Tears started, as I read the email a second time. It wasn’t the first time I had received a message like it, nor would it likely be my last. And, while every story is unique and deserves personal attention and response, the reality is that many of our stories are similar in nature. The content was not new, or shocking. But this time it had a different impact on me.
The message was from an out-of-province pastor, writing to share his story. When he was a young teen, he had spent quite a bit of time with a young girl, alone. One thing led to another and he ended up abusing her. Now, as a middle-aged pastor, he struggled with finding peace. He had done all the right things, had confessed, taken ownership, but still it haunted him. Was there more he could do, or should do.
In a Christian world, where silence reigns on the topic of sexual abuse, he had carried this secret for nearly forty years. Other than his wife, and the victim, I was the first person to hear his story, as he searched desperately for freedom from the power the memory had over him.
The message at a time when I felt particularly lonely in ministry, and the magnitude of the battle against sexual abuse and silence hit me. I fell to my knees beside my bed and wept. For a long time I stayed there, in wordless prayer.
When the words finally came, all that spilled out was, “God, I can’t do this alone anymore. I can’t do this alone.” My heart cried out to God for courage, for boldness, for others to stand with me, to fight with me, so I would not feel so alone.
I felt weak. Who am I, that I should fight these demons and monsters, when the church itself, and its leaders hide in shame? My glaring weaknesses stared me in the face, my perceived ones taunted me. Everything in me wanted to run, to close my eyes, to pretend I ‘see no evil, hear no evil, know no evil’. But I know it well, and I’ve proclaimed that awareness publicly. To retreat into pretense was not an option and to abandon the call to ministry, no more so, but the temptation lingered.
Several days went by. The battle continued, as my feelings of inadequacy tormented me. Being results oriented, it takes a lot of patience to ‘take on the world’, one person at a time, and try to make an impact for good. When I lose focus, when I shift from facing the current battle with God, to trying to determine the bigger picture, I can become overwhelmed. When I lose sight of the fact that God has called me, and begin to reach for humans to fill that place, I get lonely when humans are not there, and discouraged because the battle is too big. And that is just what had happened.
It was the first time in many years of hearing people’s stories, or reading them, that I felt completely overwhelmed, and I found myself questioning whether I had it in me… Was this really my purpose, my calling? In that place of questioning God met me, through a song.
As I searched YouTube for ‘Healing Rain’ by Michael W. Smith, I saw a title I had not previously seen. ‘One More Time’. I opened the link. In the words I felt God speak to my fears, my inadequacies, as He reminded me that it is in believing, it is in faith, that we accomplish His plans and purposes. It is not so important that people agree with me, walk with me, or believe in me. It is critical that I am aware that ‘heaven’ walks beside me, and that I am willing always to give it one more try, even when I feel as though I wander through a spiritual minefield.
Though time has passed since that battle, I don’t regret having experienced it. I needed to come to that place of feeling like it was only God and I doing ‘hands on’ battle, and that was enough.
While I continue to long for ‘like-minded’ spiritual warriors, who will rise up, and take a stand against abuse of every kind, it is enough for me to know that God has called me, that He is on my side.
That in mind, I begin the difficult task of writing about sexual abuse and violence in Christian cultures, for my upcoming blog posts, knowing that God has called me.
© Trudy Metzger 2012