Have a Real Mother’s Day!

Holidays and special days are a funny thing. We run around saying the ‘right’ words for the occasion without much thought for the other person, unless we know them well. Cheerfully we greet women with a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’, if they have children, at church, at the grocery store, or just about anywhere we see them.

I think about this every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But, with today being Mother’s Day, I will focus on Mothers. Some of us are blessed with good relationships with our mothers or children, some of us struggle through broken or dysfunctional ones, some have been completely abandoned and rejected, and some are a blend. How does a chipper ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greeting even begin to honour every mother?

In this stage of life I feel blessed to have a communicating relationship with my mother. For years it was virtually non-existent. And the scars and aftermath of the first fifteen years of my life–the years before I left home–remain, but have healed over and now remind me of God’s grace. What was lost then has not been fully restored, but God has redeemed it in my life. And I am blessed with five children who will be home for brunch today, and a mother-in-law whom I’ve grown to love deeply over the years, who will also be here later. These years are blessed and Happy Mother’s Day fits. It is, just that. Not perfect, but happy. And ‘blessed’, by the way, means happy or filled with joy.

It isn’t that because I have been a perfect mom. Not one of us is. Though it can seem like some are, and it’s easy to look around and start comparing with a friend who is ‘the perfect mom’, or judge ourselves or our mothers harshly for failures. But not of us are perfect, and we never will be. We vow to be better than the generation before us, and in our zeal we ‘perfect’ one area, while missing another, and we still fall short of becoming that perfect mother we want to become. Still, we are blessed if we have children, and have a relationship at all.

Today is Mother’s Day. And there are women–many who are my friends or family–who woke up this morning with deep dread and pain, because today is not their day. They have prayed and wept, like Hannah of the Bible, for an infant to be conceived in their womb, but the prayers seem to have a rubber coating, as they bounce off ceilings and echo from wall to wall. Disregarded. Ignored. Forgotten. That is how it feels to the ‘mother at heart’ who sits in the rocking chair of her early dreams, with empty arms. No child to hold. No grandchildren to dream of. This pain is real and it runs deep.

So this Mother’s Day I challenge myself and others to be mindful of those in places of grief. Don’t stop celebrating what is right and good and beautiful; wish mom’s a Happy Mother’s Day or some other blessing. But take a moment to say a word of encouragement to the mom whose child has passed away, or whose children won’t acknowledge her today, or the one whose children are but a dream in her heart. Bless the one who fosters or ‘adopts’–legally or emotionally–the abandoned children and gives them a place in her heart.

Today is a beautiful day. It is a sunny, warm Mother’s Day here in Ontario, and it couldn’t be more gorgeous! I pray that the One who made this day, and who gave us the honour of birthing children and raising them, will meet you, every one in your personal inner struggle or celebration, and lift you up, encourage and bless you. For those trying to conceive, I pray that God will grant you the desires of your heart, and fill your arms with a child. It is a good and beautiful thing, and a God-given desire. To those who are lonely and abandoned–whether mothers, or children longing for their mothers–I pray that God will fill your hearts with His love and grace. To those who have lost their mothers, and to those mothers who have laid their children to rest, I pray God will comfort you in your tears and sorrow.

Today is a beautiful day. It is sunny and warm, and couldn’t be more gorgeous. But even beautiful days welcome tears, grief and sorrow, in the midst of laughter all around you, when that is where your heart is. Whether it is a day of laughter or tears, or a blend of the two, I wish you God’s blessing! You are valued, you are loved!

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Father’s Day Blessings, to all the Broken & Imperfect Ones

“You patiently loved me when I was difficult… You celebrated my achievements…” The card in my hand spoke all manner of nice things about fathers. I put it back, picked up the next one. “You were always there for me, loving, caring and teaching…”

Every year it was the same thing, standing in front of the card rack, trying to find a card that said, ‘In spite of everything, I love you! Happy Father’s Day’, without all the other niceties that didn’t fit. Every year the same quiet breaking of something inside and the wishing I could either experience the wonder of having that ‘Daddy’, or say it as it really was…

“Dear Dad, 

Every year when this day rolls around my heart hurts a little… because every year I am reminded of what a father-daughter relationship could be. I am sad, not only for what I lost, but what you missed out on. In fact, if I am perfectly honest, I feel more sad for you than for me… It must be lonely, surrounded by children, but with walls around your heart, that keep them out…

I know you’ve been hurt, and it is hard for you to risk relationships, hard for you to trust, even your own children. And you have hurt us–hurt me–and you find it hard to forgive yourself, or accept forgiveness, because you feel helpless to overcome the cycle of abuse. Truth is, I can’t imagine living with some of the things you have done, and I don’t know what to do with it, in our relationship…. In spite of all of this, you are my father, and I love you. There is a deep desire within me to have a relationship with you that is real; to face the brokenness of what has been, with honesty…. and that desire will never go away. Because every little girl wants to be her daddy’s princess.

Today I will settle for being your daughter, and love you and bless you, broken and imperfect, believing that one day our relationship will heal.  

With Love on Father’s Day, 
Your daughter

Dear Daddy_All I ever wanted

I never found a card that arranged those kinds of thoughts in poetic verse, or incorporated them into something ‘Father’s Day appropriate’. And I never had the courage to write these things out or even say them, other than quiet whispers, through tears, to my Heavenly Father–my ‘Papa’–when I shared those deep desires, hoping one day He would heal.

