To Be A Published Author… And Offer Hope to ‘My (Mennonite) People’

Dutifully I placed all my workbooks on the table before me, then seated myself in front of the stack. Grade 6 was over, and I had a long summer before me. Long enough to write a story, I thought to myself.

Flipping through the pages, I tore out all the used, marked and badly worn pages, and set them aside for the burning pile, leaving behind lined paper for my writing project. I soon learned to cut out the pages, instead of tearing them, to avoid losing the pages at the back of the book.

Having completed this task, I transferred the workbooks into double grocery bags to be used as my book bag. Next, I collected a handful of pens. I would need blue or black for writing, and read for correcting. And I’d always want a few extra. Just in case.

Finally, I picked up my emerald-green Pathway Publishers book. I had saved up my own money to by it at John Martin’s book store. How I treasured that book! It was the one book I could call ‘mine’. Such a beautiful green. And perfectly spotless when I purchased it. With that book as my guide, I would learn to write a good story…

I had access to countless books, growing up, Whether the school library, the church library, old Reader’s Digest–not all of which were age appropriate, however interesting–and even the old Encyclopaedias. I mostly liked reading about birds, animals and the human body. It was the source of my more explicit, though not necessarily damaging, sex education.  Not that I fully understood what I read, and that was just as well.

Always books played a role in my life. Some good. Some bad. And always I dreamed of becoming a published author, starting back at age eleven or twelve, a little Mennonite girl on the farm.

“You have a way with words,” people told me then already. When salesmen came to the door, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was the one who most often spent time dealing with them, or debating and challenging. Now, an adult, I wonder what they must have thought to have this young 12-yr-old as the family ‘spokesperson’. (The Filter Queen salesmen called me that.) I would enjoy such a debate, if the tables were turned.

Mind you, I said all the ‘right things’ that I was taught and indoctrinated to say, not necessarily having challenged my own mind to explore. Still, the exercise was good for me in that it did present me with other views and taught me to think critically of my own beliefs, and the beliefs of others, rather than accepting every thought and opinion shared, as my own.

Words and book. Two things that influenced my world like nothing else. In earlier childhood books opened up a fantasy world before me, stirring the mind and imagination. But by my pre-teens and teens, most of what I read had powerful life lessons, evoking feelings, emotions and convictions that continue to influence and shape me, to this day.

And through those years the dream of becoming a published author have never died. Oh, they’ve gotten booted around in frustration, when the dream seemed impossible. I have, figuratively, cast the dream at God’s feet and given it a few extra kicks before turning my back on the crumpled heap. But always, somehow, the dream comes back to life, like that hardy perennial that exudes determination no matter the fierce weather it has endured.

So it was, in August 2011, at the John Maxwell Team conference, that I looked at my group of new friends and blurted out, somewhat randomly, “I have a great idea!”

In the minutes that followed I shared my dream of writing a book, but suggested the seven of us–Babak, Danny, Dennis, Elias, Eric,  Sheri and I–all write  our stories of overcoming  struggles and challenges and arriving at living our dreams. That seemed so much easier than writing a whole book. And we’d be a built in editing team for each other. It was brilliant, they said.

We never did write that book, though we worked on the concept a while. It wasn’t the dream everyone else was meant to live. But it awakened in me a new determination. And I said it publicly. This time I would do it, no matter what. And that was what it took. Knowing that people were expecting it to happen. That there were people I had never met, in other countries–people I would never meet–who, together with my friends at home, cheered me  on. A note here, a word there, a little reminder, “When will you publish your book?” A promise to my Amish friend, Rosemary Gascho, that one day I would drive to her farm and deliver a signed copy.

All of these thing propelled me forward. But, ultimately, it was God’s call that fueled my vision. The desire to tell others it isn’t over when it feels over. There is purpose in the pain and hell of life. There is redemption. There is hope. There is Jesus. And, for those who don’t believe in Him, my story will offer a glimpse into a religious culture and faith experience that even an atheist, I expect, will find inspiring. We don’t have to agree to be moved, challenged and inspired by one another. And that ‘touching of lives and hearts’ is my motive for sharing the story of the first eighteen years of my life.

It is also the reason I have dreamed, for years now, of publishing in my mother-tongue, Low German, and offering a book in story form, to ‘my people’. Only in recent years has it become a written language, and my dream is for my story to bring hope to my Low German, Russian and Mexican Mennonite friends and relatives.

And these dreams are beginning to come true, though not without challenge and hard work. Yesterday, May 27, 2014, I signed a publishing contract for my first book. The working title is “forgiveness for A Secret Sin“, but this may well change at the Publisher’s discretion, as well as the cover.

A Secret Sin--Working Title 2

For the translating part of my dream, I invite you to join me. The cost, because it is a virtually unwritten language, is prohibitive. The translating and editing of it will be very time-consuming and a work to which I cannot contribute much. (I speak quite fluently, but have nothing to offer in the way of actual translating.)

For several years I have been in touch with a team of people who are able to make this happen, and reach many of my ancestors. The copyright of the Low German book will belong to Generations Unleashed, and the funds generated will support the ministry, financially.

To give you opportunity to be part of this amazing ministry, and join me in changing many lives, and offering them hope, we have set up a crowdfunding event, through Indiegogo. To read about it, and support the cause, visit our fundraiser HERE.

Please tell your friends, and contribute in any way you are able–whether financially or by sharing the event–every effort helps make this dream possible. There are ‘Perks’ for specific donation amounts, but if you wish to make a donation for another amount, simply choose the ‘contribute now’ button.  (Sharing is made easy when you visit the site, with buttons just below the photo.) 

Words changed my life. Words gave me hope. Please join me in giving a word of hope to ‘my people’. Together we can make dreams a reality. Together we can change the world.

Thank you, and God bless!

© Trudy Metzger

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The Revealing, Exposing & Redemptive Truth of Our Heritage

I’ve made an interesting observation, as word gets out that I have written my story and that it reveals some less than noble truths of my cultural upbringing. That observations is:

We are comfortable with telling the ‘ugly truth’ of redemptions stories, as long as they don’t incriminate ourselves, our culture, our belief systems and expose things we are not willing to look at.  We protect tenaciously that ‘exposing truth’ that makes our lives uncomfortable… 

Some years ago, when my mother found out I was writing, she said something, gently, about not telling the ‘evil things’ that happened, that it is best to forget those things and move on.  This led to a heart to heart discussion, and it is the first time I recall thinking the whole thing through, and the beginning of this observation that the telling harsh truth is only comfortable when it doesn’t incriminate us.

That mention is not disrespect for my mother. In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Over the past few years some of the deepest, most meaningful and honest discussions I’ve had with anyone, have been with my mother. That day was one of them.

I asked her why the Bible tells ‘bad stories’, and I named some for her.  She thought about that for a moment. I then asked her how we can tell accurately the amazing redemption of God, and the wonder of who He truly is and what He has done, if we don’t tell the stories of what He has redeemed us from, saved us from, and the tragedies and sins He has helped us overcome.

Again, she thought about it, and said she sees what I’m saying, that God really didn’t hide the dark truths of Bible stories.  It was a new thought.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that ‘family secrets’ should ‘stay in the family’ and not be shared. And within our churches and cultures, the same thing is true, for many of us. It is one of the most crippling realities, in that it holds people hostage in silence.

It leaves us with no place to turn, no one to reach to for help–beyond those who are ‘approved’, whose agenda is often more about self-preservation than it is about truth, healing or redemption.  The result is generation after generation of enslavement to the same corruption, sins, addictions and strongholds.

Those ‘within’ who do ‘rise up’ and try to address things, are labelled as unforgiving, rebellious, or some other thing that justifies silencing them.  Some surrender to this control, others walk away. Of those who walk away, many remain in bondage to that silence, terrified of the cost that comes with telling the truth.

And those of us who begin to tell it are quickly ‘tackled’ on our motives, our methods and  judged as having ‘an axe to grind’ or being bitter, and again encouraged to retreat into respectful silence.

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One of the things that alerted me to the hypocrisy in this whole thing–since one can argue that the Bible is written under God’s authority, and no human has that right–is the stories that go back to our Anabaptist beginnings.  We are taught the evil of our ‘oppressors’ and ‘adversaries’–particularly the Catholics–and in these stories our heritage is shamelessly protected. Never, in all my studying or listening to our history, do I recall the dark side of our heritage and fore-fathers mentioned. And never do I hear the ‘good side’ of our oppressors and adversaries mentioned either. To share both, creates a richness that a one-sided story will never tell.

Perspective is a fascinating thing…

We mostly like to be ‘saints and heroes’ working against the bad guys. And to get that position, we tell their ‘bad’ stories to show our good. But what if telling our bad stories could show the goodness of God, through Jesus? What if our identity wasn’t wrapped up in keeping our ‘name’ untarnished?

The truth is, there was and is much good in our Anabaptist heritage, going all the way back to the beginning.   But there was also much corruption.  When I read in the Complete Works of Menno Simons, some time ago, something about how people should be dealt with, who murder, I was a bit bewildered. Most of our churches don’t have explicit instructions on how to deal with murderers, and we might be inclined to find a new church if such instruction was a necessity.

It wasn’t until I began discovering Anabaptists like Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Van Leiden, Jan Matthys,  Bernhard Rothmann among other less-than-noble-Anabaptists, particularly by the standards of my upbringing, that I started to see both sides had corruption, and both sides carried rich heritage and values.

Knipperdolling, a  follower of Rothmann–who came from very wealthy stock, and a ‘proud and bold Protestant–sued the Catholic Munster town council, in 1528. A few years later he became mayor of Munster and played a part in the Munster Rebellion.

Rothmann, if my memory is accurate, was very disturbed by the sexual indiscretions he saw in the priesthood, and spoke against it and,  after being censured by the Catholic church, he aligned himself with the Reformed faith in  1531. A few years later he joined the Anabaptist movement and in 1535 fought in the reconquest of Munster, where he is believed to have died, though his body was never identified.

The stories are too complex to paint a bigger picture accurately, without a lengthy dissertation, however, these realities give us a glimpse into a side of the truth that is often overlooked. I look at it, not with judgement for Anabaptists, or even for these men. They seem sincere men in their pursuit of God. But their behaviour matches closely, if not exactly, the very thing we have used against the Catholics.

I’ve heard the argument, “Ah, but they were not true Anabaptists. We mustn’t align ourselves with them in history, by acknowledging them as part of our heritage”–or some similar statement. Fair enough. I can grant that.

But then, should we not also offer the Catholics the same grace? Is it possible that there is good and evil in both? That their ‘corrupt ones’ are just as corrupt as our corrupt ones, and ours as corrupt as theirs?

Going back to the two examples I use–Knipperdolling with his ‘power’, thanks to money and prestige, and Rothmann with is ‘concerns’, which were legitimate, over abuse of sexuality–I find it intriguing that the two things that most corrupt our Anabaptist churches today, from what I have seen, are the abuse of power (and money) and the abuse of sexuality.  I have seen three cases of litigation–brother going to law against brother–in our local conservative churches, completely defying the ‘non-resistance’ we profess, and I have watched countless times as power and prestige sway the direction of leadership.

And the sexual abuse I’ve written about and made abundantly clear in past writings, so I won’t start into that, other than to go back to Menno Simons. In his writings, Menno Simons addressed immorality among Mennonite men with their daughters, maids and neighbours wives, after hearing it happened, saying he could not believe it would be among Anabaptists, and that was the reason he had not addressed it sooner. He had a higher expectation, and seems devastated to discover that ‘godly’ men would do this. Even this exists in our early history.

From Menno Simons, Complete Works, Excommunication:
“I would earnestly admonish the reader, that about 18 years ago I published an admonition , in which I made no distinction of sin; […] I say inexperience; for to the best of my knowledge I neither heard nor knew at that time, any thing of fornication, adultery, and such like. […] it is evident that […] concerning such gross, offensive abominations, we would make many great hypocrites; for I hear that there were some within a few years who carried on their horrible roguery and infamy in secret, till time and circumstances could no longer conceal them; yea, as I have understood, if some of them had not been detected by great wisdom, they would, I fear, have continued on their old course; but as soon as it was disclosed they began to wail and weep. Who could ever be so blinded, that when he has disgraced his neighbour’s wife, daughter or maid… that he would not say “I am sorry that I did so”.’

And finally, our silence surrounding our own corruption in Anabaptist history, and ‘picking and choosing’ which part of our heritage we will acknowledge, in order to make ourselves look like saints, has opened doors to corruption, in some ways.

(Granted, this all exists in other churches too. But they are not my history, my heritage or my struggle. I feel no need to make myself feel better about our heritage by saying it exists everywhere. I am only interested in facing the truth about myself, my people, and my heritage.)

I have believed for a long time that the answers to the roots of some of our strongholds lie with our early forefathers, and am more convinced now than ever. I also believe that if we name the name of any other person or movement, apart from Christ, and take pride in it and try to protect it, then we live in idolatry, and should repent. Furthermore, that makes us accountable for all things associated with that name, and we would do well to repent on behalf of our forefathers, as we see done by Nehemiah, in the first chapter, when he repents of his sins, and his fathers.

And to do that, bringing this full circle, we must be willing to tell the painful truth of our sinful past and present. Until we face our own corruption–as individuals and as ‘the Anabaptists’–and stop investing our energy in trying to silence those speaking truth, we will remain in bondage to sin.

Truth that reveals and exposes is not evil. It was never meant to be protected in a shroud of silence or secrecy. It was meant to be brought to the cross of Jesus, for forgiveness and redemption, and then declared as a victory on the mountain of God’s people.

We overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, and by sharing the word of our testimony, the story of sins forgiven, addictions broken, sexual abuse buried, leadership used for manipulation, and any other thing that Jesus has done for us.

There is no shame in the truth. There is only shame in hiding it.

When we strip ourselves of all our pride, the image of perfection, the pretence of sinlessness, and stand naked before God, then we are in a position to have Jesus look on us with compassion, and slip on us the cloak of His righteousness.  Then, and only then, does God see us as holy and acceptable.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Why I Write About My Mennonite Culture & My Life Story

Criticism, as addressed in my previous blog about my bold telling of stories from my time in the conservative Mennonite churches, is inevitable.  If it isn’t the criticism about bashing Mennonites,  then there’s the risk of making some churches (or ‘brands’, if you please) look good and others look bad.

This leaves me with a few options: Stop writing. Misrepresent the truth. Or keep writing and take the criticism. I’ll go with option three.

I am also criticized for not speaking the truth in love. Of all the accusations that have come my way, this is the most common. Still, compared to the encouragement I receive, it’s minimal. And, since there is no truth in it, it deserves no defence. I know the love and compassion I have in my heart, and that is the fuel that keeps me writing.  I admit that I’m a fairly direct communicator, which can be misinterpreted by those who would prefer if I softened the blow and downplayed the truth.

The thought of doing so wearies me to the point that I would never get my writing done if I had to write pretentiously, so I will decline to invest great effort in making it less extreme.

When I write, I spill my heart onto the screen, or paper, as the case may be, and not a hint of hatred for my culture resides there. None. I say I am Mennonite with the same confidence and boldness as I’ve ever said it. In fact, more. While I no longer attend a Mennonite church, I am very aware that one doesn’t become a ‘non-Mennonite’ by leaving. I always was… I still am… and will be, to my death, a Mennonite. There is no way to ‘unlearn’ the cultural experiences that shaped me. Nor would I wish to. Not the good, the bad, the beautiful or the ugly. All have contributed to the person I am today, and I embrace the experience and the outcome.

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I am the product of the culture I was born into and lived in, refined by God, for His purpose–the exposure of sin, and the redemption and healing of many broken hearts. What’s not to love about that? Sure, the tears exhaust me at times. The pain overwhelms my soul, at times. The accusations, though few, crush my spirit, at times.

But I would do it all again, for even one of the friends I have had the honour of leading to the Father, through Jesus, for healing. (Most of whom continue to do life in conservative Mennonite churches, and are among my most appreciated friendships.)

That healing, that hope, and that redemption of stories, is why I write about my Mennonite culture. It is why I write honestly and acknowledge the shame, the pain and the abuse that still hides in the shadows of an otherwise beautiful culture–because it offers a voice and healing to those trapped, voiceless and oppressed.  For any offence–however unintentional–I cause in the process,  I am confident I will be forgiven, if it needs forgiveness at all.

