A Haunting Dream (Warning: May Be Disturbing for Some)

Tim stepped in the house, looking quite shaken. I had watched from a window, as a strange man, apparently a neighbour we didn’t know personally, had paid him a visit. Tim told me the man had come with a warning that they were watching us.

The man, slightly built, yet muscular, and scruffy–as though not having shaved for some time–had that ‘worn’ look that comes from smoking, drugs, alcohol and hard living. He looked physically strong, in spite of his size, and tattoos decorated his arms and neck. His eyes. Evil. Daunting.

We were packing both of our vehicles, as we always do, to go on family vacation. A much-needed, rare treat, escaping from the busyness of life and the demands of work and ministry. We had looked forward to this, but now a dark cloud loomed. I could feel it.

Tim looked pale as he spoke. “He said they are going have a cabin near us. They’re going to be there all week, keeping an eye on us.”

We didn’t know what it meant, but the heaviness left me with a sense of dread. Our time of rest, now becoming a time of survival.

We arrived at the cottage and settled in. It was simple, but nice. Tim and I chose an upstairs bedroom, where the morning light greeted us, with its warmth each morning. How I have always loved to lie in the sun and feel those rays, since early childhood.

True to his word, the neighbour who had confronted Tim–and it really had felt like a confrontation, though we had no idea why–showed up directly across from us.

There were only two cottages in this lovely wooded parcel of land, and somehow they had known we would be here. The thought was not a comfortable one.

On about the second day, we took our family to McDonald’s in the evening, and were about to leave, and return to the cottage, when the neighbour–who obviously had followed us there–walked over. He pulled out what looked like an over-sized razor blade, but with only one sharp edge, and one heavier side, for better grip. I saw it, but had no time to react.

With the same threatening intimidation I had observed through the wind in that initial encounter, he swung the blade, cutting Tim. I wanted to scream, to fight back, to stop him. But I could do nothing. I stood, frozen in place.

I couldn’t make out the words he said, still clearly intimidating, before he walked away. Tim remained calm. But whether it was shock or resilience, I couldn’t tell.

The next few days passed, without incident. It was as if the intruders were not there.

That last morning at the cottage, I awakened to the sun spilling her light through the window, onto our bed. Tim was awake, sitting up and leaning over me. He kissed me. I closed my eyes and smiled. Stretched. And opened my eyes again. A perfect morning.

My eyes fell on the neighbour’s cottage. And that’s when I saw her, at the window, watching us. Her face, though emotionless, communicated so much. She was a beautiful young woman, with long auburn hair falling around her face and shoulders. The expression was a blend of jealousy, hate, longing, grief, and rage.

Was she the neighbour’s wife? His hostage? A girlfriend? What did it all mean? Her expression confused me.

Our eyes met in that split second.

She turned, a look of resolve overtaking all other emotion. Instinct warned me. I said something to Tim. Told him that she had been watching us, that something wasn’t right. I feared she had watched us all week, and we didn’t even know she was there.

And then we waited. My heart was sick with dread. The sun had promised a lovely day, but the heaviness warned me that it was a day of survival.

I heard the footsteps, moving up the stairs, followed by a knock. Tim immediately opened the door. I crawled out of bed and moved toward the door. Something wasn’t right.

And then, as a glint of light caught it, I saw that sharp blade, just like the one the neighbour had used to cut Tim. She said something, but I couldn’t make out the words. I wasn’t listening. I saw what Tim couldn’t see.

I dove forward, took her off guard as I grabbed her arm, and snatched the blade from her. I gave it to Tim, then wrestled her onto the bed. Then I calmly I broke her arms. This was survival. I had no choice. Everything in me resisted harming her, but I feared if I did not, she would stand up and fight. I used the blade. Not to inflict extreme damage, just enough to ensure our safety.

And then I left here there, on the bed, in agony, and walked out the door, and Tim with me. She didn’t move. Didn’t attempt anything at all. She simply lay there, defeated.

Downstairs the neighbour greeted us. Asked if we had seen his wife. I said we had not. Tim didn’t say anything. The man walked past us, upstairs to our room, where she lay. Tim followed him.

I looked for our children. I had to take one of our vehicles and get the children to safety. How I wished Tim had not followed the man. I was no match for his strength, and to pursue them would only increase the risk. I was the one who had harmed her. I had no choice but to leave.

I found three of our children and rushed them out to my car. It was already partially packed with items to take home again and left only enough room for the three. The other two would have to stay and come with their daddy. I could only pray for safety.

I sped down the road, watching in my rear-view mirror, to make sure no one followed, yet praying that Tim would follow. I didn’t see him.

Afraid of returning home, I stopped at a friend’s house, where family and acquaintances had gathered for an event. Maybe Tim would escape and remember the gathering, and find me. I prayed he would. My heart felt sick at the possibilities.  And the guilt. How I hated the guilt that consumed me for having left two children and Tim.

What if…

I pushed the dark thoughts and images from my mind. Willed myself to reach for hope. This was no time to give up.

I waited for hours, pacing. Everything was so very wrong. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We’re a peaceful family. I tried to engage in conversation, but the thoughts distracted me.

My brother came over to me, then, and started to talk. I told him everything. I tried to be positive, but the dark possibilities spilled out. My deepest fears–that Tim, and our two children with him, were murdered. I shifted to survival. How would I get on with life, if I never saw them alive again?

My brother tried to be positive, to not think the worst. Well, I had tried all day, but now, as evening approached, hope faded fast. It had been too long. If he was alive, he should have been here by now, or contacted me in some way.

The sky grew darker. The day was coming to a close. What started off so filled with hope, love and life, grew increasingly ominous with every passing second.

There was a knock on the door. I ran, opened it.

Tim stood there, pale, worn and exhausted. He had talked the neighbour down. It had taken time and patience.

I looked around. The children. Where were they?

Tim looked the more exhausted.

Had he found them? Or had the neighbour gotten to them first. The pain in Tim’s eyes stopped my heart. Fear.

Images and scenes, unpleasant, unbidden, flashed through my mind. Not my children! I would have sacrificed my life for them….

Tim shook his head. Whatever had happened, he could hardly speak. “They’re tired. They didn’t want to come in.”

They were alive! Relief. Pure, sweet, welcome relief. Whatever had happened, they had survived. I could see in Tim’s eyes that it had not been good, but he offered no explanation. He didn’t have it in him to relive it verbally. What mattered, for the time being, was that we had all survived. No one had lost a life, but all of us had been touched by trauma and evil.

It would take time to recover.

For just a moment I felt as if it was all a dream. That maybe Tim wasn’t really back and I was hallucinating.

I looked at him, reached out to touch him…..

And then I woke up.

It was 6:50am, Tuesday, October 24, 2012. My heart raced. My body trembled. It all felt so real. Too vivid. Too orderly. Too possible, and yet not possible at all. What did it all mean?

As the fog lifted from my mind, I prayed. Whatever had triggered the nightmare, I wasn’t about to dwell on it, or let fear move in.

****

And that is the graphic ‘survival’ dreams/nightmares I encounter, from time to time, when ministry is at its busiest. Yesterday many people wrote, offering prayer and support. One woman even committed herself to fasting, as Esther requested of the Jews, and praying safety for our family.

I recognize that this is war. And if that dream told me anything at all, it is that we are in a battle against evil. It is not a battle I fight. It is a battle we fight, as a family, even extended family and friends.

Thank you to all who pray for us. It means more than we can express.

© Trudy Metzger

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A Time (for the Church) To Speak (on Sexual Abuse & Taboo Topics)

For many years the church has been silent on the topic of sexuality, and sexual abuse. She has been guilty of covering her eyes and turning a blind eye, as children fell prey to predators. The predators often wearing religious garbs. She has covered her ears at the sound of their weeping, and sung the more loudly, to hide those cries.

She has been controlled and led predominantly by men, many of whom have their own hidden secrets, buried in the shame and silence of the past. The shame is either because they have suffered abuse and victimization, or because they are the perpetrators who have inflicted such trauma. The silence is either one of those, or possibly to cover for the friend or relative who was or is a perpetrator.

It has been done to protect the false image of the church or denomination. It has been done to keep the funds rolling in from the perpetrator who gives generously. It is a crime that has been committed against victims, a sin committed against God. A violation of the heart of Jesus.

But those days are coming to an end. The church will again rise up for the truth, and stand up against evil. She will again reclaim her role as the passionate bride of Christ, the nurturing representation of God’s heart, the safe place for victims.

We live in a time that demands accountability from leadership, justice for the perpetrator, and protection for the victims and potential victims. The laws of our land require it. The law of God and His justice demand it. But more importantly, His heart for children cries out for it.

Not only is our nation rising up, because God has ordained it to be so, but victims are finding their voices and God is raising up  warriors who will fight for the children within the body of Christ. He is exposing the sins of the fathers, and freeing the children from the curse. He is turning the hearts of the children back to the fathers, to bring healing, hope and restoration. I am not going to miss out on that!

The calling God placed on my life–a calling that has been declared and prophesied over and over again, by friends in the Mennonite church and in my current church–is directly linked to this exposing, healing and restoration that God is doing.  It is an honour and a delight to be part of what God is doing in the time, this generation.

For two years we have done ministry focusing predominantly, almost solely, on women, other than meeting with and mentoring a few couples. It has been good, rewarding. But we quickly discovered that there are many, many male victims, and little acknowledgement or resources in the church addressing their plight, partially because of ignorance, and partially ‘it’s never been done’, and no one seems to know where to begin.

When we were first asked if we would do ministry for men, I said ‘no’. As a female, leading the ministry, I found the thought daunting. Overwhelming. Little by little I felt a stirring in my heart. God inviting me to reconsider. I’m not Jael, or Esther, or Deborah, and yet I felt so clearly God saying, “for such a time as this”. I heard Him challenge me to ‘drive a spike’ into the enemy’s head, and reclaim authority in the area of sexuality, and take back what the enemy has taken through silence.

With that Tim and I embarked on the mission to establish Generations Unleashed, a ministry to men, women and families. While the official charitable status is still in limbo, as we wait for Ottawa to bless our mandate, we have our first conference coming up November 23-24, 2012, in partnership with Faith Girls Unleashed.

I searched and prayed for a man to work with me, to be part of the conference and speak on behalf of male victims. God answered that prayer, connecting me with a young man named David Elliott, a 15-year-old survivor, who, along with his family, is determined to make a difference.

David and his parents have written a book for children, called David’s Sword, giving children a voice. His brother, Dan, and his parents have written a second book, David’s Shield, for siblings of victims. And his parents, Marybeth and Lee, are working on two more books.

We are excited to have David and his family join us for the conference and share their story with us. They will offer hope to victims and help equip the body of Christ, the community and families in dealing with sexual abuse, as well as preparing those who will one day encounter this tragedy.

Kirk Durston, of Woodside church in Elmira, will share on the topic of homosexuality, another neglected topic. While not all who struggle with homosexuality do so because of abuse, many do and openly admit it. And not all abusive victims struggle with homosexuality. Either way, and even apart from the abuse issue, the church needs to speak on this topic. Silence will accomplish nothing.

I will share a bit of my story on Friday night, followed by confessions from individuals representing fathers, mothers, pastors, men in general and women in general, as the offenders in abuse.

The conference, Healing for the Broken, will be held at Wilmot Centre Missionary Church 2463 Bleams Road, RR2 Petersburg, Ontario. We would love to have you join us. To register visit http://www.faithgirlsunleashed.com/events_3.html. The early bird rate ends November 8, 2012.

For more information about the speakers, visit: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events.html

NOTE: Saturday snacks and noon meal included

© Trudy Metzger

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Overcoming Flashbacks & the Inevitable Emotional Trauma (Part 2)

Tim held me in his arms as he prayed. I wasn’t able to focus on the words, but that didn’t matter. He was talking to God on my behalf, and He was listening.

After he prayed, Tim sat quietly for a moment. “Are you still angry with me?”

I shook my head. “I never was angry. Whatever happened, I was terrified.”

He explained why he left, and what his plan was, to drive around the parking lot and return.

It didn’t matter. The issue wasn’t the current situation. It was the past that had been ‘jogged’ in my subconscious by the apparent abandonment.

With that resolved, we continued about our day, as planned.

***

Flashbacks are a common and difficult part of life for victims of any kind of abuse or violence. They are emotionally exhausting for the victim, as well as those who observe them. In the above story it was my husband, but can also impact children, siblings and friends. They take a toll on the mind, especially if not identified and worked through, and they most definitely take a toll on marriage.

Flashbacks come in the form of emotions that are hard to identify, vivid pictures—often almost as ‘out of body’ type images, where the victim is watching him or herself in a specific memory, and feeling things that were blocked at the time of trauma.

These episodes leave even a ‘recovered victim’ or survivor of abuse to deal with raw pain and the need to heal at a new level, peeling back another layer. It can be very overwhelming, because it often happens just about the time you think there’s nothing left to heal from, just about the time the past feels truly in the past.

These unexpected interruptions are disheartening because they leave you feeling temporarily hopeless, as if healing will never truly be yours, as if you will never truly be free, and as if you are destined to be a victim for life. With the hopelessness comes shame, because you feel as though you should be past that by now. It should happen any more. Your faith in God should be stronger, your ‘presence of mind’ less easily overthrown.

Tim and I have been through numerous episodes similar to this one, though this was one of the most powerful, most daunting.

Over the years we have learned to identify what is happening, to talk through it, to pray over it, and then be aware. In exploring the cause, and the fear behind the flashback, and then having him pray over me, rather than getting impatient, or taking it personal, we take authority over it. Rather than remaining victimized or vulnerable to the flashbacks, they become an opportunity for deeper healing, and stronger relationship.

Each time Tim has patiently walks me through a flashback, I become stronger. Rather than dealing with constant flashbacks, my trauma is brought to light, and the flashbacks are fewer and farther between. The first seven years of marriage, especially before we recognized them, flashbacks were a fairly constant part of life. The last eleven years I can only remember about four episodes in total, though there may have been some that I have forgotten.

If you deal with flashbacks, don’t be discouraged. Ask Jesus to show you what He wants to heal in your memories. The enemy wants to use them to destroy you, but God will redeem everything the enemy throws at you, if you’re willing to open your heart and let Him shine His love and His light on the pain and the darkness.

We have the option of staying in that place, and remaining victim to the past. But we also have authority to break the power of victimization. It is ideal to find someone, whether a spouse, a mentor, or a counsellor, to share the trauma with. Someone who will not call you crazy, or mental, but who will support you, believe in your healing, and pray over you.

The most important thing, always, is to not carry the trauma alone. It is overwhelming to do so. They say that, “Pain shared, is half the pain. Joy shared is joy doubled.” If shared with the right person, I wholeheartedly agree.

© Trudy Metzger

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Out of our Emptiness

Tomorrow we leave for Canton Ohio, to lead a Faith Girls Unleashed women’s conference at North Industry Christian Church. We are excited to see the healing that God has planned for the weekend.

I am humbled, every time I do this, to think that God uses me, in my humanity, to represent His heart to His wounded daughters. I am keenly aware that it is not of myself that healing can come out of my story. It is His mercy that saved me, His love flowing through my very broken story, and His grace in my ‘present’ that allows me to do any good at all.

Each time I prepare for a weekend like this, I find my spirit oppressed and attacked. It has become part of the experience. The enemy poking, pointing, mocking and reminding me who I am and all I have done, and the things I sometimes still do, that makes me unworthy.

What changes, however, is his power to convince me that ministry has anything, whatsoever, to do with my goodness. In fact, if there is one time I agree with the enemy, it is when he points out my faults. I used to try to argue. Now I agree.

It is true. I sin. It is true. I am not worthy. Of myself I am not worthy at all. But he forgets, or chooses not to acknowledge, whose daughter I am. And as God’s daughter, it isn’t me I represent. It is my Heavenly Father. I can tell you all the horrible mistakes I’ve made, the sins I’ve committed, the wrong thoughts the selfish acts. They’re true. They exist. I try not to surrender. I do my best to live for God, but I fail. I mess up.

And if you were to come to me to point out some sin, and say, “I heard….” or “Someone saw…”, I would probably say, “it’s true. I did that.”

Is that what my heart longs for? No! My heart cries out for holiness, to honour God in every thought and deed. But I don’t manage it.

So I’ve started to tell the enemy, when he comes pointing fingers, “You’re right. I did that. You’re right. I am a sinner. You’re right. I fail.” But, since he is a liar, and the father of them, I know he’s dealing half-truths, at best, and I remind him that I repent quickly. That my identity is not found in attaining sinlessness. It is found in Jesus. And He loves me in spite of those things. I belong to God, and he has no right to hold against me, what He has forgiven.”

The Bible says that the enemy, Satan, is the accuser of the brethren. He stands before God’s throne, day and night, pointing out all the things we do wrong, and telling God how horrid and sinful His children are. He takes the truth of our humanity, and tries to minimize God’s grace, His ability to forgive.

But God doesn’t see us through the eyes of judgement, and look on our sinfulness, even though we are sinful creatures. He looks on us with the eyes of love–through the eyes of His Son, who says, “I understand their humanity, their temptations. That’s why I died for them.”

So, as we head into the weekend, I go with the awareness that I am human. I am empty, in and of myself. I go to pour out the love of Jesus, to tap into what He has done for me, and offer His love and hope to broken hearts and wounded lives. To encourage those who are in ministry, and help them understand those of us who have been wounded.

It’s going to be a good weekend. A very good weekend. Because God is going to heal us, and be present in our midst. He will accept the gift I bring, as I pour out of my emptiness, and allow Him to flow through me, giving life. It is a sweet thing, to do life with Jesus!

© Trudy Metzger

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Breaking Silence: Hope for Victims of Abuse, Violence & Corruption

Disclaimer: I have received permission to write about the details shared in this post.

***

One evening this week I witnessed one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in my life. To protect the individuals, I will be skimpy on details….

It all started several weeks ago, when I met a young woman through a mutual friend, whom I vaguely remember ‘meeting’ many years ago. Because of our age difference, she was ‘but a child’ and I was an adult, so there was no interaction, that I recall.

We met at a restaurant for dinner, as perfect strangers, and spent almost six hours talking, listening, and exploring her story. As she shared, raw pain spilled out, and, with it, the guilt over having suffered less than others in her life, and yet suffering deep trauma. She felt lost and alone.  Abandoned and rejected. Always had.

The three most traumatic and painful memories that she can recall, are the result of incidents in her church and private school. In the first incident she recalls hearing that someone very close to her  was repeatedly whipped for writing explicit notes in school. Knowing (now) that the student who received the whippings was writing about ways they were being victimized sexually by several youth, and knowing that not one adult had the presence of mind to pursue the child’s heart, is almost too much for her. Understandably.

In the second event she was held, in her early teen years, in a locked church for hours, ending after 2:00am, as the church leaders tried to coerce her into accepting them as her only authority, even asking that she renounce her parents’ authority in her life. To share the details, however crucial they are, would be to make her vulnerable, therefore I can only leave it at that. Anyone reading this, who recognizes her, was either present that day, or is close enough to her now to know the story.

The third event was when she and her boyfriend ‘went too far’ before marriage. She was forced, by church leaders, to make life-altering decisions about their plans, without speaking to her fiancée, and was threatened with excommunication should she choose to defy them, and reject the alternative option they offered. The end result has been ‘hell’ in marriage. God, only now, many, many years later, is beginning to restore. (This is the fourth such story that I have heard, in a short time, either from the individuals involved or someone near them. Only one was handled well, when a CMCO church leader decided it is not critical for the world to know, or to postpone the wedding, since that would only serve to increase the struggle. Wise man.)

After meeting with this woman, and hearing her story–with the above being only a glimpse of the pain she shared during that 6 hour stretch–she asked if I would be willing to meet with other victims she knows, whose lives intersected at some point, and whose stories will open doors for freedom. I agreed.

The meeting, held this week, was the largest group I have mediated to date. It was a group of diverse Christians, including a Conservative Mennonite minister, as well as a variety of other evangelical Christians, some who had Conservative background and experience, and some who did not.

One by one they shared their stories of trauma, victimization and pain. Ranging from repeat rapes, to molestation, to being forced or coerced into performing sexual favours, these individuals shared their journeys forthrightly, and vulnerably.

Stories spilled out. Tears followed suit.

But what is most outstanding is the compassion, the heart and the ‘reaching out’ that took place. Nothing is more thrilling than to see Christians gather around one another, in spite of difference, and lift the hurting heart to the Heavenly Father for healing and hope.

The most important thing, next to the presence of God, was for the victims to feel heard, and for their pain to be acknowledged and not silenced. Pain always sounds negative, in its rawest form, and until that has been acknowledged, healing cannot come. The moment a victim is silenced, oppressed or shut down, the enemy gets a foothold.

At one point in the evening, one victim felt the trauma of this rejection and judgement, though not imposed intentionally. What we witnessed is the most shocking physical manifestation of rejection and silence, as the victim’s body began to tremble and heave, hyperventilating in agony. Three times I felt the victim’s body go limp in my arms.

I had never experienced anything like it, and could only trust God to tell me, one second at a time, what to do to keep things grounded. I tried to get the victim to breathe with me, the same way I had been taught to breathe during child delivery, but vacant eyes told me that the victim was not ‘present’, not absorbing.

I sensed God asking me to place my hands on the victims face, and command regular breathing, all the while reassuring the victim that He has not forgotten, that He has not overlooked, that He understands the trauma of that story. It matters to Him. And that every individual in that room loves and cares deeply. Then, whisper the name of Jesus, and His love.

As I did this, the victim responded and returned with relative calmness, and was able to finish the story. At the end the others in the room gathered around in prayer, love and support, bringing a new level of hope and peace into a broken heart.

God will break down walls. He will tear down strongholds. He will set His people free. If we let Him. We don’t call him Redeemer and Saviour for nothing.

Healing comes when The Hurt & The Healer collide…. When we, as the Healer’s representatives, dare to step into the ‘hell’ of another’s pain without judgement. When we arrange a head-on collision between love and grace, and pain and trauma of another’s story, acknowledging the destruction.

Redemption comes as we release our pain, our past, our story and let God use it. It is in saying, “‘You Are ‘I Am’, the all-knowing God who has my best interest at heart, and in spite of what was and is in my life, I will worship You. In spite of what I feel, I choose to trust you. Even if all I have to offer you is my tears and my pain, I will give these in worship.”

© Trudy Metzger

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To anyone who grew up *in Canada* in a ‘closed culture’ religious setting, including but not exclusive to ‘White Bonnet’ Mennonite–any ‘brand’, Russian Mennonite, Old Colony Mennonite, Amish, Beachy, and any similar culture. If you were abused, either by the church or a private school, **prior to age 18**, (even if that was many, many years ago) and are willing to share you story privately and confidentially with me, I welcome an email at trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com. The abuse can include, but is not limited to:
1.) sexual abuse from an older student, teacher or individual at your church.
2.) emotional and psychological abuse: being held in meetings at school, at church or by the board, teachers, principals, ministers or other staff, for extended periods of time, exceeding what is appropriate for a child, particularly under 16 but up to age 18, or that otherwise traumatized you through coercion and manipulation. (If it left you traumatized, it counts. If you still struggle to forgive, and must choose to do so daily, it counts.)
3.) physical abuse: beatings, whippings, ‘ruler strikes’, in school, regardless of the cause, whether you disobeyed or were misunderstood and especially if it was the result of you misbehaving due to you being victimized by someone in the church or school

Your story will not be made public, however, it will help me immensely in a program we are developing in our ministry that is about to be launched. Through this ministry we will be reaching out to vulnerable people groups and closed culture settings, in an effort to assist victims and influence change.

I will respond personally to every message received, barring some unforeseen tragedy, and will begin to do so following our return from a conference in Ohio, October 15. Email: trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com

Thank you for your help!

I Will Set My Children Free

In 2006 I visited Ethiopia, travelling with a ministry team, through seven prisons, ranging from the harshest environments, to the best facilities in the country.

We entered a small room, and, to my horror, it was filled with children–the offspring of the real prisoners. I had been fore-warned. But nothing could have prepared me for that first day, the first scene. I had sunglasses with me. Thank God. I wore them. And I smiled. But the entire time tears threatened.

Before we left, I was asked to pray a blessing over them. I kept my voice steady and sweet as I prayed. And I wiped the silent tears that fell as I prayed.

On my bed that night I fell apart. I sobbed. And I told God that if I have to see that kind of thing one more time, He will have to make me stronger. The children didn’t need a puddle on the floor. They needed hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free, by faith…..

Sometimes I hear things from friends or family, and it all hits so close to him. The trauma, the tragedy, the violence and the evils of sexual abuse…

We have created a prison of our own, in the walls of our own churches. And I see children, free to run, to come and go as they please, trapped in the walls of that prison of shame, silence and victimization. And I see that they need hope. Courage. Encouragement. For someone to believe in their future, to see them free by faith…

It is hardest when it hits so close, and you can’t even reach out, because it’s too close. This, for me, is the hardest thing when it comes to abuse.

When I meet with people who are not part of my inner circle, or immediate family, I am able to remain calm and objective. But, for some reason, when it’s too close, my mind cannot separate myself from the trauma. I find I have to guard myself more closely, so that the past does not regain power over me. It is a very helpless feeling.

Like with the people I mentor, I am committed to confidentiality and letting ‘their story’ be just that–their story to tell. But it is the hardest thing in the world to be silent when people close to you, suffer like that, and your hands are tied. And you watch hearts break, and lives shatter….

These are the things that are hard to bear.

And when I hear the evil that is said and done, after abuse takes place in the church, I am undone. Completely.

One mom told me last week how she recently discovered her child was abused by someone in the church, a man in his twenties. In its own neat and tidy way it was ‘taken care of’ in the church, careful to guard image and protect  the church name, the conservative Mennonite church. Wisely they took it to court and let a fellow church member know that he is not above the law. A crime against children is a crime to be dealt with by the laws of the land. (Bless them!)

Not long after, the older teen-aged brother of the young victim was told, by another man in the church, that what happened to his little brother ‘isn’t a big deal’, because there was no penetration. This is a cruel thing to do to someone who is grieving what happened to a sibling. As if ‘survivor’s guilt’ isn’t enough to deal with. Turns out that, years ago, the man had violated the man who abused the young boy.

How long will we turn a blind eye? How long before churches take a stand, openly, publicly and fearlessly? How long before we stop sacrificing our children on the altar of pride, religion and sexual perversion. How long before we release them from the prison we have created for them, through silence?

My heart can only cry out for mercy. And pray that God will Set the Children Free .

© Trudy Metzger

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These Old Reels, Just Keep on Playing…

When it comes to memories of sexual abuse, or even of the wrong choices I made in my teen years, they are all but history, in the sense of replaying in my mind. Whether through guilt, through shame, or through regret, or even through nightmares, it seldom happens now.

The emotional flashbacks of the trauma of sexual abuse are even more rare, and, when they do happen, they no longer have the power over me that they once held. They are brief, recognizable and ‘manageable’. Because I am able to identify my feelings, I am no longer victimized by the memories.

The memories of violence are still more powerful. There are times, if I have been with my family, and witnessed an ‘episode’, no matter how small, that I have a ‘recovery period’, during which I feel more depressed and melancholy. A time where the past lurks, just below the surface, as if waiting to reach up and strangle me, in a vulnerable moment, and squeeze the life out of me.

What I want to share in this post, is some practical ways to overcome the oppressive memories, the voices, and the trauma. It is a process I continue to go through with the violence of my childhood, so I’m preaching to the choir here. In many ways I draw from my experience of overcoming the trauma of sexual abuse, to overcome the violence.

Some of what I suggest is counter intuitive, and requires deliberate action that is in direct conflict with what we feel. When Paul says we are to ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’, these actions are what have worked, and continue to work, for me…. when I do them. (Admittedly, there are times I surrender to the darkness, and I’m too stubborn to take my own advice.)

The first life-changing bit of advice I have to offer, I learned from an evangelist at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship. When an attack comes, praise God. It takes the power away from the enemy’s intent, when he brings an accusation, a traumatic memory, or any guilt trip.

The reason that praise disempowers the enemy is found in Psalm 22:3. It tells us here that God dwells in the praises of His people. Different versions use different words, such as, enthroned, or inhabits, but they all mean pretty much the same thing. My favourite, when I think below the surface, is ‘enthroned’. God is lifted up. He is glorified. He is given authority through praise.

Now let’s go back to the dark memories, the trauma, and the accusations and guilt. If the enemy’s attacks inspire us to praise God, it accomplishes everything he hates. It takes away his power. How long will he hang around and torment us, just to hear us praise Jesus? Just to watch us give God the glory for victory? Not that long.

The other part of that is that God doesn’t share space. He does not cohabitate with the enemy. Pure evil cannot stand in the presence of pure good, pure truth,  and pure holiness. One has to go, and as long as God is enthroned, or ‘given power’, He won’t be the one ‘out’. He never leaves, never forsakes us. We choose to whom we give the power, the ‘voice’ in our lives.

That praise, in the middle of trauma, can be something as simple as our tears, turned heavenward, in a cry for help, for redemption. It can be a very broken praise, that comes in the form of sharing our deepest pain and fear with God. It can be a prayer. Or a song. Maybe a whisper that says, “I’m confused. I don’t understand. I’m hurting. I feel I cannot make it…. But I know that You are my God, and I love you. Where I don’t know how to trust you, teach me to know you as my Papa. Where I struggle with unbelief, help me believe.”

In the very act of crying out to God, in fear, in anxiety, in doubt, we worship Him. We say, “I trust You”, when we give God our emotions, all tangled.

The second life-changing bit of advice is: Declare truth over the lies. If the enemy tells you that you are worthless, tell him, “God died to save me. God. The Creator of the universe. The Highest Being. He died for me. He saw value in me. I have worth.”

If you hear voices in your head telling you that you will never make it, your life is worthless, or you’ll not amount to anything. Don’t take it lying down. Remind the enemy that God has a good plan for your life. That the very thing he keeps tossing at you, God will use to launch you into your purpose. Praise God, and don’t surrender.

Whatever darkness comes your way, worship God, and give Him praise for the redemption that is yet to come. If you find it impossible to see the redemption, praise God. Let faith be your certainty. Redemption that you see and feel, requires no faith at all. What we cannot see, you can accept as reality, because God is good. And if in that place of uncertainty, you choose to praise God, the enemy loses power.

Little by little, the truth sinks in, and we stop believing the lies. The darkness loses its power, and the past loses its grip. Little be little, the freedom Jesus offers us instantly, becomes our experiential reality.

We remain victims only as long as we give the past power. Working through the trauma takes time, but while we work through it we don’t have to remain victims. We have been given the right to be free, as the children of God.

The old reels just keep on playing… until that moment when they lose the source of power. When you find the source of power, and you invite Jesus to unplug it, they stop, one by one.

© Trudy Metzger

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Understanding the Spiritual Dynamic of Sexuality

To understand what really happens when we are sexually abused, and why it is so destructive, we need to understand our sexuality, from God’s point of view. I believe, based on God’s Word, that sex, at its core, is predominantly spiritual, rather than physical. Before you freak out, as some do, and accuse me of preaching a new religion, hear me out.

If sex was merely a physical act without a spiritual component, then there would be no such thing as the psychological aftermath, and suicidal tendencies that often result from it, as long as the person abusing is gentle, and affectionate, as many abusers are. Obviously the exception would be if it is violent, forceful or aggressive behaviour.

When someone strikes us, we feel physical pain. When someone verbally abuses us, we feel emotional pain. In both cases our mind, body and spirit agree. What is done to us is very wrong.

Sexual stimulation, on the other hand, feels good physically, even when we are abused, if the perpetrator is gentle, and manipulative, rather than aggressive. It feels good when you’re a child, and it feels good when you’re old… I presume.  (I’m guessing Noah was still enjoying the process of making babies all those years, and enjoying his marriage at nine-hundred-years old–whatever number wife that might have been. Though, I admit, I’m reading between the lines and using my imagination a bit.)

What is different in sexual abuse, when it feels good, is that it creates conflict. The mind, body and spirit are at war. Our body responds as it was designed to respond–with pleasure. Our spirit is tormented because sex was intended to bond us, in marriage, with one partner. This leaves us feeling fragmented and insecure. And, finally, our mind is tormented because we know that what felt good, is actually very wrong. Some of us, in some situations, crave more, and don’t want it ever to happen again, all at the same time.

Our minds feel betrayed by our own bodies. It’s as if our bodies have conspired against us, to partner with the perpetrator, in victimizing us.  If it was not spiritual, this war would not happen within us. The thing that feels good would not be abuse.

This pleasure response is God’s design for intimacy in marriage. Science supports the bonding that happens, due to the various chemicals at work in the body, during intercourse. It’s all part of the ‘one flesh’ experience.

God didn’t tell us to be faithful to our spouse, and to wait for marriage, because He is a party-pooper or control freak. He’s not out to rain on anyone’s parade. It is for our own emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. He knows the cost associated with deviating from that plan. The trauma and pain we experience as a result.

God could have created us without the ability to bond, so that we would not feel that pain. But He didn’t. The pleasure and intimacy of sexual intercourse is largely enhanced by the emotional closeness and security we feel when we know that ‘we belong’. Unlike the raw pain and insecurity of knowing that you are using someone’s body, and being used by them. The physical pleasure is still there, but without the depth.

If we go back to Genesis, where God says that He made us in His image and likeness, we see why He created us this way. The bonding and ‘one man one woman’ plan is symbolic of His love for us, His faithfulness and His promise never to abandon us. He allows us to leave Him, but He never leaves us. And if we jump ahead in our Bibles to Hosea, we see that faithfulness illustrated when Hosea marries a prostitute, who is unfaithful. That book changed my perception of God, about twelve years ago.

God made us to reflect Him, to represent Him. He says it in the same line as ‘male and female created He them’. God is the Creator. He made us to procreate. God pursues us with deep passion, longing for intimate relationship with us. What greater passion is there than the desire between lovers? Everything we do and are, when we function within His plan, reflects God.

Men have natural, passionate desires, that makes their body respond, even against their own will, at times creating vulnerable and embarrassing moments.

Women naturally long to be held, loved, secure, adored, protected, and pursued. Every woman, who is truly honest with herself, and who as not been crushed and destroyed, (and sometimes even those who have,) wants to be pursued by a man. Nothing makes a woman feel more attractive, more loved, than to know the man of her dreams is totally crazy about her, that he wants nothing more than to be with her and know her heart. It’s how we were created. (This, excludes those drawn into same-sex relationships. I have never had a homosexual admit to having that desire. If it is there, it is crushed by life.)

God longs for us to respond to His passionate pursuit, by reaching for that intimacy. He wants us to feel safe, protected, loved, adored and wanted. He want us to know we are pursued, and then to give ourselves to Him.

All of creation, every little detail in how we are designed, is a reflection of God, and His longing to know us. When we understand that sexuality is a ‘blessed’ part of God’s creation plan, we see it differently. It helps us understand what happens to us, and why sexual abuse is so hard to recover from.

Each of our journeys to healing is unique and personal. For me, this awareness changed my life. It helped me separate the abuse of sex, from sex in marriage, allowing me to celebrate the latter, while breaking the power of the former. I was able to release the guilt of the ‘pleasure’ of abuse, by recognizing that God created my body to feel these things. It doesn’t mean I was at fault, or guilty. It means that my body was functioning just as it was designed to function.

In cases where abuse was aggressive and physically painful, obviously these dynamics of confusion don’t come into play because it feels like abuse and is easier to name.

God is interested in every part of our lives, and He is always interested in our healing. In Him we find our identity, our hope and our freedom.

© Trudy Metzger

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Rejection & Misconceptions Regarding Gender-based Differences in Lobido

Without a deeper purpose, I would be the last one to stand in line, to hang all my dirty laundry out for the world to see. Especially if the laundry is all on the line, and I feel I’m left hiding behind semi-transparent sheets. It’s a vulnerable feeling. But the private messages from you, my readers, and general response the past two days reassured me again that it is the right thing to do. There is a purpose.

I received a negative response from one individual–and it wasn’t particularly up-building, so it landed in file 13, and it is only the third negative response I have received since starting my blog. All in all, I would say the topic material is received in a positive light, and helpful for many. Thank you for sharing with me. You have no idea how much that encourages me when I’m going places, publicly, where I have rarely ventured even with counsellors or friends. Many of you understand both my battle, and how I feel, as you express your own fear of commenting publicly, because of that vulnerability.

Thank you for being sensitive, not only because I have overcome abuse and violence, but also as a writer, when I put my heart out there. I am convinced I have the most amazing audience in the world!

Everyone experiences rejection, on some level, in marriage, whether real, or perceived. With abuse victims there is often an increased sensitivity to rejection, and this sensitivity also means more perceived rejections.

What fascinates me is how much we hear about men being the ones with the high libido, and therefore the ones who are often rejected by women. I’ve heard it in pretty much every marriage event I’ve attended. When I invite them to conferences, I’ve had women say, “If I hear one word about men and their high libido, I will up and walk out. I am so tired of no one addressing the other side of that”, and similar comments.

Meeting with women, and working through marriage issues with them, I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve heard the complaint that ‘all he ever wants is sex’. Or ‘I wish he would just keep his hands off of me!’ And the few times I’ve heard it, it has usually been accompanied by, “I wish he would pay attention to me other times too. Then I would love his advances in bed”, or things of that nature. The exception is in the case where husbands ‘grab and grope’ but otherwise put no effort into relationship building or healthy non-sexual physical touch. This is a source of deep frustration for women. Most of them feel disrespected, and neglected on many levels.

I am convinced that, a high percentage of the time, women do not have a lower libido than men. We crave relational attention, communication, affection and non-sexual cuddling apart from the bedroom scene. If we feel loved, valued and accepted, the odds are… Never mind, gentlemen…. Do your math…

What I do hear, constantly, are women who feel neglected both in bed and out of bed. Not only do these women tell me that the relational and communication aspect is lacking, but their husbands don’t initiate intimacy, and reject them when they initiate it. The topic of sexual intimacy is not up for discussion, leaving these marriages vulnerable and shaky, with literally months, if not years, without sexual intimacy.

The women who tell me their husbands are not interested in sex, are not an indication that women generally have a higher libido, or that we’ve been misled by statistics. It simply indicates that more men shut down sexually in marriage, whether due to sexual sin, childhood sexual abuse, addictions or other reasons, than most of us are led to believe.

This needs to be addressed because the women, who feel rejected, battle shame and inferiority. They are hesitant to open their hearts and talk openly about their struggle, not wanting to admit that their husbands don’t find them attractive. (Just like every girl in high school wishes she was the prettiest, every wife wants to be attractive and the apple of her husband’s eye. To admit to another woman that she is sexually rejected and relationally neglected is a very difficult and humiliating thing.)

Each one worries that either she is not beautiful, or maybe her husband is having an affair, or into pornography or masturbation. Some know that is the case, but feel lost and dis-empowered. Not knowing how to impact the marriage for good, they suffer in silence. Others walk out on marriages, without a backward glance.

Yet other women admit to turning to pornography, emotional affairs and masturbation, as a source of fulfilment, while continuing in cold, distant cohabitation. They are afraid or unwilling to broach the subject of their struggles with husbands, who, in some cases, are into the same thing. When I hear these ‘confessions’ it’s usually accompanied by, “I’ve never told anyone that before. Please don’t tell anyone.”

This rejection of each other, and ultimately God’s plan, along with the silence and secrecy, is detrimental to marriage, to the family unit and God’s kingdom. Every woman wants to be pursued first outside of the bedroom, at a heart level, and then celebrate that connection through intimacy in bed. I think that every man, based on those we have talked to and read about, wants his wife to think he is an amazing lover, but he also longs to be built up, believed in, and encouraged in day to day life.

Somehow the vicious cycle of rejection starts in the little things we overlook, because of a lack of communication and generally misunderstanding each other. It snowballs, because of our pain and selfishness and leaves many a marriage shipwrecked unnecessarily.

The key is to get help sooner than later. To ignore it will build up walls of self-protection until eventually, the relationship is all but severed.  Wise counsel and a listening ear from someone who understands is crucial in order to end the cycle.

In the past few days many of you have contacted me, asking for connections to counsellors, or looking for guidance. If I have not yet responded, I will. And if you have not had the courage to email, but would like help finding a counsellor, mentor or resource, please don’t hesitate. (Visit the Contact Trudy page, and fill out the form. It is private and will only show in my email inbox, not on the website.)  We were not created to do this alone, and if I have connections in your area, I will do my best to connect you to someone.

© Trudy Metzger

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