Wailing Wall in Church; Godly Anabaptist Men Rise Up; Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Survivors Reclaim What Was Stolen

A LOUD CRY ROSE UP IN THE LAND
Repeatedly, in light of the present exposure of sexual violence in religious community, and specifically in our Anabaptist culture, I’ve heard the question, “Are there no righteous men among us? Who will rise up?” These cries come from survivors of horror, as well as their parents, grandparents and loved ones.

The cry is loud. It is miserably uncomfortable. It has the church squirming and wondering what to do. This time, singing the hymn a little louder isn’t enough to drown it out. Another message on forgiveness isn’t going to cut it. Telling others the allegations are unfounded… we slipped past that solution too.

So the wailing and the hollering continues. Loud. Bold. Whimpering. Broken. It comes in so many forms. None of them easy to ignore.

In our discomfort we rationalize and minimize, downplay and trivialize… scold and attempt to shame into silence, the source of our discomfort.

canstockphoto5496412

The loud and bold, well they’re just obnoxious and seeking attention; probably not victims in the first place, like they claim. The whining broken ones, they’re stuck in a rut of victim mentality. Can’t help ’em if they don’t want it. Hopeless cases. Lost causes.

If the whole lot of them would just forgive and heal, we could make progress. And shut up, of course… if only they would shut up after forgiving. That would prove the healing. (And it would make us more comfortable).

But God forbid we let them don the sackloth and ashes of King David’s sorrow, or Job’s loss… those righteous men of God who dared to feel and grieve. The former, a repentant offender who did not hide his sin from the nation, but announced it publicly and let it be written in a book. The other a victim of terrible suffering and loss, feeling alone. Both welcomed by God.

How have we landed at this place of stoic, emotionless, oppression of the wounded? How do we dare proclaim it as a godly thing?

GODLY MEN MAKE A SHAMELESS SCENE
Apostles Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes when they were placed on a pedestal and worshiped (Acts 14:14). Why? they were not willing to take the worship and glory that belongs to God. Would to God that men and women of God today would not hesitate to tear their clothes for such a purpose. Imagine that.

Josiah tore his clothes when the book of the law was read (2 Kings 22:11). Why? That question is answered a few verses later, “…Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book…” (2 Kings 22:13). There’s no hand-washing about the matter. No excuses. No “it wasn’t our problem,” … “It wasn’t the whole nation,”… “It wasn’t every leader.”

These men showed humility; they were grieved that humans would worship them. They showed leadership; even though others failed they rose up, without excuse and took ownership. They showed emotion. Ripping clothes is generally not seen as rational response. (Picture your Anabaptist leader ripping his straight cut suit coat in church Sunday morning as a display of sorrow for all the atrocities committed in God’s name, under the care of His leaders. I expect in some churches he’d be ousted in a day).

Now let’s go to Apostle Paul. In Acts 18:9 God speaks to Paul in a vision and tells him to be bold and not hold his peace, and adds “I am with you, no one will hurt you.” We love peace. Anything that disrupts it, many call out as evil and ‘not of God’. Yet… here God commands Paul to not hold his peace even though it will disrupt the religious, and then adds, “I will protect you; I have many people in this city.” It goes on to tell a really amazing story of the people rising up to take Paul for judgement, but God totally has Paul’s back.

Jump ahead to verse 18, and randomly it throws in a line about Paul having shaved his head because he made a vow. There’s no real explanation for the vow, just this little interesting comment that “by the way, he shaved his head before leaving the area because he made a vow.”  If tearing a suit coat won’t get your pastor removed from ministry (silenced, we call it), throw in a shaved head and he’s out. If he brings a container of ashes and sits in that…

APOSTLE PAUL REALLY BLOWS IT… AND THEN SHOWS TRUE LEADERSHIP
Just for good measure, let’s look at a particularly human moment with Apostle Paul, when he addresses the high priest with, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall…” Now that’s not a noble way to speak to someone in authority. Granted, he doesn’t realize it’s the high priest he’s talking to but was that really necessary? Where was his discernment? The man clearly had some authority if he was ordering Paul to be whipped.

But it’s the next part…. Paul realizes his wrong and immediately apologizes. Not only do we see his humanity as a leader; we also see his vulnerability and humility in his apology. That, my dear friends, is the mark of a true leader. The one who cannot own his or her faults, and it matters not for what reason, is not a leader at all. Not until leaders relinquish the ‘right’ to power and self-preservation are they truly leaders. This doesn’t mean they won’t fail; they will. And, having failed, they might, at moments and at first, hold their power in tight-fisted grip. But then they will see, “I was wrong. I sinned. I failed.” And at that moment, when they realize it, that is when they are defined as a leader, or not, based on their response.

Alas, we live in a world where such a thing is difficult. Secular society advises ‘lawyering up’ and carefully guard our wording in an effort to calm the loud cries without admitting failure. The church simultaneously hollers at those who dare point out wrongs of those held high, as if it is blasphemy. Thus, a leader who is going to stand up with honour and humility, and speak the truth without careful editing, must do so with blatant disregard for image, and amid the shouting of those who hold them high.

Wailing Wall

WHAT IF…
What if it’s okay for leaders to admit to failure. What if this obsessive search for perfection is not how it was ever supposed to be. What if ‘holiness’ is not about perfection after all, but rather an intense reliance on God’s grace and forgiveness? A ‘taking on’ His righteousness even in our imperfection, with the humility to face the consequences for our actions in this life. What if knowing that His grace has given us eternal life was enough, and we surrendered all entitlement in this life?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

Leaders wouldn’t need to pretend that things aren’t a mess. The image of perfection would hold no meaning. Instead of looking the other way when unspeakable crimes are revealed, they would acknowledge them. God’s grace would be held in high regard. Rather than lifting up the image of religion, the name of Jesus would be held in purest light.

And in that light, those who commit heinous crimes would repent with such humility that they would lay aside rights and demands. They would see that anything they can do to bring ‘rest’ and healing to the victims is a small price for the suffering and horror they caused. Here, in such a place, deep repentance would take on a whole new meaning.

The people crying out would be heard, not scolded and silenced. Not dissected, analyzed and judged. The cry would be recognized and the suffering acknowledged. Because, really, how bad must things get before anger and a loud cry are warranted?

Tamar, having been raped, wept loudly in torn clothes and ashes. Her father, King David was very angry when he found out but did nothing about it. I suppose at least he was angry. That’s more than most victims get as an appropriate response.

It is time to welcome an outcry that is not neat and tidy. The blood of generations past cries out from the ground, blending with the cries of the living. Our grandmothers and grandfathers, their sons and daughters, the single and the married… countless souls whose blood is on our hands…

God has heard the weeping. He has seen the tears and devastation. And the time for exposure has come.

It is an act of His mercy that this is brought to light. In that mercy, men of God are rising up to hear their sisters… and their brothers weeping. They are bending their ears and bowing their hearts, to acknowledge the suffering, terror and trauma, without demanding they be polite. They are acknowledging the anger as justified…. and seeing it is the language of those who have had to protect themselves, and behind that anger is a flood of pain so deep they cannot fathom it… a flood held back by a weakening dam. As these godly men lean in and listen, a beautiful thing is happening.

The damn is bursting, but it is a good thing. The tears are gushing over parched lands and territories, and life is bursting from places long deadened.

To these men I offer deepest gratitude. Many of you have messaged me this past month. You have prayed for the children of Haiti, you have prayed for the brokenhearted. You have prayed for me. I have wept as your words validated the awful reality we have allowed to steal our children.. as you spoke life over this hell we are in… as you spoke life over me and encouraged me to never abandon this calling God placed on me. It is especially powerful and meaningful that all but one of you are still conservative Anabaptist. You, have challenged me, offered counsel and encouraged me. Most importantly, you showed me the heart of God.

Maybe it is time to let the dams break, and rather build a Wailing Wall. A place where people gather, unashamed, to grieve the horrors they have suffered. Where the unspeakable is welcomed.

A place God visits the brokenhearted through the awareness that they are not alone; they are many. And the grieving ones are able to leave notes for God – whether literally or figuratively, and their sorrows are etched on the doors of His heart.

canstockphoto8168874

A place He takes the sorrows and broken identity, and offers, in return, a new name, a new identity even while He welcomes the tears, the pain and the sorrow. An identity that does not demand denying the depths of grief, but supersedes its reality. Not a ‘taking away’ of a reality, but a ‘taking on’ and entering in, by God and those who grieve with us.

***

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Denominations, Abomination & the Christ

Denominational barriers, in my opinion, are a bit like a certain proposed wall between USA and Mexico; we build the wall, and the other side pays. We’re in; they’re out. It’s a divisive ‘us v/s them’ mentality, when ‘denomination-as-an identity’ is what we focus on, rather than focusing on Jesus, and rather than blessing our neighbours who also focus on Jesus, but do it differently. That said, I’ve read several strong ‘anti-denomination’ articles and comments ranging from general anti-denominational rants to calling all use of denomination identifiers demonic, to healthy questioning. (Observation would tell me that those who are totally anti-denomination, are very ‘pro-my-belief-system’ and create the same barriers without the denomination name associated.) And it all made me think below the surface of this problem.

Isn’t the real issue from Whom/whom, or what we draw our spiritual identity? Is it from a denomination? From a leader? (dead or alive) Or from any other person or thing other than Christ? To whom do we look for validation and affirmation? Denominations are an unnecessary thing in and of themselves, granted, but I’d hesitate to call them demonic, as there’s no biblical evidence, nor current evidence that they are. But there’s plenty of evidence that they can be problematic. And that problem is old as the idea of Christianity and church. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…” they said in Corinthians, and Paul corrected them, to bring it back to Christ, and that is something that popularly ‘followed’ or ‘idolized’ spiritual leaders sometimes fail to do, as they watch their ‘tribe’ grow in strength in support of them, lifting them up rather than bringing it back to the simple gospel of Jesus. Good spiritual leaders will turn that ‘lifting up’ back to Jesus, not in false humility, but humbly accepting thanks and redirecting glory to God. Less than stellar spiritual leaders will absorb that ‘idolatry’, and as their name grows, the shift happens from Jesus to a person. (I would know… I’m “MENNOnite” by cultural birth, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t a spiritual identity.) And as that name grows and if the identity becomes about a person or a set of beliefs held by that person, rather than about Jesus, divisions are inevitable. But the problem isn’t about the name, it’s about the position it is given, and the division it causes in the body of Christ.

That divisiveness is not good. But it goes deeper than denominational name, doesn’t it? Is the root not a baser thing than that? A thing of selfish ambition and fear of losing position if we don’t feed and absorb that place of being held high, or having our beliefs held high… even higher than Christ? We forget that the ‘positions’ we are given in spiritual leadership are sacred callings, and they are servant-hood; an invitation by God to do His work, and when He has called, He preserves our calling if we trust Him and humbly turn the hearts of people to Him. This is gracious spiritual leadership, honouring ‘the Christ’, whether with denominational ‘titles’ or not. And I have known men and women of great ‘position’, wealth, and wisdom, who have walked humbly with their God, and whose names hold significant ‘presence’ when referenced, yet always they hold their hands up, redirecting to Jesus, the worship, as did Peter and Paul on the streets, as told in Acts 14. These are men and women of various denominations, or no denominations at all, but they are true heroes of faith, and true spiritual leaders. Because spiritual leaders always lead the way to God; they are never an end in themselves.

I will grant it, I don’t like the whole ‘denominations’ thing much, and find it particularly unnecessary as a frame of reference as to what ‘kind’ of Christian I am. I’m either the Jesus kind, or I’m not one at all. But I can extend grace for the idea of it, because it dates back to the beginning of the church, from what I can tell, though often associated with cities, and now associated with beliefs. I don’t think it will keep people out of heaven, so I come back to the argument that strong labeling or condemnation of denominations seems a bit over zealous.

Revelation addresses unique church identities well, pointing out that each has something to offer, but with areas of deep need for transformation. So I question whether ‘ridding the world of denominations’ is the answer, or even possible. Rather, tearing down the invisible divides we create by holding high our own positions, or this person or that one, rather than lifting Jesus high… now that’s a mission I’m into. Because when Jesus is lifted high, people are drawn to Him. And when He is invited in, the demonic flees and people are made whole and the body of Christ is made whole, not divided. We humans tend to focus on solving a problem so the Christ can be portrayed accurately and we try to rid ourselves (or each other) of the demonic to invite Jesus in, but the reverse is the answer most times; when Jesus is invited in, the darkness scatters. Darkness cannot exist in the light. And Jesus does not fear that darkness. In His darkest hour, He opened His arms wide, welcoming the whole world into grace.

And that’s the problem with us… We tend to cross our arms and close our hearts, but Jesus opened His arms wide, and His heart wider. If we stop ‘fixing the problem’, and rather invite a broad shift in focus away from the denominations that exist, and away from the people who lead them, and collectively lift Jesus high, and walk in the way of His love, transformation will come. Barriers will come down. Walls will crumble.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

On Rejection & Whistling Cheery Tunes…

It has become a thing of habit, posting daily, but also a thing of thinking about the forgotten ones, the rejected ones, and the abandoned ones. Like the lepers in Bible stories, the religious people of today see many victims as ‘untouchable’, fearing their stories… fearing the exposure of their own pain and hidden secrets.

While the fear is understandable, the result is that many victims feel unnecessary rejection, and those who reject them out of fear of facing their own pain, miss out on the wonder of freedom.

Other times victims are rejected is a result of the person(s) needing to protect an offender. To acknowledge the pain of the victims would require acknowledging the consequence of hidden crimes. And in these cases, the offenders miss out on the help they need, and again victims feel rejected. But in this case it is the best interest of victims for these kinds of people to stay far, far away from them. The poison they offer is deadly, and serves only to further victimize and violate the hearts of wounded people. The rejection still bites, if the victims believe it is about them, but it is a gift.

When victims tell me about people rejecting them, my instinctive first response is compassion. And on the heels of that, I explain that rejection is never about them; people are far to self-serving to reject us because of us. They reject us for their own benefit, their own comfort, or their own self-preservation. They hate us because what we stand for or represent offends something in them. They speak evil of us because they have to defend themselves. And the more vehement their attacks or rejection, the more likely it is that our stories and our voices come too close to home, and their controls are threatened.

Again, in cases where it instills fear in victims who are hiding their stories out of shame, I offer nothing but compassion and understanding. And where it is the fear of some perpetrator being exposed, or needing to acknowledge those crimes, I have compassion but all I can say is thank God they stay far away. There is grace in that.

And as for the pain of rejection, it remains for those at the receiving end, and it is hard for most not to take it personally. Especially at first. With time, experience and seeing these patterns, it’s easier to let it ‘run off’ and chalk it up to the realization that these people have issues. But until then, it is a draining experience, and one that takes time to heal from and work through.

Counteracting rejection requires intentionality. Surround yourself with at least a few good and supportive people whom you can trust. Step outside of your own pain and story; a constant and repeated reliving of it is difficult even for those who love you, and does you no good. Find a mentor or counselor who will help you work through the hurt, and help you refocus so that you recognize you are not the problem; these people have issues. And, because I write from a Christian perspective and for Christians, get grounded in your true identity and who you are in Christ. The childish or fearful responses of those around us hold little weight when we know who we are, and Whose we are.

With the love, acceptance and approval of God, the Creator of the Universe, the rejection of a few fearful, angry, bitter or selfish people pales in comparison, and their approval means nothing.

Finally, if it is a close relationship, rather than some distant judgment pronounced by judgmental people who haven’t bothered to hear your heart, take time to have a conversation. If you have wounded them, hear their hearts. If they are afraid, encourage them.

But if it is that distant heartless judgment from those ignorant ones who are hell-bent on bringing you down–and especially the religious ones who misrepresent Jesus and who have not heard your heart–just pick up your boots and keep walking. Whistle a little tune, breathe in the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss your face… and celebrate Jesus, life and hope.

It’s a good day.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Dear Victim: Just so you know…

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

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

canstockphoto10707323

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

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Fig Leaf Malfunctions & Overcoming Shame

Shame, I’ve concluded, is largely a choice… though most of us don’t know that in times when that knowledge is most critical. This is true in the ‘big and tragic‘ things of life, and in the ‘Oops! My button just popped open in the most inconvenient place, with my hands full things. But it took the latter to convince me–the oops moments–to convince me of the former.

I have a history of inopportune ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ to draw from, with the most recent being today…

fig leaves and apple

It’s that moment when you look down, and see that, not one, but two, buttons have popped open in most inconvenient places… moments after having cheerfully greeted a Mennonite couple, who look vaguely familiar… (And, no, the shirt is not tight! the buttons have issues!)… and you are surrounded by people, with your hands full… you turn to hide, only to find that a gentleman stands directly in front of you, looking at you with a warped blend of amusement and compassionate… he holds it together for a moment, eyes twinkling, but ends up breaking into a huge grin, and then a little chuckle, as I scramble–awkwardly holding my purchases–to redeem whatever dignity I think I just lost… I determine, immediately, that I will not be ashamed of that which I cannot control and did not choose, and grin right along with him, lift my head up confidently and carry on… And in that moment I’m relieved it wasn’t Anderson Cooper standing before me, as he would undoubtedly break out into uncontrolled and never-ending girlish giggles… (And, yes, I did think of him after the moment passed)

There are a few things I know, and these are the things I hold onto in a moment such as this, or the more serious ones, so that they don’t define me, or bring shame on me. Whether a clothing dilemma, or an attack from some hurting soul, or the anger of someone who feels exposed by my ministry, the same holds true in every part of my life; I lean on what I know to be truth. There is power in what you know to be true, and if you ‘know‘ who you are, as a child of God, and if you ‘know‘ that your heart intent is to heal and give ‘life’ to those around you, and if you remember that you are human, then shame has little access to your heart and mind.

Jesus said, “the truth will make you free”, and I believe this to be a fact in every part of life. We think of this in terms of being ‘set free’, because His words are often misquoted this way, but the truth is He makes us free. His freedom doesn’t require an adjustment in circumstance; it requires an adjustment of thoughts and belief systems, so that we are free in any circumstance. (This doesn’t mean we should never change or leave particular circumstance; it means we are free in spite of them, and that may be the very thing that sets change in motion.)

Not that many years ago, had my shirt popped open, exposing cleavage even the boldest of women might cringe at, I would have fled the store (possibly in tears, but certainly flushed and flustered) and it would have toyed in my head for days. The thoughts would have tormented me and made me anxious, but today, while I would have not chosen it and preferred to keep my clothes in tact (and thereby my dignity), it had no power over me.

More importantly, the past with all its shame has no power. Coincidentally, about fifteen minutes earlier I had dropped a book off for a woman in town, who wanted a second copy for her daughter. A woman nearing seventy, she didn’t hide her shock and horror at what my life had been, focusing on my teen years of rebellion and sin. “You were a bad girl!” she said, “But praise God, not any more!”

Yes, praise God, not anymore! I agreed with her, and laughed at the wonder of grace and freedom.

It is not my identity–these ‘holes’ I once had torn in the fabric of my spirit, by the choices I made. And though they were there, and I know it well and have chosen to tell them publicly, I am so thankful that the past isn’t my identity. Jesus’ righteousness has covered that nakedness, like a blanket of love, covering my shame.

