Same Old Name, New Meaning… Same Face, Defined Identity

‎”To stop pursuing God’s vision in your life because of an offence (or any other reason), in reality you are simply saying that ‘I never really believed in that vision in the first place.'”
~ Artur Pawlowski ~

Last Friday morning, February 8, I sat down at my computer, to pick out a new name. A name I need. I decided it was time to trade in my name, “Trudy — Beloved Warrrior”, for something less demanding. I searched name meanings and found my new name. “Saranya (Surrendered) Olivia (Peace) Rochelle (Rest).”

Saranya Olivia Rochelle… Yep… that has a nice ring to it. Besides, it’s much more fitting for someone who is tired of war. And, with that, I ‘laid down my sword’. Warrior princess no more. A new name, a new identity. A new life….

***

I opened the daily Bible reading several hours ago…. something I had neglected for days. The words in those verses were like a blood transfusion to a dying heart. They were not new words, in fact, it was the familiarity that created the impact, creating a lifeline.

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The weeks leading up to this moment had created spiritual anaemia  that left me so weak, there were moments I thought the life was literally draining from me.

It all began about a month ago. Well, technically it began many years ago, when I was a toddler, and a lie formed in my mind. The lie that I need to take care of myself, because no one else will. That lie was strengthened just before I turned seven, when my father threatened to kill my mom, and then us children. I stopped trusting people that day.

My relationship with God, from that day forward, and for many years, became one of ‘need based trust’. In other words, ‘I’ll trust You when I’ve exhausted every other option’ kind of trust. Mostly it came into play when I faced violence and death threats in childhood and teen years, and then, later, when I faced sickness and had several near-death encounters. Apart from those things, and salvation, I didn’t have a trust-based relationship with God.

Gradually I learned to trust Him more, in the day to day, as I got to know Him more. And I even learned to trust people more, at a deep level, without trusting naively. I’m talking the kind of trust that allows them to make mistakes, even sin against me. It’s the kind of trust that forgives quickly, and offers second chances, without being a door mat.

Trust that chooses to believe noble intent when people fail. It’s been a painful growing journey, and I was doing pretty good. At least I thought I was.

About a month ago there was a shift in my heart. I didn’t notice it immediately, but it didn’t take long. I felt a gradual change come over me; one I couldn’t identify until I was in too deep. Or, maybe, in hindsight, I was too afraid to identify it.

I found myself living in fear in a way I have not, for many years. The gap between ministry income, which is almost none, compared to our obligations with raising a family started to take my focus off of my calling. At every turn, it seemed, the demands were rising, with the enemy using the shortfall to taunt me, as if blowing raspberries in my face and letting me know that God was not and could not provide.

After all, even Christians and churches, in general, don’t seem to understand ministry to the abused, the victimized, the broken. Are they not a direct reflection of God in the world?

And that is how I found myself in a panic, feeling abandoned by God–yet keenly aware of His call. Little by little I pieced it together. I don’t trust God. The thought almost startled me when it first came to me.

I thought I had ‘attained’ that one. I could list a thousand ways I trust Him. When I walk into ‘hellish’ situations, I have no fear that He is not there, going before me, my Shield and Protector. When someone sits across from me, and shares some demonic encounter, or another, or confesses to suicidal temptations, or murderous thoughts, I remain calm. I confidently tell the individuals that nothing is too big for God. And I say it, because I truly believe it. I trust God that way. He’s worked in me, so I can testify to it without any questions.

But as I contemplated it more, I realized I really don’t trust God to provide for me. I’ve always carried that as a weight on my own shoulders. It was the one thing about moving into ministry that frightened me. I pushed that fear down, and assumed that would resolve it, but it didn’t. There’s always that heart issue that God is after, and that was a door I was carefully standing in front of, and telling God He’s not allowed in.

I’m embarrassed the extent to which that fear went. Really embarrassed, if I think about it, the things that exposed the depth of my lack of trust.

The first major revelation came one Saturday evening when a bunch of youth popped in, right over supper.

‘Invite them for supper’. The thought went through my mind, and I knew good and well where it came from.

It wasn’t my idea. And I didn’t like it. In the moments that followed I became quite upset, as I argued with the Holy Spirit. Arguments like, “If You can’t provide for me, why should I feed random people in my house?” and other lame arguments. I know… like I said, embarrassing. And rebellious.

This arguing carried on for a while until a few of them left. One stayed and we had dinner, followed by a great night of games. My heart felt convicted the entire time. I had disregarded God, and I knew it.

In the weeks that followed, this type of thing happened, in one form or another, numerous times. And with it, blow after blow, spiritually and financially.

The final blow was getting word that our charitable registration did not go through, meaning we cannot do fundraising for upcoming events. While the door to becoming a charity isn’t completely closed, it has dragged out far longer than timelines we were given, a year ago in January, and it has put us in a difficult position in every way.

Discouragement set in. Was this God’s way of saying I did not have His blessing? That I was to walk away from this ‘fight for hearts’? Was I rebelling against Him to keep going?

Or was it the enemy trying to stop me? How could I know for sure whose voice I was hearing? The torment almost took my breath away.

Somewhere in there I stopped reading my Bible regularly, as I focused on ‘this world’ survival. Prayer went from constant conversations and delightful communication, to occasional moments of panicked cries asking God if He is still there. It was dark. Very dark. And lonely.

I shared the struggle with Tim, and eventually found the courage to let several of my church leaders,and three close friends and mentors, have a glimpse into my heart. Especially Pastor Rob, with whom I held nothing back, when Tim and I met with him on February 6. At least nothing that I could put into words.

On Friday, February 8, I finally ‘laid down my sword’. Still uncertain of what it all meant, I felt I had no choice but to release the ministry.

Moments after Tim and I came to the conclusion that there are no other options, an email came through, a desperate cry for help. It was one of the most devastating stories I’ve heard to date. One that, under any other circumstances, would have been greeted with the confidence that ‘God is more than enough’. But, in that moment, it completely overwhelmed me. I had laid down my sword. Something had changed.

Sobs shook my body, as I wept. Why? When it all seemed so clear? When I had just made peace with releasing the ministry… why? It ripped at my heart, and tormented my mind, eating at the fabric of my spirit like a fast spreading cancer.

I sent an email to my pastor, sharing some of the torment with him. I had to get it out of my system, out of my spirit, and break the power. I knew he would be off for a few days, and not likely reading emails, but if I waited, I would lose courage.

Too much happened in a short time, to tell it all, but that email broke the power of the lie, and gradually I came to the realization that God was not finished with me, or with my dream or ministry.

It wasn’t about Him not wanting me in ministry. It was about Him wanting my heart…. that secret place that He was not allowed to go before. That place of complete trust, and the kind of faith that is the evidence of things not seen. I so much prefer the kind that isn’t really faith at all–the kind that sees the answer.

Each time I tried to go to that place of deep trust, my heart stopped. At least that’s how it felt. And I caught my breath in fear. Was God really asking me to trust Him that much? I wanted to, but had no idea how.

So that is where I began. I told God, “I haven’t a clue how to trust You. And I’m scared to ask You to teach me, because I’m afraid of what that will cost me, but I desperately long to trust you.”

I began praying little things like, “Thank you for providing for our needs today,” and celebrating little things in my heart, in a way I had not for quite some time.

That was the nature of my prayers these past few days, starting on Friday. And quietly begging God to take care of me, to help me trust Him.

I started to worship again. ‘Glorious‘, by Paul Baloche, ‘Breath of God‘, and ‘Broken for Love’s Sake‘ by Tricia Brock, as well as ‘Build Us Back‘, by Newboys, became my songs over the weekend. I listened to them over and over, letting God speak to me, to awaken my spirit again.

Slowly my heart softened, and life started to return, and, with it, joy.

But breakthrough came shortly after midnight, this past night. I had taken a nap in the afternoon, and was not tired when Tim was ready for bed, so I told him I would stay up and work on my book.

I turned on my music–a blend of worship and contemporary Christian–and set to writing. I imagined myself writing at least two thousand words… maybe even four. My mind was alert, creative. It would be a productive night. Well, by the time the night was over, I had written over three thousand words, but only a few went into my book. The rest are right here, in this blog…

Breakthrough began shortly after midnight, when my iPhone reminder popped up, and distracted me from my book. “Don’t forget to read your Bible”, it said… a reminder I had ignored repeatedly the past few days. One I intended to ignore again.

I picked up my phone. But instead of ignoring the reminder, I opened the app to see what was on the ‘menu’.

The daily verse popped up.

Micah 7:18

New International Version (NIV)

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

Cool, I thought to myself. I nice verse to remind me that God forgives, that He delights in mercy. I reflected on the past few days. Good thing He’s merciful. I really bombed it with Him, and am still in recovery.

I tapped ‘The Essential Jesus’, part of my daily reading plan, and it was stuck at Friday, the day I ‘laid down my sword’, and told God I was giving up ministry. I had not read one thing in my Bible since that day, other than reading the first chapter of Lamentations that night.

The verses for Friday were significant. Had I read them that day, I would not likely have surrendered ministry, but it needed to happen because God needed to conquer that place in my heart.

The verses are common enough, but they are documented repeatedly in my story, as God’s call to ministry. On November 4, 2007, when we joined Wilmot Centre Missionary Church, they were in a song sung just before an elder at church prophesied over me, saying that God would open doors for me to speak to the wounded. He didn’t know me, other than having heard a fifteen minute testimony.

These verses can be found in communications with my late pastor, Don Mills, who was the first man to encourage me in this ministry. They have been spoken over me many times, and should no longer surprise me.

But tonight they took me off guard. Seeing the reference, and realizing it was the verses for February 8, was completely overwhelming. In a good way.

Isaiah 61:1-11

New International Version (NIV)

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

I read the verses past the tears that had started to fall. Tears of release. Tears of wonder. Tears of hope. Tears of repentance.

I fell to my knees in front of my chair and prayed like I have not prayed in a very, very long time. If ever. And I wept, as I surrendered my heart. I embraced God’s call, a call that had never changed, as He picked up the sword I laid down on Friday, and placed it, again, in my hands.

There on my knees, I thanked God for forgiveness. I repented of my unbelief and rebellion. I invited Him into all of my relationships. I asked Him to open the right doors, and provide the way and the means for me to do what He has called me to do. I asked Him to define the vision, to shape it. And if the way it needs to happen, doesn’t line up with the advice people give me, to give me the courage to follow Him, not them. And if what He asks me to do collides with what I have been taught to believe is appropriate for women–a battle I constantly fight–that He will give me the humility to follow His lead and not question Him, when others question me. I asked God to take my life, my heart, my dreams, my visions, my hopes… said I surrendered them all. And it was more than words.

For the first time in a long time, I raised my hands to heaven, to worship, to surrender, to lay down my life, for His sake, His kingdom. And then my heart found peace and rest.

I realized then, when I went to get up, that my legs had fallen asleep. My ankles were weak. My knees felt like they were permanently bent. And it felt good.

I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know how we’re going to accomplish the conferences and all that God has called us to do. But I know that God has called us to do it, and therefore we will do it. He will provide. He will make a way.

As I type these last words, ‘The Jesus I Need‘, by John Waller, is playing. Specifically, the ending where the children sing, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er…”

That is my commitment, my prayer, to truly trust God with my life and my heart. That is the surrender my heart has longer for, for a very, very long time.

“Thank you, Jesus.”

***

Saranya Olivia Rochelle, or Trudy?

Hmmm… Decisions, decisions…

…I think I’m going to keep using my real name, Trudy. At heart I am, and always will be a ‘Beloved Warrior’.

My parents had no idea of the meaning of my name when they named me, but God did. It’s who I was created to be. And my greatest freedom, my deepest joy will always come from relationship with God, from being who He created me to be.

Still, it’s kind of cool that I am ‘Surrendered’, at ‘Peace’ and at ‘Rest’. Maybe I can be a Beloved Warrior, and still experience all of those things.

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© Trudy Metzger

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Do You Know Who You Are?

NOTE: (Used by permission from client.)

She seated herself across from me, at the coffee shop. If walls could speak, everyone in the cozy little shop would have known her story. We had been there before. Her tears, her pain, her words, had all been spilled in this place, where coffee spills would be expected.

As her mentor, my goal is to help her find her voice, build confidence, and break free from the bondage that has had her trapped for many years.

It is humbling… even daunting, to mentor someone my senior. Some would say it’s inappropriate but I have had a mentor younger than myself, and it was good. Then, some time ago, when a nearly-seventy year old woman told me, “Today you became my mother,” I decided I would mentor people older than myself.

Sitting across from her at the coffee shop, I no longer concerned myself over age. She was stuck and insecure, and I was committed to walking her through that. Mostly we would explore her life story, and her faith journey. She is a believer, but struggling. In opening up her story to me, and by offering her grace, love and no judgement, we would work through the trauma of the past, establishing healthy identity. In her faith, we would explore her belief systems, and replace lies with truth.

“What does God think of you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, speaking with that, ‘haven’t a clue’ tone of voice. She said she had never really thought of it before. After some thought these words tumbled out…

“Irritating…. not worth the bother…. undisciplined… lazy…. weak… wimpy… ”

Since meeting her a few weeks ago, as a complete stranger, I have learned a few things about her. She has a heart of gold. She loves truth and justice, and has suffered extreme emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. Though ‘religious’, by all outward appearances, her perception of God when we met was so scarred that I could visibly see her spirit close when I said the word ‘God’. She could not go there. But her spirit was not closed in the sense of wanting help. She desperately wanted to get ‘unstuck’, and have help in her faith journey, by working through the deep spiritual wounds.  I asked if Jesus was ‘safe’, and He was. We started there.

But in working through the journey, if we truly want to be free, there comes a time when we have to return to the place of deepest pain, and start healing, and uncovering the core lies. Lies about who God is. Lies about how He sees you. Lies about personal identity. And that is what I was pursing in my client when I asked the question.

Knowing this, it didn’t surprise me when her answers were mostly negative. The one positive she gave me was, “He’d say I’m honest.” Even that answer fit with the rest. She was honest enough to say what she really believes He thinks of her, rather than answering with all the ‘right’ answers. We were talking heart stuff, not trying to pass an exam, and her honesty was key.

I wrote down the list as she gave it. And then I did something I’ve ever only done a few times… I wrote her a note from God:

Dear Annette,

I think you are irritating. The way you persist, on and on… It’s just not worth the bother. You are undisciplined… lazy… weak… and wimpy. Why should I care about you, or help you?

~ GOD ~

When I completed it, I laid it in front of her and asked, “Do you really believe God would leave you a note like that? She read it. Shook her head.

“I don’t think so either,” I said. “I think it would look more like this,” I said, placing a new note in front of her.

DEAR ANNETTE,

I can’t stop thinking about you…. Long before you were born, I wrote a book about you. I recorded every day of your life in it… It’s going to be tough sometimes. (You already know that!) But I can’t wait for you to get to the end…. then it will all make sense. It’s such a beautiful story.

BTW, I have a son… He thinks you’re pretty amazing too! (Worth dying for, He said!) He asked me to adopt you… So I did!

~ Love, Your daddy ~

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Tears filled her eyes. A God she longs for. A God she desperately wants to believe exists. The God of the Bible, whom so many of us have misrepresented–including me, far too often–but the only true God. The loving Heavenly Papa who sees our struggle and, rather than judging us, visits our planet, in the form of a little baby, to experience our pain. All so that He can say, “I understand. I will die for you.”

Slowly… One painful baby step at a time, Annette is getting to know this God. The note didn’t quote scriptures verbatim, but every message in it came from the Word of God. All I did was make it personal, and help her grasp God’s love for her, without the ‘oppression’ of a religious tone.

Freedom comes when we know God. (That’s in the bible too!) When we understand who He really is, apart from religious guilt and obligation. Apart from performance. When all we are, and all we have, is all we give, and He looks on us with love. Because Jesus died for us.

Freedom is being who God created us to be. When we know God, we see ourselves as He sees us, and we are free to be that person. Through Jesus, God restores all things, including our identity.

That’s the journey Annette and I are on. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see God’s children free from oppression and lies, free to know who you really are.

Today I leave you with these questions… How does God see you? What does He think of you? Are there some lies, deep in your spirit, about who God is… or isn’t? Lies about who you are… or are not? Are you willing to get to know Him, to see Him as He really is, so you can see yourself, as you are in His eyes?

 

© Trudy Metzger

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A Psalm of Trudy… and King David

Is it plagiarism to take a Psalm, written by King David, make it personal and then share the credit with him? That’s what I’m doing today.

King David is one of my favourite Bible characters. I love his passion, his desire for truth, his bold honesty with God. If there is one person who has influenced how I speak to God, how I feel in His presence, it is King David.

It used to end with inspiration, rather than moving to influence. I saw David as a Bible story character. In stories you can do anything you want, right? So for David to talk to God boldly… why not? He’s a bold warrior, not to mention a man after God’s own heart. And men like that, they have special rights.

When I got thinking about it, some years back, I came up with a lot more questions than answers. Why was David a man after God’s own heart? A man of blood. A man of murder. A man of lust. The makings of a pretty corrupt leader, if you stay above the surface. What made the little shepherd-boy-turned-king so special to God?

In my questioning, I turned to God. Who better to ask than the One who declared David to be all that and more? I didn’t get any fast answers and instant deep revelations. Instead, God took me back to the story.

I’ve known the stories of David since childhood, and especially loved the story of beautiful Bathsheba, but felt so bad for Urias. I wanted her to be David’s wife. He was the king, after all. I thought maybe if David had waited, Urias would have died and he could have had her the right way.

As I read the stories again, something stood out. David loved justice. But he was a warrior–a man of blood. He loved women.  A lot of them. And that was pretty messed up in my opinion. I saw my hero differently. Human. And messed up. In these things I didn’t see how he earned the noble title God gave him.

Try telling your friends that you did what David did, choosing any one of his list of sins–or all of them, which could take a while–and see if they pat you on the back and say, “You are such a noble man of God. I think you must be a man after God’s own heart.” It won’t happen. And I’m not saying it should. So what made David a man after God’s own heart?

In Psalms I saw the heart behind the story. A man crying desperately to God, from places too deep for most of us, especially Christians. Because we’ve learned to hide the struggle, and pretend it doesn’t exist. At least too deep to tell honestly, like he did, in a book for people to read for ages to come.

That is why I love Psalms, and why King David is my hero. He was real. Honest. And I think it is one of the reasons he was a man after God’s own heart. But there was more.

David rose early to meditate. He loved to spend time with God and seemed to constantly turn his thoughts and heart towards Him. It’s like he was crazy about Him, and knew how desperately he needed Him. You read nothing of him worrying if he’s good enough, if he’s dressed right–even when he casts his outer clothing aside to praise God in a dance. David knew that he was acceptable to God because of something deeper than personal effort and attaining.

And David repented quickly when he realized he had sinned. He didn’t always see his sin for what it was right away, but as soon as he did, he repented. In one case, when he was caught in sin, he says, “I have sinned against the God of heaven.” He understood that he was accountable to God and ultimately that is whom he sinned against.

He spoke with God from places of joy, and deep depression. And in that place of depression he still declared God to be his salvation, his hope, and the source of joy. He understood that truth is deeper than life experience. When all feels wrong, God is still right, and present.I think he viewed everything as worship and opportunity to praise God. The Psalm I chose to put into my own words, is Psalm 42.

Psalm 42

Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses

Rewritten in my own Words: A Psalm of Trudy and King David

42 Like the deer, panting with thirst, craves for fresh water from a brook,
That is how my soul desires You, O God.
My soul aches to have a relationship with You, my living God, as if with unquenchable thirst.
When will I be with you?
My tears consume me, day and night, so that I can not even eat,
While people continually mock me and say,
“Where is your God?”

When I think about that,
I feel as if my very soul is a puddle on the floor.
I used to go with the crowds;
I went with them to Your house, God,
We were filled with joy and praise,
And celebrated with feasting

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
And why are you unsettled within me?

Hope in God! It’s not over! I will praise Him in spite of all things,
And thank Him for looking on me with kindness, to help me.

O my God, my soul is depressed and hopeless;
That is why I must remember …
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
Your love washes over me in waves and billows
The Lord will extend His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
And I will offer it as a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As if they can snap me like a twig,
My enemies make a mockery of me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
And why are you so unsettled within me?
Hope in God;
I will again praise Him,
My God, the one who lifts my countenance, filling me with joy.

© Trudy Metzger

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Completely Understood & Unconditionally Accepted

When Wil and I arrived at the family gathering I spoke to my older brother, Cor, with Wil as my support. Cor is the fifth oldest sibling in our family. He’s the fourth son, and my mother’s firstborn. Dad had four children when he married my mother, having lost his wife and youngest son only months apart. Together my parents had twelve more for a total of sixteen children, and that doesn’t include the over half-dozen they lost through still birth and miscarriage.

With Cor being ten years older than me, and the oldest at home for most of my years there, it felt natural to go to him and explore what we could do to help dad.

Like Wil, Cor was compassionate and understanding, but agreed that without more memories, specific times and locations, nothing could be done. We could not confront Dad until something more concrete surfaced, or other victims came forward.

It was about that time that bits and pieces of conversations started to replay in my mind, from when I was nine years old. One of my cousins on dad’s side, who was thirty years older than I, had contacted my mom. I had heard this cousin’s name before, and remembered her parents, my Uncle *Jake and Aunt *Helen, who came to visit us in Mexico. I didn’t know *Maria well, having only seen her a few times in my life. After Maria contacted my mom, I overheard conversations that made no sense at the time. My mom seemed upset with her. It had something to do with my dad, but just what it all meant, I didn’t understand.

As I confronted memories and betrayal in my life, these conversation bits resurfaced, with no meaning at first. And then it all began to fit, like pieces of a puzzle. Maria must have told my mom that dad abused her. That was it… I was certain of it.

I had been at Maria’s wedding when I was twelve and knew her husband’s name, so I called Canada 411. This was back when we didn’t have internet to do a quick search, so I called and asked them to search every town in the general area where they had moved. There were no guarantees that I would find her, but if she was my one shot at validating what I was already certain was true, then I would search the ends of the earth to find this woman.

It took some time before I remembered the name of the small hamlet where they lived. I worked my way from there, and found Maria. I called her. Out of the blue. Told her who I was—her twenty-one-year-old cousin. Could I come see her? Maybe on Sunday?

Maria was thrilled to hear from me and welcomed me for a visit. Would I join them for lunch? Her husband was good with the barbecue and would be thrilled to show off a little, she was sure of it.

That Sunday I did the one-hour trek to Maria’s home. I felt bad. I had not told her the purpose of my visit. I wondered how awkward it would be, or if I’d have the courage to follow through. Maybe, once there, I would lose my courage, and leave well enough alone. What if questioning her stirred up old pain and destroyed her?

True to her promise, Maria’s husband served up a delicious steak. The meal was wonderful. Her young son was quite taken with me, so I spent some time with him.

Mid-afternoon Maria and I were alone in the house, chatting. I hesitated, then jumped in. “Maria.. I have a question… You don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to, but I have to ask….” I paused. “It seems to me when I was about nine years old, maybe ten, that I overheard something at home about you… that you had called mom… It didn’t make sense at the time, but now, when I think about it, it makes sense…. I’m sorry to ask… Did my dad sexually abuse you when you were a little girl?”

“Yes.” Maria said calmly. No anger. No shock, as I had anticipated.

Even truth that you suspect, is shocking when confirmed like that. So it’s all true… That’s who dad is… it’s what he is capable of…

I felt I needed to explain. “I ask because I’m sure he abused me too. My memories are vague… all broken up. But I know something happened. Would you be comfortable telling me what happened?”

She hesitated only for a moment before the story spilled out. She had worked as a ‘helper’ for my dad and his first wife when she was only eight years old. Dad’s first wife, a sweet woman, was pregnant with baby number five, and not well. She was bedridden, over the time of the birth, though I don’t recall how long leading up to or after. She died after giving birth, due to haemorrhage, but not before giving Maria permission to tell. To say it accurately, she made Maria feel obligated to tell, even guilty if she kept the secret, but her heart was to protect Maria and truth.

After dad’s first wife’s death Maria returned home to her family, where she told a sister, not much older than her, what had happened. Her sister told Uncle Jake and Aunt Helen.’

Whether they had confronted Dad or not, or whether he came on his own, Maria was not sure. But one day, not long after, my dad rode up in his buggy and her parents went out to meet him in the lane. Maria and her sister had listened at the window, wanting to know the purpose of the visit.

My dad had apologized to Maria’s parents, telling them what he had done, and taking ownership. It had helped, but the scars remained for life, leaving Maria with emotional and psychological struggles for life.

On my way home I had an hour to cry. Even though I was not one for country music, I turned on my radio and listened to country music. Within minutes the song started to play… “I’m seeing my father in me… I guess that’s how it’s meant to be… and I find I’m more and more like him each day…” (Paul Overstreet)

I wept as I cried out to God. I asked Him to be the Father who I grow to be like more each day. That I would see Him in me, and people would see Him in me too. The one thing I didn’t want is for generational sins to scar my children. Those chains would end with me.

In that moment with God I felt understood. Truly. Deeply. And completely. My Father was making me more like Himself in my journey of disappointment and pain. He understood suffering, and emotional and mental anguish. And He would walk me through this, fully embraced, unconditionally accepted

© Trudy Metzger

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Breaking Chains: A New Legacy

Yesterday our family spent the day at Goderich, on the beach of Lake Huron, with some of Tim’s uncles, aunts, a few cousins and family friends for our annual ‘Beach Day’–a thirty year, plus, tradition. Tim and our children enjoy the water and spend their day swimming. I enjoy the sounds, the scenery and watching the waves–the bigger, the better.

Tim and I managed to get away for a walk, just the two of us, and wander over to the breaker, climbing over rocks to watch the waves for a while. The waters were quite rough, causing the waves to crash and splash over the rocks. It was lovely to watch, but I had no desire to be in it.

It made me think of life. Of the rough waters Tim & I have come through, many of which were caused by my responses to life, due to my background. I thought of the emotional struggles I went through because of those things, and how it impacted us in training our children. Some good, some bad.

As we stood there, high above the ‘storms’ in the water, holding hands, I realized how much our love and commitment to each other has played a role in breaking chains and building a new legacy for our family.

The one thing our children know, always and without question, is that their mommy and daddy are very much committed to each other, and still crazy in love. We display affection in front of them. Contrary to popular belief in some cultures, this does not damage children. (I recall being taught that physical affection should only happen in the bedroom. )

One of our children, at about age thirteen, commented, “You and daddy are kind of mushy.”

I was a bit surprised because we are discreet, never making out in front of our kids, or anything like that. We hug a lot. We hold hands. We kiss, but not super intimately–just sweet, gentle kisses. Still, that was her take on it so I asked, “Does that bother you? Do you wish we wouldn’t?”

Her eyes sparkled as she shook her head, “No.”

We talked awhile about it and she told me it makes her feel secure, that she finds comfort in knowing her daddy and I won’t abandon each other, leaving them with the aftermath.

Training is a big part of breaking the chains of sexual abuse and violence, or any other generational chains, but what we show through example is as important. Our lives should exemplify the things we teach, reinforcing the words we speak into our children’s lives.

To teach truth, and live a life of purity, commitment, love and hope, leaves our children with a new legacy Where we fail, we need to take ownership and then release it, trusting the same God who saw us through our parents’ failures, to walk them through their disappointments and the scars of our failures.

If we have shown them how to forgive those who have wounded us, and if we have demonstrated how to love and stand with our spouse in commitment, we will have equipped them to make wise choices.

One day, when they are adults parenting their children, they will remember, and hopefully they too will break the chains we carried forward, unwittingly, and leave their children with a stronger legacy than we gave them.

Last evening, as the day was wrapping up, I went for a brisk walk along the board-walk, enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean in the background, and playing worship music on my iPod. When it’s all said and done, it is God who redeems, God who gives strength resilience and courage, and it is God who breaks the chains, offering us a new legacy for our children.

© Trudy Metzger

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‘The Talk’, Staying Flexible

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what’s that?” She had asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Trudy Metzger

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S.E.X…. Yikes! What do I Tell My Kids?

S.e.x. is just one of those awkward topics. Not that it should be, or has to be. But it is. However, like anything else that is awkward, if you push past the initial ‘did you really say that out loud’ feeling, it’s not that bad.

Having five children, now ages 10 through 17, we’ve been around that bend a few times. In fact, for those of you who are truly skittish about the topic, you may want to avoid a casual dinner at the Metzger’s house. You may lose your appetite if the ‘taboo topic’ surfaces. It isn’t an everyday occurrence,  but it happens, now and then. Just often enough to horrify those who think such conversations should be left for the week before the wedding.

So what should we tell our kids, and when? What is appropriate? What should they find out the week before the wedding? Or, more accurately, what should we pretend they don’t know by age twelve, of fourteen or eighteen?

Whether it’s bathroom talk, or exploring, in some secret place, children know far more than many parents think they do. The only thing that’s worse than no information, is wrong information with no healthy teaching. And that is what silence affords countless kids in today’s world. Particularly those in Christian cultures, especially those in private schools and ‘closed culture’ circles.

Think back to your experience. How old were you when you first knew about sex. Not necessarily ‘what’ it is, but about it. The intrigue. The fascination with the difference between male and female. The way a woman’s tummy gets big and round and then, miraculously, smaller right after the stork drops off a baby. And then there are animals, doing ‘it’ shamelessly in public–how old before you figured that one out?

My point is that kids know things. Some adults pretend they don’t in order to avoid the awkward truth about s.e.x. and ‘that’ talk. Realistically, if we figured anything out before age sixteen, our kids will likely know as much at age ten or twelve, as we knew at sixteen. And if they don’t learn it from us first, they will likely have a warped view of it.

If ever there was a time and an era when kids need to hear the truth about sex, and long before they get married, it is now. It isn’t possible to take the family to the grocery store, let alone the mall, without being confronted by it, so we might as well push past the discomfort and give our kids the truth–God’s pure, unadulterated truth–and equip them for life in an over-sexualized world. If we think it was bad when we were young–for those of us over thirty-five–it has not gotten better.

We owe it to our children to teach them well. It will help them protect themselves from abuse, and will give them good reason to wait for marriage to enjoy sex within the confines of God’s plan.

And, yes, I do believe this is still the best option in the twenty-first century. And do-able, if we equip our families.  Old fashioned? Not in my opinion–or God’s. But, either way, the alternative is not a risk I am willing to take. I will endure the awkward moments to equip my family the best I know how, so they can make wise choices and, by the grace of God, manage well the wonder of their sexuality.

S.E.X…. What do you tell your kids? The truth. They deserve it! They’ll figure it out either way, one way or another. The advantage to you telling them is that it wins trust and equips them for life if you tell them.

© Trudy Metzger

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You Are Worth More Than Tragic Life Experience

As our world, that to the outside world seemed so sheltered, unravelled because of the abuse and cover up, the church leaders were busy excommunicating members and putting others on probation.  The sins? Everything ranging from rebellious attitudes and uncontrolled tempers, to listening to radio.

One individual was disciplined for inappropriate sexual relations, though it was with The Travelling Missionary… Rapist, and until the individual tells me personally that it was mutual consent, I will continue to believe it was another case of victimization.

To my knowledge that was the only attempt made by the church to even acknowledge the abuse. By quickly excommunicating the one publicly known ‘guilty party’, or presumed guilty, the church again looked squeaky clean, as if all was taken care of and such things would never be left unresolved.

The church dysfunction led to rebellion, not only for me, but for many youth, even those a bit older than our peer group, who, to my knowledge were not involved in the victimization.

An angry teenager, I still believed that I was the only victim, a ‘misfit’ in the culture. I believed I was, as one of my school peers told my brother, ‘used goods’ and destined to a life of lonely rejection in the culture. No one would ever want ‘used goods’, even if I was the victim of groping, a failed sexual encounter, and had been kissed. It was the kiss that made the ‘Mennonite youth news’ and travelled through the churches, leaving me feeling ‘marked’.

With home life still feeling volatile, because of Dad’s violence, and church being completely unsafe, I made the decision to leave home. Rather than rewrite the story, I will post the links throughout this blog, back to parts of my story as written in the Spiritual Abuse Series. Some links lead to the first in a series, sharing the journey of my rebellion.

My first home when I moved away my family, with Grandma Katie, was a safe place. For a while life was good, with no abuse, no violence.

It didn’t take long before I was excommunicated from my church, for a variety of reasons, allowing them to wash their hands of me. At age sixteen I was on my own, no church, no family, no accountability. It didn’t take long for the rumours to start travelling through church, that I was a terrible sinner, living a dreadful lifestyle. When the rumours first started, they were ungrounded. Lies. But I soon lived up to their expectations, escalating the abuse and trauma in my life.

When I got to the end of my rope, and God’s relentless love brought me back home, several wonderful things happened. First of all, I understood God’s grace, and secondly, I understood my value.

For the first time in my life, my self-worth and value were not wrapped up in my perception of myself, nor defined by life’s experience. When I stood before Jesus, and saw Him writing in the sand, with nothing but love for me, I knew who I was, for the first time in my life.

Sexual Abuse is a horrible thing to experience. There is no other way to see it. It is tragic, it is destructive, it is cruel. It is horrible.

But God’s redemption, His healing, are not limited by tragic life experience. You are worth more than the pain inflicted on you. You are worth more than the abuse imposed on you. You are defined, not by the abuses you have experienced, but by the greatest Being who exists, God, the Creator of the universe.

Discovering even a glimpse of that truth changed my life. It was the first step toward freedom.  And each step prepared me to walk others through their abuse, to wholeness. Most importantly, it helped prepare me for motherhood, to teach my children the beauty of their bodies, the wonder of sexuality, and the amazing plan and purpose for which we are created, within that.

© Trudy Metzger

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A Million Fingers Pointing at Me: The Power of Shame

On Wednesday, July 25, I posted a blog called, What Is Sexual Abuse? I opened that post with an email I had received from one of my readers, expressing a strong dislike for the word ‘perpetrator’, and asking what qualifies as sexual abuse.

The reader sent me a follow-up email, wanting to clear any misunderstanding, lest it sounded as though the word ‘perpetrator’ is not appropriate. I asked for permission to post the second email, and was given the go ahead to do so.

“I was just reading comments on your blog and I am much too “shy” to add my own comment. But I wanted to be sure at least you understood. When I said I hate the word “perpetrator” it had absolutely nothing to do with thinking the word shouldn’t be used, or it’s too harsh a word or doesn’t apply or anything like that. You’re right, when talking bout a perpetrator that’s the word to use. The *only* reason I hated it was because every single time I read the word “perpetrator” my heart got stabbed and I felt an incredible amount of guilt and it felt as tho a million fingers were pointing at me. ….”

This is the guilt and shame I repeatedly encounter, whether in email, via phone, or sitting across the table from those with similar stories. What is most saddening to me is that most of these individuals, living with this deep guilt and shame, are typically children at the time of the offence. The older ones were maybe thirteen or fourteen, with no education, no understanding of the depth of the damage until years later.

As the reality settles in, the now-adult often struggles with fear, anxiety, anger and  shame. Commonly their fear is, “what if the victim doesn’t even remember, and I traumatize them again by speaking up to apologize?” There is worry over what consequences the victim has lived with, because of their actions, among other fears and concerns.

And then there is the horror and shame at realizing what it is they did. When that innocence of not understanding sexuality is gone, these individuals who ‘perpetrated’ in childhood–here I cringe to use that word–would give anything to undo the past, but they cannot.

It is not possible to generalize and speak effectively into every situation with one broad sweep. Every situation is unique with dynamics that must be considered and emotions that need to be worked through. On a practical level, to ‘make things right’ with victims, it needs to be done with deep sensitivity to the victim’s needs.

However, for personal freedom a few things will help move all perpetrators toward freedom. The first step is taking ownership and acknowledging that what we did was wrong, in spite of the innocence and lack of understanding at the time of the offence.

Making peace with God over it is another step. On the heels of acknowledging our wrong, and our ownership of the abuse, we need to give it to God. We are not created to carry the weight of these things. Our minds are not made for it. We need to give it to God and accept His forgiveness.

Another part of freedom is forgiving our parents and leaders for not teaching us. When silence has first victimized us, and then played a role in causing us to victimize other children, we need to forgive our parents for not teaching us. (Adult perpetrators also need to forgive for the lack of teaching, however, no responsibility can be placed on parents of an adult, in spite of that lack of teaching. Each adult must take personal ownership.)

Did they do the best they could, given their experience? Probably. But their best left us vulnerable, hurting and broken. And that broken-ness set us up to pass on the abuse that we did not understand in childhood. Healing from that loss requires forgiveness, where those in leadership failed.

Choosing well, going, forward is critical. Learning the truth about sexuality, and God’s amazing plan, inviting Him into our struggle, and giving Him our past, releases us from that shame.

We were not created for this guilt, shame and sin. We were created for the Garden of Eden, for perfect relationship with God, with no separation from Him, and sin separates us from him. As we repent and get to know Him again, intimately, and understand what it is we were created for, that freedom returns. We find the weight of sin and shame lift from us, and we are again made whole. In Him we are accepted. Complete. Regardless of the past.

That’s who Jesus is, and what He came to do, restoring all things and reconciling us to Himself.

© Trudy Metzger

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