And God granted my request. Every Father’s Day I remember with deep gratitude sitting by his bedside numerous times in his last eighteen months, watching him weep, listening to a broken man speak from a place behind the walls of his heart. His grief, at who he had become and what he had done, and all he had lost because of it, along with gratefulness for mercy, poured out in those tears. And almost every year, on Father’s Day and the anniversary of dad’s passing, I think of ‘Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics‘ and thank God we had some healing and some conversations in the living years.

Harder Family in Mexico

Granted, there was so much history that all we could really do is acknowledge it, and each deal with it in our hearts. There is no undoing it, no ‘unremembering’ or forgetting. There was only ‘remembering with grace’, and working through the trauma, one layer at a time, with the ‘knowing’ that God will redeem it, somehow. And I thank God for this redemption.

****

Today, to all you dads–the good and whole ones, and the imperfect and broken ones–your daughters and sons long for relationship. They may have tough exteriors and broken hearts, but behind those fronts is a deep longing, buried under the pain. In fact, their anger is a sure sign of a deep desire; betrayal can only happen when their should be trust, and it can only hurt when we care, or once cared. So maybe they will need space from you because you wounded them; give them permission to find that space. Maybe it will take a long time, and even the humility and patience to release them and wait until they are ready; be willing to wait. But never stop believing that they long to know you.

To all you sons and daughters who couldn’t find a card that fit, because not one touched on that deep pain… or who didn’t even bother to look for one this year, because he wouldn’t even care if you did try…. Today, I remind you that you are worth more than he did to you. You are worth being acknowledged… loved… embraced… held. You are worth being celebrated. Your Heavenly Father–your ‘Papa’–celebrates you. That’s true whether you believe in him or not. You are created in His image, to reflect His heart. He delights in you! And the joy you bring Him, causes Him to sing over you with deep affection. (Zephaniah 3:17)

To all you ‘daddies at heart’ who were never able to have children, or maybe even marry, I pray blessing over you, as you mentor and ‘father’ the orphan children in your life who need someone to listen and care.

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And to all you daddies whose children have passed away, and the sons and daughters whose daddies have passed away, may God comfort you today. Alone or surrounded, and possibly celebrating the relationships you have, today is a reminder of a lonely ache in a place in your heart that could only ever belong to that one person. I pray that God will fill your day with kind words, hope,  and understanding friends, and much love from those around you.

To my husband, thank you for showing me what the word ‘Papa’ means, in the way you love and care for your family. Each year I am more thankful for you and the love you live in our lives. I would choose you all over again, and walk this way again, with you.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

When Christmas Cheer Brings Christmas Tears: A Season of Pain for Victims

There’s no denying it! The Christmas season is upon us! And, though it didn’t last, the winter wonderland  that made its bold appearance well before December, put some of us in the mood for it. As more and more twinkly lights appear, and Christmas music plays in stores and on the radio, the cheer of the season gets inside of me. I love the thrill of Christmas, with happy sounds in the air, and beauty all around.

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Unfortunately, for many people, the season is one of the most difficult of the year. With festivities and ‘happiness’ everywhere, to them it is a bold declaration of loss, a reminder of pain and grief. Often unacknowledged. This can be the result of any number of losses—whether the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or family abuse and violence—all of which deserve acknowledgement—but, for the purpose of this column, and not to diminish other losses, I will focus on the loss of innocence, through sexual abuse. While many thrill at having parties and family gatherings to attend at Christmas, for victims of sexual abuse these events often cause anxiety and panic attacks. As adults get together with their siblings and parents, their children who have been abused by these family members, dread it. And, because there is so much cover-up and secrecy surrounding abuse, the victims often carry the anxiety in silence, unable and unwilling to disrupt family ‘peace’.

This need to protect family ‘peace’ at all cost, is something that is ‘caught’ more than taught, as the pain of victims is overlooked, often starting in early childhood. When ‘Uncle Joe’ comes by, and little Sarah doesn’t want to say ‘hi’, shake his hand, or give him a hug, mom and dad are quick to insist on being polite, and force the interaction or even punishing her, without so much as a thought that maybe Sarah is justifiably afraid of Uncle Joe. When little Jason doesn’t want to sit on Grandpa’s knee, or throws a fit when aunt Mandy wants to take him for a walk, the same coaxing or discipline is applied. Rather than taking children aside, and exploring their feelings and fears, we force ‘niceness’. As a result, many years later, that same forced niceness continues, as does the loneliness of dealing with sexual victimization. Both parties—victims and perpetrators—act as if nothing ever happened. And victims shed lonely tears after the gatherings, or, worse, simply shut down.

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Adding to the confusion is the religious focus of Christmas, and celebrating the birth of the Messiah, all while the sins of fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and neighbours, remain carefully cloaked. The sin that this Holy Child supposedly came to save us from, is protected at all costs. This begs the question, did Jesus really die for that sin or do we believe, somehow, that it is one sin He can’t handle? Or, more likely, do we excuse the sin and overlook the devastating impact? Either way, the wonder of the Christ-child is lost behind shadows of shame, false guilt, and emotional angst, leaving victims feeling abandoned by God and angry with Him. Rather than stirring love, and ‘goodwill toward man’ the Christmas season becomes a burden.

It is not uncommon for me to receive emails and messages from abuse victims, this time of year, sharing the pain, grief and loss they feel, and the dread of needing to attend family events. It isn’t self-pity; it is deep trauma. Most victims long for one thing, more than anything, and that is to have the burden of silence lifted, their pain acknowledged, and to have the abuser say, “I’m so sorry for robbing you of innocence. It was my fault. I have no excuses.” For many, this is the gift they long for most, this season.

If you have victimized someone, sexually, consider taking ownership for your crime this Christmas. Find a mediator to communicate with the victims, so that you don’t add further trauma, and tell them you are sorry, offering no excuses for your crime, and without demanding forgiveness. It won’t undo the past. It won’t ‘fix’ the victim’s ongoing trauma. But it will give him or her permission to grieve, without self-blame for something you did against them. It will be awkward, for a while, but you’ll stop tripping over the elephant in the room, all decorated with Christmas lights and superficial festivities, and discover the real meaning of the season.

 

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(For the Elmira Independent: December 4. 2014)

© Trudy Metzger

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Dead for One Hour

Yesterday I received a most fascinating message from my friend Norma Blank, from Pennsylvania, after she read that I had died:

“O my word friend…the post that someone put on ur wall made me go absolutely crazy…Like u passed away….I’m just so relieved that u r still here!! What In the world…”

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About an hour earlier, another friend, who lost her daughter in March, had posted a note to my wall in memory of her daughter, and Norma saw it. Not knowing my family, she had no idea that the woman posting it was not my mother, or that the note was not intended as written to me.  What my friend saw, looked like this:

A note to my daughter

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
I just keep wishing you were still here.
I will hold all the memories deep in my heart.
Through these memories we will never part.

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
I just keep wishing this pain would disappear.
I didn’t get the chance to say my last good-bye.
I just didn’t think you could ever die.

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
All of your love I will always hold near.
In my heart and my mind I will never be alone.
When my time comes……
I will meet you in heaven!
(Unknown)

To be perfectly honest, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to die, and watch people as they react to it. And I’ve even wondered if the spirits of the dead are aware of our goings on, as we try to reconcile our loss with all the other facts that play in. If the person has been ill for a long time, we are relieved that their suffering is over. If they died in a crash, instantly, we are thankful they did not suffer long, and yet the horror of it torments us. If they are elderly and all their friends have passed on, they may have longed for the day, and we are glad for them. But regardless the dynamics of the story, and ‘how’ or ‘why’ of death, we are left with grief and loss, and need to somehow reconcile that with every other aspect of these dynamics.

Do the spirits of the dead see this? Hear this? Who knows for certain. But it is a curious thought that has entered my mind, on occasion, since childhood. Having contemplated this in the past made it that much more intriguing to experience it in real life.

I read Norma’s message again, and that is when it struck me. She actually thought I was dead! I wonder how long she thought it… What did she feel… think… do?  I wrote her and asked her…

“Is it okay that I’ve had a good laugh about this? Too funny! Now I know what it feels like in real life, to have someone’s heart sink when you die. Sorry that I find that funny. I have to ask… how long did you think I was dead?  (and how did you figure out I’m still alive?)”

She wrote back: I thot u were dead for like an hr….so in the middle of not knowing I decided to wash my car and I was like goin in circles literally and wondering how in the world this all happened so fast ..and ur poor kids ..and husband ..and the funeral will prob b on Sunday and I’m just wondering why I was so crazy with it all!” Her next message was, “And then !!! U posted something!!!!’ and u were alive!!!!!!!”

I could see it all playing out in my imagination. The need to do something, to be busy, as the adrenaline of the shock runs its course. It’s distressing, that kind of thing. If not quite funny under the circumstances.

I responded with: “LOL!!!!! I’m so sorry for your loss! Your grief… whatever! But that just kills me laughing!”

I gave Tim a play by play, as I read the messages, and his very calm response was, “Maybe she could come any way, and wash our car for the funeral”.

Norma agreed. “Lol!! Yes I’m a pro car washer by now!! Went in like 35644749 circles today!!! It’s clean!!”

Then a few minutes later she wrote, “Hav I told u how glad I am that u r alive? Well I am.  so after I finally realized that u were still alive and kickn I pumped up my bike tires and went cruzin’ down the road for another hr! Not goin in circles lol! Just cruzin’ and feeling so relieved.” 

“That was a great way to celebrate,”  I wrote back,”I dream of owning a bike, one day, but as I get older, I dream less of it  So…. if ever I do slip into heaven… Go on a bike ride for me to celebrate my life.”

“awww yea”, Norma wrote back, “I’ll make a Tshirt just for u…cruzin’ for Trudy! Or make a shirt for when I go see Gods not dead….God’s not dead and neither is Trudy!! Lol'”

Now that I know what it’s like to die, and be missed and have my life grieved and celebrated by a friend, I can lay that question to rest. However, the mystery of what lies beyond that moment of exhaling here for the last time, and breathing eternal life for the first time, is left to my imagination, and I will have to wait for it.

I think of heaven often, these days…

This world is tired. The darkness that hovers all around has exhausted it. It groans, and I groan with it. I’m tired. My spirit is not at home here…. Never really was… Never really will be… Even as a child, before anyone taught me, I longed for another world and knew I was not made for this place…  And, even if I live to be 100–God helps us all if I do–that truth remains. This isn’t my home.

Don’t get me wrong. I love life. I love my family, my friends and I love what I do. And there is still so much I want to accomplish. I want to publish my first book, and a second, and a third and a fourth,… And maybe more. I want to travel to numerous countries to speak, not the least of which are plans-in-the-making for New Zealand and Australia. But the unrest, the tragedies all around, and the ‘dark side’ of my work with ongoing sexual abuse in Christian cultures… These are in desperate need of redemption.

While I wait, I will celebrate the life of One man who died for me… A God-man, who allowed Himself to be cast into the grave and hades, for my sin. Like my friend Norma, His friends rejoiced–and we still rejoice with them–because His soul was not left in hades, nor was His body left to decay in the grave. (Acts 2:31) After three days, He rose to life again to be my eternal hope.

Because of what He has done for me, I have no fear of death. What’s more, because of Him, I am offered full life, abundant life, while I here. So, because of Him, I will give the best that I have, and all that I am, to Him and His cause, and live life to the fullest, while I am here.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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When Mother’s Day Hurts So Much That God Cries

I opened my eyes, trying to shake the image of my son, lying on the ground, badly wounded from the explosion. He was unresponsive, almost lifeless, his breathing shallow.

The feeling of helplessness and agony that overwhelmed me, flooded back. I felt weak, nauseous. Willing the images to leave my mind, I sat up in bed.

What a way to start the day, and not just any day. The nightmare that woke me up, early Mother’s Day morning, started with numerous car crashes. Some family members were wounded, others killed. It ended with a massive explosion that nearly killed our son. It held no obvious meaning, and served only to torment my heart…

In church, a few hours later, we had communion. Jesus. Broken. Bleeding. Wounded…. for me. A Son who suffered and died, with purpose.

The nightmare flashed through my mind again. I thought of Mary. It was her son too, who hung on that cross.

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I put my head on Tim’s shoulder, and big tears splashed all over his shirt. I didn’t sob, but the tears kept splashing down on him. He saw the water spots, looked at me, and I smiled past the mess I was, willing myself to shut off the intense emotion, and that picture. I had told him the nightmare earlier…

“Dumb nightmare,” I whispered quietly, almost giggling with confused emotion, feeling a bit foolish that something not real could impact me so profoundly. 

Tim’s eyes held compassion and understanding. He is my safe place, here, on earth, no matter what the pain, the battle, the emotion. A true rock, he seems unmoved, though not untouched, by who I am.

I thought of all the mothers sitting in church that morning, or at their tables, with breaking hearts and brave faces. Maybe I was crying for them, because their tears were stopped. It wasn’t really about that horrible scene in my nightmare, I knew that.

Or maybe it was for the mothers still in bed, unable to get up, because of grief…

Or maybe it was for Mrs. Bosma, whose son Tim was taken from his young wife and little daughter… and for Sharlene Bosma, who didn’t have a husband’s shoulder to cry on this Mother’s Day, because of evil… pure evil… committed against her, against them as a family.

My nightmare ended when I awakened. But their nightmare continues, broken, and inconclusive. And I stop writing, to pray, because my heart aches for them. It aches for strangers I have never met, and yet, because I am a mother, and a wife, and a daughter, I feel it deeply. And because, through Tim’s work, I know of people connected to Tim’s family. And somehow that makes it more real.

It’s not the movies, it’s not a news report. It’s broken hearts, carelessly scattered for the world to see, by men with evil plans…. plans to hurt, to harm and to bring pain.

The reality of that evil hits me with a powerful force, like water from a filthy river, knocking the wind of hope from me, for a moment, as I contemplate that evil, and all the suffering mothers.

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The words of a wise man, depressed by life, go through my mind… What meaning is there in life… what new thing to look forward to? What has been, will be again, what has been done, will be done again… (Ecclesiastes 1)

And it seems that’s just how it is, and has been, since Abel disappeared, soon after the Garden. The first ‘missing person’ ever reported, when God came to question Cain, and it seems the evil has escalated and multiplied since then, knowing no boundaries, going from sibling rivalry to taking captive an innocent man like, Tim Bosma, with no apparent motive. And the mind can hardly grasp it, when the innocent suffer like that, simply for trusting.

But then I remember again, the Son whose mother stood at the cross, weeping and grieving at His innocent death. I see His body, again, mangled for the love of us, and bleeding hope all over place on that ugly hill. The Hill of Death–Gogatha, the place of the skull–and that hope flows like a river.

It runs down that wicked hill, and keeps flowing until it covers the earth, and fills the dead with its life, wherever it is received. (Ezekiel 47:1-12) And the skeletons and the dry bones, and the corpses of empty existence dip in that river, and they begin to dance, and run. They sing like never before because Hope has touched them…

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It is then I realize that my tears come from deep within my spirit, forming a prayer–in a place so deep I cannot express it. A place where words are lost, and only tears speak the language of that place…

And I think maybe they are God’s tears, flowing from my body, showing His heart of compassion. Weeping, not for His Son on the cross–because His Son conquered the cross, conquered death… hell… and the grave. His Son rose again.

It is His tears for His children, who are touched by evil. His tears, for us, because of the consequence of sin. His tears for me, waking from the horrible nightmare and having to see my son like that. His tears for Mrs. Bosma, and Sharlene and her daughter, whose nightmares go on and on…

His tears, falling, and splashing His love and compassion all over us, because He came–Emmanuel, God with us–to suffer, to grieve, to understand the worst of pains that a human can suffer.

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Being God, He suffered the grief of watching His Son brutalized. And being Jesus, He suffered the beating, the captivity, and the cross. All this, to understand our sorrow…

So this Mother’s Day weekend–yes, even on Monday, the day after Mother’s Day, because your grief continues–if your mother-heart breaks for any reason at all, my thoughts, my prayers and my tears are with you.

Especially with you, Sharlene and your little princess… and Mrs. Bosma and your family. This evil thing you have suffered should never have happened…

…God’s tears are with you…

Our prayers continue for Tim Bosma’s safe return. And, when you look back on this part of your story, we pray you will see only one set of Footprints, knowing that God carried you through this time.

© Trudy Metzger

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“Your Father Died an Hour Ago”

As a young teen, and pre-teen, living under the iron fist rule of my father, in a house filled with hate, violence and death threats, I used to imagine what it would be like to not have parents. What if they died, and left us to be orphans? My older sister, Anna, would be quite capable of running the household. She had practically done it by age eight or nine. My other sisters would help, and my older brothers would manage the property. We’d be okay.

My parents usually did the grocery shopping together, for two reasons. One, because mom couldn’t drive, and the other because dad had to control the grocery money. During the worst times, I watched them drive out the lane together, and prayed a guilty prayer. I’d request a two things of Almighty God, one of which was not noble.

“Dear Heavenly Father…” I would begin, like any other prayer, and then continue with a deep, desperate plea, begging him to make my parents ‘Christian’, to be sure they both accepted Jesus. And then my prayer would wander into survival, and trying to feel noble, for my intent, I would suggest that maybe they could hit a bridge or run over a cliff and both go to heaven. In essence, I felt as if I was asking God for a mercy killing.

It was traumatizing to live a life of constant fear. And the worry that one or both of my parents might die and go to hell for what they did, added pressure and trauma of another sort. I had no confidence, if they apologized, that things would ever change. We had gone full cycle too many times for me to have any faith in that bringing about any kind of lasting change. My prayer was the only way I knew to take care of it, once and for all.

There was one other option that several siblings and I had discussed, that we felt might be effective. But the risk, should we get caught conniving such a thing, was too big. It could potentially cost us our lives.

My father had an ungodly fear of ghosts, in the sense of ‘divine messengers’. And his ‘reverence’ for God presented itself more as debilitating fear.

One evening I, and my three siblings next older than me, started scheming of a way to use this to bring dad to full repentance and transformation. We would need one of mom’s galvanized steel tubs, some rope and a large white bed sheet. One of us would have to be the ghost, and sit in tub. We would attach ropes to the handles of the tub, and gentle lower the volunteer ‘ghost’ from Wil’s window, which was situated directly above mom and dad’s bedroom window.

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The ghost would rap on their bedroom window, swaying gently back and forth, and begin to call dad, in German, by first name, in an eerie, ghost-like voice. We would then tell him to be afraid, very afraid, for the sins he had committed, and to repent and treat his family well, or certain doom would be his. We practised what that should sound like, and laughed until we almost wet ourselves, as we imagined how he would dive out of bed and onto his knees.

By the time we had created the scene, we had released the stress and tension, and never quite had the courage to follow through, which disappointed me terribly. I was ready to try anything to inspire change.

After I moved out at age fifteen, and for many years after that, I tried to imagine how I would respond at news of dad’s death. Would I be relieved that the demons of fearing for my life would finally be silenced? Would I be sad, because there was a side of dad that was fun? And even if we disagreed on just about everything from religion to politics, and everything in between, I enjoyed some of our discussions. We definitely disagreed on prophesy, revelations and end times, something that devastated him, as though he had failed me personally. Would I miss those times? Or would the relief override all of that?

In dad’s last years, as illness slowly killed his body, literally, my terror of him disappeared. At family gatherings, until that time, if he left the table for anything at all, my mind immediately created a scene of him returning with a gun and opening fire. Not once in his healthy years did we get together, without that fear being very present for me.

But as his health declined, and his brute strength gave way to feeble bones, and weak muscles, that fear left. I no longer saw a vile, evil man, but a man destroyed by his own sin. During his extended hospital stays I tried to go visit him several times a week, even though I was pregnant and it was a ninety minute drive both ways.

When it was just the two of us in that room, talking heart to heart, I got to know my dad. He had told me bits of his story ten years earlier, when he was arrested and placed in a locked down psyche ward for uttering death threats. But that was different. In the hospital, in his old age, I heard his heart. His fears. His grief.

We talked a bit about what life had been, at home, when I was younger. He looked at me then, with tears in his eyes, and asked me to forgive him for all the evil things he had done against me.

“I forgave you a long time ago, Dad,” I said. “It’s what set me free from that stuff.” We talked a while longer, and then I left for home.

How times had changed. God answered the prayer to bring dad to repentance for the evil things he had done, but sparing his life.

***

On February 21, 2003, a beautiful, spring-like day, I was busy washing windows when the call came.

For all that I had imagined, in days gone by, of what I would think or feel, nothing could have prepared me for that moment.

“Your father passed away an hour ago… It was sudden… We think it was a heart attack…”

There was no undoing it. No bringing him back to life to talk about all that had been. No saying, “I love you”, one more time. I had started when he was in the psyche ward, to hug him and say those words. He never knew what to do with it, or how to receive it, and he could never really respond, but that was okay with me. It wasn’t about comfort, it was about overcoming and breaking generational chains.

For several nights after his death I had brutal nightmares, and then they stopped. Nightmares that had haunted me all my life, of fighting to survive against gunshots or knives, stopped. And they have happened but once or twice since. They were over.

But the ‘relief’ never came. The moment of ‘thank God the terror is over forever’, never hit. Only a sad awareness that many years were stolen by sin, and the overruling joy that dad saw it in time, and asked me to forgive him.

Ten years ago today, I lost my father. If I could sit down with him for one more cup of piping hot coffee–so fiercely hot that it has to be poured into a saucer to drink it–there is much I would say that I never had the courage to say then. I would ask more about what happened to his heart, in all that chaos. I would try harder to help him know himself, and find deeper healing. And I’d do it sooner.

In spite of moments, like today, where I remember with an element of grief, I don’t waste time with regrets, rather I try to learn from the past….

canstockphoto12188171I encourage you, parents… Call your children. Get together with them to talk heart to heart. Tell them you’re proud of them. Tell them you love them. And, by all means, take ownership and tell them you’re sorry. That conversation is the key to freedom for you and your children. I can’t promise that it won’t get worse before it gets better. But it’s the risk you have to take, even if you don’t see the reward for many years. Or ever.

And children… Forgive your parents. They are the product of what life did to them, of their own suffering. If you don’t forgive, you will become like them. You will fight it with all that you are, but you will look in the mirror one day and see your dad, or your mom.

Forgiveness is the key that opens a new door, to a new future, a new life. It opens the door for your children to forgive you one day, when you sin against them.

Today that door stands before you. Will you take the key you hold in your hand, and use it?

Photo Credits

The song I have chosen today, is a secular one with a powerful message. It has been my theme song, in my relationship with my father, since his passing. I think I listen to it every year, and thank God that dad and I had that conversation in the living years. I apologize if it offends anyone that I, in ministry, would post a secular song, but I unapologetically leave you the message it holds:

Living Years, Mike & The Mechanics

“RIP, Dad. In spite of all things, I have always loved. you. I always will.”

© Trudy Metzger

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Worship God With Your Tears

Confronted daily with the harsh reality of the epidemic of sexual abuse, and violence all around, including in Christian cultures, one of my prayers is that I will not become calloused, cynical, or ‘untouchable’ at a heart level. I pray that God will give me a tender heart, that has the capacity to feel for others, while still remaining strong enough to not be overwhelmed or destroyed by pain.

People need to know that we have compassion, but they also need to know that we are not destroyed by their pain, when they share. I try never to react strongly, and never overreact, when confronted with shocking stories. This gives the individual permission to ‘tell all’ and be free, without my emotional responses or reactions.

A victim’s greatest fear, when telling their story, is, “I am too much. My story is too much. No one can handle it. No one can handle me.” That is the last ‘lie’ I want to affirm by my body language, gasps or other ‘horror’ reactions.

But I don’t want to learn how to react to such a degree that I bury all of the emotions that are inevitably touched through people. I fear that could harden my heart.

So sometimes when I debrief with Tim about an abuse case, or the tragic aftermath, I get emotional. Sometimes I cry. Even when I work on writing my book, telling my own story, there are times I cry, even though I’ve worked through it. Tears are good. It doesn’t mean I’m ‘falling apart’, or I’m not coping emotionally or psychologically.

It means I am human and I still have the capacity to feel pain and trauma. When I am faced with the extreme–the things that shock me to the core–I try to find time with God because I trust Him with my emotions, my anger, my grief and my tears.

Last week was one of break through and miracles. But it was also a week of feeling and absorbing more than I usually do, for many reasons. One of the reasons was the conflict between the thrill of seeing miracles of healing in some, and hearing the tragedy of another’s struggle. Another was seeing close up the life and death struggle this becomes at times for people.

Early in the week I spoke on the phone with a woman I had never met, a 41 hour drive away. (That’s assuming I would travel at the speed limit.) And that equates to over 4000 kms. She is going through extreme trauma because of things that happened in her childhood, and ongoing family dynamics that resulted from that. She reached out because she’s struggling to find meaning and purpose through the struggle, even though her life is filled with purpose.

Almost the same distance from this woman, another individual who has suffered recent trauma struggles with finding purpose and hope. Religion–not the good kind–has loaded with guilt, over things they did not choose. Again it has become a life and death struggle. A fight to survive, literally.

Closer to home I met with another woman, old enough to be my mother, and then a bit. A sweet conservative Christian. Her story spilled out. Pain, after pain, after pain. And through that pain shone faith. Solid faith.

In each situation my goal is to really hear their stories, their hearts. Every individual needs to know that their story has value, that they have something to offer not only in spite of the bad things, but even because of the bad things that happened. God redeems and allows people to change the world because of bad things that have happened. But most of all my goal is to help every individual discover their worth, their value, their purpose in the eyes of God, as we work through their experiences.

One of the things I strongly encourage is to simply release the tears that have been trapped, often since childhood, or since some traumatic event. But don’t stay there, learn to worship God with your tears. Don’t just cry. Cry out to God. Cry on His shoulder, His chest. Listen to His heartbeat in that place of trauma and grief, and you will hear that it beats for you.

Then ask Him to take your pain, to suffer with you, to hold you. Be like King David. Rant if you must. Rage if it makes you feel better. But always remember that God is on your side. He is your friend, not your enemy. He does not cause or create these painful experiences. Sin does that. The sin others choose when they victimize you.

See God as He is, and you will see yourself differently. You will see value, purpose, beauty and hope. You will see yourself as having value.

 

Share your pain and tears with Him, in worship and trust, and you will be transformed through His love. You will see things differently, little by little. He will unravel the lies of life experience and show you things as you have never seen them before.

This week I spoke with one individual who struggles with suicidal thoughts. I was connected a few days later, through an online friend, with another woman who struggles. We hear it in the news all the time, but that contact makes it personal.

There is a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of disappointment in our Christian communities, just like the rest of the world. We cannot turn a blind eye and claim to be the body of Christ. Jesus Christ has eyes. To be His body, we have to see, hear, feel and touch.

And to work in this pain effectively, my heart must remain tender and  not become calloused. And that also requires feeling. So I choose to feel. I choose to grieve. To be touched by pain.

I will continue to weep shamelessly for our churches, our communities, our nation, and the nations around. I will continue to weep for you, if this is your story. So when you see me cry, I’m not ‘losing it’. I’m not overwhelmed. I’m simply trusting God to carry what I cannot. I will worship God with my tears.

© Trudy Metzger

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I Can’t Bond… I feel Guilty & Ashamed

In my post on Family Dynamics, I talked about my life-long struggle with healthy bonding in relationship. The response I got from readers surprised me. The first thing that took me off guard was that so many of you understand my struggle.  The second is that it’s another one of those ‘secrets’ we feel we need to keep because of shame, fear and guilt.

Until recently, I always felt that it is only me. My personal struggle and no one in the world would understand it, or at least very few.

Several weeks ago I spoke with a friend who is a psychologist and for the first time in my life I told someone. “I know this is going to sound really bad,” I said, “but I don’t miss people. I don’t know how. I don’t know how and I don’t think I ever have, really. Other than Tim and our children.”

“Your ability to bond was destroyed in childhood,” she said. Just like that. Matter of fact.

It’s funny now, when I think back to that conversation. It was a random bit of information in the middle of another conversation, and we explored it no further. That really was about all that was said. I added something like, “I’ve always wondered about that.” And then we carried on with our other conversation. I wonder now why I didn’t say, “Could I book an appointment with you? Could you help me understand it?”

For me it’s always been this way. When I left home at fifteen, I only saw my family a few times in over two years. I almost forgot I had family, and thought of them mostly only when someone asked. It didn’t occur to me then that it might not be normal.

For me, it simply was…. My reality. Out of sight, out of mind.

In the messages I received from readers, following that post, not only did I discover just how common this is. I also noticed a familiar pattern of guilt and frustration, accompanied by a deep sense of loss. So these are the things I would like to explore further, especially the guilt.

Guilt. That horrible feeling that I should be more than I am. It’s my fault. There is something wrong with me. It is an all-consuming, physically debilitating, mentally crippling lie.

Where there is guilt, there is shame. And where there is shame, we are being further robbed and destroyed, because it means that ‘the thing’, whatever it may be, still has power over us. Still holds us in its grip.

The inability to bond is not my fault. There is nothing I could have done as a child between birth and age 15 that would remove that struggle. And the fact that you can’t bond is not your fault. There is nothing you need to do now to ‘fix’ it or undo it. You simply need to release the guilt, and invite God to use the aftermath for a good purpose.

For some of you who wrote, this struggle is predominantly the result of sexual abuse, for others, as it was for me, it is the result of any combination of sexual, emotional, physical, spiritual abuse and/or violence. There is nothing you could have or should have done, that would make one iota of difference in outcome. It is not your guilt to carry.

For me, the two most powerful forces that robbed me of my ability to bond were violence and sexual abuse. In that order. As much as sexual abuse was damaging, in many ways the fear of Dad killing me was far more damaging. The man who should have been my protector, my hero, instead threatened to kill our family, and me specifically on at least a few occasions.

If I held so little worth to the man who conceived me, whose DNA I carry, who engaged in the act that brought me into existence… then what am I? Not who am I… but what am I? I remember as a child wishing I had been born into the animal kingdom instead, where feelings and contending with God did not exist.

While I didn’t fear my mother, my relationship with her was no more affirming. I mostly don’t write about it, or speak about it, because she is still living and I have no desire to wound her. But the damaging effect of words she spoke, affirming Dad’s darkness over us, and adding her own, created the same disconnect.

How can I feel guilty for those things? How can I feel guilty for the things that were destroyed in my mind and body, during that process. Trauma physically changes the brain. Yes, God heals. But He doesn’t always heal our way. Where life and trauma took away my ability to feel certain things, God has redeemed, and continues to. But sometimes, rather than ‘restoring’ and ‘giving back’ what was taken, He uses that for His good, and for the good of people in our lives.

I am convinced that whatever was destroyed in me through violence, is the very thing that now makes it possible for me to hear the hell and horror I hear in people’s stories. I can sit across from a young woman who says she was gang raped by seventeen men, and torn and destroyed. My heart breaks for her. But it doesn’t destroy me. I don’t go home, traumatized and terrorized. I don’t have nightmares.

When I meet with women who were in the occult, as children, and tied to beds as little girls while being group raped, with parents or grandparents in the room, possibly as part of the ritual… or tied to trees and raped… When they tell me how they were induced into early labour, using drugs meant for animals on the farm… and how they watched as their babies were sacrificed… I don’t fall apart. My heart aches for them. I go home. I pray for them. But it does not destroy me. It can’t.

Why? Because something was destroyed in me many years ago. So I hear the worst of it. I love through the worst of it. I care and, yes, there are times I weep for people when they tell me their stories. I have a very tender heart But it doesn’t destroy me.

Why should I feel guilty? Why should you? It is a lie of the enemy that you or I should feel guilty for the impact that the sin and abuse of others had on us. No. We do the best we can. We bond the best we know how, with those immediately in our care, and in our lives. We love as deeply as the person who bonds well. We just love differently. And we love the best we know how.

Yes it is frustrating. But the frustration comes back full circle to the power guilt has over us. We feel as though somehow we should be able to control it. Fix it. Make it right. And, apart from miraculous healing, these things cannot be made fully right.

We worry that if someone close to us dies, we won’t even be able to grieve properly. I’ve worried about that. Before my father died, I worried about that a lot. And maybe I didn’t grieve the way someone else would, but I grieved. And the way I grieved was healing for me. I will write more of that in my journey to forgiving my dad.

We are ashamed to admit to our friends that we don’t miss them when we are apart. (Even though, when we see them, we may be very aware how deeply we missed them.) We worry that they will feel we don’t value them, even though we would lay down our lives for them.

We feel like terrible parents because our children can leave us for a week or two, and we don’t stand around wringing our hands, worrying or moping about how we will carry on. We miss them but releasing them isn’t as hard as it is for other parents, so we question what is wrong with us. We love them but we don’t pine away, waiting for their return.

The sense of loss we feel is valid because we have been robbed of the natural bonding ability. When I think back to waking up that last morning in Ethiopia, I realize that loss most profoundly, because that morning I felt something I have rarely felt in my life. I opened my eyes and my first thought was, “This is the day I go home!” and my heart nearly burst with a blend of anticipation and missing my family. I knew I had a 21 hour flight ahead of me, but it was the home stretch.

And in that moment something pulled on my heart-strings. I pictured Tim and our five beautiful children. I tried to imagine the hugs and kisses the children would give me. Our youngest was 4, our oldest was eleven and they were all still very generous with their hugs and kisses.

And then I imagined that moment when Tim and I would kiss. Right there at the airport.  And I knew I wouldn’t keep my hands off of him on the way home either. I would flirt and tease. He would love every minute of it. (But, being reserved he might blush at reading it now.)

However, it was being apart that tore at my heart that morning. The thrill of heading home was great, but missing them desperately is the deepest love I have ever felt. Even now, when I remember lying there alone, in Ethiopia and feeling that bond, the tears start. I wanted to move time, and move the world, just to hold my family in my arms. It is one of the only times I have experienced that feeling, if not the only time.

It should hurt to be away from those we love. Not all-consuming. Not destroying. But it should hurt. And for some of us we need to grieve being robbed of that. It is a huge loss.

Part of the healing comes in first grieving that loss. It also comes in allowing Jesus to redeem that loss and letting Him use it for His kingdom purposes. But, in my experience, the biggest part of that healing was in letting someone into that secret place. Letting someone know the raw, horrible ‘hell’ that took that innocence from me.

Telling someone ‘safe’ your story of pain, letting them hold you while you weep–if that’s appropriate and something you need–and having them pray with you, love you and not judge, is one of the most critical steps in healing. I urge you, if this is your story, find someone to go there with you, whether a counsellor, a friend, a safe pastor or other trustworthy individual. But make sure it is someone who will hear you, believe you and love you just the same.

(I intentionally did not include family members in that list. While this can work on occasion, most often the relationship is too close and there is the risk of both parties being overwhelmed. Sometimes it works, but depending on dynamics, it is better to step outside of the ‘family secret’ zone.)

If you have not been through any abuse or violence, affirm your friends who have. Statistically 1 in every 4 of your girlfriends, and 1 in every 6 of your guy friends has been sexually abused. And those numbers are based on those who talk about it. That means you have friends with stories you may never have heard.

So, if you were spared, I promise you that some of your friends were not. The best gift you can give them is hearing their story, believing it without question, and loving them just the same. It is the most beautiful reflection of Jesus they will ever see.

On the flip side, if we invest our hearts and our love in relationships, especially our children, to not be all torn up about releasing them is not a bad thing. It gives them the freedom to live full lives without fearing that it will destroy us if they leave and choose a path of higher risk. It may well be that God needs us to release them for a specific purpose. One that a more clingy mother would struggle to release them into.

There is a silver lining, or two, in every situation. The most important thing is to make the best of it and let God redeem the brokenness for His glory. He makes all things new. All things.

© Trudy Metzger

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