If you walk in shame, I encourage you to find a new identity. Release the things that once held you bound, and walk in the confidence of who you are in Christ, who you are to God. And laugh, now and then, at your humanity, and the things you cannot control or change. It takes the power out of them.

Now… having said all that, I still really hope my buttons were closed when I did my banking at MSCU here in Elmira… ever so confidently… I can only hope…

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

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

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

All Mennonites are Not Sexual Predators…

…any more than all Christians are hypocrites,  all Germans are Nazi’s, all blacks are gangsters and all priests are paedophiles.  Those statements are stereotypical and false.

But it is difficult to write about the crimes and cover ups in a particular people group, and be a voice for the victims, without making the whole lot of them look party to the crime, without naming names, one way or the other. If the telling of every story is required to justify those who are not party to the crimes and cover ups, it is just another way of downplaying the pain of victims, and taking away their voice. And that, in my opinion, is just as corrupt.

I wrote this blog in response to very particular ‘challenges’ I received, privately, from several ministers in conservative Mennonite settings concerned over how I make the Mennonite church look by sharing the stories of Mennonites. Both were respectful, for the most part. And my response was intended to validate their views, that all Mennonites are not Sexual Predators, and the stories I post misrepresent the culture.

My most recent blog post “Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: My abusers are my church leaders” , which received almost 4000 views in just over 24 hours,  was met with a sprinkling of similar criticism while many messages of support, appreciation, compassion, concern and identification poured in. And I say ‘sprinkling’ because, less than a handful of messages expressed frustration at the misrepresentation of the culture also arrived. Even ‘sprinkling’ is exaggerated.

So this blog, which was originally inspired by several church leaders–appropriately follows the most recent blog exposing abuse in the culture. (Though I challenge readers to take note that, beyond mentioning the victim to whom I am giving a voice, the culture is not mentioned. It was, and still is, intended as a challenge to ‘the church’, not ‘a culture’.)

Reflecting over the past several years of writing, in telling my story, I am keenly and painfully aware of this in my writing, that sharing the stories of Mennonite victims, and giving them a voice, casts a shadow over the entire culture. (And have been aware as I wrote. It is not a new thought.)

I have tried to balance the harsh realities with the good in the culture, and the beauty of certain aspects of it–particularly the sense of community. I have also shared of how my healing began at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, when Howard and Alice reached out and helped me, and Glen Jantzi, one of the ministers, reached out to my one brother. This care, on behalf of my brother and myself, had a powerful impact on my healing journey.

Furthermore, while I was always ‘different’, and never fit into the cultural mould, I felt loved and accepted by many friends at Countryside, right up until the time we left, and even after.

It was at Countryside where I first felt I had something of value to offer, and that I could make a difference in the Kingdom of God. This was thanks to the bishop’s wife, Florence Martin, who saw something in me, after she and I had a shared incident, in which she encouraged me to reach out to a young girl. She gave me a card with a thank you note. Placed inside was the calendar page from a little inspirational calendar from that day, it read: “November 9  Who knows but that may want to use you this day… ” and I don’t recall the rest. (Though I do have the note stored with memorabilia, because it had such influence in my life.)

Lena Martin, the deacon’s wife sat with me in a  coffee shop and answered hard identity questions, when I first started working through abuse. I can’t think of anything more she could have done. Years later, while watching a video of Lisa Bevere with a handful of other women, she said, “Trudy, I could see you do this one day.”  To which I responded with a laugh, “In a light blue suit?” because that is what Lisa had on at the time.

Countryside was, for me, a very safe place to begin healing. We loved the people, we appreciated and cared for the leaders–all of them. Not once did I feel unkindness, even when Joe and Esther had to ask me to tone it down on the make-up, and Glen and Elly asked me to scale back my heals, and Leighton sat me down, in a most fatherly way, and asked me not to skip service and go cruising with a bunch of rambunctious youth instead of attending special meetings.  In fact, Leighton, the bishop, spoke with such understanding and gentleness, even when chiding me, that my heart-felt completely safe.

Yes, some tragic events took place, rocking the church we knew. And we all grieved. Many of us, if not all of us, went through inner chaos and confusion. Why did God let the accident happen, and allow three children to be orphaned? Why did it seem no one knew how to handle the tragedy and grief left in its wake? There were no answers. Only pain, turmoil and disappointment.

Still our love for Countryside, and all the people we knew there, never faded. It lives on to this day, and always will. Because it was the place God took me, in a culture that had deeply wounded me–though a very different ‘brand’ of Mennonites within that culture–and began to reveal himself to me. I sat in that church, in God’s presence and shed many a healing tear, as I discovered a God of grace. And it was only the beginning of that discovery of God’s love and grace.

I didn’t get to know many of the other churches much in the Midwest setting. Only a few, and only a little.  Tim’s aunt and uncle served as leaders at Woodlawn, Abner and Almeda Martin and, to this day, are among the Mennonites I respect most for their genuine faith.

None of these realities have escaped me, or lost appreciation in my heart during this past two-year stretch of addressing sexual abuse in Mennonite and plain cultures.  And  those who have taken time to read the blogs I wrote before focusing on exposing the corruption, will know that I have said many, if not all of these things in the past. Hopefully you have not lost sight of them. I could not, however, go back to constantly reaffirming these things, while speaking the truth about the corruption.

And then there is the small matter of knowing people I respect would not necessarily wish to have me applaud them here. It creates a tie to me, and establishes in the mind of the reader, a relationship with them, and they may not wish to be identified in any way back to me. (There are those whom I admire and respect from my time in the Mennonite church, who would as soon not be associated with me, and I try to honour that, though I may have crossed that line in this post.)

I am not sorry for exposing the things I exposed. I’m mostly not sorry for how I said them, most of the time. (There’s a time or two, when a deep breath and a long pause would have served me well, when leaders refused to face truth. I regret not taking a deep breath and a long pause first, but also trust God to redeem my humanity. Therefore I will not live in regret.)

I am sorry that some wonderful people in the culture, who sincerely love God and fight for truth, were hurt in the process and feel their name and identity have been tarnished with my telling the truth of victims, and being their voice.

It is the thing with ‘carrying a name’, that becomes the price tag for that name. We hold it dear, even idolize it, until the image crumbles because too much corruption lies buried by those whose hearts are evil. And then we struggle to deal with the consequence of that name. That is true whether the name is Menno Simons, or Jesus Christ. Whichever name we carry close in our hearts, that is the name that will cause us the greater anguish, when not held up to the extent that we revere it. 

Even Jesus generalized and spoke out against the Scribes and Pharisees for their corruption as leaders. He didn’t go about saying things like, “a few of you… or ‘some of you’ or some other softening of the blow. No, He said it boldly, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees!”  And then each one had to decide in his own heart if he was guilty.

Amazingly, some of them were His inner circle. How could Jesus do this so boldly, and not risk losing the hearts of these men? Or were they so lost in Him, that the truth of the evil attached to their ‘other identity’ no longer frightened them? Even when it came so close to home that it could have been interpreted as an attack on their own identity? Had the name and title lost its meaning, with no idolatry left in their hearts, so that they no longer worshipped that identity? 

Is this the biggest problem many in the culture have with me?  That the painful truth of buried sexual abuse and sin, connected with my cultural background, is too personal because too much faith has been placed in a name–the name of a man, Menno, who would be mortified at that idolatry–and that identity has been a source of great pride, but is now a source of shame? (And this could also be said of Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Fellowship, Non-denominational, Inter-denominations, and every other religious identity where corruption lies hidden, and the name is protected.)

Is it possible that God wants to unravel that cultural pride, and bring us all back to one identity–Jesus Christ?

If we were to embrace His identity as the only one that matters, and openly acknowledged the wickedness within, would that not open the door for healing, restoration and allow the Body of Christ to thrive? I would no longer be a threat with my truth-telling, but an opportunity to rise up. And only if I defamed the name of Christ would there be any need for personal offences, hurt feelings and emails challenging my message.

The truth is that the name of Jesus is the answer to this problem. Many a Christian has left me wanting for another name to identify myself by, because of the damage they have done to the name of Christ, and still, I carry the name of Jesus Christ with honour, boldness, and without apology. Because His is one name that, no matter how close I carry it to my heart or how wrongly people use it, does not bring shame to me. Christians shame Him. Religion does also. But not Jesus. He restores my honour, just by embracing His name, regardless of how He is misrepresented.

That is a name worth holding on to. 

canstockphoto7397539 B

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church  (Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

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

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series

Beautiful Wounds, Redeeming Scars: Abigail’s Story (Part 4)

WARNING: This post contains graphic content… If you struggle with cutting, or are sensitive to the graphic description of cutting, do not read this post. The intent is to create awareness in the body of Christ, of a struggle that is relatively common, and tragically hidden, because of fear of judgement. Healing comes when silence is broken.

The day Abigail gave me her blades, she gave me something else. Her trust. And the trust went much deeper than handing me the blades. There was trust in that, without a doubt, but she gave me an even more personal trust.

“Abigail, has anyone ever seen your cuts, your scars?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“Where are they?” I asked.

Abigail pointed out several areas on her legs and body, where she had cut. “One word will always be there. The scar is bad. It will never go away,” she told me.

“What’s the word?” I asked.

“Die,” Abigail said.

“It expresses what you felt at that moment, doesn’t it?” I asked the obvious question. I paused a moment, then continued, “Would you let me see your scars?”

Knowing where the scars were located, I knew I could ask without feeling inappropriate. I handed her a blanket, and told her it was to cover up the rest of her legs, if she decided it would be okay for me to see her scars. She hesitated.

“What are you most afraid of?” I asked. “Are you afraid that if I see your scars–if anyone sees your scars–that I won’t love you any more, that I won’t see you the same way again? Are you afraid of rejection… of being judged?”

Abigail nodded. Fear. Pain. Angst. Shame. Impending judgement. So many things you feel when you contemplate revealing the inner, hidden parts of your heart.

“Abigail, I promise you that I will see you no differently.The only advantage to letting someone see your scars, is so they no longer have the same power over you,” I explained.

Anything we carry alone, as our little secret, has power over us. When we let someone who cares into that secret, the power is broken.

Abigail spread the blanket over her legs, then raised her skirt just above her knees, revealing a patch of skin with letters boldly carved into into her body, three inches tall. DIE it read, just as she said.

I had never seen with my eyes before, words boldly scarred into flesh, that way, and my heart felt sad for Abigail. Not because of the scars, really. But the pain those scars bore testament to. It’s okay to grieve the sorrow and trauma of another, and in that moment my heart felt her pain. But more powerful than her pain, I felt the deep conviction that Jesus is more. He is more in every way, and more than enough for her pain.

Our eyes met. “I don’t see you any differently, Abigail,” I said. I reminded her that Jesus died for her scars. That her scars, rather than reminding her, and the world, of her pain, have the potential to be a testimony to the grace and goodness of God through Jesus, if she will continue to give it all to Him, and let Him redeem those scars.

Her scars, I told her, have the potential to inspire praise. If she looks at them and remembers what God has done for her, and redeemed her from…

We think of wounds as unsightly, and scars as a reminder of darkness, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I stand in front of Jesus, one day, I hope I will have a moment alone with Him  to kneel down in front of Him, to hold His hands, and kiss the scars the paid the price for my freedom. I want to touch His pierced side and see the wounds that gave me life, and healed my bleeding heart.

canstockphoto0492006

And because of those beautiful wounds, and redeeming scars, I can look at the words carved on Abigail’s leg, and see beauty, hope and grace, because God will use her life–and, in fact, is using her life already–to reach others. Hundreds of people are reading her story, here, and are touched. Your messages tell me that her pain has purpose…

Purpose that is being realized in your hearts, as you find permission to open up your own pain to Jesus, so that He can take your wounds and scars, and make them beautiful, and bring redemption. Purpose in the ways her story is preparing you for that young man, or young woman, whom you will meet soon, who struggles with feeling worthless, and maybe even cuts, like Abigail.

And as we stand in the gap for others, and bring Jesus to them, we experience church–the Body of the Christ–as it is supposed to be. A place where wounds and scars are exposed, and the love of Jesus transforms them into life-giving testimonies. And we extend grace for the rise and fall of that battle, so that we don’t destroy or shut down hearts in that battle.

Abigail’s battle is far from over, Any expectation of perfection, any expectation that her psychological scars, and the spiritual battle, would miraculously end, would have served only to push her into hopelessness. But in turning her heart gently toward Jesus, she found the courage to take one step into freedom….

And then another…

And another…

But with the steps into freedom came vicious attacks from the enemy, and a divine visitation from God, through Jesus, in a dream.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

The Lost Child: Abigail’s Story (Part 1)

NOTE: Story used with client’s permission.

Abigail contacted me several months ago, a complete stranger. Her message was unlike most who reach out for support. The most common request I receive is to work through sexual abuse and, if not that, the second most common is physical violence. But her inquiry intrigued me. She said she wasn’t really sexually abused, and her parents didn’t threaten to kill each other, but there were things that happened, that left her struggling. She was raised Mennonite, she wrote, and struggled intensely, spiritually. She had spent many years in therapy for the trauma, but no one was able to help her spiritually. Would I be willing to meet with her, and help her in her relationship with God?

We met for the first time, soon after that message, in a small coffee shop. A rustic place, with mismatched tables and chairs, that serves the best coffee ever. I favour Ethiopian or Mexican coffees, both of which they offer.

She walked in, a blonde girl, just slightly taller than I. Her body language, and eyes communicated reserve and mistrust, yet an obvious sweetness. The only way I knew it was my new client, since we had never met, was the fact that she was the only one in Mennonite attire.

I asked if she was Abigail, and introduced myself. We chose a little table in corner, away from the action, where we could have a private conversation, without worrying about being overheard.

I quickly discovered that Abigail is not one to share her thoughts freely. This would not be a session where the client spills a story, and I take notes as fast as possible. It was going to be hard work, and me asking a lot of questions, jotting down notes, and piecing family and church life together.

Family was dysfunctional, without question. Mom, a woman who grew up in a loving home, with only one sibling, almost fifteen years older than her, and quite well-to-do, struggled with anxiety and depression. Likely the result of trying to adjust to having six children, and an abusive husband. Dad had grown up in a harsh environment, with an abusive father. He was absent, mostly, and when present, he was abusive in every way, and harsh, especially with her siblings.

Abigail was spared much of the abuse, because she has a health condition requiring constant medical care, and the risk of medical staff seeing the bruises was too high. This resulted in Abigail observing much abuse that she herself did not suffer directly, physically, but left her deeply scarred psychologically.

One of the most glaring things I noted, in Abigail, was her apparent inability to feel emotionally. It was as if her very ‘person’ was lost, somewhere in the trauma of the past. Pain overshadowed her smile and, the time or two she laughed, her laugh had an empty, hollow sound. She said that, though she longs to, she never cries, that her tears are trapped, and it had been many years. Emotions were bad, growing up, and tears had to be suppressed, leaving her unable to cry, or express anything. Never before had I worked with this extent of ‘numbness’.

When I asked how she coped with all the pain as a child, she said she disappeared, literally, days at a time into her room, barely coming out even to eat. Sometimes refusing altogether. No one made her come out. No one pursued her. She would get over it in time.

canstockphoto2264652

When she learned as a little girl, the severity of her health condition, and that it could be life threatening, she again escaped to grieve alone. Again she was left abandoned. No one pursued her. No one talked to her. No one comforted her, or even explained it well.

Older siblings didn’t understand her world–they were healthy and in survival mode because of the abuse–and, being spared the physical abuse, she was removed from their world as well.

As I got to know Abigail better, and she felt safe sharing more of her story, I discovered some dark, secret struggles, that had her in emotional, psychological and spiritual bondage.

I never doubted for a moment, that freedom could be hers, and would be hers, but I also recognized the war that lay ahead…

To be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

“I’m Not Really Into… Trudy” (Inspirations From an Anti-Fan)

canstockphoto12324966To my friend who shared the story with me that inspired this post… Thank you. It’s not the first ‘anti-fan’ story I have, but it’s the first one that inspired me to write about it.

“I asked her if she has read your blog,” my friend said of someone she spoke with, who has a ‘story’ of her own, about abuse, “and told her she would probably identify.”

She went on to say that the other person had admitted she had read my blog, but had added, “I’m not really into Trudy…”

“I wasn’t asking her if she’s ‘into you’,” my friend said. “I don’t want her to be ‘into’ you. I want her to read your blog because I think it would help her!”

We laughed, and talked about it for a while. We all have people who we’re ‘into’, people who communicate in a way that resonates with us. And I am especially aware that I am too forthright for many, too honest about the darkness for even more, and a bit ‘edgy’ for others. I’m good with that.

And that’s without even considering that the topic I address is taboo in Christian circles. There’s not that many Christians–though there are a few–who will jump up and down and say, “this is wonderful! How can I help?” So when I hear of an anti-fan, I ‘take one of the team’, and keep working for the greater good of the people.

At the end of the day I pray that even those of you who are ‘into’ me, will look through me, and see Jesus, not to me, to be anything for you that only God can be. It is easy to idolize the people we look up to, either because they seem so flawless that they give us false hope that we will one day be like them, or because they are so transparent, yet sincere in their walk with God, that they do not hide their flaws, and thereby they give us courage to be real. (These are the leaders, the people, I am more drawn to and more ‘into’.)

I understand that, for a time, when I work with people they tend to draw a bit of strength and comfort from me. I get that. That is not a bad thing, unless I don’t have the integrity to point them to God. I’ve been in a place of need when I was completely broken and needed someone to be ‘Jesus with a skin on’ for me, back when I was working through my own story. I went to people for guidance, maybe more than I should have, but it was a season. The leaders I did this to had the wisdom to be there, while still pointing me back to the heart of God, and leading me back to Jesus, who gives everlasting life so that the thirst in my heart could be filled without me constantly running dry.

That is my goal when I meet with people who are struggling. I listen. I walk through the pain. I speak hope over them. And always, if they are willing, I go back to the Word of God, and show them who they really are in God’s eyes, teaching their true identity. Because I know that if they can grasp that they are shaped by life but defined by Love, and if they can grasp their true identity, rooted deeply in the image of God, then they will know true freedom.

When my heart is at rest with who I am–when your heart is at rest with who you are–and we are restored in identity and relationship with God, through Jesus, to be who we are, then we are free. Free to be all that God has created us to be. Free to be confident in what He has called us to be and do. Free to have unbroken relationship with Him, even when we are imperfect and human.

So whether you are ‘into’ me or not, I encourage you to look past my perfections and my imperfections, and look to Jesus Christ to be your ‘all’. When I give you the answers to a struggle, question or life situation, accept it as a gift from God. When I fail, and I say something that you don’t like, something you don’t agree with, look past me and let Jesus be your ‘all’.

It is Jesus whom I uphold, unapologetically, as the reason for my hope. It is His life and love that keep my spirit breathing when all is not right in my world. If I have pointed you to Him, then I have done well. You, in turn, are then equipped to lead others to His heart for healing, to find themselves, and be free.

I’m not really into a lot of people… unless they are really into Jesus, and know how to direct me to His heart. Because I’m really into Him. A lot.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series