Female sexuality, after sexual abuse, in conservative Christian context (Let’s talk sex: Part 2)

WARNING: Content in this blog may be triggering. It will be considered sexually explicit and offensive to some readers. Others – namely the little children who have suffered the things addressed here and have lived with the consequences addressed here – will consider it a breath of fresh air. For me, it is about ‘truth telling’. Jesus said, “the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Until we dare to discuss the truth surrounding sexual abuse, in all its horrible and explicit reality (albeit without titillating the audience), we will not find that freedom. We must address the truth of it. We owe it to the children of past generations, whose blood cries from the ground. And we owe it to the children of the next generation, whose freedom and protection we seek.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again, if the children are forced to live through these things ‘among us’, we better have the stomach to read and discuss it. When you read and are tempted to judge as pornographic or explicit, remember that, somewhere right now, it is highly likely that a little child lives this life. I will say again, if a toddler has to live it, we better grow the stomach and sense of holiness to be able to address it without going into perversion.

“To the pure or heart and mind all things are pure – (so you should be able to read this with a pure mind) – but to those who entertain and walk in corruption, nothing is pure”. (Titus 1:15, slightly paraphrased for clarity)

***

After committing to writing about female sexuality (and note that I am doing so in conservative Christian context so this has nothing to do with being politically correct), I sat back and wondered what I’ve gotten myself into. Since when do conservative Christian women talk openly about their sexuality? However, having made some broad statements in my recent blog “Sex-crazed men? Frigid women? (Let’s talk sex: Part 1)” about female sexuality, without addressing it more in-depth, including addressing the exceptions, this one is necessary. Furthermore, the epidemic of sexual violence in our culture demands conversation. Without knowledge the people are led to destruction. And our silence on this front has surely validated that biblical principle.

Women are ‘beautifully sexual’ creatures. God made us that way. He didn’t hide in shame when He was finished, and with half an apology present her to her husband. He didn’t tell Adam not to enjoy her beauty. He didn’t tell her she is a whore if she desires sex, or that she’s there to serve her husband’s every demand. He didn’t respond negatively at all. He didn’t say, “Sorry that every man after you will lust uncontrollably after every woman conceived. It’s the women’s fault. And you men are fresh out of luck, victims of fate.”

In fact, He said it was very good when He created Adam and Eve. He presented her with delight. He knew what lay ahead. He knew The Fall was coming. He knew the struggle that lay ahead. And He still said, “it is very good” of His beautiful creation, and declared her to be created in His own image and likeness. Not in the image and likeness of Adam. Not a second-rate afterthought. But a creation made to represent and reflect something of Himself to the world. Sexual creatures… females… made in the image of God. Truth, spoken by God. Truth we have resisted to our own demise.

Yes, as sexual creatures, He spoke blessing over us. And, what’s more, He added ‘fun parts’ and feelings that serve absolutely no other purpose than to bring sexual pleasure to the woman. No female needs an orgasm for procreation, nor does she need to experience pleasure to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. He could have made humans so that males orgasm and females experience nothing. He didn’t. Those fun parts – ie; the clitoris and (for some) pleasure from nipple or vaginal stimulation, tells us that He intended sex to be a delightful encounter. It tells us that this is good. It isn’t shameful! It is delightful!

With rates of abuse as high as they are, many women struggle with seeing their sexuality as ‘good’, and are not able to ‘get into it’. Many have no desire for sexual intimacy.[1] It is not always due to abuse, but often.  If this is you, there is nothing wrong with you. In either case, you do not need to accept it as a ‘life sentence’ without trying to heal. I cannot promise you healing. I wish I could. But I would encourage reaching out to a medical doctor or a professional if you are struggling.

The other part of this is the warped portrayal of sex pretty much everywhere you go. In the media it is presented as this explosive thrill that rocks your world. Every time. Sex is this crazy amazing out of this world experience. Every time. Truth is, sometimes it can be. But realistically, it isn’t always. And in any case it shouldn’t boil down to that. There is a bonding and an intimacy in sex that goes beyond the orgasm. The orgasm can be part of that but it is not the epitome of it, and the closeness can exist without climax. There are women who have never experienced that climax, despite every effort on her husband’s part, and whose fulfillment must come from other intimacy.[2]

The loving husband will patiently work with his wife, consider her needs, slow his pace, listen to her share her day and her heart (some need their ‘list cleared’, before they can enter in), and he will seek to meet her needs first. It has been said men are like microwaves and women are like crockpots. All I can say, men, is if you tend well and lovingly to your wife’s needs, both of your hearts will find a safe place. No one likes to feel sexually used. And it is easy to feel that way, especially for those who have been abused and have to process flashbacks, sometimes in the middle of intimacy.

Along with this possible repulsion for sex due to past abuse, there is the lack of good teaching regarding sex, and plenty of shaming. “She’s boy-crazy”… “she always has to have a boy’s attention”… “She’s so desperate she’s always chasing after anything in pants”… etc.  Crushes are a normal part of life. Guidance is important, but the shaming that goes on in religious cultures about interest between sexes is causing unbelievable struggle and destruction.[3] Then, having been shamed about sex her whole developing years, she gets married and, “Voila!” now you must have sex. Whoa… back up a bit. That thing that defines you as a whore and a slut just for desiring relationship, you now must perform, on command? How does that shift even happen? And we wonder why so many of our marriages are ‘divorced’ at heart? This is one reason. Not the only one, but one. She feels like his prostitute, not his bride, if he enters marriage with that mindset.[4]  When women enter marriage already having been abused and having a very warped sense of their own sexuality, when they land with men who have no desire to understand their needs – not only in bed, but certainly there too – things deteriorate quickly. He demands sex, she hates it… What can possibly go well from there on out?

That said, not all abuse victims of sexual abuse dislike sex. On the contrary, many crave it and struggle with addictions to it. (This is true for both males and females, but we’re going to focus only on females). While repulsion for and disinterest in sex may not show up until marriage – though in some cases it does — for some addictions begin at a very young age in various forms, and progress with age, access and exposure.. This is common in the little girl who has been sexually stimulated since two… four… six – pick your number – and where this abuser has used coercive means and by pleasuring versus violence. He/she introduces the little girl to sexual pleasure, desire and bonding. She has been sexually awakened and trained to desire sex.

And before you conclude that the undeveloped girl can’t orgasm or experience sexual arousal, think again. In conversations – whether formal or informal sessions – women have reported sexual stimulation and orgasm at various ages, with some saying they experienced them ‘as far back as I remember’. Process that for a moment. An innocent little preschool girl experiencing orgasms and/or sexual arousal and desire due to sexual abuse, never having known any other life. And this continues for many years for some victims as a father, an uncle, an aunt or, most commonly, in cases I’ve encountered, an older brother abuses her. (I will use the older brother scenario to make the remaining of my points, to make it less cumbersome, even while any other person can be the abuser).

It is critical to know that the little girl should carry no shame! She has no understanding of what is being done to her. And it is just as important to note that her body responds precisely as God created it to. The fault of that awakening lands squarely on the shoulders of the abuser for the rest of her life and struggle.

Both God and science tell us that the hormonal response to sexual stimulation is a combination of pleasure and bonding, and establishes a desire for more. Starting at a young age with this pleasure, a little girl will quite likely become addicted to sex. Before she is old enough to understand any of it, she will pursue more interactions with her abuser and even initiate what he or she started against her. In her teens, she will quite possibly be promiscuous. And the more she is shamed, the more she will reach for affirmation in the one way she can get it.

As ‘church’, we have done a dreadful job of responding to this. First, we’ve downplayed abuse without ever daring to look this closely at what is happening to the victim, sexually. We’ve accepted a quick “I’m sorry” from the offender, and then judged the girl for her promiscuity, sexual addictions and inability to mature spiritually and respect herself. She is dubbed a slut, a whore, a shame to the family and community, all while the offender preaches on Sunday morning, leads Sunday School, serves as Youth leader… You get the picture. And we’ve judged those who dare to talk this bluntly about sexuality and sexual abuse. (For example, supposedly I’m sick and perverted for talking about sex so bluntly, and it is pornographic! And now I’m talking about children having orgasms! Bring out the gallows.)

To this I say, again, “Grow up!” If I a child is forced to live with this reality, so help us God if we cannot be mature enough and pure enough of heart and mind, to face the hard reality of a child’s story. Shame on us! How can we be so selfish as to think they must live with what we cannot handle hearing? If that somehow turns you on sexually, deal with it. Master your sexual responses, and if you can’t, get some counselling or help to deal with your heart. The Bible is clear, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). If you are pure of heart and mind, you will be able to discuss this tragic epidemic without pushing some corrupt label on the victims and their advocates speaking out.

When she is a teenager, and that older brother gets married, this little girl will quite possibly grieve, become angry and depressed, and turn to other sources for sexual fulfillment, or alternatively to self harm. And then she will be told she is just looking for attention. You think? A child with no understanding of sex and relationship, just wanting attention because her one source of connection has abandoned her? All those years she has had sexual relations, now suddenly she is abandoned, rejected and unfulfilled. She must now compete with her sister-in-law, and clearly she has lost. If she has a younger brother, she may well turn to him. All of this can happen before she has even reached puberty.

Masturbation will be another outlet for her sexual energy and awakening, or pornography. Or both. (It is important to note that many women who were not molested also masturbate. The notion that it is something only males do, and only the troubled ones, is nonsense. It is a common human struggle). Some will argue masturbation is good for you, others will condemn those who engage in it. (And many will respond much more harshly to this than to sexual abuse!) I’m particularly disinterested in making a judgement call either way as to how sinful it is, or is not, in this blog.

God is gracious and kind. He understands humanity and struggle. And He specifically addresses in Hosea that He will not judge the daughters who commit adultery and turn to prostitution because men have been using them (Hosea 4:14). God doesn’t change. That, alone, tells me that the church (broadly) is failing terribly at dealing with abuse, and the various forms of aftermath, in ways that don’t reflect the heart of God. We have it backwards. We give that grace to those God holds accountable, and condemning those who are stripped. This is not of God.

If God doesn’t, why would I? So if you take issue with that, take it up with Him for influencing me that way. Furthermore, I have walked so closely with so many struggling conservative Mennonite/Amish Christians, that any illusion of slapping on quick judgement and punishing them to solve the problem is long gone. Patiently leading them back to the love of Jesus, to His grace… that’s been effective. Encouraging them to skip ‘living in shame’ and moving immediately to repentance with every sin they commit, but not dwelling there and instead shifting to what Jesus did on the cross, that has been effective. Encouraging them to invest no time in ‘trying to overcome’, because the whole time we spend trying to overcome is time spent focusing on that thing. And the more we dwell on it, the more power it has over us. Instead, investing energy in relationship with God, thanking Him for His grace and kindness, that has been effective.[5]

It doesn’t cheapen grace. It doesn’t cheapen the cross. It shifts the focus away from ‘me and my struggle’ to God and His goodness. Away from me and my failure or imperfection to God’s incredible love for me, and the value I hold in His heart. And that is one way that inner need is met. One way that healing comes to broken places. And that restored identity and healing helps in overcoming sexual addictions.

So, no, I’m not interested in passing judgement on the victim of abuse who masturbates and struggles sexually. What I am interested in addressing is the practical outcome of any sexual addiction. When masturbation (or any other sexual activity) becomes an addiction, it will rob you. Married women (and men, but we’re talking about women here) have shared that they struggle to engage in sex with their spouse, because “it just doesn’t work”. They are so programmed for masturbation that they instinctively turn there for release, and are not easily aroused by their spouse. Or they may be aroused, but their body is conditioned for masturbation. They don’t want it to be that way, but it is their reality. And the marriage slowly – or not so slowly – disintegrates if they don’t invest deeply in understanding and overcoming these addictions.

Sex bonds people. That’s a fact. Masturbation robs a marriage of that bond. It is hard work to move past those addictions, but it can be done. And it is worth it.

These addictions can play out within the marriage as well. We hear a lot about sex-addicted men, demanding sex from their wives, but we hear little about the wives being addicted to sex. It happens. Again, I have no stats to support the prevalence, nor is that my goal. What I have is the stories of couples who have fought through that struggle. The husband may simply have a lower libido, or maybe he was abused and responded by being repulsed by sex. Or maybe he has a healthy sex-drive but simply cannot keep up with his wife’s constant need for sex. Again, remember that the woman who has been used sexually for years by multiple people has been conditioned for constant sexual activity. One man cannot keep up to the energy of two.. four or more men and women who may have stimulated her as a child.

This results in feelings of frustration and inadequacy in the husband, or even resentment. He may find her sex drive repulsive and frustrating. He may internalize and conclude he is not man enough, that there is something wrong with him. Or he may start using her aggressively and raping her, calling her perverse names and mistreating her, or judging her harshly in other ways. All of these responses are unhealthy. And I have encountered all of them.

But there is the alternative. The man who gently works with his wife, entering into her struggle with compassion, will bring healing and invite trust. This man is confident and secure in his identity. He does not neglect her needs, but also does not internalize her struggle as his fault. He does not label her, or view her with repulsion. Rather, he cares for her in that struggle and values who she is, and cares for the little girl she was in a way no one has before. It takes teamwork, and she does need to be willing to learn to trust, however slowly.

Women who are sexually addicted because of sexual abuse tend to expect their spouse to perform sexually at levels that are simply not realistic. They are looking to have something filled by sex, a need met, that is connected to their core identity as a victim of abuse. Survivors of abuse function out of that need on many levels, looking for affirmation. And sex cannot meet that need. Only healing from the abuse and the love of Jesus can meet that need.

Sexual frigidity due to sexual abuse and ‘zoning out’ (disassociating) with no resistance or interest, is common. Women do this to avoid the trauma and reminder of the abuse… avoiding flashbacks, memories and the ‘grossness’ of those traumas. There is no expectation of affirmation from the experience of sexual intimacy, no expectation of bonding, and not necessarily any open repulsion. She may be happy to snuggle – or not, as the case may be, and may even want babies, but sex as an act of intimacy is of no interest. She may (and many do) give the husband permission to ‘do what you need to do and be done’, but when it is over they don’t really know what happened.

Overcoming this takes patience on the husband’s part. The temptation will be to internalize her lack of interest in sex as rejection of him, personally and sexually as a man. Don’t give in to that. And wives, be careful not to transfer negative feelings about sex based on past trauma onto your spouse’s sexuality. This is true for men too; guard your tongue when tempted to blurt out a negative comment about your wife’s sexuality. Of the many things marriages struggle to recover from, this is one of the hardest. Negative comments about the other person’s sexuality are deadly and strike at a very core part of our identity as humans.

There are professionals who are willing to help, willing to work with you. There are people who understand. Find someone, and work through it. There is hope. Yes, it is usually a financial investment, but it is worth it if it’s what saves your sanity, your marriage, and your relationships. Everyone has expenses — all ministries, families, people have bills to pay — so expect to have costs associated. A coffee a day for two people (at Tim Horton’s, Xlg) is $4.00. That’s $20 a week. That’s $80 a month. Add junk food. (I admit, I don’t go for coffee even once a month, so this isn’t going to be everyone’s reality. But it’s amazing where you can find money for what really matters, when you’re desperate for help. We know from experience).

So start tracking where you spend money that you could put toward what really matters. And if you don’t have places you can adjust, reach out to local churches to sponsor your sessions. Many are willing to support even those who don’t attend their congregation. Be proactive and fight for your freedom.

The topic of sexuality and the aftermath of abuse is somewhat endless. This is a synopsis of what could be a whole book. (A book that I have on hold since starting university, but is near completion). For now, I hope this helps some of you struggling with these things. You are normal. You’re not crazy. There is hope. Reach out. Fight forward.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

***

Footnotes are below, but first… we have a free seminar starting tomorrow night in Newburg PA. If you wish to donate towards the event and support the work of Generations Unleashed and Trudy Metzger’s travels/teaching, you may do so at:
http://www.generationsunleashed.com/donate

Here is the poster:

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 11.39.01 PM

***

Footnotes:

[1] This blog focuses on women, but the impact of sexual abuse on sexual desire affects both male and female. There are similarities and differences, from what I’ve observed. But I am not male, and my work with male victims is still but a fraction of my work with females. I am hoping a male survivor will write a blog addressing this… but am still waiting to hear back.

[2] Some women who have been abused cannot climax or even enter into sexual intimacy. When this is due to the terror of being used and overpowered, being the one to initiate intimacy can help some women overcome this terror. When she were abused, the aggressor disregarded her safety and overpowered her. It works for some to reclaim this through working patiently with her spouse to initiate intimacy, and engaging her when he initiates. Rather than reaching over and touching, if she guides his hands there is safety. This is not a quick fix for everyone. It is one of numerous things a couple can do, practically, to reclaim what has been stolen. Husband, hold your wife tenderly without sex when she is afraid. Hold her when she cries if that is what she needs; ask first.  And know that those tears are common; though most of us hide them as long as we can. (It’s not your fault, unless you wounded her, which is a separate discussion). As you seek to enter in and be there for her, be mindful of things that will make her feel overpowered and invaded. Move compassionately and with her permission. She had no one to protect her when she was abused and raped. To enter into the trauma and emotion of that space, requires deep trust and risk on her part; you need her permission.

Wives, I speak as one who had to walk these steps at various times. I get some of your struggle to an extent. I learned to heal. Then I reverted back to old fears at times. But I overcame. And I’ve advised couples to try these steps over the years. It has been effective for some, though not all. I entered marriage without that fear of Tim and sexual intimacy. But I faced various forms of it later in life when flashbacks started and left me feeling like a whore. I felt ugly, ashamed, guilty. I desired intimacy but feared rejection and at times hated myself. Overcoming this took patience and courage. It’s worth it. That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Don’t give up on your intimate relationship easily.

[3] A few things in our conservative culture –and note that I say in our culture, which I draw from their own admissions, and I am not speaking broadly of society –are profoundly linked to homosexuality. This shaming is one. Sexual abuse is another. Oppression of women is another; to be valued you have to be male/masculine. And all the shaming/condemning of femininity and beauty is another.

[4] Many men are gentlemen. I tend to still believe the scales tip heavily in favour of honourable men who treat their wives well in bed. I pray and hope I am right. These men deserve respect, yet they don’t demand it. Their wives are safe emotionally, sexually, physically and spiritually.

[5] This paragraph on addictions also applies to men. It doesn’t mean there will suddenly be no struggle. But there is growth and there is empowerment to overcome. And moving quickly to focusing on God, rather than our wrongs is incredibly important. However, if those wrongs include violating another person, there is an addition step. And that step is facing consequences. If a crime has been committed it must be reported without self-preservation. This frees the victim from false guilt and blame, and helps the person who offended see the gravity of what he/she has done.

NOTE:

Thank you to all who sent in thoughts and questions that helped shape this blog.

If you have questions, feel free to email: trudy@generationsunleashed.com. I am back in university, traveling for speaking, and still going through post-heart attack and other medical issues, so my response time is not as quick as I would like it to be. But I try not to let any fall through the cracks. I will respond as I’m able.

What about the “victim mentality”?

The term ‘victim mentality’ is one I don’t use, because I have found the true ‘victim mentality’ is an incredibly rare phenomenon. I would dare to say that what we often call victim mentality is the aftermath of dreadfully under-acknowledged terror and trauma, rather than some notion of ‘wanting to stay there’. (More on what drives this being stuck in trauma later). In 9 years of interacting closely with them, I have watched most victims of abuse move ‘beyond survivor’ to truly thriving, with few exceptions. This includes those who were my clients, and many who were not my clients but stayed in close contact as they worked through their stories with other mentors and counsellors.

At least a percentage of these individuals would have been classed as having a ‘victim mentality’. Always needing sympathy or affirmation — or both — and seeming to feel ‘poor me’ at every turn with everyone around them always being out to do them harm, no one ever understanding them, and ever being on the fringe of an emotional crash (including threat of suicide etc).

Along with this there was, for some, the need to have somewhere between 6 and 8 people at any given moment whom they would hold on emotional string, as I call it, that they could yank at any moment to have people running from every direction to ‘save them’ from themselves. This is exhausting for everyone.

Sometimes we call it ‘victim mentality’ because we are tired, so that we can remove ourselves from the suffering, which is not productive. It is a sign of deep wounds that need healing. And those who have no concept of offering healthy support, make things worse by accommodating every yank of the string. And yet, ignoring them is not the answer; these victims do need support.

What has happened is that their boundaries have been brutally violated in the same act that left these victims of abuse so emotionally/psychologically, sexually, spiritually and often physically devastated. They, therefore, do not know how to respect healthy boundaries, and when their pain surfaces, for many the only survival skill they have is drawing emotionally from others.

We judge them for it, when the reality is that their suffering has never been acknowledged, and no one has ever said, “I’m so sorry. May I just sit with you in your pain, and love you where you are at?”

When we do that… When we stop judging their neediness… When we stop defining their place of suffering as ‘victim mentality’ …. When we pull up a chair at that preschooler’s table – or that pre-teen’s or teenager’s …now that young woman or man – something beautiful happens. They begin to heal.

To offer this support well requires having boundaries. Set specific times to meet. Have a limit on how many texts, emails, phone calls etc, and set time restrictions on how long those calls are. Or you will be consumed, and they certainly will not heal. We enter into their suffering, but must do so with wisdom.

Then, when we have been there with them, in that dark place of their suffering, only then have we earned the privilege of being invited to speak. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege. And the best gift we can give, when we do speak, is an invitation to walk together. An invitation to share with them the Love of One who gives us life and hope. Not an invitation for us to ‘fix’ them. Or for us to help them arrive where we are. But an invitation to meet the One who is our life and hope. The One who defines us.

When we are given permission to speak His life, His hope and His purpose over them, they grow. They learn to trust. They learn to forgive. As we care, they become stronger. They heal. And when they heal, they no longer see only their own pain, but the pain of others.

Some fear healing. It isn’t that they don’t want to heal, most of them. But a few are terrified of healing. If they heal, who will be there? The only connections some have ever had, have been linked to their trauma and need. If they heal, who will be there? If they heal, will they be alone… lonely? And who will they be? They’ve never been anything other than in pain and suffering? What if being whole demands things they are not capable of. More than one survivor of trauma has admitted these fears to me.

It is easy to judge from a distance. It’s easy to say those fears are not reasonable. Yet they are very real for many survivors of terror and trauma. The shift from fear to thriving happens with recognizing we have something to give, that our need doesn’t have to be the source of our fulfillment.

When, having sat with them in their sorrow, we have earned the privilege to speak… And when, having earned the privilege to speak, we have encouraged, and believed, and spoken life and purpose… Then we can ask the hard questions…

worm to butterfly

What if healing didn’t mean you would be alone? What if healing meant that you could be there for others? What if healing meant that you would be more fulfilled than you ever imagined you would be or could be? What if…?

And when they dare to embrace that challenge, a courage rises up, and they reach out. And in reaching out to others, they are healed. Again. And this doesn’t mean they will never struggle. Tomorrow might be a hard day. Next week they might call their counsellor because they feel lost. Next year they might need someone to ask again, “What if healing doesn’t mean you will be lonely, or alone? What if you keep reaching out to others? What if…?”

It isn’t a victim mentality. Not usually.  And we do a lot of damage when blithely we write it off as that. Mostly it is fear. It is the aftermath of deep trauma. It is a failure to thrive because there has been a failure in those of us around them to sit with them patiently in their suffering, and acknowledge it. And it is a journey. A rising and falling. And rising again.

Only when we have walked through deep trauma, or dared to entered into the suffering of others can we grasp that battle.

***

When we reach out to others in hope and healing,
our healing comes more quickly.
~ Isaiah 58 ~ 

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

No Place …. First Love … Jeremiah 31

There is no place 
where light shines so bright
as in the darkest of night,
No place I’ve found
where love is so strong,
as in the face of hate,
No place where truth is so strong
as in the wake and face of lies.
No place where life rises so glorious,
as when it rises from a grave.
There God dwells
among us;
Jesus.
Emmanuel.
No place like here
No place like now
For Light, Love and Truth.
Rise and conquer, Victorious.

***
I invite you to listen as you read:

OVERCOME

***

From the shadows, shines a bright light; from the darkness hope rises. From brokenness of shame and defeat, determination rises, strong and courageous.

Battles have been fought and won throughout the course of history, but never has land or territory been reclaimed without a price tag. In the spiritual realm this is no less true than in the physical, if not more so, but we have a promise that God will rebuild and restore when we return to our first love. “I will build you up again, and you, virgin Israel, will be rebuilt”. Virgin, or first love. Israel, or ‘my people’. Rebuilt, or strong and flourishing.

***

Jeremiah 31:2-14

This is what the Lord says:
“The people who survive the sword
will find favour in the wilderness;
I will come to give rest to Israel.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful.

Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit.

There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”

This is what the Lord says:
“Sing with joy for Jacob;
 shout for the foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard, and say,
Lord, save your people,
the remnant of Israel.’

See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.

They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’

11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob
and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
the young of the flocks and herds,
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.

13 Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
declares the Lord.

***

What has been plundered, what has been taken will be restored. I trust my heavenly Father to bring life from the rubble and ashes of every battlefield in the breaking of vicious strongholds. We take our place in the Kingdom, and wait His command, but it is God who shatters the chains of wickedness that have long bound His people. It is He who exposes and shatters lies and deceptions.

This is peace. This is rest.

***

There is no place…
no place like the place rebuilt from wasted ruins.
Because that place, is the place where God has come. 

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Behind Our Pulpits…

EDIT: (Since posting this and the previous blog, I discovered several websites doing the same thing we started here. As a result, and since there is no good reason for a few of us to do the same thing, I am updating the info for reporting abusers. Please forward all requests to the contact info here: https://www.themaplist.org/#contact and check out the list already started here: https://www.themaplist.org/the-map-list/. This group is posting publicly, which we were not prepared to do.)

Our goal is not to bring destruction, but healing, hope and accountability. This accountability includes accountability to the laws of the land, and also includes a willingness (even preference for) working with Restorative Justice initiatives where victims voices are heard and included, and where offenders are offered support to help them overcome their addictions and remain accountable to a team of people upon release from prison.

We are not targeting ‘our people’ to destroy anyone (not even the culture), to shame anyone (not even the leaders or the culture), but to give victims who are terrified to speak out a safe place to be heard. The power under which many victims function is suffocating. And in a purity culture of silence, the shame and consequences for speaking out make it all but impossible for victims to break free and find a voice. Advised to take medications (by leaders, family and friends) while held in that silence, is deadly. The spirit dies. The soul dies. The mind goes insane. Or numb. Everything goes numb.

Medications have a place, but they are not the answer, and the number of victims barely surviving, popping pills but speaking to no one, is tragic. It is also unnecessary to suffer in silence. If you are a victim, I encourage you to find the courage to speak out. We will support you as much as possible in helping you find the supports you need. Those who want people ‘on the inside’ (leaders and lay people in the conservative Anabaptist church) we can connect you to these leaders. We trust them, and we are confident you can too. Those who wish for support only outside of the culture, we will honour that.

But you need to know, there are conservative leaders (none on our team, as that would prove intimidating for many victims) whom we know are 100% supportive of you and who will fight for you. They are amazing, godly men and women who are real ‘Jesus people’. Yes, in their straight-cut, plain suits, and black hats, and their wives in cape dresses, white coverings and black bonnets… they are there rooting for you and fighting for you. They pray and they care. They don’t ever need to know what you are going through (nor will we disclose your info to them) but you need to know that they are among you. That is true in Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and beyond. We are not asking you to trust them, or have any interaction and (it bears repeating) we won’t leak any info to them. But you deserve to know there are those who sit in your pews who bless the work we are doing, as Generations Unleashed. (Those who oppose and hate people who work with sexual violence in the church are often (eventually) exposed for sexual sin and/or hiding it for family or friends.)

God is moving on the inside… He has heard the prayers and cries of many, many wounded and their families, and is keeping His promise in Habakkuk, that he will do a thing that we would not have believed if someone had told us. Early in ministry, a conservative Mennonite woman sent me those verses and said God showed her that in relation to our ministry to victims. I still have her note. And I still believe that God is doing just that.

To this end, I pray…

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

Manipulations, Rare Confessions, Horrific Stories and Freedom to Worship

[Trigger Warning]

There isn’t much that worship can’t soothe in my spirit, in the day to day. The key and the challenge is to be diligent in setting aside time for intentional worship in the chaos of this thing we call life, which can quickly feel more like a slow and painful death if we’re not careful. Especially for people in ministry, whether pastors or other ministries. There is something spiritually and emotionally draining about ministry, apart from taking time to refuel and ‘drinking deep’ from the well of God’s love, whether through worship music, meditation and prayer, or reading truth.

Hearing horrific stories of child rape, or watching adults weep or go into shock to the point of physically going pale and clammy, as they recall someone forcing themselves or some harsh object inside of them, tends to wear on the soul. In the past year I’ve heard so many of these tragedies it leaves my head reeling, and my heart aching…. though, in honesty, something of my ability to ‘feel’ was destroyed in childhood, so it is usually more of a ‘factual’ pain, than a feeling one. That is, until it is incorporated into art or music… there, and in God’s presence or Tim’s arms, I am able to feel pain. Rarely any other place. But back on track…

In recounting details with a local police officer regarding the third or fourth case involving forcing objects inside children or youth, the officer looked at me and said, “Yeah… what’s with that about forcing objects inside kids? That’s just crazy!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane, actually. And I realized when he asked, that this and molestation is the horror I listen to or deal with, in one form or another, almost daily. And when it gets too much, or hopefully before it does, I escape into a place of worship, filling my heart with a truth greater than the wickedness all around. If I didn’t do that, I would burn out relatively quickly.

And I’m not alone in the intentional battle against burnout. While painful to hear, I’ve listened to pastors confess the struggle that goes with their role. I’ve heard the admission that sometimes it seems atheists are more at peace with life than believers, and live to the fullest with greater kindness than those in the Body of Christ. I’ve listened as they told how difficult it is to be attacked or back-stabbed by their congregants. While that is not something I am familiar with, since I have no congregation, my imagination works well enough to know it would be hard; much harder than ‘distant’ attacks from those who oppose what I do, I imagine.

That is one of the things that has given me the courage to press forward in ministry, knowing the deep appreciation of clients. At least most of them, and most of the time. I’ve been very blessed with good outcomes in working with clients, walking them through to healing and developing longterm relationships. In five years of 1:1 ministry, most clients continue to keep in touch from time to time, letting me know how they are, and sharing struggles and victories from time to time. In fact, only one case has truly gone wrong, either due to sincere misunderstanding or blatant lies–and I am uncertain which–and it is the one case that made me realize how blessed I am that attacks are virtually never part of my life, with clients. (Attacks from strangers, or from ‘friends’ behind my back, and attacks on our ministry  don’t bother me much any more. They’re par for the course.) Nonetheless, initially it is jolting to be thrown into a world of unfamiliar accusations and it can feel like God has let you get hung out to dry… Giving 12 hours in one day, and extra time and expense over a period of time, all pro bono, to the person who ends up stabbing you in the back is disheartening.  And in that moment, questioning why I would continue, the thing that carries me through is the knowledge that God knows the truth… that God sees all our hearts–not only mine, not only theirs, but everyone of us… And, again, my heart is drawn to healing worship and I am refreshed.

****

In contrast with the ‘fatigue’ of fighting against the darkness so often covered up, a man spills his story without being confronted, and tells how as a teen he molested numerous children. We end the conversation and of his own accord, as I prepare to leave, he says he would like to talk to a police officer.

“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he has to charge you?” I ask, feeling a sense of duty to let him know the potential consequences, and to see if that changes his mind. “I thought about that before I said anything,” he continues. I tell him I will talk with an officer, and get a time set up and other details if that is what he wants. “If it takes making an example of me to stop this, then I am willing,” he says. And with that we part ways. A day later I have a time, and all the details of what this will look like. He responds with the admission that it looks pretty scary and overwhelming, and I tell him it is up to him. I don’t have enough information to do anything; it’s entirely up to him. He asks for a night to contemplate it.

canstockphoto10785757 (1)

The next morning, first thing, a text comes through saying he wants to proceed. And with that it’s a plan. As I type out the message to the officer, tears flow generously. I realize the man is not one of the ones who is a greatest threat to our community. He came forward of his own free will and asked for the police without so much as a hint of it from me. And through the tears, I worship a God who sees hearts and understands my struggle with knowing that many hide vicious crimes while a rare contrite soul exposes wickedness out of a desire for truth and freedom. And that one chooses to pay the price publicly, if that’s what it takes, to help end the epidemic.

****

Ah worship… it makes ‘right’ a world all wrong. It’s necessary to worship when the heavy stuff of life lands on us like a bucket load of bricks… or worse. It’s easy to worship when things are good. But when we sacrifice and are met with not so much as a passing thank you, but rather an attack, worship is critical. Drinking the toxic sludge of lies, rumours, manipulations and growing bitter quickly sucks the life out of us, so that we have nothing to give. And when the darkness hides in the crevices of Christian cloaks, it is worship that turns my heart back to my Heavenly Papa, and I am again lost in love, clothed in righteousness that is not mine.

So tonight I bask in the wonder of the ove of Jesus, who died to give me life… who died to give life for the one who comes back to say ‘thank you’… and for the one who manipulates and takes for granted sacrifices made on their behalf. He understands each of us with equal affection, and grants extravagant grace for our various struggles and burdens. And suddenly I realize that I have no enemies, only brothers and sister with pain, struggling through their story. And I pray that Jesus will meet each one in the place of their battle, and lift up the weary hearts and breathe life into us, every one, so that His purposes are fulfilled in us.

With confidence I move forward because Jesus didn’t stay trapped in a grave: Christ is Risen from the Dead, and that gives me hope for every one of us. Deep, eternal hope.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dear Victim: How God views you…

Yahweh, your God, is intimately present in your battle, as a mighty and victorious warrior, fighting for you! Having overthrown your enemy, He serenades you, singing over you with great delight, like a Papa mesmerized by His child! He (Based on: Zephaniah 3:17)

The battle is not mine, it is not yours. We are loved. We are fought for. We are accepted. And our Heavenly Papa–Abba–holds us in His arms and in His heart. He is not a far-away-never-present Papa; He is ‘over us’ watching, loving, laughing and finding joy in us.

He sees His creation; a child in His own image and likeness, not the brokenness that we feel. He sees us through the eyes of love, acceptance and grace. We are His; we belong… no longer misfits. In this we find our true identity, our freedom.

Take a moment to whisper a thank you to this amazing God, and spend a moment basking in the light of His infinite love. It is life-altering to experience the wonder of Him.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dear Victim: Just so you know…

Your story matters. Your pain matters. And most importantly, “You matter.” In fact, you matter so much that you are worth more than the chains they have tried to put on you.

You are worth a ‘prison break’, to leave that bondage behind and move into a place of freedom, purpose and healthy personal identity. If you are struggling to find that freedom, find someone–anyone safe–who will walk you to that place. It awaits you.

canstockphoto10707323

And, whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be free.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger