I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

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The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

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.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

What I Wish You Knew About Childhood Sexual Abuse (A Husband’s Perspective)

In the past few weeks I’ve posted blogs written by my friends and readers. These were writings shared with me that I found helpful and thought the public may benefit from, so I asked each of them for permission to post what they wrote to me. 

I have a few more that I’m hoping to share but still need permission, and several lined up that have granted permission. Some choose to be anonymous while others are comfortable using their names. I respect the wishes of each individual. Some of those sharing I’ve interacted with for years, some I just ‘met’ recently. 

Today’s blog is the voice of an Anabaptist husband. It is powerful, tender, touching, challenging… It is a call for understanding and compassion, and awareness of the incredible damage done to children (for life) when they are sexually assaulted. In his wife’s case, as you will read, she was raped in childhood. 

TRIGGER WARNING:
While the following is an incredible read, please be aware that the content may be triggering for trauma survivors and those who feel deeply what they read. This is not all bad, as facing triggers is part of the healing process for many. And for non-survivors, it creates deep understanding of the victims’ suffering. Each reader should be aware of what you can tolerate.

***

I get the feeling that people think childhood sexual abuse is not as bad as it is painted – that there are few long term effects.

But I know that’s not true.

I know, because I am married to a survivor of childhood rape.

I know what it’s like to get married but not be able to have sex because grown men decided to rape and abuse my beautiful bride when she was a little girl.

I know what it’s like to lay my hands on my wife of nearly 3 months and beg God to heal her vaginismus – and see Him do so instantly.

I know what it’s like to have her burst into tears in the middle of sex because something triggered a memory of the rape – and for this to be somewhat a “normal” occurrence.

I know what it’s like to hold my wife in my arms, and as she shakes with grief and anguish, hear her ask, “What did I ever do to deserve that kind of cruelty?”

I know what’s it’s like to pull the covers up over her head as she curls up in a fetal position – trying to protect herself as yet another flashback appears out of nowhere.

I know what it’s like to lead my wife in prayer – hundreds of times – to forgive the “Christian” men who did this horrific evil to her.

I know what it’s like to see her disassociate while giving birth, and wonder if I was going to lose her.

I know what it’s like to call my boss to say that I will be an hour or two late for work because it is not safe to leave my wife at home alone.

I know what it’s like to get home from work and meet a teary eyed wife with many hard questions, and after much listening, discussion, and prayer, realize that the house looks worse than when I left in the morning.

I know what it’s like to hear our chiropractor tell me that my wife regularly visits the office with her back, neck, pelvis, hips and ribs out of place – and “she walks like nothing is wrong” because her body is still in shock from trauma that happened 20 years ago.

Don’t tell me that sexual abuse doesn’t affect people in real ways. Don’t tell me that forgiveness takes care of the pain.

I know better.

Spare me all the usual idiotic things said about abuse. The little girl who is now my wife did not ask for it. She was not dressed immodestly. Yes, she said “no”. (She even cried out to Jesus to help her!) No, it’s not something she can “just get over”. No, she’s not bitter or unforgiving. And no, it’s not just “all in her head.”

Furthermore, please stop saying ignorant things about the beautiful concept of forgiveness. She has forgiven these men more times than we both can count, but flashbacks still come. Memories are real and cannot be controlled. Forgiveness does not mean she (actually, “we”) stop paying for the consequences of the sin done to her.

These men are not “brothers in the Lord”. You cannot do this kind of evil and be a Christian. It is the opposite of everything Jesus is. Jesus implies that anything less than death is mercy for an offender. And there are days when only the mercy of God keeps me from taking justice in my own hands.

If all of this surprises you, you’ve never sat close enough to hear a victim speak. You’ve never listened without judgement. Contrary to what you may think, abuse victims are not looking for attention. They just want to be heard and seen as people whose pain and voice matters.

I know, because I am married to one.

If you want to see a victim of sexual abuse blossom and heal, you have to be a safe person. Listen instead of trying to “fix” them. Do not put healing on a timeline. The broken parts of them are not something you can fix anyway. Just love them like Jesus loves. Lay down your life like Christ laid His down.

Believe me, it works.

I know, because I am the husband of a childhood rape survivor.

***

Tomorrow the blog will be from this gentleman’s wife, sharing some deep soul musing and struggles. Those who dare to enter the raw struggle of the soul are especially misunderstood in church.

Observation has taught me that those who wrestle most have deepest faith. It takes no faith to speak of, when life is a breeze and everything makes sense. But when nothing makes sense, we either run, or we enter into an intimate struggle.

It is in this wrestling with God, in struggling for answers, in asking the hard questions that we draw most near to Him. It is in this wrestling, like Jacob did in the night. (And as I type this, I recall a talk I did some years ago that was recorded that some who fear the struggle may find encouraging: Invitation to Wrestle with God).

When you read her blog tomorrow, remember this. She is a woman of incredible faith who has inspired me, challenged me and encouraged me. She is a warrior. She is a child. She is an outstanding woman of God.

***

Remember the victims! Remember Haiti! Pray for their redemption and healing.

Pray for the church, for eyes to be opened, for truth and justice with mercy to matter again. For an awakening to the depth of depravity we have allowed in church so that genuine repentance will rise out of this darkness, and children will be protected.

Pray for Jeriah and CAM, to truly, completely come clean and repent, without self-preservation driving the process. What is money in light of the wellbeing of children? What is humanitarian aid with the misrepresentation of Jesus, and without the protection of children? Pray that these realities would sink deeply into the leaders of CAM.

***

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

***

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.)

***

 

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

Sex Abuse Podcast with Titus Kuepfer & Asher Witmer, Male Survivors Speak, And Can’t we just move on from the CAM Conversation?

PODCAST DISCUSSING CAM, JERIAH MAST, AND SEXUAL ABUSE:
On Saturday July 6,  Titus Kuepfer and his co-host David Russel  interviewed blogger and author of “Live Free”, Asher Witmer, and myself on the CAM/Jeriah Mast sex abuse scandal. It was good to connect with these gentlemen and hear their concern and care. (You can listen to the clip on “Proselytize or Apostatize”). Asher addresses male sexuality from a Christian perspective on his blog.

It was encouraging to engage honest dialogue and explore hard questions surrounding this case with these gentlemen.

Asher Witmer
Blogger and Author of “Live Free’, Asher Witmer with his wife and family

MALE SURVIVORS SPEAK OUT:
KIRK DANIEL’S BLOG:
Kirk Daniel is a male survivor who recently shared a very moving blog on Lucinda Miller’s blog. (Read “Was It A Boy?” here). This blog has resonated powerfully with other male survivors and is opening a door to much needed connection among them.  It is also encouraging for female survivors to see the men find the courage to speak.

Kirk’s blog is These Ashes.

MALE SURVIVOR’S LETTER TO THE EDITOR, WOOSTER DAILY RECORD:
Daniel Eichelberger shared a glimpse of his story in some great wisdom in his response to the CAM/Jeriah Mast scandal and the response of CAM and the community to the present crisis. He echoes the concerns of many in his letter titled “Focus Should Be On Victims“. It is an uncanny thing how the world revolves around offenders.

The public, in all fairness, deserves to be warned. The victims usually want privacy. The church wants to appear as whole as possible. Organizations want to protect their money, rankings and image. And the end result is that it’s all about everything and everyone except the victim.

This letter calls people back to those whose wellbeing should be at the heart of the decisions made by all involved.

It is encouraging to see so many gentleman coming forward and giving voice to the suffering of male victims. When the truth of their horror is spoken, and they support each other (and hopefully find support from the Christian community), healing will come. Cycles are being broken, and new legacies are being established.

This is a beautiful thing happening!

CAN’T WE JUST MOVE ON ALREADY?
There are people who are now at the point where they just want to move on and let this situation take care of itself. No one should talk about it anymore. CAM and Stanley Fox have put out their statements. Paul Weaver and Eli Weaver are on administrative leave. (Which, I am told, means quietly continuing to do some work behind the scenes after being ‘released’).  An investigation is in progress, both by law and allegedly by CAM.

So…. “Let’s let them take care of it now.”

Part of me understands this. It’s messy to talk about this case. I mean, it’s messy to talk about sexual abuse in any case, but this case especially. CAM is a trophy organization. (And a much larger trophy than I realized at the beginning of this story!) And we don’t know how to reconcile this level of evil hidden by those within their employ… or consider that a missionary with so many years abroad has used the organization to access the vulnerable. And we certainly don’t want to acknowledge that there could be others, maybe even closer to us than this.

That messy part of the conversation makes it uncomfortable, and we don’t like the discomfort. It disrupts our safety. And that is precisely why we need to talk about it. Because that disruption to norms, that loss of safety, that messy uncomfortable reality… that is the reality of every sex abuse survivor.

They’ve been robbed of their safety. They live daily with the knowledge that what their abuser did — be it an older sibling, uncle, aunt, parent, grandparent, minister, schoolteacher or other abuser — could happen again. The person they trusted, no longer deserves trust. And, the quick call to trust CAM again is nothing more than a reminder that what was done against them never really mattered to anyone, or to very few people, in religious community. (NOTE: This ‘reminder’ is how it feels to the victims. It is not that no one cares. Many, many of us do. But in their experience, that was not felt nor was it lived ‘among them’ by those with power).

Conversation changes that. Conversation invites people to enter the uncomfortable and listen to the horror in hopes of offering the healing love of Jesus in practical ways.

And, as one fatherly conservative Anabaptist gentleman said yesterday on a call, it’s going to be us common folks with no power or position who refuse to be silent who influence change.

So keep the conversation going. Allow for some squirming and shifting eyes. And even the ‘do we have to talk about it?’ question.

Truth is, Jesus came and brought discomfort and division. With purpose. This conversation brings discomfort and division. And it has purpose. It compels us to move beyond preserving image to applying Isaiah 61, and caring for the brokenhearted and the captives.

It calls us to remember the victims, to care for the neglected and oppressed, and represent Jesus well to them.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

***

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.)

***

 

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

An Empty Tomb: A promise broken or kept?

For a university assignment I looked at the empty tomb in a way I never had before. For me, it has never been anything but Good News. From earliest memories hearing the story, my heart thrills! My Jesus is alive!

But, for Mary, what did it feel like to find the tomb empty, and be robbed of ritual and grief in a moment of deepest loss? Her friend, her rabbi, her Lord had been ruthlessly slaughtered…

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Wishing you all the blessing of an Empty Tomb and a Gardener who speaks your name, that you may know Him!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

UNSPOKEN HOPE

Hope rises.
Silence falls.
Hope shatters.
Her tongue cut out.
Pieces on the floor.
Pieces of her, of him… of me, of them
Strewn here and there

Walking here and there,
People stepping on
Pieces on the floor.
Tall people. strong people. Powerful.
Crushing flesh pieces on the floor.
Flesh, dragging here and there.
Red.
Dry blood on black shoes.

“Only trust Him… Only trust Him… Only trust Him now…
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now…”

Songs.
Prayers.
Tears
Helpless children.
Raped.
Used.
Cast away.

“Only trust Him… Only trust Him… Only trust Him now…
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now…”

Children weep.
Wail.
Hell licks their feet.

People walking.
Away.
Where has Jesus gone?
Why do angels weep dry tears?

Trust withers.
Silence falls.
Hope…

Dead.

Religion.

Hell wins.

;

Truth rises,
Tongue cut out
Oh hell be warned!
Death gives birth to unmatched power!
Wordless.
Silent.
Thunder shakes the strongest tower.

No more politics.
No flow’ry speech.
Truth will stand in ruthless silence,
Shouting without sound
Crying from the highest mountain
And all will hear
As, Truth, forced to silent grave,
Rises from the ground.

No white flags.

No powerless surrender.

Silence moves
Stealthy
Wise
Calculated.

Invisible hands,
Wrapped about my throat.
I cannot speak.

But I have my sword.

Truth.

;

Jesus walks into the room.

What will you say now?

Did silence pave His way?

Or was it the voice of those who cried against the norms:

Make a path in the place of death… the wilderness… where nothing of life has ever grown.
Where children’s souls are laid bare by reckless men!
Make way!
Behold! He comes! The Son of God! Make way
!”

He enters.
Holding no regard for rules.
Honouring no politics.
Crying louder for the lost
the wounded
the weak.
Standing silent only to accusation.
Crying out against their sin,
He eats of the forbidden grain.

I eat. 
With no regard for silence.
Breaking all the rules
of polite society.
Hearts are not healed
by
U
N
S
P
O
K
E
N
HOPE.

*************************************************************************************

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Christmas: a Widow, a Church’s Kindness, and a Washing Machine

The day after Christmas seems a perfect time to pause and write a seasonal blog, and wish you all Christmas blessings. Yesterday was full, with no time to sit down with my computer until later in the evening. That, to me, is a good thing, to be busy in real world relationships that the virtual world becomes secondary. With being in school, continuing with speaking engagements and trying to do the basics at home, social media has taken a back seat for a while, so that has become more normal for me. But that does mean the blog I intended to write for Christmas never happened.
Even so, throughout my day, I thought of many of you, my friends. Especially those of you who find this season difficult. Those who have suffered great losses this season, whether this year or years gone by, saying goodbye to family members with whom you won’t share another Christmas… or maybe never spent even one Christmas… wee ones, recent or in the past, who slipped away before you heard their laughter, their cries, their chatter…  And those who are rejected by family, or just far away, and lonely this season, wishing your world was different; praying for healed relationships, or maybe having given up hope, yet unable to shake the longing for what could have been.
Christmas can be the hardest of times, and it can be the sweetest of times. Sometimes both at the same time. That was our Christmas this year, for reasons I won’t and can’t get into, but just to say you are not alone, and there are others who understand. As much as we had a wonderful Christmas, there was an emptiness and an ache, the reality of unknowns as we head toward 2018, that is unsettling. Even as I write this, I know that every day is an unknown for every human. Our last breath, some great sadness or loss, or the opposite: some unlikely kindness and grace that falls on us. We never know the future, and yet it is an unsettling thing to have it written on the walls of our lives where we must read it every day, and wrestle with the realization that the outcome may be far from what we long for, and somehow to find peace in it, if not with it.
They talk about coming to peace with things, but I’ve concluded some things we cannot make peace with. We can only find a way to be at peace within the existing reality, in spite of the unknowns, even as we grieve the reality that is. And sometimes grieving is that peace, or at least a part of it, because it’s the facing head on of a thing you’d rather run from, and knowing you will be okay, even when your heart stops beating every now and then, and you catch your breath from the pain. And then it starts to beat again, out of rhythm and out of time, because a heart can’t beat right when a piece of it has died. But it can beat, and it can still give love, and find hope. And maybe, having experienced loss, it can give more, love more, and find a greater hope. Because where all is as it should be, or as we desire it to be, there is no need for hope. Hope is the thing that makes the heart keep beating, willing it to live, when everything else makes it stop.
Speaking of love and giving, one of my favourite things this Christmas had a rather tragic  beginning… It was early November – the 6th, I believe – when I came upon an accident. It happened only a few vehicles in front of me, and I stopped to make sure there was someone there with First Aid and CPR, and that 911 had been called. The one woman involved in the accident spoke Low German and seemed very distressed, so I asked if it would mean something to her if I stayed to support her. Her conversational English was excellent, but trauma can make communication difficult. She borrowed my phone and made a call to what I understood was her husband, and when she handed back the phone, she said the name and that he is on his way. A bit later, when she seemed to be slipping into shock and struggled to communicate, I asked where her husband works and how far he has to drive. She looked at me, eyes filled with unspeakable pain, and said, “he died four years ago”, and began to weep. Shocked, I said, “I am so, so sorry! I thought that’s who you said you called”. I stayed composed, but writing it now, I weep. She slipped into a state of complete shock and confusion, repeatedly expressing worry over the injured driver of the other vehicle. I stayed with her and her young daughter, and later went to the hospital to offer what support I could, when other children arrived and made certain they had food and drinks. I left, then, and told them to call if they need anything at all, and especially if they have to go to court.
It was almost two weeks later, I sat at Tim Hortons waiting for the woman to arrive. We were meeting for coffee to discuss her ticket, a first for her, which she couldn’t read and understand. It was a fine, due the next day. I was heading in, so I offered to deliver it, and support her in a meeting with the prosecuting attorney, to discuss options. Before we parted ways, I asked if she needs anything else, and she mentioned needing a wash machine, and might I know anyone who has a used one that wouldn’t cost a lot. I put the word out that evening, asking friends if they might know a place to find one. There were several leads, but nothing came together. Several weeks went by and I came across a message I had missed.
Faith Mennonite Church near Wellesley heard of this woman’s need, and offered to get her a wash machine. I connected them with the woman and this week she messaged saying how much she appreciated the machine they brought, and how she feels so undeserving. “You’re one of the kindest people I ever know”, she wrote. I didn’t do anything except put a need out there, so I felt I didn’t do anything, and told her it was the church, not me who gave the gift. Even so, I thanked her for her kind words and told her she deserves the gift and I’m very happy for her. What touched me most is that a church would take Acts 6:1 and James 1:27 so seriously as to reach out to someone not even in their congregation, or a church in any way affiliated. It was about a woman in need, and a passion to exercise the religion that God honours (James 1:27) and spread the love of Jesus in a practical way.
That is Christmas. That is the Gospel. Whether delivered to a believer, or one who has never heard of Christ, that is the love of Jesus, packaged in language that humans understand, through meeting practical needs. It’s not the only way, but it’s one way. And because so often it seems Acts 6:1 is the greater reality, where widows and orphans are neglected and overlooked, while the religious systems pressure them to give and barely survive, this touched my heart deeply. In a world where religious systems seem often to absorb more than they live generously among the broken, this blessed me to happy tears.
I posted recently that choosing thankfulness sets apart those who overcome, from those who are victims. Today I am thankful. Thankful that Faith Mennonite church met this woman’s need, and for other churches like it. (My friends at Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan have a house they offer to single moms! Check it out: Gold House Project) I’m thankful that I am surrounded by people I love, and people who love me – from here at home, to Mexico, to Africa, to Australia and New Zealand and beyond. And I am deeply thankful, for the kindness of God in my life and His promise to walk gently with us, to lead us, carry us, hold us, and never abandon us.
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For Christmas our youngest son had my name, and he gave me a blue coffee mug with one word on it. My favourite mug cracked a while ago, and he knew I had looked for a replacement. He also knew how much I love words and writing. The mug said “Kindness”. So that’s the word I am taking with me into 2018. Kindness. My prayer is that God will help me live this word, daily. It won’t be perfect. It never is. Because I’m involved and I’m human, but it is my prayer and I trust God will teach me, walk with me, remind me and love me through my failures. And I will choose kindness.
Merry Christmas! And may 2018 be a year filled with kindness even in the pain, sorrow, and hard times that are inevitable in human experience.
Love
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2017

Why I chose to forgive my dad…

Today marks the day, fourteen years later, when the news came of my father’s passing. It was an odd, shocking, numbing feeling; one which I still cannot frame in words. The finality is jarring, knowing the last words spoken were the final exchange. While I had no regret in that, specifically, it was harsh nonetheless, and I recall my mind trying, as if by sheer force of will, to turn back time one day, and call him. I’m not sure there was much left to say, really, though there are a few questions I wanted to ask… the kind that always felt too frightening and vulnerable to say out loud, even after he asked me to forgive him for the harm he brought into my life. That day, an old, broken, and fragile man he wept and asked me to forgive him. And  I responded, “Dad, I chose to forgive you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”

That was 2001. I was 32 years old, a mom of four and pregnant with our fifth. I called Tim before I left the hospital that day, crying, to tell him about our conversation. “Miracles still happen,” I remember saying through tears. Choosing consciously and purposefully to forgive my dad dated back more than a decade before that day. But it didn’t look the way many fit forgiveness into a perfect little box. The consequences for his choices meant that I suffered flashbacks, anxiety disorders (including PTSD), and nightmares every time we had contact for many years, and they became especially haunting after we had children. This continued even after I forgave him most sincerely. My fear that some horrible thing would be done to my family prevented us from feeling comfortable interacting too closely. I meant we attended at most one family event a year, if that.Tim and I chose early in marriage to not risk the lives and innocence of our children by placing them in an environment where abuse of every kind had run rampant and remained buried. This choice, in the eyes of some, would have been cause to judge me as unforgiving. Nonetheless, we made the choice and never looked back. No regret, for the sake of our children.

The cost to me was significant. It meant I had to miss out on family gatherings, and years later the lack of relationship leaves an emptiness within. The loss is ongoing. Still, I choose to forgive my father. And still I don’t regret having the boundaries, in spite of that cost.

My choice to forgive was first and foremost for my freedom. Not a fraction of that decision was to overlook his sins and crimes, or make myself okay with them. They are not okay. But the power of his sin, by allowing bitterness to take root in me, frightened me far more than did the consequences of his choices against me. Secondly, I chose to forgive him for the sake of my husband and children. To let his sins rule my life would be to give him permission to pass on the curses of many generations to my children, through my bitterness. (And generational cycles are well documented in both secular and spiritual literature.) I didn’t want that, and to the best of my ability I protected our children from anyone who had molested, and never left them unsupervised in an environment where known offenders were present.

That said, I was not perfect by any stretch of imagination, and made choices as a mom that left scars on my children, and those are choices for which I take ownership. When I chose to forgive my father, I chose also to take ownership for decisions I made, even if birthed out of the scars and emotional deficits he left in my life. I did this so that the chains would end with me.

I chose to forgive my father to break generational chains that he struggled with to his death, to end cycles of abuse and violence, to leave a new legacy for the next generation, and to prevent bitterness in my life. My children will need to decide whether they will forgive me for ways I sinned against them, and whether they will take ownership for the ways they sin against their own children. And the generation to follow will need to make the same decision.

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Forgiveness isn’t a choice to overlook violence, molestation, neglect and various abuses. It is the decision to break chains, end vicious cycles and leave a new legacy. It doesn’t mean everything is all cozy and the wrongs are never spoken of again. It means we do our best to lead the next generation, even at personal cost. And sometimes it means we tell broken, painful and brutal stories, so that the amazing grace of God in our lives is understood, and so others can draw hope and strength for their own journeys.

When my father asked me to forgive him, I chose to verbally extend that grace and reflect the heart of God the best I knew how. It didn’t change how we protected our children by not giving him access, and it didn’t change much of anything at all in a practical sense. But I knew my forgiveness was genuine, and he knew it too. And that was enough for me.

If I could go back to the day before February 21, 2003, knowing what I know now, I might still visit dad and ask some hard questions…. but maybe I wouldn’t change anything at all. I told him I loved him. I told him I forgive him. And, when he doubted that God would forgive a man like him, I told him that because of what Jesus did on the cross, there was a place in heaven for him.

*****

I stood alone by his coffin in the funeral home and wept as I repeatedly whispered the only three words that formed, “Thank you Jesus.”

 

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Manipulations, Rare Confessions, Horrific Stories and Freedom to Worship

[Trigger Warning]

There isn’t much that worship can’t soothe in my spirit, in the day to day. The key and the challenge is to be diligent in setting aside time for intentional worship in the chaos of this thing we call life, which can quickly feel more like a slow and painful death if we’re not careful. Especially for people in ministry, whether pastors or other ministries. There is something spiritually and emotionally draining about ministry, apart from taking time to refuel and ‘drinking deep’ from the well of God’s love, whether through worship music, meditation and prayer, or reading truth.

Hearing horrific stories of child rape, or watching adults weep or go into shock to the point of physically going pale and clammy, as they recall someone forcing themselves or some harsh object inside of them, tends to wear on the soul. In the past year I’ve heard so many of these tragedies it leaves my head reeling, and my heart aching…. though, in honesty, something of my ability to ‘feel’ was destroyed in childhood, so it is usually more of a ‘factual’ pain, than a feeling one. That is, until it is incorporated into art or music… there, and in God’s presence or Tim’s arms, I am able to feel pain. Rarely any other place. But back on track…

In recounting details with a local police officer regarding the third or fourth case involving forcing objects inside children or youth, the officer looked at me and said, “Yeah… what’s with that about forcing objects inside kids? That’s just crazy!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane, actually. And I realized when he asked, that this and molestation is the horror I listen to or deal with, in one form or another, almost daily. And when it gets too much, or hopefully before it does, I escape into a place of worship, filling my heart with a truth greater than the wickedness all around. If I didn’t do that, I would burn out relatively quickly.

And I’m not alone in the intentional battle against burnout. While painful to hear, I’ve listened to pastors confess the struggle that goes with their role. I’ve heard the admission that sometimes it seems atheists are more at peace with life than believers, and live to the fullest with greater kindness than those in the Body of Christ. I’ve listened as they told how difficult it is to be attacked or back-stabbed by their congregants. While that is not something I am familiar with, since I have no congregation, my imagination works well enough to know it would be hard; much harder than ‘distant’ attacks from those who oppose what I do, I imagine.

That is one of the things that has given me the courage to press forward in ministry, knowing the deep appreciation of clients. At least most of them, and most of the time. I’ve been very blessed with good outcomes in working with clients, walking them through to healing and developing longterm relationships. In five years of 1:1 ministry, most clients continue to keep in touch from time to time, letting me know how they are, and sharing struggles and victories from time to time. In fact, only one case has truly gone wrong, either due to sincere misunderstanding or blatant lies–and I am uncertain which–and it is the one case that made me realize how blessed I am that attacks are virtually never part of my life, with clients. (Attacks from strangers, or from ‘friends’ behind my back, and attacks on our ministry  don’t bother me much any more. They’re par for the course.) Nonetheless, initially it is jolting to be thrown into a world of unfamiliar accusations and it can feel like God has let you get hung out to dry… Giving 12 hours in one day, and extra time and expense over a period of time, all pro bono, to the person who ends up stabbing you in the back is disheartening.  And in that moment, questioning why I would continue, the thing that carries me through is the knowledge that God knows the truth… that God sees all our hearts–not only mine, not only theirs, but everyone of us… And, again, my heart is drawn to healing worship and I am refreshed.

****

In contrast with the ‘fatigue’ of fighting against the darkness so often covered up, a man spills his story without being confronted, and tells how as a teen he molested numerous children. We end the conversation and of his own accord, as I prepare to leave, he says he would like to talk to a police officer.

“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he has to charge you?” I ask, feeling a sense of duty to let him know the potential consequences, and to see if that changes his mind. “I thought about that before I said anything,” he continues. I tell him I will talk with an officer, and get a time set up and other details if that is what he wants. “If it takes making an example of me to stop this, then I am willing,” he says. And with that we part ways. A day later I have a time, and all the details of what this will look like. He responds with the admission that it looks pretty scary and overwhelming, and I tell him it is up to him. I don’t have enough information to do anything; it’s entirely up to him. He asks for a night to contemplate it.

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The next morning, first thing, a text comes through saying he wants to proceed. And with that it’s a plan. As I type out the message to the officer, tears flow generously. I realize the man is not one of the ones who is a greatest threat to our community. He came forward of his own free will and asked for the police without so much as a hint of it from me. And through the tears, I worship a God who sees hearts and understands my struggle with knowing that many hide vicious crimes while a rare contrite soul exposes wickedness out of a desire for truth and freedom. And that one chooses to pay the price publicly, if that’s what it takes, to help end the epidemic.

****

Ah worship… it makes ‘right’ a world all wrong. It’s necessary to worship when the heavy stuff of life lands on us like a bucket load of bricks… or worse. It’s easy to worship when things are good. But when we sacrifice and are met with not so much as a passing thank you, but rather an attack, worship is critical. Drinking the toxic sludge of lies, rumours, manipulations and growing bitter quickly sucks the life out of us, so that we have nothing to give. And when the darkness hides in the crevices of Christian cloaks, it is worship that turns my heart back to my Heavenly Papa, and I am again lost in love, clothed in righteousness that is not mine.

So tonight I bask in the wonder of the ove of Jesus, who died to give me life… who died to give life for the one who comes back to say ‘thank you’… and for the one who manipulates and takes for granted sacrifices made on their behalf. He understands each of us with equal affection, and grants extravagant grace for our various struggles and burdens. And suddenly I realize that I have no enemies, only brothers and sister with pain, struggling through their story. And I pray that Jesus will meet each one in the place of their battle, and lift up the weary hearts and breathe life into us, every one, so that His purposes are fulfilled in us.

With confidence I move forward because Jesus didn’t stay trapped in a grave: Christ is Risen from the Dead, and that gives me hope for every one of us. Deep, eternal hope.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Shocking Note From Conservative Minister…

Even as I write this, I recognize that I have not fully absorbed the words in the note that arrived earlier this week. I shared it with a small handful of people, not offering the name of the author, and most responded with tears and emotion, amazed and encouraged. Of those with whom I shared the message, most–if not all, besides my husband– were also conservative Mennonites. And because it was so encouraging to them, I decided to share it in a blog….

I am accustomed to receiving letters, emails, text messages and Facebook messages from strangers. It’s pretty much a daily occurrence, so when I saw that note, I was mostly nonchalant about it. That is, until I started reading. And my eyes have this way of taking in an entire page all at once, but registering only a portion, so words popped out grabbing my attention. “…don’t know me… conservative… minister… negative connotation…” This can be a distressing thing, at times, when the wrong words grab me, and my heart rate increased ever so slightly as I read it.

The shock at what I read, compelled me to read it at least three times before it all registered. (All identifying information has been edited out:

Trudy, We have never met but I feel a fire inside to drop you a line this morning. I am a conservative Anabaptist …minister…. Recently …in the course of different conversations your name come up at least a half dozen times often with negative connotations but not always. For your name to come up that often you must be having a big impact … I want to do 2 things.
1. I want ask for forgiveness where “my” people have spoken evil of you for just following the call on your life.
2. I want to thank you for following that call and not giving up. We need you. Your call? Isaiah 61:1

By the third reading I felt like a dam was pushing against the inner walls of my heart, threatening to burst, but it would not give way. I wanted to weep, but only a lonely tear or two formed. A thousand thoughts flew through my mind and memory, of all this one message addresses in my heart, and the ‘history’ of my life among ‘his’ people… who are and always will also be ‘my’ people.

In an instant I realized how very healed my heart is in so many ways and places, and yet how there are small ‘brutally raw’ spots, waiting to heal. The words God had spoken, and words I shared with Tim and a few friends a few years ago, when my heart was particularly raw, returned, “Healing will come… and it will come from the very source of your pain.” At the time I tried to imagine just how my healing could or would ever come from ‘my people’, where so much pain had entered my life and broken trust with God. But I chose to believe it.

And little by little it came… A note from a friend still in the setting… and another… and another… An encouragement from one Conservative Mennonite pastor after my book came out in March… and then another… and another… and another, until there were six.

And then the unthinkable happened. Never in a million years would I have anticipated it or even dared to desire such a thing… but it came. I attended a funeral in my former church setting, and a leader I knew in ‘those years’ shook my hand. But he didn’t let go. He held my hand and his voice choked up as he thanked me for honouring them in my book. “We didn’t deserve it,” he said. I smiled and patted his hand–still holding mine–“I think you did,” I said. Tears formed then, as he continued, apologizing for not understanding me, for not being there and for failing me. “I wish we had done more to help you,” he said.  I thanked him, and immediately felt it; another moment of healing.

These moments have been representative of my Heavenly Father; Abba… Papa God, who cares personally and intimately about every wound in my heart. Even the ones I forgot I had, or never acknowledged. I expected nothing more in the way of healing. My heart was full.

And I think that is why the note this week was so overwhelming. It wasn’t just about the past. It was about the ongoing lies, evil-speaking and attacks on our ministry. (Which, thank God, I have learned to let run off as the oil of the Holy Spirit covers me and doesn’t allow it to penetrate.) But more than that, it was a blessing on our ministry.

Ultimately my affirmation comes first from my Heavenly Father, very directly, as He ministers to my heart. Secondly it comes from my husband who stands with me. Thirdly it comes from hearing and reading about others who are rising up to bring the healing of Jesus to the broken and wounded in the church. I seek nothing beyond that, in the way of endorsement or affirmation.

So when a moment like this drops out of the clear blue sky, my heart and spirit are almost overcome. I thank God for this minister’s encouragement, for his ministry to the wounded, and for a reminder that there are others ‘within’ in spiritual warfare for the children and offering the hope of Jesus to the wounded.

It is my prayer that this minister’s note will be encouraging for those of you who are also conservative Mennonite and feel alone and abandoned. If you are wondering if any of ‘our people’ and leaders in particular, will acknowledge what was done against you, and the need for your heart to find healing, now you know.

I recently received a message from an abuse victim, asking if every conservative Mennonite victim of sexual abuse gets the urge to strangle anyone they see wearing a plain suit coat. And in another email this note arrived not so long ago, from a victim of extreme sexual violence, in a religious home with this question:
“why is it that the people who ‘look the most christian’ are the ones that are the least understanding and the most hurtful? Even the ones who don’t place much stock in a host of church rules etc. The people who have shown me a clear picture of who God really is are people who my friends and family would call wordly. (…) It’s been drilled into us since we were kids that if they don’t wear a Menno dress they probably aren’t Christian and yet look at what all goes on in the life of people who wear the ‘right’ clothes. When it comes to some of these people it feels like the only thing you accomplish is beating your head on a brick wall.”

 

My prayer is that the gentleman/minister who wrote the note of encouragement and apology, who also wears a plain suit coat and is conservative Anabaptist, will be representative of the Father’s heart to you as he was to me, and a reminder that good and evil dwell in every culture. And I pray that healing will come to each of you also–even from the very ‘source’ of your pain–as it has for me, as Jesus is represented will by those who love Him above all else, including image and religion.

Those of us who love Him, will love you also, and we will tear down the dividing walls between brothers and sisters in Christ, with no regard for self preservation. We will put ourselves on the line for your well-being, because that is the way of Jesus.

Last but not least, I want to bless this minister of the healing Gospel of Jesus. I pray that God will enlarge his sphere of influence, so that many of ‘his people’ will know the healing touch of Jesus Christ, through him, his wife, his family and his church.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger