On Questioning Faith & God Because of University?

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

 © Trudy Metzger

Excerpt (Chapter 18): Between 2 Gods

The following is an excerpt taken from Chapter 18, Between 2 Gods; a Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community. This portion takes place in my ‘rebel years’, shortly after my 17th birthday, as I try to navigate living arrangements and party life, running from God, evening denying Him, yet finding myself, face to face with the reality of His love. 

EXCERPT:

[…] And so it was that only weeks after I moved in with Cheri and Annette, I moved out again and settled into my new home with Kyle and Amy. We had arranged one quick meeting for me to check out the bedroom and agree on rent, and it was a done deal.

I arrived at their door with my belongings and was greeted by a large black dog, barking furiously. Dogs are wonderful pets, when they like you, and you are familiar with them. Large, strange black dogs, who bark like you’re their lunch, are not so nice for pets.

Fido was gated in the kitchen, so that he could not come to my room, but every day I had to step over that gate, dodge through the kitchen, jump over the other gate, and go downstairs to shower before work.

I refused to admit it, but that dog terrified me. “No, no, I’m fine,” I said, when Kyle or Amy asked, but every time I faced that dog when they were gone, my heart first stopped when the dog barked or growled at me, then restarted with furious energy as I braved the kitchen. For several weeks I silently endured that dragon-sized beast. Daily I imagined my remains on the floor, for Kyle and Amy to clean up when they returned home. But each day I survived the mad dash, and landed on the other side of the gate laughing from the adrenaline rush.

Needless to say I didn’t eat much when Kyle and Amy were away, as I never lasted long enough in the kitchen to scrounge together a meal. Gradually I accepted these inconveniences as part of my new environment, and stored food in my room.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. Kyle and Amy decided they wanted to parent me. They set a curfew. I would need to tell them who I was with, where I was going, and how long I planned to be gone. And any other detail they would like to know, I would be required to tell them. I had been on my own for a year, with no one demanding those things, and I was not about to play that role in a tenant relationship. I came and went as I pleased. I was responsible for my own meals and groceries, except the occasional dinner in the evening, so there was no need for them to know my plans. I was renting a room. Nothing more.

[…]

About that time I met up with my past party friends again. In conversation I told them about my living conditions—the dog, the “babysitting” and curfew—and they offered me a room in their apartment. I accepted immediately

We drove to Kyle and Amy’s to collect some basic items, and I informed them of my decision to move out. I made arrangements to return for the rest of my belongings the next day. […]

So began the adventures, in early December 1986, of living with my party friends. They were “responsible” party friends, and great roommates.

[…]

It wasn’t much of a life, really, working and partying, but it kept reality at bay, and prevented me from facing memories of home and childhood. And it effectively drowned out the voice of God, so that I didn’t need to contend with Him, or the reality of my sin and rebellion. Most of the time…

Every now and then, when I watched 100 Huntley Street, and listened to the testimonies and stories of Jesus, or when I was alone at night, and sober, His voice would whisper, and I would find myself contemplating God, and my eternal destiny. When friends or roommates were present, I boldly cursed Him, even dropping the “f-bomb” when we stumbled upon Christian TV programs. But in the absence of company, I listened and wept. On one occasion, I even called in for prayer, after listening to Reverend David Maines, and a sweet Grandma prayed for me and encouraged me. Still, had someone asked me, I would have said God didn’t exist, that I didn’t believe in Him and, at best, I was an agnostic. Probably atheist. There was no way, in my mind, that a loving God could exist, given the life I had known up until that time, and with my experiences in church. But in those moments, alone, when I heard His voice, and felt Him move deep in my fragmented spirit, I was compelled to believe.

What was more, in those moments He was not condemning or harsh. When that Grandma, in her shaky, aged voice, told me of God’s love and prayed for me, it was as if God Himself reached down. And the voice I heard in the stillness, alone in my room, was one of love and invitation. Standing at my window, looking up into the night sky, I felt as though my chest might burst and the tears would fall, unashamedly, as my heart cried out to this Being, whoever He was. And, if just for a moment, my spirit would come alive, and life would breathe into my soul. And then the moment would pass, and life, with all its harshness, returned.

On the harsher days, when God was far away, I scoffed and mocked the very God who breathed that life into me. On one such day, walking down King Street just outside King Centre Shopping Plaza, a group of Beachy Amish Mennonites congregated, handing out religious tracts.

I resented my cultural background and wanted to be rude, but I recognized the man reaching out his hand with the tract. Elroy Wagler. He didn’t recognize me, but my older sister had worked for him and his wife, Dianne, and I had visited their home and played with their children, Anita, Lynette, Loretta, Nathanial, and Timothy. Suddenly it was personal and I didn’t have the heart to decline or be rude. I didn’t identify myself, but I smiled and graciously accepted the pamphlet.

As I walked away, I shredded the pamphlet and tossed it in the garbage can on the sidewalk. Why did the people seem so nice when, in my reality, so much of the culture had been harsh? Were they all pretending? Was any of it real?

[…]

I was forced to see good and evil, so that I could not simply write religion off as a curse or a fantasy. And always I would find some chaos, drama, or party to push that reality far away, and leave God lost in the shadows of the past, the shadows of religion and time.

Had I known how to look past both—good and evil—to see only God’s pure love, and His desire for relationship, then I might have believed and been transformed.

–Conclusion of excerpt: Chapter 18 Between 2 Gods; a Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community 

BETWEEN 2 GODS is currently on sale (paperback) on Amazon USA, for only $13.61 (04/27/2015) I have no influence on how long it will be on sale.  

On the roller-coaster of those teen years, there were highs–literally–and there were lows. Reconnecting with my friends was a high, but only weeks later in that very apartment, I would experience an all-time low. I would be raped by a friend, triggering a flashback, and derailing my roller-coaster completely and leaving me lost and wandering. But each tragedy, over time, became a pathway that would lead me back to the love I had searched for so desperately; a love that had been there all along, lost behind the shadows of my broken story.

I pray that you, too, find love, acceptance and hope if you have not yet. And if you have, I pray that my story encourages you to continue clinging for dear life to the One who gives that love freely.

Love,

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Praying Like A Pagan: A Challenge from My Sons

I wasn’t planning to write a blog tonight, but, after tucking my two youngest into bed, I decided to take a few minutes to do so.

Tonight Tim & I had a great night. We met with a handful of couples for an evening of prayer and confession. Well, it started with one individual sharing some things with me a few weeks ago, and wanting to pray through some past ‘stuff’ and some ongoing struggles.

Within the context of meeting in a group such as this, we had never had such a meeting. It was new… the unknown. And it was beautiful. It turned out to be an evening of prayer, of reaching out to God as a group. The presence of God was sweet and powerful. The perfect ‘ending’ to an intense week.

We returned home shortly after 10:00. Todd, thirteen, and Kordan, ten, were ready for bed, but not asleep. There was a bit of a dispute between them about who would tuck them in bed, Daddy or me. In the end I was the one who went up.

Everyone in our family knows that when I do prayer time, I sometimes get carried away… well, maybe usually… and I ‘chatter’ to God about all kinds of things. When they were little it worked great for putting them to sleep. I would pray, and pray and pray, until they fell sound asleep. I didn’t necessarily do it for that reason, it was just a great ‘bonus’ to my time with God.

As always we prayed together when I tucked them in. First Todd prayed, then Kordan, and finally I prayed. Both prayed their unique prayers, but each included, “…thank you that tomorrow is Saturday, and we will clean a little and play a lot….” Todd added a ‘hopefully’ to the end of that prayer. And then it was my turn.

I did the usual and prayed a while, but tonight I caught myself and wrapped it up relatively quickly.

Immediately when I said ‘amen’, and before I could leave the room, Kordan said, “Wait, Mommy, wait… Turn on the ‘head light’ (meaning the light on the head of the bed)… there’s something I want to show you.”

He pulled a box from the head of the bed and I assumed it was something he had made, but, as he turned the box, I recognized his Bible box. He said something about the book of Matthew, and having learned something in Bible Quizzing at church.

He looked up the book of Matthew at the front of the Bible, then started paging through, looking for page 1051. A few chapters in he decided to flip large sections and get there faster. In Matthew he started skimming, eventually asking Todd for a bit of help for the chapter and then scanning for verses. He said it was about prayer.

The heading ‘Prayer’ caught my eye so I pointed to it. He held it up and I read it to him. When I got to verse seven, Kordan said, with a laugh, “Yeah, that’s the one, that’s what I wanted to show you.”

The verse says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…”

Both boys laughed their little hearts out at their own humour and wit, at having found a verse, just for me. “That’s you mom… that’s what you do.”

I laughed, and explained, “It’s a bit different. I don’t think I’ll be heard for talking a lot.” Then I added, “I just think God likes to listen to me chatter.”

They argued that maybe that was just my perception, not reality, and laughed again.

It was a fun and light ‘topping’ to a week filled with ministry, and seeing the power of God work in breaking the chains of silence, victimization and abuse.

It is no wonder God tells us to become like little children. There is freedom in laughter, freedom in humour, and freedom in the love, hugs and kisses of our children.

I finished tucking them in, my heart full with the wonder of being blessed with God’s love through our children. I said it in my prayer, and I’ll say it again. I am so thankful for our family.

And my prayers… well, they may continue to be as long as that of the pagans, but I still think God likes to listen to me chatter.

© Trudy Metzger

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A Story Told Before Its Time: Forgiving, Releasing and Blessing My Father (Part 7)

Eight years into marriage, I decided I was ready to write my first book…. A manuscript that now rests on my bookshelf, collecting dust, waiting to be rewritten.

The book was about marriage and some of the difficult adjustments I went through because of my past. The kind of thing abuse victims would understand, and anyone who had a difficult childhood, or youth. I wrote about Dad. About always wanting to be his princess, his little girl, but being lost in a world of fear.

I wrote about discovering that I am my Heavenly Father’s Princess. That my Abba Father–the Daddy I always longed for–holds me in His heart. That He is proud of me. He adores me. And when my life is full of chaos, He quiets my restless spirit with His love, and sings over me with delight. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I knew no one back then, in the publishing world. I didn’t even know published authors I could contact. That’s when I remembered David Meece. Maybe, just maybe, he would endorse my book. He would most definitely understand my story and support me in getting it out.

I sent an email through David Meece’s website, asking if he might consider reading my manuscript and doing an endorsement.

His manager, Ladelle Peabody, from Tuscan Arizona, wrote back. She would pass the request on to David. In the meantime, would I consider meeting her in Toronto? She would be in for a visit soon.

Of course I would meet her! It felt odd. I, a plain Mennonite girl, meeting David Meece’s manager. Oh, and would I bring her a copy of the manuscript? She had connections at Waterbrook Press.

Would I? Seriously? Of course! I couldn’t believe it!

The day I met with Ladelle is forever etched in my memory. A young Mennonite school girl, about age twelve or thirteen, was kidnapped about five minutes away from our home, on our road. She was raped and returned to her family later that day.

Rage. Deep and dark.

I had to drive past the scene of the crime on my way to Tim’s work, before heading to Toronto. That day, in my little white bonnet and all, I discovered just how much buried rage bubbled below the surface, like a volcano waiting to erupt.

When I arrived at Tim’s work, having passed the scene of the crime only moments earlier, tears stained my face.

“I swear I would have shot him, if I had seen the rapist and had a gun. How can someone take an innocent little Mennonite girl and rape her?” I raged for a few moments, trying to wrap my head around it. I felt guilty then… How unChristian of me… And here I was, trying to publish a book about overcoming the past. A book to help people in marriage.

It felt hypocritical. More so than it was, really. I’ve learned since that the anger we feel when someone is victimized isn’t so bad, if managed well. Maybe pulling a gun isn’t the best first response, but the anger itself isn’t so bad. It will always be there. Innocent children should not be taken advantage of. No one should.

I met with Ladelle. She was a delightful, enthusiastic, Jesus-believer with a strong passion for youth. She shared of her involvement with Teen Challenge Arizona and her heart for helping people. She would take my manuscript and get it directly into the hands of the editor at Waterbrook Press. I thanked her, gave her the manuscript and we parted ways.

Several months later, on December 28, 2002, I got a polite ‘no thank you’ letter from Waterbrook. They were publishing another book too similar, they said. The editor wrote some nice comments about my book, about my writing style and wished me well.

I wasn’t ready for that world. The rejection cut deep. My story. Raw. Real. Painful.

….and rejected. Not good enough. I closed the pain down, steeled myself against the disappointment and threw a big party. Nothing like a good time to shut down the heart.

But God wasn’t finished. The closing chapter of my story with Dad was untold. And the manuscript was premature.

Overlapping with this writing journey, my father had been in and out of the hospital, and the rest of that story had yet to be written, let alone lived. And that part of Dad’s journey would change my story.

To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

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Finding Jesus in the Shadows (Part 1)

Continuing my story…

My visit from Howard and Alice, and that life-altering question, triggered the first wave of a long grieving process. Maybe more like the initial Tsunami that set the waves in motion, for years to come, in various ways and stages.

To survive emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, one must learn to ride these waves and take advantage of them, using them for good. But riding waves takes practice, and it’s best if one knows how to swim.

Howard and Alice’s home was a safe place for the initial ‘shock’ part of that journey, and coming out of that shock. For three days, in their home, I slipped in and out of moments of my new reality, trying to come to terms with what had been in my childhood. Though, how does one truly come to terms with the ultimate betrayal from a parent?

God has a way of getting messages through in ways that we can hear them, if we listen. And sometimes even if we don’t. One of my ‘languages’ with God, is music. Maybe even a language with life. When I can’t resolve things, when I’m struggling intensely, I often come across a song that has a message just for that moment. And that is just what happened.

Music began playing the one evening at Howard and Alice’s, that caught my attention. I don’t recall all the words, but the words that stood out every time,  went something like, “…show your Daddy, where it hurts, and let your Daddy fix it…”

A battle raged in my inner part. How was I to show anything to any Daddy, anywhere, especially if it hurt? That was where my pain had started–from my earthly father. How could I trust God, a Heavenly Father to be any different? Why had He not protected me? I couldn’t reconcile it. Still, the words continued to grip me, long after the song was done.

I replayed it, wanting to resolve whatever it was that stirred in me. I rested on the sofa in the living room, alone, listening to the words of the song. Something drew me in, but what?

The tears started, and would not stop. Lying there I realized I was not abandoned. That anything I had lost with my earthly father, my Heavenly Father would restore and redeem.

Papa-God was with me and had never abandoned me, even when I could not feel Him, or see evidence of Him. When I had felt as if I needed to take care of myself, He was there. He had come, in the body of Jesus Christ, to understand my mental suffering, to know my fears, to feel my pain. To tell me I could overcome, just as He had overcome. But I would not do it on my own strength, but in trusting Him.

At the end of day three, I felt refreshed. Ready to move forward. I had cried my tears, and I would cry again, but the initial trauma was over. I returned to the Colonel’s home, to pour my energy into taking care of him.

I met with Howard and Alice, from time to time, to talk through things, but life continued as before, for the most part.

At Christmas I went to Pennsylvania, to spend some time with my then-boyfriend. He had dropped hints, probably inadvertently, that he was going to propose. The hints were unmistakable, as wedding dreams and plans became a normal part of conversation.

For Christmas he gave me a full ski suit and we had agreed we would not do that until our relationship was ‘set in stone’, so to speak, because I was not a skier, and wasn’t likely to pick it up, without him in my life.

We spent a day skiing between Christmas and New Years, and that evening, I was told, I needed to be extra dressed up. I wore my prettiest dress, took extra care doing my hair. The restaurant, he said, was amazing. He had not been there, but he had asked friends before booking it.

We left the house with high expectations.

Life was about to change… dramatically. But not in the way I thought and dreamed.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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‘The Talk’, Staying Flexible

The conversation I had with Alicia just before her tenth birthday set a standard at the Metzger house. I took Alicia out for her birthday, a special dinner, to celebrate this next level of growing up. Since we had already had, what has since become known as, ‘the talk’, it was an ‘after the fact’ celebration.

For Nicole I did the same, just the two of us, but with the plan to have ‘the talk’ afterwards. Dinner was lovely. The restaurant she chose had live jazz and she was quite taken with the band. As with Alicia, the talk went well.

I hadn’t thought through the next phase. Boys. How would we teach them about their bodies and healthy sexuality? Since I had done one-on-one with the girls, and because of cultural upbringing, it seemed ‘right’ for Tim to do this. But I’m the ‘teacher’ in the house. The communicator. The artist–at least enough to do sketches for the purpose of teaching our kids. The life coach. The one who has no difficulty–once past the initial awkwardness–explaining sex to children, at a level they can understand. I had taken the girls out, without their daddy–something I later regretted–and wondered how Tim would fare to do it alone.

When it came the time for the boys, Tim asked me to join him, and help answer their questions. We had breakfast with Bryan, our oldest, and quickly discovered that a classmate had already given him a bit of information that he didn’t really need at ten. At least he told us, so we could work through it.

With Todd a series of events at school, involving premature discussions of sexuality with some classmates, triggered a conversation well before his tenth birthday. Circumstantially, it was a ‘mom and son’ talk, and while the idealism of our ‘tenth birthday talk’ fell by the wayside, I have no regrets. That day Todd became a responsible and deeply respectful young man. The things that had transpired, particularly the ongoing inappropriate conversations, required him to take a stand with his peers. That brought out strength and character that I see in him to this day.

The summer after this talk I met a leader from a kids club in our town, where Todd attended after school. She told me how she had been teaching about Joseph and when she told the story of Potipher’s wife, she had made it as ‘child friendly’ as possible. She told them it was wrong to cheat on a spouse and that the Bible called it ‘adultery’.  After the class Todd had walked up to her and said, “I know something else we shouldn’t do.”

“And what’s that?” She had asked.

“We shouldn’t have sex before we’re married either,” he said matter-of-factly, and then left.

Todd and I had coffee one evening last fall, at Tim Hortons–Canada’s most popular coffee shop–and he again showed this same strength of character. He told me that it bothers him when classmates talk about ‘inappropriate’ stuff, and when they swear.

I asked how he responds, or what he does with it. “Mostly, I just walk away,” he answered.

Kordan, well… he just turned ten. Being three years behind Todd, with none of the older children being even two years apart in age, he is a bit of a tag-along, in a way. He learns a lot from adult conversation and listening to older siblings. He’s as comfortable with the topic of healthy sexuality as anyone I know, and knows age-appropriate facts.

Nicole and Bryan prefer more privacy and tend not to discuss things as openly. While some talks are ‘mandatory’ in our home, we do try to give them space, and respect that preference for space and privacy. (Even stories I share in blogging, writing, or in public speaking tend not to be about them, or disclosing their names, at their request. Respect is a two-way street and it is important to honour our kids wishes, and not violate their personal space.)

The teaching process is for the purpose of protecting our children, and equipping them to protect themselves. To do it effectively, our children need to feel that it is about them, not about us or a personal agenda. If we stay flexible and respect their ‘personhood’ in the process, that will validate our teaching, and affirm them.

It’s an area I am growing in, not one I wave a flag on, boldly declaring I have conquered. Because of the trauma and broken memories of my childhood, I tend to err on the side of caution and my passion can run away with me.

My children are outspoken, and not afraid to let me know when they think I’m over protective or ‘over teaching’ a topic. While it doesn’t always change my mind, or end the conversation, it does teach me their ‘voice’ and what matters to them, and what their boundaries are. And that does influence my parenting style, more than they know.

My prayer is that my children will be protected from the brokenness that so many suffer, because of a lack of awareness. That they will know their worth. That they will be whole, not broken, and scattered, like a rose that is forced to open before it is ready, leaving petals scattered here and there. The rose can still be beautiful, but it is scarred, and the wonder of what was meant to be can never be regained.

Fortunately, when we fail, Jesus heals and forgives. He restores and makes us whole again. In no way do I want to undermine that. But it comes with a cost because, in our humanity, when those doors are opened, innocence is lost and the battle of the mind remains for years. To equip our children with truth is the best we can offer.

Jesus said, ‘and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. All truth is God’s truth, and knowing truth is the key to freedom in every area of life.

© Trudy Metzger

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The Elephant Grows Fat in Church

The tragic series of events unleashed on our church near Bayfield, by The Travelling Missionary… Rapist quickly became the elephant in church. No one talked about it, or helped victims of the ‘domino effect’. There should not have been gossip, but appropriate leadership should have been given to the families traumatized by the aftermath.

Instead, we suffered silently. I thought I was the only one on whom an attempt was made. Each ‘victim turned perpetrator’ was aware of themselves, plus the one or more they victimized.

Having come from the ‘outside’ our family was already viewed as ‘different’. And we were. We were not as crafted in the art of living pretentious lives. We had issues. Obvious ones. And lots of them. There was Dad’s temper. Our finances. We didn’t ‘think’ like they did. At first we didn’t dress right, or talk right, having not yet learned their cultural norms.

Because of silence within our family, I thought that I was the only one who had been abused. I had suppressed childhood sexual abuses, but the attempts made in my teens made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I was somehow at fault. This left me feeling isolated in our family, and our family isolated in church.

When it was just God and me, I prayed and cried out to Him. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, and I certainly didn’t understand my struggle with my identity and sexuality. Even my gender became a struggle for me, as I raged against God for making me a girl, wondering if by some miracle He could change that so I, too, could have power and not be victimized.

In this struggle I asked God why He had not simply ended my life before birth, as He had the nine other babies my mother had lost. I imagined what it would have been like to never be born and simply go to heaven, and the thought seemed quite appealing. Other times between ages nine and fourteen, I begged God to take my life, and end the pain that I could not understand. All of these struggles surfaced in various ways.

To the church I appeared to be a rebel, getting me into trouble with leaders. I wonder now, did it ever occur to them that I had been victimized? Were there many who knew and did nothing? Or was it only the father, our then lead minister, whose son was victimized, who knew? Did he withhold the truth from others? Did he hide it to protect his son, who had become a perpetrator, or did he hide it to protect his role in the church?

Was it ignorance that made them hide it from other parents and pretend it would all go away, eventually. Was the over focus on our behaviour their way of distracting themselves? Of willing themselves to believe that it was not as bad is it seemed?

So many questions remain unanswered.

The elephant still remains in church. Growing ever larger, crowding out life, crowding out hope. Silence is the feeding trough from which it dines and the ongoing abuses force the church deeper into silence. Even if they dared to break the silence, the elephant has grown so large, how would they ever remove it?

Maybe the elephant seemed innocent when it was little, but it’s big and ugly now. It’s filling the pew where yester-years’ children should sit, where their children should hear of Jesus.. the place where their grandchildren should laugh and squeal and do the things that little children do.

If we will dare to speak, to help victims,  and hold perpetrators accountable, then we stand a chance at making a difference, and protecting our children and grandchildren from this evil.

But the pews are empty, with only the sound of deafening silence. And the elephant grows fat, as the church thins out… and it will continue to….

…. until we break the silence.

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Does God Dress Amish…

…wear a bonnet, and ride a horse and buggy?

Scandalous! To even suggest such a thing! Or is it? Any more so, than, say, a dove… a bird… an animal …a creature that, though beautiful, is still just that–a creature? Or how about God wearing a burning bush?

We have lost sight of the ways God reveals Himself to people in the ordinary. When we get that, and understand that God wants to live through us, He will have much greater impact in our world, because we will give Him freedom to do so.

In today’s blog I share more about Lydia, my Old Order Amish truth-warrior friend, whose story I shared yesterday, and the ways she reflects God in her culture.

Yesterday, at 8:30 in the morning,  I called Lydia to read my blog post to her, since she has no internet. I wanted to make sure it was accurate, given that I was writing from memory, things told to me approximately ten years ago. I paused now and then, as I read, to ask , “How am I doing so far? Is it accurate?” Each time she said yes.

At the end Lydia said, “This is especially touching because I got a phone call again last night.”

“Another victim?” I asked

“Well, yes, but it was the mother calling. The child is only a bit past ten,” she explained.

“And the perpetrator an adult male?” I asked.

“Yes, a married man.”

Something about the ‘current news’, the raw pain of a little child, somewhere, out there, in Amish country, made me desperately sad. I want to end the abuse. To simply make it cease to exist, by some impossible miracle. But it continues. And I think about the child, wondering, who will protect the little heart that breaks in all of this. Who will comfort her? Hold her? Reassure her?

And the answer is, most likely no one. No one really knows how, at least in this case, based on what Lydia told me. The mother is just more determined than ever to cover her child more modestly. That’s how she plans to deal with it. Cover more. Hide the pain under another layer of shame,another layer of cloth. Put the onus on the little girl. But not intentionally.

Lydia, who still embraces the Old Order Amish ways, tells me, “That’s just not the answer! It will just make the little girl feel more guilty and responsible. And then, if anything does happen, then for sure it will be her fault.”

What a burden to place on a little child. That an adult, old enough to be her father, or almost, is not held to serious accountability, while a little child is forced to protect herself this way.

Lydia said she gave the woman something to think about. Lots to think about. “And now I’m going to give her a few days. She needs it. To ponder everything I’ve said. And then we’ll talk.”

Once again, a sweet warrior spirit—the gentle God-kind-of-warrior—who fights for the innocent, Lydia is gently marching into this dark territory.

What is unique about Lydia, and parts of her story that I did not tell, is that she is not afraid to work with the ‘outside’ culture to bring about truth. Police have been involved and Children’s Aid Society (CAS), but with an agreement that she is the mediator, the one who works in the culture. (It is not a broadly known arrangement.) CAS staff have come to know her personally, and have a tremendous amount of trust and respect for her, knowing she will ensure the safety of victims.

It is almost as if God created a warrior-angel, and placed her in a bonnet and Amish dress, to show the children that they are not forgotten. Never abandoned. He is there, caring for them, revealing Himself through Lydia.

When these children grow up and look back and ask, “Where was Jesus when all this bad stuff was happening to me?”… I hope they answer with, “He was there, in Lydia’s love.”

God shows up in people’s lives, wearing ordinary clothes–or not so ordinary–in the places we dare to represent Him through our lives. We are made in God’s image. Made to reflect Him. To show His love. “Male and female created He them, in the image of God…”  Lydia is one of the most beautiful reflections of God I have seen in my life. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry. But most often, and most importantly, she makes me want to do the right thing, even if it means doing it alone. She makes me want to ‘be Jesus’ to the people around me.

I challenge you… go to the mirror, look at the outfit you’re wearing, and ask God to show up in someone’s world today, looking just like you, dressed just like that.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Opening Pandora’s Box

Though the Sandusky sex scandal, at Penn State, has drawn plenty of attention, I have not followed it closely. Bad news is just that: bad news. We become what we feed on, so I try not to fill my mind too much with it. Yes, I try to stay informed and educated but to dwell and obsess is depressing.

In my reading on Friday, I came across some interesting parallels between the silence that has allowed abuse to be covered in the church, just as it was at Penn State. Every situation is unique, and the motivation of all leaders will not be the same. Some will more innocently keep the lid on abuse than others, but in many cases it will be driven by the same ‘bottom line’ as the Sandusky case. I am quoting a few lines, and highlight a few key comments. (To read the entire article, visit the link here.)

Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State

[…]
Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

[….] Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity[…]

Tim Rohan, from State College, Pa.; Zach Berman, from Philadelphia; and Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting.

Even I can identify with that, as I appear to boldly march, in Joan-of-Arc-style, into territory where angels fear to tread. I’m afraid…

What if I’m judged harshly? What if I’m misunderstood? Hated? Rejected?

Of course I’m afraid. I want to be loved. I love people. I want to be accepted. I accept people. Even those whose choices & lifestyles I speak out against. It’s not personal, not a fight or an attack against people. It’s a fight against injustice, against things that hurt people, things that destroy lives, relationships and healthy identity. Regardless of how things appear, my desire is to impact the world for the better.

So, in spite of ‘pervasive fear of bad publicity, I write from my heart. I say what some don’t want to hear. I speak the truth of my heart in love, and with compassion.

Sometimes I get rejected. Other times I get new friends, like yesterday. After I wrote about homosexuality I got a message from someone, saying, ‘….I am a homosexual heathen…’ and my blog was the connecting point. Long story short, I’m having coffee with my new friend tomorrow night.

On the same day several friends decided they had enough of me. That’s the price you pay. You get judged after being labelled judgemental. I expect the same will happen with addressing childhood sexual abuse more directly… I’m willing to pay the price, and pray many will join me. Especially the church, and fight for the next generation by fighting for innocent children. No more fearing bad publicity, no more idolizing reputation at the expense of the most innocent, most vulnerable.

If we do not change, if we do not open that box, we give it power. Where the Light shines, the darkness loses its power. We don’t need to live with the shame of having been partner to violence, as is now tragically Joe Paterno’s legacy. We must take a stand.

John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is my purpose, my reason for writing.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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