I say support) society to legalize it as a sexual orientation, and decriminalize it, if we are already there in how we handle these crimes. So, when this happens, church, spare us all the gasps. At least until first there has been a great repentance across the many denominations in Christendom because we have blood on our hands, and pointing bloody fingers at others is especially shameful. And when that repentance has come, the gasping will cease – because gasping at ‘their sin’ is the work of arrogance, self-righteousness and denial, not the work of love, grace and the Gospel of Jesus, and especially when we begin to acknowledge we have the same sins among us.

So, on Thursday, when I engage a handful of young scholars, I anticipate there will be a stronger stand against pedophilia than what I am accustomed to in my work, as relates to engaging leaders of pedophiles, or their spouses, parents or families. On Thursday I anticipate the class will say even if it is determined to be an orientation, that the person should have to face consequences, and it should still be a crime.

Ironically, in this secular space there seems a much clearer view of the horror and damage done by molestation than I am used to hearing in church …. unless, of course, if we are talking about the man ‘out there’ who, God help him, ‘used’ his children. Or the school teacher ‘out there’ who touched a student. Or the neighbour man/boy from ‘out there’ who so much as makes a flirtatious pass at one of ‘ours’. Or the ungodly man who stalks, kidnaps and rapes one of ours. When it is one of ‘them’ we gasp and weep and ask why. We cannot grasp what wickedness would drive such a person. We acknowledge the horror and the trauma. Our worlds are rocked when ‘one of them’ invade our space and do the very thing that is already happening among us. But when it is one of ours, we don’t believe the victim.

I was around fourteen years old when a young aboriginal boy attempted to rape a girl at knife-point in our community. We were all shaken. He was one of my best friends and had never so much as looked at me in a way that felt inappropriate. In a matter of days he was shipped back to where he came from, leaving our community reeling. I felt both loss of innocence (mostly because of the knife, and thus the violent nature of the crime) and loss of my friend. But no one shipped away the leader’s son who, minus the knife, sexually assaulted some of us to varying degrees. He was successful. It wasn’t an attempt. But he claimed at least one as mutual consent, and took ownership of what he did to me, and life went on as always. It is the most profound example of my youth, of that ‘us and them’ difference, and how in church it just goes away.

There comes a steep price tag with that kind of thing. God says “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). I am convinced that most of what we gasp at ‘out there’, is directly linked to what we hide and overlook among us as God’s people. I am convinced that our repentance and the ‘turning from wickedness’ that moves the hand of God to heal our land is not because we repent for them ‘out there’. He heals our land because we repent for having first wandered away from Him.

Our land needs healing. God’s people need to stop pointing out there and living a double standard, and start repenting in here. If ‘ours’ don’t deserve punishment for molesting children, then I vote that the law criminalizing such behaviour be done away with. The day our expectations of society are higher than that of God’s people, we have absolutely nothing left to offer. And shame on us if that is how we live while proclaiming the name of Jesus.

It’s time to choose which it will be.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Why I chose to forgive my dad…

Today marks the day, fourteen years later, when the news came of my father’s passing. It was an odd, shocking, numbing feeling; one which I still cannot frame in words. The finality is jarring, knowing the last words spoken were the final exchange. While I had no regret in that, specifically, it was harsh nonetheless, and I recall my mind trying, as if by sheer force of will, to turn back time one day, and call him. I’m not sure there was much left to say, really, though there are a few questions I wanted to ask… the kind that always felt too frightening and vulnerable to say out loud, even after he asked me to forgive him for the harm he brought into my life. That day, an old, broken, and fragile man he wept and asked me to forgive him. And  I responded, “Dad, I chose to forgive you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”

That was 2001. I was 32 years old, a mom of four and pregnant with our fifth. I called Tim before I left the hospital that day, crying, to tell him about our conversation. “Miracles still happen,” I remember saying through tears. Choosing consciously and purposefully to forgive my dad dated back more than a decade before that day. But it didn’t look the way many fit forgiveness into a perfect little box. The consequences for his choices meant that I suffered flashbacks, anxiety disorders (including PTSD), and nightmares every time we had contact for many years, and they became especially haunting after we had children. This continued even after I forgave him most sincerely. My fear that some horrible thing would be done to my family prevented us from feeling comfortable interacting too closely. I meant we attended at most one family event a year, if that.Tim and I chose early in marriage to not risk the lives and innocence of our children by placing them in an environment where abuse of every kind had run rampant and remained buried. This choice, in the eyes of some, would have been cause to judge me as unforgiving. Nonetheless, we made the choice and never looked back. No regret, for the sake of our children.

The cost to me was significant. It meant I had to miss out on family gatherings, and years later the lack of relationship leaves an emptiness within. The loss is ongoing. Still, I choose to forgive my father. And still I don’t regret having the boundaries, in spite of that cost.

My choice to forgive was first and foremost for my freedom. Not a fraction of that decision was to overlook his sins and crimes, or make myself okay with them. They are not okay. But the power of his sin, by allowing bitterness to take root in me, frightened me far more than did the consequences of his choices against me. Secondly, I chose to forgive him for the sake of my husband and children. To let his sins rule my life would be to give him permission to pass on the curses of many generations to my children, through my bitterness. (And generational cycles are well documented in both secular and spiritual literature.) I didn’t want that, and to the best of my ability I protected our children from anyone who had molested, and never left them unsupervised in an environment where known offenders were present.

That said, I was not perfect by any stretch of imagination, and made choices as a mom that left scars on my children, and those are choices for which I take ownership. When I chose to forgive my father, I chose also to take ownership for decisions I made, even if birthed out of the scars and emotional deficits he left in my life. I did this so that the chains would end with me.

I chose to forgive my father to break generational chains that he struggled with to his death, to end cycles of abuse and violence, to leave a new legacy for the next generation, and to prevent bitterness in my life. My children will need to decide whether they will forgive me for ways I sinned against them, and whether they will take ownership for the ways they sin against their own children. And the generation to follow will need to make the same decision.

forgiveness-quote

Forgiveness isn’t a choice to overlook violence, molestation, neglect and various abuses. It is the decision to break chains, end vicious cycles and leave a new legacy. It doesn’t mean everything is all cozy and the wrongs are never spoken of again. It means we do our best to lead the next generation, even at personal cost. And sometimes it means we tell broken, painful and brutal stories, so that the amazing grace of God in our lives is understood, and so others can draw hope and strength for their own journeys.

When my father asked me to forgive him, I chose to verbally extend that grace and reflect the heart of God the best I knew how. It didn’t change how we protected our children by not giving him access, and it didn’t change much of anything at all in a practical sense. But I knew my forgiveness was genuine, and he knew it too. And that was enough for me.

If I could go back to the day before February 21, 2003, knowing what I know now, I might still visit dad and ask some hard questions…. but maybe I wouldn’t change anything at all. I told him I loved him. I told him I forgive him. And, when he doubted that God would forgive a man like him, I told him that because of what Jesus did on the cross, there was a place in heaven for him.

*****

I stood alone by his coffin in the funeral home and wept as I repeatedly whispered the only three words that formed, “Thank you Jesus.”

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Dear Victim: You are an overcomer!

As I thought about nearing the end of this commitment, I thought of how victims of abuse don’t have an ‘end’ to reach for; it’s a lifetime kind of thing, dealing with memories, forgiveness, flashbacks, tears, more forgiveness, and a blend of victory and struggle. I’ve talked with enough elderly victims to know that, while healing comes, there are aspects of what happened that never leave us.

The past cannot be undone. The story cannot be done away with. The pages are written, and they cannot be edited. The steps taken, cannot be backtracked. And the scars etched on our spirits and psyche are a testament to that harsh reality.

Truth is, the road looks long, many days. There are seasons in the healing journey that feel like there is no hope of ever reaching that place of purpose, redemption and being an ‘overcomer’. It seems far away… and we move at what seems a snail’s pace toward it…. And in those moments hope has a way of escaping us.

canstockphoto9227053 (1)

But there is a sweeter truth; an overriding reality; our title isn’t an earned one. It is a gift, given to us by the One who already overcame on our behalf; the One who took upon Himself the curse of what was done against us.

In school, when we played ball, if we had an injured student who couldn’t run, they were allowed to have a ‘runner’. They would hit the ball, and the runner would take off the instant that ball connected with the bat, and when the runner made it to home plate, the diamond symbol we used for score keeping was drawn next to the batter’s name, just as if they had ran the bases.

Jesus was our ‘runner’. He ran the diamond, landed on the home plate, and gave us the title ‘overcomer’. On our worst days and in our lowest moments we are overcomers and have purpose because of Him. And in those moments He is our hope. When we feel nothing, He is our hope. When we crush beneath the pain and cannot breathe, He is our hope.

He demands nothing in the way of performance or proving ourselves; He invites into a place of resting and being held. There’s no ‘washing up’ to be presentable. He invites us stained and bruised.

And there, held in His grace, stained, bleeding and wounded, He whispers peace and reminds us of the only thing that really matters, “You are loved, eternally and completely…. just as you are. You are mine. You are an overcomer.”

Ah, yes… You are loved, completely and eternally. I am loved… We are are loved. And together we can press forward, some days at a snail’s pace, but never abandoned, never alone. We’re in this together.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Wine, Poured Out & Spilling Reckless Love

wine poured out

Today someone confronted me…. And instantly my heart sank, as it registered what I had done and what I was guilty of… I felt sick and sinful; unworthy of the calling God has placed on me. Unworthy of His grace, and overwhelmed by my humanity.

Restless, I returned to writing the devotional my agent asked me to write, reading through the most recent chapter. And the truth of the story of Jesus offered hope to my heart…. what He did for me, for us…

****

Written in my own words, how the story plays out in my mind, as I read Matthew 26, and having limited words to tell it, the following as an excerpt from the devotional:

“Wait here,” the God-man said to His inner circle of friends. “My heart breaks so that my soul is filled with sorrow; a sorrow so deep it feels to be drawing the very life from me. Stay… Wait… and pray, for temptation waits to trip you… pray that you will not surrender to it.” And with that He slipped away, leaving His friends behind, night shadows wrapping cool blankets around Him. He walked, willingly into the dark that night until He came to a Garden…

Gethsemane…. Oil press. What a name, on a night so dismal, when the agony was so near to pressing the very life from His compassionate heart… Gethsemane, the place where oil poured generously from the fruit of the Mount of Olives…

canstockphoto10851372 (3)

Here, in that Garden, the God-man knelt, having found solitude from all but His Abba Father. Human flesh cringed at the burden suffocating a heart most tender, and in that humanness, the God-man spoke in intimate conversation.

“Oh Papa… If there’s any other way… if it is possible, please take this crushing burden from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Your will, Papa,” He prayed. And there the blood-red wine began to trickle from His heart, as sweat droplets formed in anguish, falling from His forehead like drops of blood, a symbolic prophesy soon fulfilled.

Having prayed, He went to His disciples and found them sleeping. Three times He prayed. Three times they slept. Each time He roused them, urging them to pray, until the third time; then He told them to rest. For then the time was at hand… That time when disciple-and-friend-turned-foe-and-traitor would come.

Faithless and filled with self, the traitor kissed the God-man’s cheek; a stolen kiss, betraying that tender heart, selling the God-man as if He held no worth. Still, that love flowed, poured out wine, for that one. Because love, when it starts to spill, knows no boundaries; it spills that generously over those who sell it.

Driven by whips lashing hate, a mocking crown bleeding, He stumbled up the hill…Golgotha; the place of the skull, a place of death. Such symbolic prophesy, for from that day forward, Life would spring from places long condemned.

Earth groaned beneath the God-man’s feet, crying for release, as from thorn-pierced brown the blood drops fell, each one a promise of life. A prophesy soon fulfilled…

He reached the top of that hill, and there, in ground long cursed, the haters laid Him on that cross. Nails punctured gentle hands. Life trickled, like wine poured out, blood-red, from His hands and His feet. Then, raised to heaven, naked and for all to see and scorn, love kept trickling without regard for the scoffing.

The spear, ruthless, sharp… piercing through the God-man’s side…  Oh prophetic victory! Oh generous love, poured out! For from that piercing, the blood of Christ spilled out, messy and red, staining wood, the ground and cloth on which it fell; leaving an eternal mark. Because Love does that; it leaves a forever mark and flows with abandon… Without straight lines, it spills in reckless patterns, wherever it will travel, on rough and scarred terrain.

Like wine, poured in generous serving, offered with bread, He sustains the life of all who reach for it. His body, broken by hate and rejection like bread shared with hungry, His blood, spilled out like wine on weary lips…. Flowing through us, shared with those around… Without reserve in reckless patterns without straight lines, wherever we travel…

Because that’s what Love does, when it touches our lives and spills over us generously like poured out wine…  

wine_ broken glass

****

I am so thankful for what Jesus did on the cross, not only for my sins, but for those I have sinned against, to bring life and healing from ‘the place of death’ and skulls. And I am so sorry for wounding a heart and breaking trust… Praying God will heal and redeem all things.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

(…) The Church’s Response to Abuse (Part 2)

Don’t come to Church!
There comes a time when an individual can be asked not to come to church. But it is not the right answer every time.

The identity of a teenager who offends, in many countries if not most, is protected. While there should be vigilance–always, always–public exposure is not usually an option, by law. The teen needs help and guidance and whatever ‘judgment the courts determine to be appropriate, but banning from church is not one of them. At least not most times, though there may be an exception.

The adult who has victimized people in church, people who must face their offender and be continually traumatized, is a different story. In my opinion, an offender ought to have enough remorse to choose to go somewhere else, to protect the child. It’s easy math. And every now and then they do.

But, as it stands, more victims leave churches than abusers, based on the people I deal with, because the ongoing trauma becomes overwhelming. They forgive, they try to move on, but Sunday morning, when they should be hearing the truth of the Gospel, they are confronted with the trauma of flashbacks to naked genitals or breasts, or some other sexual exploitation in the past. A wife goes home with her spouse after church, and struggles all week with intimacy because the flashbacks make her feel gross and disgusting. The husband how remembers being molested, goes home and withholds himself, and possibly turning to pornography, feeling completely inadequate. (Let me inject that, surely we can try to understand that this is not about a lack of forgiveness–as is often the accusation–but about post-trauma anxiety and flashbacks.)

Why would an adult who has molested someone choose to impose such a thing on a victim, Sunday after Sunday, robbing couples of intimacy and forcing them to relive the violation? Is it not reasonable, in such a situation, to encourage the offender to find a church family elsewhere?

Instead, it seems victims are the ones who eventually uproot and find some other church family, or simply stop attending, spiritually stripped, having endured accusations of being unforgiving or making things up. The lack of healthy care and understanding for victims, combined with religious demands to ‘forgive and forget’ has done it’s share of damage, and has in essence told victims to either ‘shape up or get out’, while offering little in the way of healing.

Get Out!

I spoke recently with yet another victim of a now-church-leader; the third that I am aware of, who eventually just left, while the offender went on to become a leader. The victimizations ranged from coercing a peer in early teens to reaching under skirts, yanking down panties to molest–something I recently discovered is/was a very common occurrence with hired ‘maids’ in some homes–and grabbing and groping… well into his twenties. And in every case the victims ended up paying the price, while the offender managed to fly under the radar, with nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist for ‘sexual immorality’. That should not be. And yet it happens repeatedly.

If an offender refuses to take ownership, and comply with the laws of the land and church-imposed boundaries, or if there is any indication they are causing ongoing trauma, it is not asking too much to tell them not to show up. There is no repentance in self-preservation and rebelling against those boundaries, and that person should be deemed unsafe in every way.

Feel Free to Attend, but with Supervision and Boundaries
In the case of the church I worked with in 2014, a team of people met with the intent of creating accountability. There was no agenda to cover up or protect the offender, but neither was there any agenda to destroy. In all my life I’ve never seen such a healthy approach as I saw in that meeting, and in the  months that ensued.

A recommendation was put up for discussion, to allow the offender to attend church, but to always have someone supervise. Every trip to the bathroom, every exit from the auditorium, every event, someone would be assigned to watch over the offender. There would be zero opportunity for offending again. There would be guidelines of not working with children, or being involved in any way that would compromise their safety. Had his presence made victims vulnerable, I might have felt differently, but as it was I thought it was brilliant.

The thought of being ‘babysat’ was offensive to the perpetrator, saying he felt the church was not proving forgiveness. As a result, and of his own free will, he chose to leave the church and find a new church family. If my memory is reliable, the pastor felt it his responsibility to contact leadership at the new church to inform them of the situation, not out of spite, but for the protection of the children there.

All in all, the situation was handled responsibly, and in the best interest of the victims and church family.

What About The Law?
The law was involved early on, in the case of the church I worked with; even before the church was made aware. So, for an example of law, I will share from a conversation I had with a police officer in the past month.

My conversation with the officer led me to believe that when it comes to religion, she is on the outside, looking in, and trying to make sense of it all, and she wondered at the driving force behind that behaviours of churches and Christians, as it pertains to obeying the laws of the land in regards to child abuse. I tried to explain–not justify–from my perspective, what I see; fear, pride, the belief that we Christians are subject only to God’s law and not the laws of the land, among other things. I’ve had the same conversation with 4 police officers since May, where they talk about the religious community covering up and not getting victims or offenders the help they need, and it leaves them shaking their heads. It should.

But what this last officer shared, didn’t stay there. After questioning, she mentioned how several years ago she had a case unlike any other. A pastor, she said, had walked in one morning, accompanied by an offender who had molested his daughter. Immediately after having done so, he went to his wife, and told her, packed his bags and left so his daughter would be safe. The pastor was drawn in, and that is where the man stayed until morning, when they stood in front of the officer saying they have a crime to report. The entire police staff was flabbergasted, she said. Not one had experienced such a thing before.

She told me how the man ended up doing jail time, getting counseling and was eventually reinstated in his home, but is not allowed to be with children unsupervised at any time. He is humbly compliant, and understands that this is to make 100% certain it never happens again. This situation, is the ideal, when it comes to handling abuse cases, she told me.

I wasn’t involved with that situation, and don’t know the people, but from where I stand looking on, I see redemption, while complying with the law and facing consequences. The church is aware of what he has done, and works to make it a safe place for children all around, while allowing him to be part of his family and the church.

A Tragedy Cannot be Undone, only Redeemed
There is no way to make a bad thing good. It can’t be done. There is only redemption of evil in the lives of God’s people, and in the working of society. What our enemy means for evil, God will use for good, but the wickedness can never be made good. We have to accept that, and call the wickedness what it is.

That said, we undermine the grace and mercy of God, when we refuse to extend the work of Jesus on the cross to all sinners… including those who molested a child, or children. There must always be forgiveness for them. While the practical working out of healing should be done with great wisdom and seeking God’s heart–and God always fights for the children and the vulnerable–to sentence offenders to hopeless judgment, doesn’t sit right in my spirit.

I’ve worshiped in prison with those who murdered someone. And I’ve hugged them if they wanted to be hugged. It makes zero difference to me, at the foot of the cross, what you have done; you are my brother and my sister. Besides, I remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I”. And I mean that. Coming out of the sexual confusion of my childhood, it is nothing short of the grace of God that kept me from growing up to be in prison with the murderers and pedophiles. When it comes praying ‘thank God I am not like the sinner beside me’, the words choke heavy in my throat and I cannot spit them out.

Instead, I thank God for His liberal grace and generous wisdom so that we might be forgiven, extend forgiveness, while still choosing to respond carefully in every situation. Bitterness and hate destroys lives, as does overlooking sin and neglecting to address and deal with abuse. Somewhere, in seeking the wisdom of God, there is a better way…

We were molested, many of us, and we inevitably hurt and grieve the loss of innocence. We need to be given space to do that, and to express that hurt without being judged. But, horrific as that moment was, or the thousand times over, none of us really want to stay stuck in that darkness. Advocating for other victims, fighting for the safety of children and creating awareness are some of the many ways to take back our freedom, our God-given voice, and to bring good out of evil, without empowering evil through bitterness.

Together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope, if we avoid the pit of bitterness, and a sense of being entitled to live in it and speak out of it. Our life purpose is not defined by what happened to us, but it can empower us for greater things. The choice is ours. Always.  And I, for one, want to care for the hearts of all, but I want only to partner with those who bring hope out of darkness…

Yes, together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger