Dear Victim: When Thanksgiving is Lonely & Hard…

This day is about gratefulness, a time of celebration, food and family get-together celebrations. Some of you will laugh, love and party together, in a safe and loving environment. And so you should! Without guilt. Because you are blessed to be with people who care and protect you; your abuser is not a family member, and you look forward to these gatherings.

But for some of you it is a painful day, and you find yourself  ‘giving thanks’ through tears, and loneliness, in the middle of deep trials, trauma and tragedy. It is a day that makes you reach deep for the next breath, through threatening panic, as family drama unfolds, or you find yourself in the room with the person(s) who abused you. Or maybe home, away from family, swallowing hard on yesterdays leftovers in solitary communion, because they have chosen the offender over you. And when you do go, the manipulation and sexual advances are present to this day…

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Today, if that is you, I encourage you to look deeper, not to avoid the pain but to strengthen your heart.

Remember who you are; you are courageous, resilient and redeemed. Remember Whose you are; you are a son, a daughter, of the God of the Universe, held in your Father’s heart. God is intimately present with you and interested in every part of your life. He is not afraid of your raw feelings, and invites you to share them. He is not intimated by your anger; trust Him with it. Remember that you are not defined by the crimes committed against you, or the person(s) who committed them; you are defined by the Love of the Highest Being ever to exist. You have purpose and value.

Draw from that well of truth, drink deep until you are giddy with drunkenness from it. Let them think you are crazy…

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dear Victim: Just so you know…

Your story matters. Your pain matters. And most importantly, “You matter.” In fact, you matter so much that you are worth more than the chains they have tried to put on you.

You are worth a ‘prison break’, to leave that bondage behind and move into a place of freedom, purpose and healthy personal identity. If you are struggling to find that freedom, find someone–anyone safe–who will walk you to that place. It awaits you.

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And, whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t be free.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Pain; the door to joy, love & feeling again

“Will it hurt this bad forever?”

Those words, the initial response of a victim of sexual abuse when they first allow themselves to face the pain and devastation of past experience, is common. The victim will become an surviver, and then an overcomer. But at first, when raw pain invades, they are truly victims, for a moment in time. And that moment can all but knock the breath out of body, spirit and soul. Just for a short while.

As the initial agony gives way to the long haul of hard work, of facing waves upon waves of grief, nausea and anger, resilience is tested; the heart weary, and longing to return to the numbness of the past.

“Can’t I just close this door and never think about it again? Can’t I just go back into denial, and stay there?”

That question, after a while, is just as common as the initial one. And to this question I always, always respond, “Do you really want to?” And inevitably the answer is, “No, not really. But sometimes I think I do.”

And as we explore the advantages, without fail the upside, and the thing that makes them not ever want to go back to that denial, is the ability to feel joy and to really love.

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For couples, when one partner moves from denial and being ‘shut down’, the marriage often comes alive in a whole new way, all else being equal. (If the spouse is abusive or was molested and has not dealt with it, this does not hold true.) *Love awakens in those situations,  into a thing of celebration, beauty and wonder, and sexual intimacy a whole new ‘party in bed’. And what a gift that is!

It’s almost as if we take the painful memories, and everything we felt at that time, and push it all in a secure box–a very secure one, made of metal–and then lock it all away.

The tragedy is that we lock much of our ability to really feel, at a meaningful level, in the box with the bad. And then, when we dare to look at the dark and painful things, we rediscover our ability to feel… To feel loved and to love; to feel secure and accepted and offer that to our loved ones; to feel God move within us, stirring us to life.

The beauty of unlocking pain is the ability to feel joy and love in a whole new way, painting our world in vibrant colours.

Love,
~ T ~

* I have worked with situations where couples struggled for most, if not all of marriage, with intimacy. And when healing happens on the front of sexual abuse, dramatic positive changes transpire. I have also worked with several situations where that struggle  with intimacy continued intensely, for various reasons–some obvious, some not. If you continue to struggle, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. We should not be ashamed to talk about our sexuality, and get help from doctors, counselors, and mentors. Don’t settle without a fight.

 

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

When Christmas Cheer Brings Christmas Tears: A Season of Pain for Victims

There’s no denying it! The Christmas season is upon us! And, though it didn’t last, the winter wonderland  that made its bold appearance well before December, put some of us in the mood for it. As more and more twinkly lights appear, and Christmas music plays in stores and on the radio, the cheer of the season gets inside of me. I love the thrill of Christmas, with happy sounds in the air, and beauty all around.

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Unfortunately, for many people, the season is one of the most difficult of the year. With festivities and ‘happiness’ everywhere, to them it is a bold declaration of loss, a reminder of pain and grief. Often unacknowledged. This can be the result of any number of losses—whether the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or family abuse and violence—all of which deserve acknowledgement—but, for the purpose of this column, and not to diminish other losses, I will focus on the loss of innocence, through sexual abuse. While many thrill at having parties and family gatherings to attend at Christmas, for victims of sexual abuse these events often cause anxiety and panic attacks. As adults get together with their siblings and parents, their children who have been abused by these family members, dread it. And, because there is so much cover-up and secrecy surrounding abuse, the victims often carry the anxiety in silence, unable and unwilling to disrupt family ‘peace’.

This need to protect family ‘peace’ at all cost, is something that is ‘caught’ more than taught, as the pain of victims is overlooked, often starting in early childhood. When ‘Uncle Joe’ comes by, and little Sarah doesn’t want to say ‘hi’, shake his hand, or give him a hug, mom and dad are quick to insist on being polite, and force the interaction or even punishing her, without so much as a thought that maybe Sarah is justifiably afraid of Uncle Joe. When little Jason doesn’t want to sit on Grandpa’s knee, or throws a fit when aunt Mandy wants to take him for a walk, the same coaxing or discipline is applied. Rather than taking children aside, and exploring their feelings and fears, we force ‘niceness’. As a result, many years later, that same forced niceness continues, as does the loneliness of dealing with sexual victimization. Both parties—victims and perpetrators—act as if nothing ever happened. And victims shed lonely tears after the gatherings, or, worse, simply shut down.

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Adding to the confusion is the religious focus of Christmas, and celebrating the birth of the Messiah, all while the sins of fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and neighbours, remain carefully cloaked. The sin that this Holy Child supposedly came to save us from, is protected at all costs. This begs the question, did Jesus really die for that sin or do we believe, somehow, that it is one sin He can’t handle? Or, more likely, do we excuse the sin and overlook the devastating impact? Either way, the wonder of the Christ-child is lost behind shadows of shame, false guilt, and emotional angst, leaving victims feeling abandoned by God and angry with Him. Rather than stirring love, and ‘goodwill toward man’ the Christmas season becomes a burden.

It is not uncommon for me to receive emails and messages from abuse victims, this time of year, sharing the pain, grief and loss they feel, and the dread of needing to attend family events. It isn’t self-pity; it is deep trauma. Most victims long for one thing, more than anything, and that is to have the burden of silence lifted, their pain acknowledged, and to have the abuser say, “I’m so sorry for robbing you of innocence. It was my fault. I have no excuses.” For many, this is the gift they long for most, this season.

If you have victimized someone, sexually, consider taking ownership for your crime this Christmas. Find a mediator to communicate with the victims, so that you don’t add further trauma, and tell them you are sorry, offering no excuses for your crime, and without demanding forgiveness. It won’t undo the past. It won’t ‘fix’ the victim’s ongoing trauma. But it will give him or her permission to grieve, without self-blame for something you did against them. It will be awkward, for a while, but you’ll stop tripping over the elephant in the room, all decorated with Christmas lights and superficial festivities, and discover the real meaning of the season.

 

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(For the Elmira Independent: December 4. 2014)

© Trudy Metzger

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(Part 3) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

Continuing from Part 2, we will jump right into the next heavy, yet freeing, topic in the battle against the darkness that so desperately wants to have power over us.

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FORGIVE:

Lewis B. Smedes wrote: “To forgive is set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” When it comes to forgiveness, and what it accomplishes, truer words have ne’er been spoken.

We think, often, of forgiveness as an offer of freedom to the perpetrator/offender. A ‘get out of jail free’ card, that says what they did doesn’t matter. It’s done. Over. Even if they are not repentant. And that’s not accurate at all. Forgiveness is first a gift offered to us by God for our sins and when we receive it and understand it’s value, it is a gift that we, in turn, offer to those who sin against us.

When God forgives us, the sins are wiped away, erased, forever and He sets us free. When we forgive, we don’t have that kind of authority to forgive in that sense of eternal freedom for the offender. They remain accountable to God for their sins; we merely release them from any kind of ‘debt’ to us, and any personal claim to vengeance or vindication. As long as those who violate us have a debt to us, we have a bond with them, and they have power over us. When we forgive, we say, in essence, ‘the debt is now owed only to God. Your account with me is cleared.”

This does not mean that there is never a time for legal action, after we forgive. We, as Christians, are not above the law. What the law requires of the non-Christian, it also requires of the Christian. So to avoid reporting sexual abuse, for example–particularly when there is any current risk–is to defy and break the law.

If I am the victim, I do have the right not to report it. There is no law, to my knowledge, that forces a victim to come forward. However if a child is violated, I have no right to ‘discern’ whether to report it or not. I must report it. If I am a pastor and I know of victimization, the law requires that I report it. This doesn’t mean that the pastor and I are not willing to forgive. For the offenders, forgiveness does not wipe away consequences in this life for sins, it merely extends grace from the person wronged. The law then determines appropriate consequences.

Regardless of those consequences, or lack thereof, when I forgive, I don’t carry that ‘debt to me’ in my heart. I am free. For this reason–to break any bonds and ties to the offender–forgiveness is imperative for our freedom. When I forgive I don’t spend my life thinking of how wronged I was. I think of how God will use that wrong against me to bring redemption. My focus shifts from the wrong, to my Saviour. And that makes all the difference.

TAKE AUTHORITY:

Jesus came to save, redeem, and restore. The New Testament is full of promises, not to mention stories that show this ‘hope’ that Jesus offers. Wherever He went, we see radical transformation. The dead are raised. The sick healed. Those possessed and oppressed by the demonic are made free. But it didnt’ end there. He offered this power and authority to His disciples, and all who believe in Him.

John 14:12-14 (NKJV)
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

That’s a strong promise. Either Jesus is who He said He is, and this is true–meaning we have missed much of the power of the gospel–or the entire thing is a sham. If we don’t really have this kind of power and authority, then who is Jesus? I believe we have this power. Radical, untamed by man, an authority that sets people free.

What is the secret…. the key? To be so lost in Christ, so plugged in to the authority of the Father and surrender completely to His will and purpose. If my suffering benefits His Kingdom purposes, then I surrender myself to His authority and accept that suffering. (Yes, I have prayed this prayer. And, yes, I have paid a high price for it, at times losing sight of that prayer in my own desperate longing for ‘this-world-kind-of-peace’ because I am human and fear that suffering, the rejection, the attacks. Still, when the storms pass, I thank God for the suffering. It has made me stronger, and I have seen as He redeemed and used it for a higher purpose.)

It is impossible to surrender completely, and yet stay focused on myself and my suffering. For, when I have surrendered, my eyes are turned to the suffering Christ who walked the path before me, carrying the cross that I was destined to carry in eternity–the cross of death and eternal hell. When I see Him, scarred, bleeding and weeping, my suffering, though real and overwhelming in my humanity, pales in comparison, and I am suddenly lost in awe and wonder at such amazing love.

PRAISE:

Inevitably, when my eyes focus on this suffering Jesus, and I remember how He bought my sinful and selfish heart, my soul and spirit begin to worship God. He, a Holy, righteous and powerful Creator, chose suffering for the sake of my redemption. He chose suffering. Chose it… I cringe at any suffering. He chose it for me. That is my identity, this amazing love poured out by the Highest Being ever to exist. To grasp this, even in a small way, is to fall before Him in worship.

And, again, when I worship Him, I am not thinking of myself and my pain or suffering in the light of this life, in the light of time. I see a higher purpose, a higher calling. And, while it doesn’t make suffering easy, it gives me a reason to press on.

TESTIMONY:

Revelation 12:11(NKJV)
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

We underestimate the power of our words. We casually toss around words of defeat and hopelessness as though they are all we have to live by. And, in the process we suck the life right out of our spirits. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and bought us with His blood. Fact. Our testimony cannot save us. But the word of our testimony–giving glory to god for our salvation, for healing, for freedom–give us authority over the enemy.

We think of a testimony as that nice ‘story’ we tell after the battle is over. And that’s a part of it. But there is more. The testimony that gives us authority to overcome the enemy is the testimony that we share before breakthrough. By the time we tell the ‘after’ version, the battle is over. We need to declare victory in the heat of the fight. We need to claim the power of Jesus for that fight and in the struggle, long before we see the results. It takes away the power of the enemy.

The Israelites were commanded to put blood around the doorposts to protect their homes, and their firstborn sons, specifically, from the tenth plague. It was an old Testament type and shadow of the New Testament redemption through the blood of Jesus.  The significance, again, is that the blood was applied before the death angel came. It signifies being prepared before battle, before the enemy strikes. And when he comes, he will see the territory is marked and claimed. He has no power.

I pray the blood of Jesus over my mind, my body, my soul and my spirit. My husband prays over me. And when my heart is prepared this way, I do well, spiritually. Sometimes, though, I lose focus and find myself in mind battle against the enemy. And sometimes it takes awhile for me to be take my eyes off that fight and shift back to Jesus, in whom I have authority.

A WORD TO PASTORS, PARENTS, SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND MENTORS:

I’ve discovered that Christian leaders are quick to condemn ‘going back’ to the past, for healing. The arguments against it are varied. One of the most recent ones I heard is ‘it requires discussing ungodly things in an ungodly manner’. No it doesn’t. It requires talking about ungodly things through the eyes of Jesus and the blood He shed on the cross.

Is it uncomfortable to hear people share stories of vile abuse that they had to suffer as little boys and girls? It’s painful! It’s devastating. But if we, who are adults representing the heart of God, cannot hear it and point the victim to a safe place, then what have we to offer? When a  3, 5, 7… 13, 15… year old–or anyone in between, younger or older–is forced to endure sexual assault, or demanded to offer sexual favours of the most vulnerable sort (I’ll spare saying it, but I’ve heard it all) are we really willing to say that we cannot handle what they as toddlers, children or teens endured?

What do we communicate with that message?

“You are too much! Your pain is overwhelming! I am disgusted by what I know about your childhood! Keep it to yourself, no one wants to know!”

And then what do we say on the heels of that?

“Forgive, forget and move on! Take it to Jesus! Let God be enough! Jesus died for their sin, let it go! … ” And whatever other cliché lines we can think of to distance ourselves from them their pain and their stories.

And when they walk away, they take their false guilt, their shame, their pain, their torment with them. And they struggle. They try desperately to work hard enough to be free. The cry out to this Jesus, but all they hear is our cliché lines, echoing in their hearts and their minds. And they believe this Jesus sees them the same way. They are too much, too messy, too broken. They become more hopeless for having tried. They entertain thoughts of death, and ending it all.

All while we stand beside Pilate, washing in his bowl, drying with his towel, because there’s nothing we can do to change things…

That’s not my Jesus. My Jesus sat with the lowest of society. He touched the unclean, and they were made clean. He brought life and hope in every situation. That, my friends and fellow ministry workers, is what we are called to do in every life we touch.

If we do not offer this hope, when we have spent time with the broken, then I hesitate to believe that we truly know Jesus as we ought. And if we offer this hope, there will still be rich young rulers who walk away disappointed at the cost of freedom. But we will have offered it. We will have spoken truth and heard hearts and acknowledged stories.

TO THE STRUGGLING WHO FEAR GOING BACK:

Many people fear going back to the past because they fear they will stay stuck there forever. My encouragement is, walk through it for the sake of healing, but don’t build a permanent residence in the past. Find a mentor, a counselor or some other person who won’t judge you or silence you, but will point you to hope in Jesus.

Through that person, let Jesus show you what good He brought into your life and spirit, through the hard things you faced, and listen to His promise that He will make all things beautiful–in His time–and will make all things new. Find that voice of hope and, if you need to, create some distance between you and the negative voices clamoring for your soul, often in the form of well-intentioned, but terribly misguided, people. You need uplifting truth and healthy perspective. You need affirmation and hope.

When I look at what happened in childhood, and focus on it, things can get pretty dark. When I look at it and see how God used it to stir my heart to compassion for the wounded, and passion to make a difference, then suddenly it looks very different, and I begin to thank God for my story.

Perspective, and what we focus on, is critical. We need to focus on purpose, redemption and hope in Jesus, while grieving (in our humanity) the experiences. To thank God, is to disarm the enemy. To praise God is to silence the enemy. And, to do all that, while allowing our hearts to grieve and weep–giving our brokenness to our Heavenly Papa–is to tell the enemy he has no power over us.

These are only some of the ways we overcome the enemy, and the power of darkness in our lives. From practical–finding a mentor who will hear us without judgement–to the spiritual aspect of forgiving those who sin against us, and repenting for our sins, we have been given keys to overcoming the power of the darkness. I would love to declare that all mental anguish will vanish if you do these things, but that is not a promise I can make.

Many of us fight depression, darkness and spiritual attacks for many years. I have. I do. And, given the work I do, I expect I will continue to fight. But I am not a victim of it. Through Jesus, I am victorious. When I fail, I am forgiven. It is about Him, not about me, or about performance. And that alone is reason to rejoice! So today I choose joy. I choose hope. And I choose to focus on the One by whom I am defined.

What choices will you make… what steps do you need to take  to move into freedom?

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© Trudy Metzger

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(Part 2) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

I’ve got to admit that I’ve been stalling with posting ‘Part 2’ and ‘Part 3’… and I have had mild regrets for not ending it some other way with Part 1. Parts of this post, and the next, were very difficult to write and express, but the real problem is in posting it. I am apprehensive. Not because of the content as much as the concern over how it could be interpreted, and how a misinterpretation could impact some readers. Those who are angered by it, which is in the realm of possibilities, don’t worry me so much. They’ll be fine.

It is those who heap silent guilt upon their own heads–because someone else has been heaping it on for them most of their lives–and view this as a ‘to do if you want to be free’ list, or some guilt trip… They are the ones that concern me. So, if you find yourself struggling with what I write, and feeling guilty or oppressed, then my message is not communicating what I desire to communicate, and I welcome private messages via my ‘Contact’ page. I will do my best to respond personally and privately to you, though not likely before early March, as we have a conference in Chambersburg Pennsylvania at the end of February, and it is claiming my spare time.

Note also that Part 2 & 3 were intended to be one post, but since it became so lengthy, I have broken them up in two, but will post them both at the same time, for those who want to continue.

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I ended Part 1 with this paragraph:
“If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…”

In the scenarios I share in this post, it is critical that anyone reading this, who is in a place of turmoil, recognize that not every scenario applies to you. There are some steps we can take toward freedom, but not every step will apply to ever person or help every person. The second scenario, for example, can seem terribly harsh to someone who is caught in a place of emotional chaos that has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to be stuck. (No one wants to be stuck, you say, and I agree that no one typically deliberately and intentionally chooses to be stuck. Sometimes, however, we choose it subconsciously, as in the case of the second example I will share.)

Each of us is on a unique and personal journey to healing, and what heals one person, destroys another. I am cautious in sharing examples for this reason. And yet, because they were effective in these situations, I share them in hopes that someone who is stuck might find answers.

FIND A SAFE MENTOR, COUNSELOR OR BOTH:

Every abuse victim needs someone in his or her life, who will listen with an open heart, and believe every word without judgement or condemnation. If you have never had that someone, I encourage you to make this a priority. Life has already offered you enough judgement and condemnation, in your own mind, if not from people around you. You don’t need any more of that.

A question I’ve been asked many times by other individuals working with victims is, “How do you know what to believe?” or “What if they are not telling the truth?” or “What if they are lying and making things up?”

My answer is the same every time. My role and commitment is to believe every victim’s story. I never worry about whether I am being lied to. That is not mine to carry. And, to be honest, I’ve never had a reason to believe any of my clients are conjuring up fake memories. Why would they?

And that is what you need, if you are a victim of abuse–someone who will listen to your heart, validate your pain, and care for you with compassion, not trying to figure out if every word you say is true.

Along with offering that kind of care, you need someone who will invite you outside your comfort zone, even gently nudge you, rather than leave you stuck. There is nothing worse, no torment greater (in my mind and experience) than to feel helplessly trapped in the chaos of the past. I needed someone to care enough to say the hard things, and ask me the tough questions. And then I had to be willing to ask myself those questions.

ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS:

“Do you really want to be free?” I asked the young woman sitting in front of me. She looked startled. I expected it. Because I’ve asked this question countless times, with many clients who seem helplessly stuck. But I know they are not helpless. At least none that I have worked with. They may feel that way. They may even appear that way, for a time, to everyone looking on. But every one has eventually moved to freedom. Often sooner than expected.

“Of course I want to be free!” she exclaimed.

“What prevents you?” I asked.

She looked at me with the same shocked look. “What do you mean?”

“May I ask you some really hard questions?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, looking puzzled.

“What do you get out of your bondage?” I paused to let the question sink in, then asked a few more questions. “Are you afraid of who you will be without the baggage? Afraid you won’t know how to act, or how to function if the emotional chaos is gone?” I paused again and let these questions sink in.

She started to cry. Not angry tears, but release.

I continued. “Are you afraid that if you heal, you will be abandoned? That no one will care for you? That you will be lonely?” I spoke softly… kindly… gently. No accusation, just hard questions born out of deep compassion for her struggle and frustration.

The young woman sat and wept for a while.

“You’re right,” she said, at length. “I’m terrified of being free. I’m terrified of being lonely and abandoned. I’m terrified of not needing people all the time and I’m terrified of who I might be if I was free. But I desperately want to be free.”

“Are you willing to do the hard work? Willing to risk that process?” I asked.

She nodded.

The questions are offensive. I get that. And I wouldn’t ask them in every situation, or with every person. Not everyone can handle the directness of that interaction. For some it would be destructive because they are not ready. This young woman was desperate for freedom and, having worked with her for almost a year, I had good cause to believe they would change her life. They were painful for her, but they were also the beginning of  one of the most amazing journeys I have watched anyone embark on, in overcoming emotional chaos and trauma.

We all need care, compassion and a listening ear. Every single one of us. Especially if we have suffered abuse, neglect or violence at the hands of someone we trusted. But along with that we also need someone who will love us enough to empower us in overcoming that past. Someone who is willing to ask the hard questions, sensitively, yet with a directness that frees us to confront our own fears and move beyond them. I had a rapport with the young woman, and had her deepest respect. I knew I could go to that place of confronting her fears, and not destroy her.

If I had believed there was any other thing standing in the way of her freedom, I would have gone there first, but it was the last door to open. And it worked. She found hope.

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REPENT: 

Oh… that’s harsh. Repent? Yes. Repent. Nothing has brought more freedom into my personal life than repentance. It’s terribly unpopular in today’s Uber-grace Christian culture. (And I believe in Uber-grace as powerfully as I believe in repentance. Don’t run away with that statement and presume I limit God’s grace. We are saved through Jesus, not performance. Period.) I stand firm on the fact that grace and repentance go hand in hand, for the purpose of our freedom. They are not in conflict.

Before I take the thought of repentance any further, let me say what NOT to repent for. Don’t repent, apologize, or take any kind of ownership for the thing that brought the trauma into your life if you were victimized. It’s not yours to carry. Lay it down. That sin and guilt is for the perpetrator to bring to God in repentance. Too often victims are made to feel guilty for what was done to them. That is wrong. Don’t repent for how the violation made you feel. Feelings are a gift from God. They tell my heart when something is wrong, when something (or someone) is not safe. They tell me when I have been wronged. They alert me to danger. Feelings are a gift. We don’t want to let them rule us, but we need to feel. Don’t repent for being tempted because of what was done to you… tempted to hate… tempted to murder (yes, I hear these confessions)… tempted to lie and say it never happened… tempted to deny and defy God. Temptation is not sin. Sin is sin.

Many victims of abuse whom I work with carry as much shame over what was done to them as they do for their own choices. They are entangled with false guilt, respond at every revival meeting, and wonder why they can’t get rid of that feeling through repentance. The answer, to be direct, is because you are not guilty. The thing that will bring you freedom is the knowledge that it isn’t your fault and there is no need for repentance on your part.

Repent only for sin. Often the choices we make, because of being sexually abused and the premature sexual awakening that results from the abuse, are on-going, and leave us feeling defeated and frustrated.  But because of shame we cannot tell anyone.

Sexual abuse creates, for many if not all victims, sexual struggles and/or addictions that often begin in childhood and carry on to old age. (I have sat with couples in their 70’s, still fighting addictions that started before age ten, and speaking of them for the first time in their lives, because they’ve never had anyone willing to hear their struggles.) Many cry out to God for many years, desperately longing for freedom, but trapped in that world of shame and silence.

From sexual immorality, to pornography, to masturbation (yes, I know, it’s a touchy and controversial subject, that one, but I’m addressing addictions here) or any other form of sexual experimentation, many victims find themselves lost in addictions. Keep in mind, in reading this, that I don’t profess to be a counselor. And, quite frankly, have no desire to be one. I help people overcome the things they struggle with and achieve the results they long for, mostly in their faith journey and healing from past pain. I work from a biblical perspective, using a coaching method. So if you come to me because you struggle with pornography, we will work through that from a biblical perspective, looking at God’s plan and intent for us, as well as looking at where the addiction was ‘birthed’ and the root problem. If it is cutting and self harm, we will look at that from a biblical perspective, focusing on the root, not the symptom.

I won’t quickly slap a ‘sin’ label on these things and appropriately condemn you and send you on your way, because there is always something deeper going on.  Labeling sin is easy. Anyone can do it. But digging deeper, and inviting Jesus to heal and restore at a deeper place takes relationship. (Jesus did not come to bring condemnation, but to offer salvation in every situation, every struggle. John 3:17 And He came for relationship.) It is important to remember that an addiction is never about the addiction. Ever.

We need to identify and work through the cause–whatever pain and trauma is there, and the lies we believe as a result–but we can’t blame our choices on those things. We need to take ownership for our sinful choices. Regardless what my childhood was, or wasn’t, the choices I made in the past and make today are mine. Where those choices lead me into sin, if I really want to be free, I must repent.

I cannot count the number of times someone has shared with me some dark, even demonic, struggle… Or the oppression of suicidal ideation, the temptation to cut, or extreme hopelessness that overtake them… And, when we go back and trace where that darkness started, almost without fail it started after one sinful behaviour or another.

The most common addiction that brings this darkness, that I have worked with, is pornography. A woman shares with me that she has demons attacking her mind and spirit, that she awakens to a suffocating feeling and the sensation of hands around her throat, strangling her. She suffers through explicit and horrible nightmares and feels completely helpless. We talk about when it started. She remembers the first night it happened.

“What changed that day? What did you do before bed?” I ask a series of questions that might shed some light.

“Nothing,” she says. Moments later, having paused to think back, she says, “Oh… wait… yeah, there was something.” She hesitates, avoids eye contact.

“What is it?” I ask, but still she sits silently.

The game of a thousand questions it will be. I can see she wants to share, but can’t get it out, so I will do what I’ve done with many clients before, and help her .

“Is it something we’ve discussed before?” I ask. She nods. “Did we discuss it last time?” She shakes her head. “Is it pornography?” She nods. I wait in silence for a few moments. “Do you think there might be a connection?”

“Maybe,” she says. By the third time this happens, where the dark and demonic attacks begin with exposure to pornography, she will recognize it, but today is the first time she makes the connection, and it startles her.

“So, now what?” she asks.

“You repent. If you want to break the power it has over you, that’s what you do,” I tell her. “That’s it. Nothing more. You’ve confessed it to me, but you need to repent before God, accept His forgiveness and move on.”

“Will that really help?” she asks.

“I can’t promise that there won’t be any struggle, but I can promise that you will be forgiven, and that it will break something in the spiritual realm.”

Immediately she bows her head, prays and thanks God for His grace and forgiveness, and asks Him to help her overcome temptation. I pray for her too, and together we take a stand against the enemy. We meet again two weeks later. She is excited to tell me that she has not touched pornography, and the dark demonic attacks are gone, for the most part.

For several months she does well, then the darkness comes back. The attacks are more fierce than ever, she tells me. Again we go through the process of taking it apart, and again it comes back to pornography. This time she sees it more quickly, and repents again, breaking the power of sin in her life. And again she overcomes the temptations, this time for almost a year.

So why do I teach repentance? Because we were not created to carry sin. It has negative power over our mind and spirit, that will destroy us, if we don’t repent. If being told to repent offends you, I am willing to risk being unpopular for the sake of your freedom…

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Does the Darkness Ultimately Win? (Part 1)

“Will this ‘hell’ ever end?”… “Will this darkness consume me and destroy me completely?”

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I have asked these questions and hear some variation of these questions from most of my clients at some point. I have also seen many times on Facebook, whether via private messages, group discussions, in status updates or conversation threads. Likely the most common fear among victims who are working through past trauma and the impact of sexual abuse and violence, is that there is no hope.

To those who are struggling, I can tell you that it does get better. We do overcome the darkness–or, more accurately, the darkness has been overcome for us on the cross, and that gives us authority over it. Jesus restores, heals, breaks through our darkness and brings us joy, Without question, that is truth. We are not destined to ‘live’ in that place. This truth is a ‘living hope’ I share with all my clients.

Having said that, I have watched amazing warriors fight through ‘ups and downs’ time and again, even as they ‘matured’ in faith and in age. They have done hard battle. People of rock solid faith, who live passionately for Jesus, forgive past offenders, and love God. I have seen them wrestle with God over the evil…. Because of this, and because of my own journey–even if the darkness only strikes once in 2 years… 4 years… maybe  even 10 or 20…the reality is we have a harsh enemy out to destroy our souls.

While the power of the past darkness is broken–and we are no longer bound to it–the enemy who brought the pain and trauma into our lives is most interested in our destruction. It seems to me that it is more important to believe and understand that Jesus is more than enough in the battle against darkness, and through the storm, than to believe the attacks will end and go away forever.

When clients ask me if they will struggle for life, I often respond with things like, “This darkness will end/break… You will not be a victim forever… It will get better… But I can’t tell you that you won’t have to fight these things again. I can’t promise you it will never come back–albeit maybe wearing a different mask.

Just how the attack plays out, and how we handle it, depends very much on personality, maturity in faith, as well as skills we have already developed, and so much more! For example, I recently had a woman tell me she doesn’t understand why some victims struggle so much, she simply hasn’t. I didn’t know her well, but told her  of a testimony I had recently heard, of a woman whose struggled with explosive anger at home. When this woman went for help, and worked through her own childhood of pain and abuse–forgiving her abusers, her parents and her church–the power was broken and her rage ended. “Oh my!”, she said, “I do that too! I had no idea it might have something to do with the past!” So it is important to recognize that everyone struggles differently.

For some, the attacks come in powerful and oppressive demonic attacks. That is not something I have experienced frequently. And never to the extreme that some have shared. But I have had many attacks in other ways. Often it is in relationships, or in my identity–areas where I have been more wounded and vulnerable, historically. For you it may be completely different. But regardless how he strikes, the enemy will attack if we are of any use to the Kingdom of God. It is a reality we need to be prepared for.

In spite of this, what I know from experience is that Jesus is more than enough for every struggle, and He will use our testimony powerfully, if we let Him. I tell victims the truth about the battle because if he or she thinks it will miraculously disappear for life, then they feel like a failure when hell strikes and they are blindsided. The more they feel they have failed in fighting that darkness, the more they will be defeated. It leaves them utterly hopeless because they think, “Trudy said…” or “Trudy doesn’t struggle…” and they begin to wonder “What is wrong with me that I cannot be forever, completely free.”

The reality is, even if I am 100% free from the bondage of darkness,–meaning that I am no longer content to live in it and get out of it what I think I need, and I have invited Jesus in, and forgiven those who hurt me–the enemy will still try to blindside me in another way. And he will use the darkness from the past to attack me. It is all he has. If he didn’t know my past, he’d have nothing on me. So he has to go there. Even in a struggle that I currently find myself in, which is 100% disconnected from my childhood and isn’t about our ministry, the enemy has used the past powerfully to attack me, and tried to disqualify me for ministry. He’s lying. And that is the very thing that creates the battle. He is lying in ways that emotionally connect me to past insecurities and past pain.

In the battle my heart, at times, screams (silently, for the most part) at God, and struggles with Him over the impact of sin in my life, in the lives of my family, or the lives of friends. It is okay to feel abandoned or betrayed by God, and to tell him so. King David did. 

Psalm 13

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

King David’s cry is pretty intense. “How long, God? Are you going to forget me forever, and leave me feeling as though you are intentionally hiding from me so that I am not able to get even a glimpse of Your face?”  Without question, he felt abandoned by God, in a very dark and lonely place. He goes on to express the depth of anguish in his heart, that it’s a daily struggle. Clearly this is not an hour of battle with the Almighty, where he feels lost due to some moment of confusion. This is ongoing, with no hope in sight.

“How long will my enemies be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me… Enlighten my eyes…” Help me to see something I cannot see right now, so that I have some hope, “lest I sleep the sleep of death”. Do something… I fear this sorrow is threatening my very life…. I feel like I cannot make it, and it will take me to my grave, and be the death of me! Then what will my enemies say? They will rejoice because they have won, when they see me shaken, and lose my faith in You….

That raw heart cry, before the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, shows more trust than I have seen in any other human. But what amazes me even more, is where King David takes his conversation from here.

Psalm 13:5-6

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

 

In verse 5 he ends his dialogue with God, by declaring his trust in God, and making a promise to rejoice in His salvation, and he does so before salvation has come! Then, by verse 6 he turns and takes authority over his own mind, as if commanding it to shift to that deeper truth. “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” And, just like that, the ‘rant’ is over. He has vented, dumped all his feelings–which has taken up most of the Psalm–and then turns his heart to a deeper truth, and takes authority over his own mind and soul.

Yes, I will struggle with God in hard times. When I see people like King David, and his writings in the Psalms–a man after God’s own heart–whining at times, if you please, or shouting, weeping until his soul is raw, or some other intense and real emotional moment with God about how bad things are–and he does it over and over and over again–it gives me hope in my struggle. When I see Elijah under a tree, begging God to take his life, I find hope in my struggle. When I consider Jonah being heaved–literally–onto dry land after his juvenile little escapade of running from God and swimming with fish, I see a God who goes with us through the storm. And when I hear Jesus telling Peter to ‘feed My sheep’ after cursing Him, then I find hope, in my struggle, that God truly uses us broken. Hope to believe that God is with me always and has a purpose that may actually include my struggle.

When I ‘get’ this, it doesn’t matter so much if I battle perfectly. Because I know that in the darkness, He is with me and has my back. Then I don’t fear the attacks, the battles, the pain… and I don’t fear the darkness because my future doesn’t depend on it ‘never happening again’–it depends on the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

Yes, we need to know it will get better and we are not victims of the darkness. (Even if it seems only to get better because we are stronger and more rooted in Christ, giving the enemy less access.) But we need to know that if it happens again, and the darkness doesn’t stay away forever, we are okay. And if we react poorly, there is nothing need to retreat in shame. No reason to hide our struggle. It is a stepping stone to deeper faith, and personal growth.

The greatest men of God, of all time, are recorded in His Word as acting in ways we would hardly accept from church leaders today. And yet they were key men of God. That is an amazing thought to me. And they behaved that way, as far as we know, without even having experienced sexual abuse and fighting those demons on top of these struggles.

We need permission to struggle, with the hope that it will not destroy us, and that maybe, just maybe, the struggle plays a part in God’s Kingdom.  King David gives me courage. He has showed me more of the heart of God than any other human in history, (not including Jesus) because he dared to struggle publicly. Even Jesus Christ–fully God and fully man, wrestled with God in Gethsemane–albeit much more gracefully than King David or I–and gave us permission to go there.

By being vulnerable we will give another weary soldier heart to ‘drag on’ with a bloody torso, broken limbs, and gouged out eyes… Because sometimes that is just what it feels like. And it would be easier to cover ourselves with a heavy blanket and smile at the passing soldiers, as if all is well and we are merely resting. But when another soldier crawls past, bleeding and weeping, but pointing the way to the cross, and speaking words of encouragement, we are inspired to press on. Far more so than if we see soldiers marching by, not a cut, scrape or spec of blood, declaring it can be done.

It takes courage to expose the wounds, especially years into healing, when we should be way past that–at least so we believe. But we need to do it for the sake of others who are hopeless and struggling.

If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Crowded Malls, Tantrums & the Christ of Christmas

I rounded the corner at Conestoga Mall, on a mission to get the last few items on my shopping list. And when I’m on a shopping mission, I march. I don’t love shopping and can probably count on two hands, with fingers left over, the number of times I visited the mall this year.

Christmas shopping is even less enjoyable, in some ways. The crowds are bigger, making the malls busier, and the noise doesn’t help.

Speaking of noise… I rounded that corner and, there, several feet in front of me, was the cutest little boy throwing a tantrum. An exasperated mom, who appeared to be quite pregnant–though I couldn’t say for certain, with her winter coat on–leaned over her little one. She looked at me, desperate, “I’m sorry.”

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I smiled, compassionately, as I spoke to her, “I went through it with five. I get it.” On the floor the cute little monkey rolled around, making whatever statement he was trying to make. I smiled at him, “Hi handsome.” He stopped his fit, momentarily. I looked back at mom and saw tears begin as all the stress threatened to spill over.

“That one woman was just rude! She told me I should get him off the dirty floor, that he’s going to get sick! Why are people rude like that?”

“I don’t know. All I can say, is they don’t get it. I’ve been there. Don’t worry about what people say or think. Your son isn’t going to get sick from a little dirt on the floor!” (Good heavens! What is more filthy at a shopping mall than the cart the child will eventually get stuck in! Let the child lick the floor. Won’t harm them a bit!)

She continued, “Why did you stop? Why are you being nice when other people are so rude?”

“I get it…I know what it is like,” I said again. “Can I help you with anything?” I looked at the bags she carried. Plus pregnant, maybe. No wonder she’s at wit’s end, I thought.

“I was just trying to make it to Zehrs to get a cart. If I could just get to a cart!”

“Could I carry your son for you, or your bags?”

“Sure. Would you do that?” She had picked up her son, still squirming and fighting. “He’s really heavy.”

“I can handle him,” I said. How it took me back in time. I looked at her, a beautiful and petite lady. I could see why his weight concerned her. Well, I’m not a petite anything. I am a big, strong, German/Friesian girl with bone and muscle to me. Granted, they’re not quite what they used to be, but I’m still pretty strong. She leaned her son toward me and for a tiniest moment he was calm. Shock is a wonderful thing, at times.

As we walked, I talked to him, told him exactly where we were going, and why. With that we headed for Zehrs, the little guy squirming in my arms again. We walked about ten feet when the woman stopped at a small area with oversized, stuffed, leather animals. She called a child’s name.

I stopped, turned, and watched as three quiet children collected themselves and walked toward her. In that moment I understood exactly what she felt. Four children, with one hyperactive one. And pregnant.

“He’s a twin. I took him to the doctor to find out what’s wrong with him, but the doctor said he’s normal”, she explained.

“Trust me. He’s normal,” I said. “I have several like him. One especially much. They’re a lot of fun but it’s hard sometimes.”

We didn’t get far before we came across an abandoned cart. A big Zehrs cart, perfect for twins and a few extra. The other children complied beautifully. But not the little monkey in my arms. I tried to set him in and his legs went stiff.

“No! Choo choo train!” he declared loudly.

“Where?” I asked. He pointed to the train in the store. We negotiated for a moment, unsuccessfully.

Well, I’m mother enough to know that when all else fails, treats work. They’re not really bribery. They are an advance on reward for upcoming good behaviour. They require faith–believing that the good behaviour will come–and action–giving it to them.

“Is he allowed gum?” I asked. She said that would be okay. So I asked him if he would like some. Of course he would! Then he would have to sit first, I informed him. Otherwise I could not give it to him. That was an epic fail. Not sitting. No way. His legs were as stiff as before.

I pulled out the pack of gum and showed it to him. His eyes lit up. “But you have to sit first, before I can give it to you,” I reminded him.

This time he sat down. He watched quietly as I opened the pack and handed him a piece, as well as the other children.

“Why are people rude?” she asked again. “Why did you stop and help?” She was having a hard time processing why I would help. “The woman… saying it will make my son sick! I wanted to tell her that my daughter here–she pointed to a child about 6 years old–fought cancer for three years. She’s okay. She did it!”

Wow! A mom of four, including one hyperactive twin, pregnant, and having gone through three years of battling cancer with her beautiful little girl.

“Don’t worry about what people think,” I said again, “Your children are very sweet! He’s sweet too,” I said, patting the high-strung son on the head. “And you’re going to be very good for Mommy now, right?” I said, addressing him directly. His innocent eyes stared back at me, as if he had no idea of being naughty,  and then a mischievous grin spread across his face.

We chatted a few more moments, and parted ways. Before I left I promised I would pray for her as I shopped.

Another passionate, “Thank you! Oh thank you!” and she was on her way. And so was I, with an image burned in my memory of a beautiful pregnant mama in tears. I prayed. Repeatedly.

It’s easy to get sucked into the rush of Christmas and forget about the reality of people’s lives. And it’s even easier judge the people around us, when we think they don’t have it together. It’s easy to be annoyed, and write them off. But we never know the bigger story. Well, almost never. Even Saturday, having had a wee glimpse into this woman’s story, I have a feeling there is a lot more that she didn’t tell. I thank God for that moment of vulnerability, when she fell apart, and God allowed me to see her heart. It puts the season in perspective.

Christmas time, when many people are giddy with excitement, when children’s eyes sparkle with anticipation, there are people whose lives are empty, lonely and overwhelming.

In the past few days, since meeting that woman at the mall, a good friend has whispered ‘Good-bye’ to her sister for the last time in this life… a young pregnant-soon-to-be-first-time-mommy has laid her young husband to rest… a young woman messaged me, devastated by rejection from her conservative Christian family–a family who would judge her for many of her choices–and this is how she experiences the ‘Christ of Christmas’ through them…  and the list goes on.

This Christmas, and through the coming year, take time to look beyond the surface, and remember that people carry a lot of pain. Sometimes all they need is for someone to offer a little understanding, and to know they are not alone, they are not a failure, that they are not abandoned.

By caring for their hearts, let’s bring the Jesus of Christmas to life in the world all around us, all year long. Let’s talk less about our religious beliefs, and show the world through our lives–not our perfection, our dress, or other ‘performance’–that Jesus is the reason for everything we do.

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Have a Merry Christmas!

© Trudy Metzger

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