On becoming a grandma and God interrupting a prayer for our unborn grand-baby…

There I was, praying for our family. I had just started a prayer for our unborn grand-baby, when God interrupted. And He seemed quite off-topic, at that. I mean, I’m praying blessing over the next generation, and asking Him to keep His hand on this child, and all kinds of good things, and He says, “You keep taking your eyes off of Jesus”.

Wait… what?

It took me off guard. “You keep taking your eyes off of Jesus,” He said again.

Let me tell you, when God interrupts a prayer for a grand baby, you listen. Because it must be important. After all, He knows all about how we grandparents get on about grandchildren, from the day you find out about the first one being on the way, until the great-grand-babies and great-great-grand-babies show up. He wired us that way. (And you never interrupt a first-time grandparent prattling on about the baby, and how the mama is doing, and “he’s going to be such a good daddy”…. You just don’t. You let them chatter and you celebrate with them.

God knows this. And He still interrupted me. Funny thing, I didn’t have to shift from grand-baby chatter to ask, “What are you talking about?” I knew. But to make sense of it, let me tell the backstory…

****

It all began few months ago, toward the end of ‘the crazy’ of things with the ASAA, and the other two guys, whom I shall not name. (And if you don’t know the story, just settle for knowing there was some conflict surrounding a young woman who was molested, which intertwined with a lot of other insane stuff, and I was involved. I had hard evidence — and still do — of things that needed addressing. And still do. But, alas, male power and religious dominance shall prevent such things. As for the law, some of the details could go either way at this point, form my understanding).

But it began there, when I realized the darkness of the way things were handled was getting to me, and I decided “I’m out”. I intended never to address it again, publicly, and respond in private to people by offering evidence and letting them deal with that, rather than taking my word for it. And that is what I did. Until this week. Over the weeks and months emails, phone calls and facebook messages trickled in. One of the two ‘other guys’ involved was saying “…..” and is it true? Or “From what (the one guy said), you [….]”

Other messages were kind-hearted souls wanting us to ‘kiss and make up’ and play nice in the church sandbox again. The pain of us leaders not being in relationship was/is almost too much. And some shared what they had been told were the issues. Peripheral things… I was just trying to destroy the one guy. I was jealous of his ministry, some said. Whatever trickled in, trickled out my left ear about as pick as it slipped in the right. When tempted to tackle it, I reminded myself, “I’m out”. Until this week.

I’ll confess up front that when I first heard it, I laughed. It was, in my mind, the most absurd accusation to date. I don’t recall when someone first said it, but it was some weeks ago, and I ignored it. Until I learned more details (which would require half a dozen blogs to explain, and it isn’t relevant, so I’ll not bother about that), and the story behind it. I forgot completely that “I’m out”, and I addressed it.

The story was pulled out of thin air that I wanted to be on the ASAA board, and being offended, I started spreading lies about the aforementioned group and people. In January I was asked by the then-vice-chair of the ASAA board if I had any advice for them. Not other than one thing, I said, and that was to vet their board, interview each one personally and make sure there is no history of abuse or molestation that is not taken care of. With so many ministries associated through board members (Life Ministries, Strait Paths, Kenny K. – as a pastor and counsellor, the Reed brothers, and others) I urged them to be thorough so it would not damage those ministries. He let me know that the board was fully in place and nothing could be done about it, and if that were to take place, he would also be disqualified. I said that since it has nothing to do with me (by extension not Generations Unleashed), it was merely advice and up to them. However, Tim and I talked and decided that if they did not vet their board members thoroughly, we would not have anything to do with any formal or informal involvement, beyond attending.

Based on that interaction, he decided I wanted to be on the board, or so he said when I confronted him about spreading the lie that I wanted to be on the board. That’s how he took our interaction, he said, and he was sorry *if* he had misunderstood. There was exactly three days between that conversation and our falling out, which happened about the time I asked him to explain what he meant when he said he would be disqualified from ASAA leadership if they vetted those with unresolved abuse/molestation history. ( I won’t get into those details.) From that point forward, things in our relationship deteriorated, with some attempts to work through things.

That’s the backstory, but the reason I laughed when I heard it was two-fold. First, I tried to picture me working with a team of conservative Mennonite men that closely. Somehow, as much as I’ve learned to respect many of them in healthy relationship,  including leaders, the picture makes me giggle. Knowing me and my story… Nope… I just can’t see any formal ties like that working well for either side. And I’ve never had any such ambitions. I’m happy to help them in any way possible, and support them, but a partnership?

While I wasn’t so much ‘put off’ as humoured, it was that tie to the organization (ASAA) that bothered me.

In fairness, I had taken information that was brought to me and I believed to be true, and shared it publicly (regarding the break and enter). Immediately upon discovering it could not be proven with evidence, I apologized both publicly and privately to him.

 

img_5408  .       img_5409 .     img_5410

 

I was content to leave it at that, assuming he really had nothing to do with it, and feeling badly for ever having brought it up with no evidence.

And all I was hoping for from him when I approached him about the unfounded rumours of me wanting to be on the board, was to own up that pulling such an assumption out of the context of our January conversation — when our conversation was really only focused on addressing vetting board members and his comment — was neither right nor justifiable. No such apology was forthcoming.

****

Truth is, I’ve hardly thought about any of this since starting school apart from tending to the messages and questions that come in, as I was able. Somehow PhD work is not easier than the Masters was, and leaves little time for worrying about past kerfluffles. But, having confronted the source of the rumours/lies, and receiving no acknowledgement, it is hard not to shift at the waves.

So here I am, now, having spent several days looking back at the mess of this past year once again. Nothing resolved or appropriately addressed. The man who was sending inappropriate texts over the past few years and who molested one young woman, as recently as October still offered massages to someone via text and voice mail. (To his church’s credit, they have finally acted on the allegations and put him out of membership). The leader with whom I had a falling out … well, that remains as it was. And ASAA… besides my alleged disappointment at being excluded, it all sits as it was, and so shall it remain by all appearances.

And that is where that interruption came in… Having spent a day with our daughter, shopping all things young mama for her birthday, seeing her round tummy, hearing her tell about the kicking and the changes, and loving life. And suddenly finding myself back in the muddle of things gone by that stand no chance of resolution, no hope of relational redemption… And the only good having come so far being that, while fluffy popularity dropped this past year (thank you Jesus! I don’t do fluff and bandwagon), the truth is we have become surrounded by countless warriors and hundreds of new people we never knew before have stepped up to support us in so many ways. I’ve never had such a thing before. Total strangers, over and over and over again, writing to say they are praying. Some also contributing to the costs of all the travel this past year, and all saying we are in this together. (Thirteen out of country trips in a year add up… So, again, thank you to those who contributed).

Those are beautiful and meaningful things, for which I am so grateful! And I value each new friend and partner in this war against sexual violence with deep appreciation. But none of those things replace loss of trust and loss of relationships that have fallen by the wayside as a result of this past year. They do not replace the loss that comes when things are not handled in an open and forthright manner; when politics and polite society is more important than truth. These things are huge losses I grieve from this past year, and the zero-hope-of any future redemption, saddens me. But I embrace the redemptions that have come out of it, and accept that those may well have been some of the purpose in the first place.

But the losses… They are the things that, when the waves start to rise — sometimes because someone dropped a giant boulder in the water, sometimes for other reasons — and the waters get unsteady, those things distract me. And I struggle to see Jesus in the chaos. The waves of discouragement at how things unfolded. The waves of lost trust. The waves of my own failures and mistakes in it — especially getting it wrong and speaking out about the break-in with no evidence, and the harm and injustice toward so many of the wounded out there..

These waves rise and fall….

And through the waves, in the middle of that prayer for our grand-baby, where the heart is quiet and tender and undistracted by the ills and evils of life and the world….

There God whispered. And I am now deliberately, determinedly, yet humbly turning my eyes away from the waves, once again, to the Master of the waves; the Creator of the Universe, the One who made the heaven and the earth….

And our sweet grand-baby.

Because I want my heart to be quiet and tender, undistracted by the ills and evils of this world. And God and grand-babies, even unborn ones, they offer that.

As always…  with another shift in focus…

Love,
~ T ~

Psalm 23 English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

What every sex abuse victim must know

One of the worst things about being sexually assaulted is the power the offender has, both in the moment of the attack and after. Especially if that offender ‘presents well’ spiritually or socially (or both), in which case he/she has even more power, and the word of a victim is easily dismissed. Especially where there is little evidence, or where victims didn’t keep evidence they had, and present with anger and ‘issues’. No one wants to believe that good citizens and spiritual men and women would victimize the vulnerable, so it is easier (less messy) to protect the offender and write off the victim.

And often victims think they are the only ones, but truth is, when offenders self-report, they often have over 100 victims, and the average offender has 117 victims. (To those who only have one or two, for heaven’s sake don’t use this to make yourself feel good. One victim is 100% too many).

If you’ve been molested, raped, or sexually assaulted in any way, report it sooner than later, whether it is rape, sexual groping, perverted phone calls or any other thing that victimized you. The more influential, powerful or ‘spiritual’ the person presents, the more critical this is. The more you fear ‘No one will believe me’, it is especially important to document, as soon as possible and with as much detail as possible. People who do these things should not be in ministry or leadership. And the ‘spiritual’ ones will make it appear as though people are flocking to them in droves for spiritual support, when in reality they manipulate things behind the scenes to entice the victims and then abuse the ones who are most vulnerable. If you are a victim of such a person, odds are high that you are not one, but one of many victims. The average offender has 117 victims. This number is based on self-reporting on how many victims offenders in prison have. Think Larry Nassar. That is highly skilled victimization, and I know of others who are as skilled and still moving through churches but until victims rise up *together*, they will not be stopped. So let’s do this. Document, document, document…

You can do this by:
• Save all communication – screen shots of conversations, emails, copies of voicemail etc, copies of pictures sent etc (Keep *everything* that is evidence.)
• Mailing yourself a letter that is date-stamped. Don’t open it. Store it in a safe place.
• Report it to police, even if you don’t want to press charges. At least it is documented.
• Email someone you trust who will keep if confidential… or even email it to yourself.

And if/when you are ready, report it. If you need help reporting, find a trustworthy support person and do it. If you don’t know of anyone who will support you, email us at https://www.generationsunleashed.com/contact-us, and we will do our best to support you. You don’t have to do this alone. (Where feasible, we will physically have someone present with you as you report. I’ve traveled many miles to support a victim reporting, and if possible, will do so for you, or where we have contacts in your area, will connect you with someone trustworthy and supportive.)

By the time a powerful person becomes your church leader or political leader, if the sexual assaults are not previously documented in thorough detail, exposing it will re-victimize you more likely than it will stop them from moving into power. Or it may do both, and you both lose credibility because there’s no evidence that the assaults were previously documented. And, let’s face it, false allegations do happen, when there is an agenda. They are documented as far back as the story of Joseph in the OT, and by the time people rise to positions of power, they are usually surrounded by those who idolize them and see them as victims of heartless attacks. And in their eyes, you are the villain, fighting with hate and anger against the Kingdom of God, or against the beloved politician or church leader.

So document. Document. Document. Keep a journal. Talk to a counsellor. It is a tragic thing when evil hides behind the guise of goodness (wolves in sheeps clothing, as they are often called in New Testament) and the victims are publicly slaughtered. Jesus has some choice words for this type:

Matthew 23:27-28, 33
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. […]
33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

The grace of Jesus is great enough for every sinner, but the one who hides sins and crimes behind the cloak of spirituality casts that grace aside and invites condemnation in its place.

Victims, document, report, speak out as you are able. Together we can help stop this madness and crimes against children.

Offenders, I encourage you, don’t hide your sins and crimes. We (the church) have paid a high price for hidden sins among us, and have carried the curse of criminals being applauded and lifted up while victims are shamed and blamed. Just as in Joshua’s day, when innocent men fell dead because of the hidden things under Achan’s tent, many innocent victims today have turned their hearts away from God because of what you did against them, betraying their trust and blaming them. Your hidden sins have pierced the Bride of Christ through with a sword and left her bleeding. I urge you to repent, turn yourselves in, and bring an end to the haemorrhaging church. There is grace for you… there is forgiveness, but you cannot and will not access it as long as you hide behind a facade, and protect yourselves from the consequences while you let those you’ve wronged carry the burden of your sins in silent shame.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Should Women be Silent… or Prophesy… or Both?

That one topic I was sure I would never address… now here I am, letting all these worms out of a tin, all because someone took the lid off…

Recently a man encouraged me to study the scripture on a woman’s place in the home and in the church. (Well, that was a less than subtle hint at his personal opinion!) He wasn’t being offensive or manipulative–at least I didn’t take it that way–and I didn’t take offense. It was, I believe, done with good intentions. A bit misguided, maybe, but no harm done.

A similar ‘concern’ was brought to my attention by another gentleman not long ago. He, too, was very kind.

And a minister mentioned it as well…

My husband, on the other hand, encourages me to do what I am doing. Oddly enough, he is the only one with the ‘authority’ to speak into my life. And he says ‘do it’. He is my leader. My spiritual protector. And I respect him. From the time God spoke to me and I shared that with Tim, on October 20, 2001, I waited until Tim gave me the blessing to  ‘go ahead’. And that took a long time.

When I first told Tim, he immediately blessed me and affirmed what God had spoken. But he also said, ‘Not now. The time is not right.’ A line he would continue to say for almost ten years.

A week or two after I told Tim what God had put on my heart, I received a phone call. It was Steve Masterson, a mentor, friend and spiritual-father figure in my life, and he asked me if I had ever considered going into ministry.

I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. We talked about it. I shared my heart, and what God had showed me the previous weekend. He shared how God had laid on his heart a vision for ministry to the abused, as a call on my life.

The two most influential and most godly men and leaders in my life affirmed what God had already spoken. I knew then, without a doubt, that one day it would happen. I also knew that it wasn’t up to me to force those doors open.

It is ironic that I now have people with no authority or influence in my life, encouraging me to reevaluate God’s call. Some boldly declaring that what I do goes against scripture.

One woman, whose husband and two sons have all sexually abused children, gently told me that she fears for my children if their mother is out like that day after day.

Mostly I listen and file those comments. God has spoken, and I will obey. End of story. It will take more than human persuasion to convince me that God has not called me. And most likely if God was to ask me to leave ministry, He would speak through Tim and to me, not random people who have preconceived notions about what I do.

I can hear it already, the criticism: “But how can you say God asked you to do something that violates scripture? Didn’t He say women are to be silent?”

To answer that question, with absolutely no twisting of scripture, I will simply post what my Bible says, and then post a few thoughts and questions for you to contemplate. Too often we take what someone says, or follow what a church’s constitution says, and make it ‘Bible Truth to stand on’, without ever searching the scripture for ourselves. And sometimes the answer is there, in black and white, with no agenda to accompany it. Simply God’s truth, unadulterated by mankind, and with no personal agenda or human control.

Joel 2:25-29

New King James Version (NKJV)

25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,[a]
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

In the context of these verses, it is interesting to note that the prophetic word, stating that God’s sons and daughters will prophesy, is directly connected to God’s promise to bring healing and restoration…

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The same prophesy is given again in Acts, as this outpouring of the Holy Spirit begins.

Acts 2:17-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

I’ve heard arguments that God merely allowed women to speak, and be in places of leadership in the Old Testament, as though it was some hardship for Him. But on the heels of that is a quick explanation that in the New Testament this is strictly forbidden.

Irony of all ironies, the verses above are Old Testament verses speaking to end times–seems to me we’ve never been closer to the end than we are today. And tomorrow we will be even closer. So to say that the prophesy was not for today is, well, twisting the Word of God into human agenda.  Not to mention that these verses are quoted again after Jesus returned to heaven. Clearly they were not meant for a time prior to Christ. These verses speak prophetically to the role that men and women will have in the end times, proclaiming the truth of God, of Jesus Christ.

How can the idea that ‘women must be silent’ be enforced as a ‘biblical law’ in these last day, and the truth of scripture still stand, rock solid, when the Bible plainly prophesies that men and women will prophesy? Either the verses on end time prophesy must be cast aside, and it be determined that God’s word is not reliable, or we are missing something. The fact that there is room for God’s ‘daughters’ and ‘maidservants’ to prophesy, to speak, is in direct conflict with what many churches teach…

Acts 21:8-9

King James Version (KJV)

8 “And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.”

They ‘did’ prophesy, the author writes. They ‘did’, did they? One might almost understand this to mean that they actually did it. Actually spoke the truth of God with authority, out loud. As women. Females.

The word ‘prophesy’ says it all. The verb means “to speak out of divine inspiration; to give instruction on religious matters; to preach.” Prophesy refers to foretelling and forthtelling. Foretelling is what Jesus did when He warned of what would happen to Jerusalem. And it did happen. But more commonly prophesy refers to ‘forthtelling’, or speaking the truth in relation to present circumstances.

It is 100% impossible to be prophet or prophetess and be silent. Speaking is the key ingredient to prophesying. How do we reconcile this, that a prophetess must speak, and be female, and yet all women must be silent?

I believe that God has designed us with unique purpose in mind, and that purpose is His, not ours. He has left room in His own Word for us to function ‘outside the box’ of what is acceptable, or even enforced, by religion. (And there’s indication that Phoebe, in the early church, also had a role not in keeping with strong religious teaching.)

One of the references given me to consider, by several, was in 1 Timothy 2. So I read it. Again. I’m familiar with it. I embrace it. I believe it. I believe it as powerfully as I believe the verses I quoted previously in Joel and Acts.  To quote those verses, however, I’d like to back track a few verses to verse 8.

1 Timothy 2:8

King James Version (KJV)
8 “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

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I read that verse and realized that of the men who told me I should be quiet and not speak publicly, not one, to my knowledge or witness, has ever lived in obedience to verse 8. I have not seen one of them lift holy hands in prayer, without wrath or doubting. This is a direct command, if it’s commands we’re looking at, and it directly precedes the command that women in silence. And it even says ‘every where’, a detail missing in the verses addressing women and silence. That’s an interesting biblical fact… (Wonder what a message would sound like where all men are emotionally and spiritually ‘spanked’ for not walking in obedience to this visible, external evidence of obedience to God? But I digress…)

1 Timothy 2:11-12

King James Version (KJV)
11 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

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In verse 11 Paul says women are to *learn* in silence.,(also interpreted as ‘don’t interrupt’ the speaker) and then goes on to say not to *usurp* authority over man, but be in silence. Within context, that’s pretty plain reading. I doubt a prophet or prophetess of God would interrupt honourable men of God while teaching. Only overbearing, and obnoxious behaviour would inspire that kind of rude response to godly teaching.

The word ‘usurp’ means to ‘take by illegal force’ and speaks again of being overbearing, and not functioning in submission to God-given leadership. Overpowering our leaders and demanding they let us have control, stands in stark contrast to releasing control while submitting our vision to the leaders God has placed in our lives. (And when our leaders are not following the Word of God, we best not stay, but run for our dear lives!)

I believe in living a life of submitted vision. I believe in functioning under the blessing of those whom God has given authority in my life. That means there are times that I am silent on topics Tim is not comfortable having me address. It means that I don’t always respond to people who attack or antagonize me. If Tim says, “Don’t do it,” then I don’t do it. He is my leader, my protector, spiritually and physically.

On a church level I have always done ministry under the blessing and leadership of my leaders, elders, pastors and mentors. I believe this is biblical, and if I force my way into what I want to do or fell called to do, without being released by my leaders, then I am in direct violation of scripture.

There have been times when the burden of this ministry has been overwhelming. There have been times when I cried in Tim’s arms and said, “Honey, I just want to quit… I can’t do this anymore…. I can’t take the attacks…” or some other struggle.

I have looked at Tim and said, “You speak the word, and I will turn and walk away from this ministry, and never look back.”  And I have done it at times when we struggled together because of the ministry, because it cost us more emotionally and financially than we felt we could handle. I expected him to say, “walk away”, on at least one occasion.

Instead, every time, he has held me and reminded me what God called me to do, and encouraged me to keep doing it. Only once did he even begin to release me to stop, but in the end we couldn’t. That support has made me stronger, more resilient, and more deeply committed to God and His call on my life than I have ever been.

I live in obedience to Joel and Acts, when I speak out the truth of Christ, prophesying the truth He asks me to speak. And I live in obedience to 1 Timothy when I am silent out of respect for my husband. And God is blessing us for it. We feel His spiritual covering over us. He provides when we don’t have it in us to keep going. And He is changing lives. We’re not doing it. We couldn’t’. He is. And we praise Him for it.

Whether I speak, or am silent, my life is God’s. I surrender myself to Him daily and desire only to lift Jesus high, because when He is lifted up, He draws all people to Himself. And therein lies healing.

© Trudy Metzger

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

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

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

“Line ’em up & shoot ’em” said the Baptist Pastor… “Get over it” said the Mennonite Minister

It’s all a bit ironic now, looking back, how the first two pastors responded when I spoke with them about sexual abuse in my early twenties. The most intriguing part of opening up the door to working through abuse was the way these pastors responded, given that they were in a position of spiritual leadership.

My cousin Maria seemed to feel an element of responsibility for my wellbeing, after our conversation, most likely because I was so much younger, and she knew what it was like to be victimized. She called me some time after my visit and wondered if I would meet with her and her pastor some evening. She had already told him her story, so the groundwork was laid. I wouldn’t need to do a lot of explaining, but maybe he could be of some support.

“Sure, I’d do that,” I said. What harm could it do?

And that is how I found myself in a pastor’s office in the Baptist church, a few minutes from Maria’s home. Maria and I sat, side by side, across the desk from the pastor.

The pastor opened the conversation. “Maria tells me your father sexually abused you.”

“Yes. The memories are still very vague, but something happened. I went to her because I remembered rumours in my childhood that I didn’t understand then, but I thought maybe he had abused her too. She confirmed it.”

The pastor leaned back in his chair. “He should be shot.” He said it as nonchalantly, yet matter-of-factly as if he had said my dad needed medication.

Startled, I did what I always do in an awkward, uncomfortable situation that catches me off guard. I snorted. A half laugh, half something-I-can’t identify sound that says, “You didn’t just say that… I must have heard wrong…” I said something like, “pardon me?”

The pastor, unflinching, and still leaning back in his chair said again, “He should be shot. Anyone who does that to a child should be shot. Line ‘em up and shoot ‘em all.”

“No. I disagree,” I said. “What about forgiveness? What about grace? What my dad did is terrible, but God’s grace has to be big enough for that too,” I spoke more in defence of God’s grace than my father. I understood well the desire to see my father pay for his sins. As a young teenager I had prayed for his death many times. I had often asked God to ‘make him repent and then run him off a cliff so he goes to heaven, and we don’t  have to hurt like this anymore.’ Each time, immediately after praying that prayer, I felt a pang of guilt and shame for wishing him dead, but I had never withdrawn the request. And at night, when he would pull up again, I felt the same guilt for being sorry he was still alive. I couldn’t judge the pastor. I understood. Still, when Jesus saved me from my ‘hell’, He had offered complete, unconditional forgiveness. How could I withhold that from someone else?

The pastor insisted that it was the one crime that should always result in death. Every time. When an innocent child suffers sexual abuse at the hands of an adult, it should go without saying.

We chatted a while and parted ways. He was kind enough, and compassionate towards me, but I was not interested in a pastor sentencing my father. No harm was done, and nothing was gained.

The first time I told my one Mennonite pastor and his wife, when I was struggling with some life ‘stuff’, the pastor also spoke quite matter-of-factly, but with a very different message. “You know, Trudy, you can’t use that as an excuse for your struggles. You need to take ownership.”

And that was the end of that discussion. I was simply to choose to ‘Get over it.” There was no effort made to hear my heart, to encourage me to get counselling or go for other help. I was simply to ‘not allow’ it to impact me. It seemed really quite simple, from their point of view.

Their response, in hindsight, reminds me of the Bob Newhart skit ‘Stop it’. (click here to view clip on YouTube.)

As though the impact of a traumatic past would simply have an on off button that you simply press ‘stop’ and the impact is gone and your whole life is right. You simply ‘stop it’.

Both pastors—the first two that I told—responded to extremes and neither had the answer, yet both had an element of truth.

Sinners deserve to die. Death is the consequence for sin, just as the first pastor said it should be. But, because Jesus took that penalty, we go free and we are given life eternal if we repent. And that is all sinners.

The second pastor also had a point. I don’t have to give the past power over my present and I do have to take ownership of my life. Part of taking ownership, however, and it is the part he failed to recognize, is in acknowledging the past and daring to walk through the pain. In seeing how horrible it was, and allowing Jesus to heal that pain.

Freedom does not come through denial and suppression. If the past causes a present struggle, then I need to invite Jesus into that, allow Him to heal that past and set me free from the bondage of unforgiveness. The instant I choose to forgive, I am free from the burden of that perpetrator’s sins against me.

I have since spoken with many pastors who give very different advice to abuse victims. Thank God. The first two spoke out of ignorance and a lack of experience, and I won’t hold it against them. Fortunately I had Howard and Alice, and a few other great people, speaking into my life and the advice these pastors gave didn’t throw me. It could all have turned out very differently, had I been fragile and without support in either situation.

Somewhere between these two responses is a healthy response to abuse. Both of these examples go to show the importance of leaders being educated on the topic of sexual abuse, and sexuality in general, and knowing how to deal with abuse situations in a redemptive, healthy way. In knowing how to hear hearts, while not compromising God’s redemptive truth.

If you are a pastor reading this, or someone who works with victims, and would like resources, email me at info@faithgirlsunleashed.com and I will do my best to assist you.

© Trudy Metzger

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“Unleashing the Potential That Lies Within Each of Us”

“Please join me on the journey of unleashing the potential that lies within each of us.” Kirk J Goodwin

These words, penned by my friend, and fellow John Maxwell Team Founding Partner, Kirk Goodwin, are powerful words. They are an invitation to teamwork, an invitation to making a difference and, more than that, these words speak life over every individual. There is potential in everyone.

Today I am not posting my usual ‘series related’ blog. My heart is heavy, and sad for Kirk’s family, because last night Kirk left this world. This gives his words even greater impact–a challenge to leave a legacy that inspires others. A challenge to make a difference in the years that I am given, a gift from God.

My first connection with Kirk was in April 2011, via Facebook, and in August I had the privilege of meeting him in person at the John Maxwell Certification Training, in West Palm Beach. We started with the normal ‘ice breaker’ chatting, inevitably talking about our families.

Kirk asked about my husband and our kids. I shared the usual. We have our hands full, but they’re great and Tim is an amazing dad. Two boys have varying degrees of ADHD, one is on meds during school, the other self-manages, and one daughter is ADD. Can’t sit still, none of them, but they do well in school. …Wonder where they would get that?

Kirk chuckled.  Little did I realize that he would understand more than most, what I was describing, and my personal challenge with managing ADHD/ADD over the years. He told me about the S.U.P.E.R. Learning Centre, specializing in helping kids with Autism, ADHD/ADD, PTSD, and other challenges. He talked about the role animals–particularly horses–can play in bringing out the best in kids who have some of these challenges. He mentioned a place in Ohio–not connected with the S.U.P.E.R. Learning Centre, if my memory serves me right–where you can take kids and have them interact with horses. He recommended I bring my boys sometime.

When Kirk said, “…unleashing the potential that lies within each of us…”, he said it because he believed it. His eyes sparkled enthusiastically as he shared the testimonies of kids, whose lives were changed through their work. And the way he took an interest and entered into my life, offering practical insight and sharing resources, was his potential coming through–his gift of impacting and changing lives.

Today, as I read the words Kirk wrote, I am reminded of the importance of living our potential now. We don’t have forever. We have today. It reminded me of  the importance of encouraging others, and inviting others to join us in changing lives, in making a difference.

My heart is heavy and sad that Kirk’s life was taken so abruptly. That tragedy has left a family grieving this loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and my hope is that those of us who knew Kirk, and even those who never met him, will be inspired to carry on the legacy.

Live your potential today. Believe in the potential that lies in every one of us. Invest in others and invite them to join you in making a difference.

What legacy are you building today, that people will remember tomorrow?

© Trudy Metzger

Visit also these tributes to Kirk Goodwin:
Bob Kittridge’s tribute
Barry Smith’s tribute

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/