When Strangers Pray & Plan

It was a mid-afternoon interruption…

Sound asleep in my chair, March 7, 2014, the doorbell startled me awake. It had been an exhausting few weeks, in my search for an agent to represent my book, and I had signed on with Vanessa Grossett, only days earlier…

In my exhaustion, I sent our son to the door; assuming it would be a sales person, he was instructed to politely tell the person I was not available. Moments later he appeared at my side with a message, “it was a friend of our neighbours’… something about having tea and praying for you…”

By this time I was wide awake. Isobel’s friend… tea.. praying…  What was this about? I walked next door, to Isobel Frey’s home, rang the door bell and waited. A bubbly woman, whom I recognized as Isobel’s good friend, Heather Tompkins, and whom I had met several times, answered the door and welcomed me in. She apologized for having disrupted my nap, and explained that a group of five women had been enjoying an afternoon tea, discussing the book I was hoping to publish, and wanted to pray with me and for me.

Isobel welcomed me into her living room, and together she and Heather introduced me to three other friends, whom I had never met: Gladys McClurkin, Mary Bell and Heather Martin. Several were pastors’ wives–which stood out because of the general reticence of churches to broach the subject of abuse–and all were passionate about breaking silence and offering healing surrounding the topic. They shared how they really believe this is a God-thing, and wanted to get behind me on it.

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There I was, moments later, surrounded by a group of godly women, mostly strangers, praying for God to open doors and work out the details for the book. Though I sensed the very things they spoke–that God was in it and had a healing plan–I also had fears to contend with.

The weeks leading up to that moment, and the months that followed, were filled with deep soul-searching, as I edited, reworked, prayed and started the process all over again. One fear was that making my story public would not bring the healing I prayed for, and the enemy would take it and bring destruction. Another fear was that I would be so attacked by those resisting exposure of abuse, that it would push me to a place of unhealthy retreat and escape. I even feared that people would read it, pity me, and leave it there. I hate pity! But, little by little, as God brought prayer warriors alongside and around me, I came to a place of peace. I moved from fearing the outcome, to asking God to speak His message, His love, His truth through my story, so that my story would be all but lost in the shadows of His story, His grace…

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By May 2014 I signed a contract with eLectio Publishing and by August I was working with a private editor–Eric Stanford, to whom I credit the ‘shaping’ of Between 2 Gods, with deep appreciation–and by October it was ‘finished’ with only minor changes and edits needed. And by early 2015 my five praying strangers resurfaced…

Heather Tompkins contacted me to say that she and her friends would like to plan a Book Launch on my behalf; would that be okay? Would that be okay? Wow! Yes! I was excited, humbled and honoured all at one time! And amazed that a group of women, whom I’ve only met a few times, would go out of their way for this, because they believe God is bringing a message of hope.

So tonight, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm we will be at Gale Presbyterian Church, 10 Barnswallow Drive, in Elmira, for Between 2 Gods Book Launch. I’ve invited several ‘characters’–what do you call them in a non-fiction?–from my book to attend, and one is able to make it, for sure–barring an unforeseen interruption.

I had also asked a client to do an interview, and it fell through, so gave that up until Wednesday… I received a message from a current client, Kim Chapple, asking if I would allow her to come and share. I was taken off guard, as current clients seldom have the courage to speak out and be so vulnerable. After some ‘back and forth’, ensuring she understood both the risks and the feeling of the public eye on our stories, I felt at peace.

My heart in ministry is the same as my heart in my book, that it will never be about me, and that healing will flow to others. For this reason, while I will do a short reading and share a few words, tonight is about offering hope and healing to those present. If I missed the mark on that, I know God could still bring that healing, but I’d so much rather be ‘about my Father’s business’ and work alongside of Him, than to try and steal center stage.

We’d love to have you come tonight and join us! For more information or to ask questions visit: Between 2 Gods Book Launch

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches

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Social Media and ‘Self Promotion’: Did Jesus Start All This?

This thing of ‘self promotion’, on Facebook, Twitter and any number of other social media platforms–‘follow me’, ‘like me’, ‘friend me’–is it blatant, arrogant self promotion? Is it obnoxious and rude? Or did Jesus start it all when He tweeted, I mean ‘spoke’, those two little words: “Follow Me”? And did the Apostle Paul, who was as human and imperfect as you and I, add to this with his own name-dropping tweet: “Follow me, even as I follow Christ”

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Were Jesus, Paul, and other heroes of faith promoting themselves? And the prophets who galloped through towns, warning the people to hear what they had to say, and act in response, were they just full of themselves? What about Queen Esther, then nothing more than a Jewish girl, with no ‘platform’? (You know, like that person who follows you, and you check out their profile and they’re following like 400 people, and 9 are following them back, and you’re like, “Whoa… you must be a creep! No one wants to follow you. Yeah, that was Queen Esther.) Was she simply trying to ‘step on heads to get ahead’?

Or is it possible that God called each of these individuals to deliver a message, and they decided “… ‘come hell or high water’, I’m delivering it. And even if half of my friends ‘unfriend’ me, and most of my ‘followers’ unfollow me, I will deliver”? Is it also possible that they faced the same attacks, in different ways, as men and women today face, for speaking truth?

The pastor who reads a particular scripture–like perhaps the one on gluttony, or gossip… er… Ummm… I mean, the one on homosexuality–and half the people gripe or don’t come back. Should he stop preaching on gluttony, or gossip, to appease those in the congregation who struggle against it, or (especially) those who indulge and really don’t care? Should he rather focus on homosexuality, so the others feel good about themselves, and go home to celebrate God’s goodness with yet another massive meal, while heaping condemnation on the man or woman who spends every night on his or her knees, pleading with God to take that same-sex desire away? Should he be silent? Or should he say, like Jesus, “Follow me”, and like Paul, “Follow me, even as I follow Christ”? Even if he is judged for it?

Maybe it’s the person who preaches love and grace, because of the grace he has experienced in his own life, and he offends the ‘hell fire and brimstone’ preachers, with his offering. Should he stop? Should he preach something he is not anointed to preach, in order to appease those who want to manipulate minds, by using truth out of context, in ways it was never intended, by God, to be used?  Is this preacher touting his own agenda, and trying to lift himself up?

What about those of us ‘crying in the wilderness’ today… the wilderness of abuse, like my friends *Boz Tchividjian  and **Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham, or those fighting to end the sex trade and create awareness, like my friend ***Kelita…  Are we putting ourselves in the front-lines of a despised topic, to draw attention to ourselves, to create a following? Or, like the prophets, like Jesus, and like Paul, are we saying that God has given us something, often through painful personal experience and redemption, that will bring you hope? I propose that we are crying out, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, because He is coming to you… to us… to the broken’!

One of the things we who are called to share a message of hope have to become comfortable with,  in today’s world, is ‘getting out there’ and putting our message in front of people. Gone are the days of the publishing companies doing the legwork. “If you are not comfortable marketing your product, you’re best off to self-publish and print a few for your close friends,’ is a bit of advice that came my way, because the publishers don’t do it for you anymore. This was a bit jolting for me, to learn this, at first.

The truth is, I love marketing things… and other people… if I know those people and things will help someone. But marketing my message, my story, my book? Putting it vulnerably on paper, and then setting it in front of crowds, through blogging, social media, news stations etc, that was a stretch. None-the-less, I resigned myself and pushed forward with the process of traditional publishing. Is it comfortable? That would be overstated. Am I confident about it? Absolutely! Does it mean a few friends and acquaintances misunderstand me, are offended,  and judge me? Yes. But I am okay with that.

Every life-changing spiritual message that ever was uttered or written, was judged, and offended many. I anticipate the same. So, like Jesus, I will say, “Follow me…” being quick to add, “I know One who can heal you!” And like Paul I will say, “Follow me, even as I follow Christ!” And like Jonah, every now and then, I’ll board an excursion to the bottom of the sea, until the fish can stomach my nonsense no more and throws me up on dry land, so that I face reality, and once again declare the message God has given me.

Ultimately, you and I have but one question to answer: Did we do it for Jesus, to lift Him up, to spread His Love, to offer our hearts in compassion? Or did we do it for ourselves?

Love

~ T ~

*Boz Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham, founder of G.R.A.C.E. (see link above by clicking his name) and a professor at Liberty University. I am honoured to call him friend, and that he wrote the foreword for ‘Between 2 Gods’!

**Dale & Faith Ingraham are faithful advocates for abuse victims in the church, addressing this difficult topic, and offering healing to victims. To learn more, click on their name above.

***Kelita Haverland, who had a very difficult start to life, has founding healing in Jesus and shares her message of hope, through the talents God her.  She is a talented musician and comedian, with the ability to move an audience from laughter, to tears, to both at the same time. She will be in southern Ontario in early May, and we will partner together for events. If you would like to schedule an event in your church or community, please email info@generationsunleashed.com, and we will send through available dates.

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches

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First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Holy Essential Oil

The darkness grows darker… the Light grows brighter… almost glaring.
But the blind see neither darkness nor light; their eyes are closed. And the ‘essential oil’ that heals, restoring sight, stands at their finger tips, but they refuse to stretch out their hands,
afraid of what they will have to face, if ever once their eyes see.

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John 3:19 (NKJV)
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The blind stumble, not willing to see, not willing to know that it is only then, with perfect vision, all our sins laid before us, before Jesus, that darkness scatters. Only then can we truly see Jesus, and the price He paid for those sins, and all else is lost behind the wonder of His Love and Grace.

John 3:17 (NKJV)
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

All this love is for you and for me, because of God’s great compassion for us. God Himself, stepped into our planet in physical for, through the body of Jesus Christ, to dwell among us. Jesus… Emmanuel; God with us. Do you understand what that means? God, Himself, walked with the disciples. God, Himself, wept for those who ‘didn’t get it’. God, Himself, touched the leper… said ‘Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more’ to the woman in adultery. God, Himself, spoke to the Samaritan woman who had already had 5 husbands and was now with one who was not her husband. And God, Himself, walked that path to the cross. The soul of Jesus felt every agony and grief. The Spirit of God, contained in that body, strengthened Him. And the physical body–the shell we all get in the here and now–suffered, just as our body suffers. And the Holy Spirit–that Holy essential healing oil–was not unleashed on God’s people until after the death of Christ, because the Spirit was contained in the body of Jesus Christ,. And the very Spirit who dwelt in Christ, dwells in believers today. That is dynamite!

John 7:38-39 (NKJV)
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing[a] in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

All of this, pulled together, means this: We are sinful creatures. But we don’t need to be afraid of God; He loves us, and came to save us, not to condemn. We can lay all our sins before Him, in repentance, knowing He has already forgiven, and it is in us receiving what Jesus did on the cross, that we apply that forgiveness, and we are set free. Tragically, the condemnation of many religious people has communicated to the world a very angry, ruthless God. But God, who would have every right to condemn because of His holiness, did not come to the world to condemn; He came to save us and restore all things to Himself. All for Love. This means we can trust God, just as we can trust Jesus, if only we will let the Light of Truth–God’s truth, directly from His Word–shine into our hearts and minds, without the manipulations of people who have an agenda.

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John 3:16-19 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Today I choose Jesus; I choose Light, and I choose that healing oil. He stands between me, and my sins. Sins I laid bare before Him, and before the world, nothing hidden. And as I did, the Light shone so brightly, that I could see only the Him, my sins having vanished… their power lost in that pure light.

Choose Light. He has more than enough Love to cover your sins.

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Get updates on Between 2 Gods (Release date: March 3, 2015)

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches

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When Sex, Abuse Scandal & Religion Meet Jesus…

When sin collides with grace, redemption is the inevitable outcome. When Jesus met the woman at the well… when He had a woman, whom we believe to be a prostitute, wash His feet with her tears… a prostitute, draped all over Him… When a woman was brought to Him for stoning–caught ‘in the very act’ of adultery (how much more embarrassing and shameful can it get?)… And when the Samaritan woman, who believed herself to be nothing more than a dog, because that was what society taught and believed, begged for her daughter’s healing… Even Nicodemus, the ‘uber-religious’, cream of the crop law-keeper, a Pharisee, when he humbled himself…

In each case, when the broken, discarded, and sinful encountered the Messiah, something beautiful happened. And when the religious came, with humility–the Pharisee calling Jesus ‘Rabbi’, or teacher–even then, sin met grace, resulting in redemption. Only the arrogant missed out, like the rich young ruler came, having kept the law to perfection, but having missed the heart of God’s religion…  And even he, I suspect, was transformed in ways that only showed later; the part of the story never written for us know.

And that is what happened to me, when my sins, and the sins committed against me, met Jesus. I had an encounter with grace, in that moment, that changed the trajectory of my life, and the lives of the generations to come. I didn’t know, immediately, that it also impacted the sins committed against me; I would learn that over time.

In my memoir, Between 2 Gods, I tell that story, boldly, unapologetically. The things that were done against me, and the things I did, should never appear in black and white for the world to read, many would say. Yet the Bible is full of scandalous stories that, if the ‘forgive and forget’ teachings were biblical, could not be told. So I tell my story, knowing Peter cursed Jesus and Jesus’ only response was, “Do you love me? I have a ministry for you to do”; no condemnation. I write it knowing King David, a man after God’s own heart, had sex with Bath Sheba while her husband was murdered at his hands. And I write it knowing Dinah was vindicated when her rapist was brutally murdered by God’s people.

I should not be able to meet those who have read my story and be able to lift my eyes, without shame or the desire to run and never look back. But I tell it. And men and women alike have read it, and I’ve faced them, without shame. But they were friends, mentors, and publishing contacts. Now I have told that story, in black and white, for the whole world to read, and I still feel no shame. The reason I feel no shame is because, in that moment, when I met Jesus and collided with grace, I lost my footing and He caught me. My identity, in that instant was restored , as He took my sins upon Himself and did the walk of shame for me, up that hill to Golgatha: the place of the skull, or ‘death’. He died for my shame and paid in full.

Because of that redemption, and because He removed my shame and restored my identity, I tell the story of sex, abuse ‘scandal’–as we would call it–and religion, and that one amazing encounter with Jesus, with Grace. And I tell it for you, who are struggling with your own story, your own sin, or those committed against you–which was never your shame in the first place–so that you will know you can be free. Your story can be your friend. You can be free.

I write from my Mennonite experience, sharing the beautiful and the broken openly, knowing full well abuse and violence are present in all cultures, some more and some less. My book is written for every culture, but exposes only my own. It is written for the broken, who cry without a voice. It is written for the religious, in every culture, who love Jesus and celebrate His redemption. It is written for those who have never experienced trauma but wish to understand and support those who are wounded. It is not written for the religiously arrogant who have no compassion and only wish to cover up and hide sins; it will do nothing but feed their arrogance.

 

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tim & trudy 1994

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Between 2 Gods is now available for pre-order, Kindle, on Amazon. To pre-order (USA) click Here and for Canada click Here

It is also available for pre-order, Paperback, at eLectio Publishing: Here

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Mennonite Minister on Why I Shouldn’t Tell Sexual Abuse Stories

For several years now, in ministry, I’ve tried to be careful not to rock the boat too hard. I’ve tried not to influence people, in most situations, about church, preferring to separate the issues of sexual abuse from church struggles. And, for the most part, have even tried to not focus on many churches’ apparent avoidance of helping victims, or even acknowledging their pain and trauma. But that is history. The boat… it’s rocking. Whether I like it or not.  And it’s going to get worse before it gets better, I fear.

The whole ‘respect our differences’ thing has become glaringly lopsided. Mostly it has become one-sided. I’m supposed to take the attacks in silence, and pretend like things are not as they really are, is how I understand it.

Some time ago I wrote about a leader (and/or his wife) who cautioned a young woman in her connections with me. We had met with this leader and his wife not long prior to that, and spent time talking, heart to heart–at least so we thought–and even prayed together. At the time it felt powerfully ‘good’–a God moment in time–and gave me hope that I had a safe place to encourage victims to go.

Having them caution the young woman about me didn’t shatter that hope completely. Sure, I was surprised, since I have been very respectful of the culture in dealing with clients, and since we had such a good evening with them, in what we felt was mutual respect. That night they had opportunity to challenge us, confront us, even attack us, but gave no indication that we were a problem. To the contrary, we felt a sense of kinship, in goal, if not method, and in faith, if not practice. So it did take us off-guard when they put the caution out there, but we understand from past experience all the fears that go with ‘outside influence’.

However, little by little it becomes clear that ‘working together’ with most of the conservative Mennonite churches, as much as that has been our goal and desire, is not possible. It is, without question, not something most of them are willing to do. (Several congregations and leaders are an exception to this.)

It was May 2013 when we met with the minister and his wife, and had a wonderful evening together. I encouraged him that night to talk to his fellow leader–a bishop, I believe–because of an abuse case from years gone by. What role the fellow leader had I could not say with certainty, but he was involved either as a victim or a perpetrator. Unfortunately the information given me was incomplete and shared in confidence, leaving me with only that much knowledge. I encouraged the minister to talk with the man–leader to leader, brother to brother–because I had good reason to believe that something was brewing and the case would erupt at some point. If his fellow leader was half as sincere as I had been told he was, I wanted to give him opportunity to come clean, regardless of his role, and bring it to light.

I thought the minister would do something either way and, before we parted ways, I assure him that I would update him if and when I knew more. With that we parted ways. Only a few days later I had more complete details of the case, and left a message for the minister on his phone, telling him that his fellow leader was definitely a victim, not a perpetrator. A message he says he never received, and I accept what he says, at face value. Nevertheless, given that he knew something was brewing I would have thought he would follow through, even without that confirmation.

In recent weeks another case, involving the same man who abused this leader years ago, has come to light. I called the minister after I heard of it, and asked if he had done anything about the information I gave him earlier this year. He had not. When I questioned as to why not, he said he didn’t know for certain if the man was a victim or a perpetrator.

This I don’t quite understand, since I had told him there was something brewing–and I have reason to believe that it still is–and if exposed it would mean this fellow leader would be questioned. If I knew my friend or fellow leader was potentially going to be drawn into a sexual abuse case, I would talk with him or her. It’s called caring for hearts and lives.

Awkward? You bet! But not half as awkward as watching things erupt, and then saying to that friend, “I’ve known for months and turned a blind eye. I’m sorry your life just exploded.” (Or whatever one might actually say in a moment like that, if not pretend one had no idea.)

I also asked this minister what his issues are with me. He had several charges against me. The first, I don’t wear a veil. (We’ll disagree on that one. Respectfully. At least I will. Why that thing comes up for question before the question of ‘does she know Jesus as her saviour’, in many cases, is a bit concerning to me. But every denomination needs a baby to pamper, I suppose. If it isn’t the veiling, it’s speaking in tongues or some other thing we idolize.)

The second charge? I don’t keep confidences. The evidence? This blog. And he was quite sure he could identify many of the characters in the blogs. Not likely, but okay. (Granted, he would recognize himself in approximately 3 blogs plus this one, as well as the young woman. And I don’t think I’m saying anything here I have not said to him.)

Hmmm… And yet I have permission, or even direct requests to write the stories I share here. Even my Old Order friend from New York gave her consent, and I read the blog to her. Obviously the encounters I have–such as with Bishop Henry in my previous post–I don’t ask for permission. These are my experiences and I don’t need consent. Other stories, however, I told  the minister, I use with permission.

Well, the ‘not keeping confidentiality’ card fell flat so he spoke more directly and said he has a problem with it any way, even with permission. When I questioned why it is such a problem, he talked about all the abusers out there who are so sorry for what they’ve done.

When I told him how healing it has been for some of the victims whose stories I have shared–mentioning Abigail’s story specifically, as one example–he said he’s not arguing that. But–I understood him to say–my writing is too one-sided and doesn’t give voice to the perpetrator…. That I shouldn’t tell the victims stories without telling the perpetrator’s stories too.

We batted that around for a moment, and he reiterated his thoughts and said he questions my motive. That’s fair. I certainly question his motives too, and have lost trust in him. And I told him so, and disagreed on my telling of ‘bad’ stories in Christian circles.

I asked him if he’s read his Bible. The Bible is full of bad stories. What about Rahab, the harlot? That’s not a nice story at all! or Tamar? and Kind David who lusted and used Bath Sheba, then murdered Uriah to cover his sin? Not to mention Peter cussing away by the fire, shortly before Jesus tells him to feed His sheep.

And, last but not least, there’s Genesis 34, the story of Dinah being raped. When Dinah’s brother’s discover what happened to their sister, they do what any man of integrity will do, and they call it what it is–evil, and a violation of her womanhood, a thing that should not be done. And they did that, even though Shechem was a prince of the country. It wasn’t about status, influence, power, money, or any other thing. It was about truth, and justice. And these brothers saw to it that justice was served.

I’m not suggesting we get all the perpetrators what they deserve. Truth is, they deserve harsh judgement. All of us do. None of us deserve grace. Still we all need it and long for it, and as believers we should extend it. Grace, however, is not in any way related to covering for the sinner. Open confession, nothing hidden, brings freedom.

And God forbid that we hide truth and silence victims or stop sharing their stories to protect the perpetrators–no matter how sorry the perpetrators are, or how bad they feel. This imbalance of protecting the ‘image’ of perpetrators, while trying to silence the voice of victims, has tragically become a trademark of many churches. Just what is the driving force behind that, I can only speculate, so I’ll keep those thoughts to myself. It certainly isn’t because so many perpetrators are so sorry, or repentant, that’s for sure.

The perpetrators I know who are sorry–and I have many perpetrators in my circle of friends–are not so concerned about keeping their stories hidden. This week alone I had private conversations (which my husband also has access to, lest someone gets all distracted with that detail) with three men who told me of their crimes. These men are sorry. They have repented. They are men of honour in spite of what they have done. They have wept for their sins, laid the truth naked on the floor, and have accountability in place–the greatest accountability being their openness. They have taken ownership, with no pressure on the victims to be silent in order to protect their own pride. I trust these men. These men encourage me to keep going. (And some have even given me permission to use their stories.)

So why is it that the only people who seem to have a huge problem with my writing and my ministry, are those who have hidden stories… those who lead churches whose image seems more important than truth or people’s heart… or those whose family and friends are (alleged or convicted) perpetrators who are hell-bent on hiding the truth?

Why is it that victims who have forgiven, and perpetrators who have repented, are the ones who encourage me to keep going? Are they not a good authority on this topic? Do they not know the freedom that comes, to both sides, when truth is exposed and dealt with?

And why is it that those who oppose me, and accuse me of breaking confidentiality or ‘spreading gossip’, are the very ones spreading lies and gossip about me? The stories I tell are true, confirmed, and used by permission.

It is a thing that bewilders me how there seems to be two sets of rules–one for me, and one for them. Church leaders, and many of their congregants, have no problem talking about me behind my back–by name, and making up many colourful stories–but are not able to say it to my face. Yet they have a problem with me writing about anything to do with their culture, even without using names, congregation names or offering any information that would allow the casual reader, who is not involved in specific situations. to figure out who I write about. Of course those involved will recognize themselves, and I’m okay with that.

In recent days and weeks I have heard ridiculous stories, about myself. Very entertaining, to be sure… The one I heard with two separate twists, so I’m not sure which is the official story… Apparently I pretended to be a cleaning lady, or representing some business, in order to get into an elderly Mennonite couples’ home. Once inside, I supposedly stomped my feet, yelled, threatened and accused an old man. The son-in-law–also a good conservative man–said they could charge me with harassment for what I did!

The story is too far-fetched and absurd to even comment on. But the greatest irony in it is that, after all my terrible threatenings, I received a phone call from the old couple three days later, inviting me back to their home. They must have enjoyed the show and wanted to watch the sequel. I’m quite a fan of humour and comedy myself, so I get that.

The other irony, I suppose, given that I was so vile and they so innocent, is that their first question, on the phone that day, was, “Are you going to call the police? Will we go to jail?”

To which I responded just as I had said in their home, that the victim simply wanted to extend forgiveness. That was her motive, and I had no vested interest. I didn’t even know them, or their family. (Though that has changed, as family and their rumours have crawled out of the woodwork, landing pretty close to my circle of friends.)

Admittedly, when people add these colourful details to my life–however untrue–it makes for much more interesting storytelling, on their part, I reckon. It’s mostly a dreadful waste of time and energy to tell such lies, and produces nothing redemptive, but that’s not mine to carry.

To the best of my ability, and for the healing of victims and perpetrators alike, I will continue to write stories that bring light to the darkness. I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless–those victims whose lives have been wrapped in a shroud of darkness and fear.

For those who must criticize me for telling stories, don’t forget to read your Bibles and remember that nothing has changed. People still try to hide truth, just as Achan and others did. And God still brings them to light, and uses stories to touch lives.

And, as the case of the man who was caught molesting a young child–the case I had spoken to the minister about–criticize me if it makes you feel better, but I have a heart for that man too. And I can’t help but wonder… if some victim had been allowed to speak out thirty-some years ago… if it had been safe to share and they had been heard and the perpetrator confronted… I wonder if maybe, just maybe, a little boy would have his innocence today. Wouldn’t it have given the man accountability and made him think twice? And what if he had gotten help?

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What blood will be on the hands of the churches who discourage bringing things to light? Yes, out in the open, without apology, even if it hurts the perpetrator. It can be done with redemption, grace and forgiveness. The perpetrator’s reputation will not be quite so ‘perfect’, but it will be more real. And if done with grace, it will make him a better man, and her a better woman.

Maybe then the next generation of children will have their innocence and purity, and the church will again be a healing light in the world. That makes this fight worth it for me. So I press on…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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I Love You, as Much as I Love My Dog…

~ To embrace the life of grace, is to embrace the life of Jesus Christ. ~

Some years ago, when our youngest son was about four years old, he told me, “Mommy, I love you and Kuddles the most.”

“Wow! I rank right up there with the dog, do I?” I said it out loud, playfully. Kordan didn’t understand the humour, and nodded. I hugged him, thanked him for loving me that much. My son gave me the highest compliment he could, when he told me that he loves me and the dog the most.

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If I had only heard the words, and overlooked his heart, I might have been offended, and concluded he didn’t love me much. By assuming noble intent on his part, I received it as the best he had to offer. Granted, at four he was very innocent, and had no concept of how that could be interpreted, so that helped too.

As I thought back to this, and remembered that moment, my mind started connecting this concept to adult life, and the need to look beyond what we hear, and see. It is important to train our minds to look beyond the words we hear spoken and the behaviours we see, and assume noble intent. To give the benefit of the doubt, and extend grace.

If we could do this as adults, we would be much less likely to get ourselves all bent out of shape, and we would have less broken relationships. We wouldn’t go into conflict resolution with our back against the wall, and determined to vindicate ourselves.

It would allow us to go in, with open hearts and open minds, ready to hear what the other person has to say. We might be wrong about their noble intent, and they might need to take ownership, and apologize because they were trying to hurt us. Or, we might find out that it’s the best they knew how to give, that in their minds they were helping and doing the right thing, with the best of intentions.

Several hours after I started this blog, yesterday, I spoke with my friend, Dan Utz, from Indiana. The plan was to discuss some options for a conference, and we did, eventually, but not before we had a little ‘church service for two’. Within minutes on the phone, as he shared what God had done in a recent ministry trip, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit powerfully.

“What is the Kingdom of God?” he asked at one point. He shared of a woman who started the Lovelady Centre, a ministry for women and their children, offering hope and a home, transforming lives.

Now that’s church, I thought to myself. And my spirit resonated with what he said, that is the kingdom of God. People reaching out to the lost and broken, offering the hope of Jesus to those who don’t stand a chance in this world, without someone extending a hand. It’s the same feeling I get when I hear of Shane Claiborne’s ministry, The Simple Way. Not only reaching out to people but, like Jesus–Emmanuel, God with us–to actually dwell among them.

Something resonates deep in my spirit with this way of being the Kingdom of God in the earth. It feels to me as though these individuals have found who they really are, what they were created for, and they choose to live outside of the normalcy of what we have made the Christian faith. In both cases it feels so much like the Jesus Way of doing ministry, and ‘church’.

After Dan told the story, I shared with him a bit of my recent struggle. The short version. (Yes, Dan, believe it or not… it was the short version.) I admitted that I feel, at times, as if we Christians are ineffective in the way we do church. I struggle with that. I really do. And I have for a very long time. Probably for about twenty-five years, two months and one day… starting with the day I became a Christian, in 1987. I have always questioned what ‘church’ is, in our western culture. Not that it’s all bad, but that it seems ineffective, and when I hear Lovelady stories, and The Simple Way stories, something in me says, “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!”

And I would have been content to leave it at that but, God bless him, Dan didn’t let me leave it there, or get by without a gentle challenge. He acknowledged what I said, but then went on to challenge me to extend grace inside of church walls. To allow people inside the church to be imperfect (even if they look to have it all together), to let them make mistakes, and offer the same grace as I would anywhere else.

In essence, he challenged me to do what I did with my son that day, and give ‘church’ the benefit of the doubt, to believe noble intent, and extend grace for failure and imperfection.

So if we meet, and you tell me you love me as much as you love your dog, I’m going to assume you love your dog. A lot. And I will take it as the deepest expression of love you have to offer. And if I find out that you don’t like your dog that much, I will extend grace.

If you sin against me, I will assume you did not do so to intentionally hurt or harm me. I will forgive and extend grace. I might approach you about it. In fact, I probably will, just because I don’t tend to leave relationship issues unresolved, or misunderstood. But I will go into the conversation, assuming noble intent.

A life of grace, is a life of selfless sacrifice.
It places the interest of others, ahead of self.
It lays down personal agenda and self-preservation.

~ To embrace the life of grace, is to embrace the life of Jesus Christ. ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to the Victim of Sexual Abuse

Dear Friend,

It has been more than a week since I started this letter, and still I haven’t made it past the opening lines…  Of all the letters I have written, this one is the most difficult, because it requires that I reach into the deepest pain in my own soul, to identify with the burden you carry.

In a way I have become so familiar with my pain, in speaking openly and doing ministry out of that pain, that it has lost its power… and sometimes I forget how hard it was. That is, until I think of you and see the raw agony of your battle. It is then that I am forced to see the trauma of abuse as it really is, before healing comes and hope rises out of that pain.

And I need to remember. If I cannot let my heart return to the memory of that battle, and ‘know’ that pain, then my expectations will become unrealistic. I will not extend to you the grace you need to fight through the ‘hell’ of that pain, and struggle with God in the process.

So, as I think of what you have been through, my heart cringes because I remember that daunting journey. I don’t have words  of wisdom that will instantly transport you beyond the struggle. There is only one way to reach light of daybreak, and it is by experiencing the blackest part of the night. And that blackest hour of the struggle is the only way to be free of the grip of sexual abuse. There is no short cut, no easy way.

Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.
Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.

And, while I understand the pain, the trauma and struggle of overcoming abuse, your struggle is unique to you. I can love, support, pray and care, but I cannot walk the path for you, or understand your unique battle. While I can’t do it for you, I can tell you that fighting that battle and facing that pain is the best thing you can do. It is key to your freedom.

Having said that, don’t do it alone. The pain and trauma of abuse and betrayal is too deep for us to walk through alone. Find someone… a friend, a counsellor, a mentor.. someone who will walk you through the ‘hell’ of that pain and still love you. You need them to keep you grounded, to remind you of who you are, and the purpose you have.

When you were abused, you began to believe a lie. Each time you were violated, that lie grew stronger, and in returning to the pain, you will face that lie more intimately than ever before.

When you are abused it’s as if a lie begins to pursue you. Everywhere you turn, you hear it whisper, ‘you are worthless… you are ugly… you are trash…. you are used…’ and so on. The lie grows strong, over the years, and we fear it. We fear if others find out that they will see us that way too, and so we run… We run in fear and denial.

But the day you stop running, the day you turn around and walk back courageously into that memory, the lie begins to lose its power. Oh, it will try to overtake you. It will scream more loudly than ever, because you are growing stronger, but don’t quit.

When you return, ask Jesus to come with you. Ask Him to revisit that place of pain and trauma, and to show you what happened there. Ask Him to show you the lies you believed, because of what was done to you. And then invite Him to show you the truth, to tell you who you really are. Ask Him how He sees you. Invite Him to define you, to restore your true identity.

Because of life’s experience, you have been robbed of the ability to see yourself as you really are, as God created you, with great value. If you listen to Him, and let Him speak truth over the lies, the lies will lose their power, their grip, and you will be free from them.

It’s not an easy thing. Running seems easier. But the truth is that running is hard and facing the pain, in order to discover the truth, while hard, is worth it. I encourage you to keep going. I would do it for you, if I could, because I’ve done it and have discovered that it is possible to be free.

I’m sorry that you were abused, violated, stripped of identity, and used. I’m sorry that it left you feeling lost, lonely, broken and wondering if you’ll ever be whole again. I’m sorry that it opened a door for demons to attack you. I’m sorry for how you have suffered. And I’m sorry you have to go back. I’m sorry because I know what it takes.

I know you can do it, with God. Getting rid of those lies is the key to a full life, a bright hope, and a future with purpose. I will cheer for you, walk with you, care for you, and never stop believing that you can do it. Never quit!

With heartfelt love and a prayer for peace,
~ someone who is no longer a victim ~

Ps. Thought I’d share a few of my favourite songs right now, that help me see how much I am loved, and how great my God is. I’m not doing this fight alone.

Stronger — Hillsong
It’s Your Love – Hillsong
You Hold Me Now — Hillsong

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to The Preacher

Dear Preacher,

This letter may come as a surprise to you, since our paths have gone separate ways and I have no ongoing relationship or connections with you. (No doubt we both remember well how that went down.)

I hardly know where to begin… My thoughts may be best expressed with splashes of ink, representing the tears I have cried. How to unravel those thoughts and share with you what is on my heart?

If you have forgotten who I am, I was the teenager, who was bound, bent and determined to defy you, and all leadership. At least that is how you saw it. In reality, and not to justify rebellion, but to help you understand other teenagers like me, I was confused. I knew that breaking your rules would get me in trouble. And it did. But I also knew that then you would see me, that you would know how angry I felt. Maybe, just maybe, then you would reach out and help me.

I was angry for so many reasons that I cannot tell them all. But there are a few very important reasons I would like to share with you. First, I was angry because I was always criticized. My dresses were too ‘edgy’, always pushing the standard, always ‘riding the fence’, as we were often told. My hair was never pulled back quite tight enough. My heels were a bit too high–even the ones I was given by your daughter. I talked to freely, and wasn’t ‘meek and quiet’, the way a woman should be.

I looked around too much when I entered a room. (This was said to be flirtatious, attention seeking. But if you had grown up in my home, where at any turn you could get hit, where your father threatened to kill you, then you too would learn to always be aware of your environment. And you’d pretend to be confident too, to make yourself feel less vulnerable.)

Alone in my room at night, I would sit on my deep window sill, sometimes for hours into the night, just looking at the sky, and crying. Fearful. Any sound in the night made my heart freeze.

What if it was Jesus coming back and He too found me unacceptable? I so desperately wanted to know God, back then. Wanted so much to know I was in His family. Accepted. Saved. Loved. But for all my prayers and crying, I felt as though I was never good enough. Almost every revival meetings I stood to my feet, fighting guilt, shame and rejection. Maybe this time would be the magic moment. It never came.

The church sang “Almost Persuaded”, and I was that… Almost Persuaded that I would never make it. They sang, “Just as I am…” but I knew that ‘as I was’ would never be good enough for God. They sang, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling…” and somehow my heart knew it was true, but all I could really hear was the loud screams of judgement… that I was a failure, destined to never know peace.

Meetings, after meetings, I fought this battle. Always ending with the same desperate hopelessness. Little did I realize that my guilt was false guilt. The result of memories deeply buried in my subconscious, that would surface many years later. And only after coming to terms with the sexual abuse and violence of early childhood, and the abuse that later happened in the church, would that guilt and shame finally leave me.

Only then would I sit through revival meetings in peace, with the confidence that I am a part of God’s family. I don’t need to measure up. Yes, I give Him the best that I can, because I love Him, but my salvation does not rise and fall, on false guilt, or when I fall into sin. He loves me. Accepts me. I am His. And when He shows me that I have sinned, I repent quickly, because I love Him.

More importantly, He loves me. He thinks I’m so special that He sings over me with delight. (Zephaniah 3:17) He has even written a book about me! Having discovered that love, I have learned to love Him, and love others.

And one of the things that His forgiving love has taught me, is to forgive others. Because of that love, I forgive you.

I learned many years later that you knew of the abuse I suffered, and did nothing. You covered it, to protect your family name… because the perpetrator was your son. All the while you excommunicated congregants for bad attitudes, for listening to the radio, for not wearing the right clothes, among other things that you labelled sin. But the sins of your sons, and other church members, you kept carefully hidden for the sake of image. How that wounded my heart!

This taught me that God does not care about my pain and suffering, but cares very much that I look right and act religious. And it affirmed the belief that God loves other people more than He loves me. How desperately I wanted His love and acceptance.

I spent years trying to earn His favour before I finally fell to my knees and begged Him to remove every lying voice, and show me who He really is. I wept for days, as I read the stories of Jesus and the church in rest of the New Testament, as though I was reading them for the first time. And then I felt secure.

I knew other preachers who did not do what you did, and I thank God for their kinder examples. But you had the greater influence, and somehow I couldn’t see past the confusion you brought into my life, to see that Jesus is more like them…

So I forgive you. I forgive you for turning a blind eye to the abuse I suffered. I forgive you for judging me harshly, while protecting sin in your own family and household. I forgive you for spiritual rape… by using God’s name for personal agenda, and telling me that what you do is God-blessed.

And each time I remember what you did, I will choose to forgive you, again, and again, and again.

I pray that you will repent, find mercy and get to know intimately the true God… the God of love, justice and mercy.

Sincerely,
~ one broken teen ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to A Perpetrator

Dear Perpetrator,

You probably don’t remember me… and if you do, you probably try to forget. But I remember you, as though it was yesterday…

This is not an easy letter for me to write to you. I’ve wanted to write it for many years, but never had the courage.

You see, I was a happy-go-lucky little girl… carefree, pure, sweet, innocent, playful and free. Until…

Before we met, I used to feel like a little princess. Special. My mind was filled with dreams of growing up, of being a mommy one day, and having a daddy for my children. I would be the best mommy in the world, and he would be the best daddy in the world, and together we would have a happy family. My little world was filled with wonder, light and hope. Until…

But after you ‘played’ with me, and after you showed me things I didn’t want to know so young, at least not in that way, I stopped dreaming. My world became dark. My hopes shattered and fear took their place. All I could think about was what you did. You said it wouldn’t hurt. But it did. You said it would feel good….

It didn’t hurt then, but it has never stopped hurting since. My heart has never stopped hurting….

You have probably long pushed away the memories of what you did. I can only assume that, because you’ve never come back to say you are sorry. But I have not forgotten, and I never will. I used to be angry when I remembered. Now it just makes me sad, because I wonder who you have become, how many other children you hurt. And I wonder if they, like me, lost themselves in that pain.

I grew up. It was hard. I struggled with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I felt hopeless. Ugly. Dirty. Broken. Used. I let more people use me. I thought it was all I was worth. That it was all I deserved. I became desperate. And in my desperation, I wanted to die and make the pain stop. But I kept on fighting.

Eventually I found the real Jesus. He heals people like me, and tells us who we really are. That we are not the sum total of what others have done to us, or the wrong choices we have made. He reminded me that I really am a princess, the daughter of a King, the daughter of His Abba Father. And there I found myself again. But the struggles kept on, the pain stayed a long while.

I got married and became a mommy. I married a man who is now the daddy of our children. We have a family. We love each other, and we love our children. I am the best mommy I can be. But I have struggled with depression, anxiety and anger… and sometimes I even felt that it would be better for my family if I was dead, better for my children to have a new mommy, one who was not as messed up as I was. Those were hard years. I loved them so much, but had nothing to give. I was still so lost.

And my husband is the best man I have ever known. Not only because he is a good daddy to our children, but because he is good to me. That part of my dream came true. But instead of the carefree love I imagined in my childhood dreams, before I even understood love, sex and marriage, it’s been a hard and painful battle. He has held me patiently, and reassured me, when I remembered what you did, and when I was afraid to love him, because of that memory. He comforts me when I cry. He prays for me when I have nightmares about you. And he keeps on loving me even when I get depressed.

So my dreams have come true, but with a thread of pain and suffering.

I think about my story, and I see how hard I fought, how much I have grieved, and I wonder again who you have become. Do you still hurt little children? Have you ever told anyone what you did? Do you still carry that secret? Do you tell yourself that I, a little child, asked for it? Do you console yourself with that lie? Do you hope I forgot? Do you live in denial, so you don’t have to remember me? Or has it wrecked your very soul?

And then I wonder if you’ve ever talked to Jesus about it? Have you told Him what you did to me? Have you asked Him to forgive you? Have you wept, and begged, and pleaded on my behalf, and any other victims you have, praying that the crime you committed against me would not destroy my life? That He would find me, heal me and make me whole again? That He would take that horrific act and redeem it, and launch me into a full life?

When I think of you, I feel sad. I feel sad because it must be a terrible burden to carry. Sometimes tears spill out when I remember you, and I pray for you. I pray that you will be sorry, and I ask God to forgive you. I have forgiven you. It took a long time to feel that I had forgiven you, even after I had chosen forgiveness for many years.

If I would see you, I would say this one thing to you, “I forgive you because of what Jesus has done in me.” But you are still accountable to Him, and I pray you will see that, and find His grace and forgiveness.

So I wrote this letter because I want you to know how much it hurt, how much damage it did, so that you won’t do it again. I want you to know that I remember. And I pray for any other child you have hurt, that they will know the love and healing touch of Jesus. And most of all I want you to know that there is hope. That you don’t have to stay in bondage to the lies, to the addictions. Because Jesus died for you too. That’s probably hard for you to believe, but if I, a child whom you hurt, can tell you this, how much more can God who is holy and just? Not to mention that He is your Creator, your Saviour. It is His authority by which I speak these words. I know they are for you.

If you’ve never told anyone what you did, tell someone. Don’t carry that memory in shame and silence, because that gives it power.

And if you don’t have anyone to tell, you can tell me. I will listen. I will cry. My heart will break. And that’s okay. Because when you’re done talking, I will tell you that I forgive you. And then I will tell you to give your heart to Jesus, and all that yucky stuff with it, and let it go. Because He loves you.

Still praying for you…

Sincerely,
~ one broken little girl ~

© Trudy Metzger

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