I Love You, as Much as I Love My Dog…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Spiritual Abuse Part 19__The Rape of the Soul

Rather than write a new blog, I went through some writing I did some time ago–one of the books I’m working on.


It was Karla’s turn to share her story with the support group. She spoke with courage and confidence of how she had come through abuse and betrayal in her marriage. I admired her strength and ability to forgive, uncertain that I would have done as well as she, given the same situation.

Karla’s confidence quickly dissipated into sobs as she moved into the story of her church life and how leadership in her church had played an active role in destroying relationships in a once close-knit family. Brothers and sisters that once loved to get together for social events hardly acknowledged one another, as siblings chose sides of church leaders and shunned the others.

The church Karla grew up in was not remotely like the denomination I grew up in. In her story I discovered that spiritual abuse is not only a Mennonite church problem.

Another friend, Amanda, left a strong religious church in her late twenties, but ten years later, she still adheres to their rules and guidelines even though she wouldn’t set foot in their church, unless it was to bury a dead family member. Her relationship with God is distant, at best, and she hopes that somehow wearing the right clothes and avoiding ‘sin’ will be enough. Her eyes are lifeless, her spirit hollow, vacant.

What is it about spiritual abuse and betrayal that destroys the heart and passion of an individual, often, it seems, beyond repair?

As I thought back to the religious abuse of my childhood and early teen years, and contemplated this question, something interesting happened in my spirit. I felt violated as the memories and feelings of a sexual assault that took place when I was seventeen, returned like an unwelcome stranger.

I asked God why the memories and feelings, that went with being raped, returned when trying to work through Spiritual Abuse. The answer? It is as if they blindfolded and raped you and told you I did it, or told them they could.

Spiritual Abuse portrays God as the rapist, not the gentle lover that Scripture portrays him to be—the book of Hosea, specifically. It makes the heart fear a deep and intimate relationship with our Creator.

The response and aftermath of rape is not the same in all individuals. Some victims develop such an intense hate for the opposite gender that their interest in relationships is virtually dead. Others develop a need for constant approval from the opposite gender, especially sexually, and frantically pursue every person that could potentially fill that desperate need. The end result, of either response, is not good.

In spiritual rape the same is true. Christians who have suffered Spiritual Abuse, have been manipulated or brainwashed into believing that God is a very harsh God, who says one thing, and acts or another. A volatile God who cannot be trusted but must be appeased. A God who says, ‘Jesus is enough’ but will toss you in hell for not keeping ‘the law’. And that law is usually whatever a particular leader needs it to be for his agenda.

If the agenda is ‘perfect image’, you will be called to toe a line. If you sin, you will be shamed and the church will wash their hands of you, even if you repent. Matthew 18 will be disregarded, to deal with it in private. You will be exploited as an example of what the church is not. For their own image, to present their own ‘holy standing before God’, they will publicly make a spectacle of you.

The bigger the sin, the more you will be shamed and exposed publicly. Big sin, big consequences. They forget that Matthew 18 says to go to the sinning brother alone. Only if the person does not repent, is it to involve the church leaders. Only if the person still does not repent, is it to be made public. (The rest of the chapter tells the fate of the church and individuals who choose not to follow this pattern.)

While disregarding Jesus’ teaching here, leaders will even say it is to help you, and make you careful not to sin again quickly. But it has nothing to do with following the way of Jesus, so it cannot help you, it can only crush your spirit.

This is Spiritual Abuse. It is not what Jesus offers you. It is not who God is. It is a blatant misrepresentation and violation of God’s heart.

If this is your situation, approach your leaders on it, and if the way of Jesus is not embraced, run from it, and don’t look back.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/