It is for this same reason that I have written a memoir of my life story, up until age 18, and am currently working with an agent to find the right publisher. To bring hope and redemption to many, not only in the Mennonite culture but Christian culture in general, where abuse lies hidden and voices are silenced, giving the enemy an unfair advantage, and leaving believers sick and dying spiritually. It is unnecessary.

Furthermore, it is one thing for people to pop on here, and read a blog, and judge me as harsh or hateful toward the culture, while not taking time or having time to read nearly 400 blogs just to see what my heart is in it. It is another thing to read a book, beginning to end, and see the horrible truth mixed with love and respect for many in my cultural background, who have shaped me, blessed me, and still have a special place in my heart.

My hope is that, with the release of my life story–and the sequel is already in the making–there will be a better understanding of my passion for Jesus Christ, in the middle of the truth of life experience.  While I know it will stir up more anger towards me, I am also confident that the wonder of Jesus’ love, and the power of the cross, will be magnified and lifted high.

Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up… will draw all men unto me.” Being lifted up on that cross, 2000 years ago, Jesus  drew men and women of every generation to Himself. And when we lift His name, and raise Him up in our words and deeds, we point others to Him, and He draws them to Himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And that is why I write about my Mennonite culture… Because Jesus is being lifted high, His name is being raised up, and He is drawing many to Himself in the process, and they are finding He is the Saviour, the Healer, the balm in Gilead; a safe place.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Safe From the Accusing Tongue

I opened my text messages at approximately 9:30 this morning. Only one message from a client. It said, quite simply, “Job 5:21  Psalm 31:20”. I opened my Bible app, searched for the verses.

Never in all my life had anyone sent me more appropriate verses, without knowing how they fit into my life at that particular moment. She knew nothing. I had only told Tim….

***

It was 5:30am, earlier this morning…

The lightning flashed. The thunder rolled, moments later. I didn’t really want to be awake. I value my sleep. And need it, really. If I want to invest the best of me into the women I meet with, daily, to walk through the ‘trauma and hell’ of life–whatever that trauma or hell may be–then I have to stay caught up on my sleep.

And this week especially so. Each day was filled with appointments, even the days I usually set aside for my family, and our home. And, whether I like it or not, there’s always the administrative ‘stuff’ to do. Not my favourite, but it has to be done, and I’m good at it. Besides, a ‘change’ is good in my line of work. It brings balance.

Fortunately, most nights, when I crawl in bed, my brain is  ‘off’ before my head hits the pillow. I sleep, uninterrupted, for 7 to 9 hours, on any given night. That, I recognize, is a huge blessing. Especially now that I am ‘middle-aged’. (Funny how 40’ish isn’t nearly as old as it used to be.)

When I awakened, thanks in part to the thunderstorm, and in part to the fact that I drank too much water at bedtime, I wasn’t impressed. I rolled over, willing the storm to end and my body to pretend there was no need to get up. Sometimes it works. (I know… not healthy…)

Almost immediately, however, my brain started up. At will, I can often turn it off. A short silent lecture about the hour of the morning, and a reminder that the day will take care of itself, and I’m usually off to sleep. But not this morning.

The thoughts that tumbled through my head, were the words of a client with whom I have worked, for the better part of the year, very consistently. She was quite vulnerable when we met, working through a lot of stuff. But within the year I watched as she became strong, secure and ‘healthy’.

She was in the Mennonite church then, and still is. If ever she indicated any interest in leaving, it was brief. I don’t recall that it was more than a passing thought, even though she had people in her life who had left, and more who wanted to leave. If ever I had wanted to influence her strongly to leave, that is when I could have done so, and would imagine I would have, most likely, been successful.

Because of her age, I encouraged her to wait to make a decision like that for a few years.

The ‘yo-yo’ that comes with that kind of decision is not easy. (I left home just before 16.) The world is a harsh place. And unless there are solid people to help you really ‘plug in’ and find a safe place, and connect with a supportive church, it is a very lonely journey. Not to mention the risk. The reality is that our Mennonite lifestyle leaves us ill prepared to face life in a harsh world. We are not, usually, very street smart, and the risk of getting lost, and terribly hurt, is very high. There are other factors, but these are the ones I usually mention.

When we met, yesterday, she told me that she had been cautioned–or warned–about meeting with me.

I smiled. Amazing how you can get used to these ‘warnings’, and not take them personal, for the most part. “Are they worried that I’m going to lead you astray, away from the culture?” I asked.

She explained that supposedly I was very bitter toward the Mennonite people, and she was to be very careful of my influence.

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If I’ve heard the accusation once, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. And usually from someone who has something to protect. So the words fell flat. But the source cut deep, and the betrayal that it brought.

A minister and his wife, with whom we met a few months ago and shared, heart to heart, and in whom we invested a deep trust. We spent time in prayer that night, and left, amazed by God, and profoundly impacted by the meeting. That she would accuse me of bitterness shocked me.

I returned home from that session, delighted to see how well the young woman was doing, yet bewildered by the accusation.

‘Like water off a duck’s back’ came to mind, and I knew I should let it go, just like that, as I often do, but I couldn’t. This time it was personal, far more so, than any other shallow accusation I have encountered. Most often they come from people in whom I have invested very little trust, if any, and who have family members I know are perpetrators. (Though they often have no idea I know this.) This was different. I had invested my heart, my trust, personally.

As I thought about it, I began to pray for the minister and his wife. And then I sent a text, telling them I am praying for them, the church they lead, and the broader Mennonite church. I told them that I hold no bitterness in my heart toward them, or the Mennonite church. And then my heart released the burden. I was at peace.

As the memory of their accusation tumbled through my mind at 5:30 this morning, my heart again felt sick, and sad. I have searched my heart, and asked God to search it as well, for any hidden bitterness, and I cannot find it. So I prayed again. And again I asked God to bless them, determined that every time the enemy attacks me with lies, I will simply turn to prayer and blessing. I will not be controlled, intimidated, held back, or made bitter by lies. I choose, instead, to live a life of forgiveness and blessing, and that was and remains my prayer.

Eventually I fell asleep again, peaceful, and encouraged by God.

***

Hours later I opened that text with only two references. The verses held promise, hope and encouragement, as if God himself had sent me the text, and I knew that He had not neglected to notice the false accusations, and affirm that, indeed, they are false.

Job 5:21

New King James Version (NKJV)

21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.

Psalm 31:20

New Living Translation (NLT)

20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence,
safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence,
far from accusing tongues.

As I read them, gratitude flooded over me. And in that moment, I knew I had learned a profound lesson, in the preceding 17 hours. A lesson that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

When false accusations had cut like a knife in the preceding hours, and the enemy had tried to discourage me, I had turned in prayer to the One who knows all things. And in Him I found hope, in Him I found protection.

He is my Rock, my safe place, from the accusing tongue. Nothing, and no one can touch me there, in His Presence.

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©TrudyMetzger

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Family History: Murders, Threats, Ghosts, & Generational Strongholds

What started me down this path is not what I want to write about. Not because the trigger isn’t important, but, rather, because it serves no purpose at this point to tell it.

Over the course of several weeks, maybe even months, it gnawed at my mind, until finally it pushed me to explore a place deep within. I have spent years knowing that there is somewhat of a disconnect inside of me. I have even blogged about it, superficially, in the past.

But it is hard to explore what does not exist–that ‘something’ that isn’t there, deep inside of me–and find answers to the root of something you don’t know where, or when, it began. So, in that sense, what I did this week was a bit of an exercise in futility, as far as finding any answers is concerned, but the process still ended up being valuable.

I left on Tuesday, for the area and community of my childhood, dating back to when we first moved to Canada. I was only five, then, going on six. In that place one event took place, about a year after our arrival in Canada, that changed my life forever.  Returning to the place of that tragedy, I thought I might find something to explain the disconnect and, by reconnecting to that memory, I hoped it might awaken that ‘something’ within me, if it was merely dormant…

I arrived in the ‘hick town’ after dark, and parked across the street from our old home. Everything was peaceful and quiet, with no one in sight, except for one gentleman. He came to the car, to make sure I was okay, and immediately recognized me from a previous visit Corinth. We chatted for a moment, before he wished me a good night, and left me to personal pondering.

I have made peace with my past, with my childhood, and with all the people involved in my story. At least within myself. I am who I am, in part, because of the things that happened. The good. The bad. And the tragic. I have no regrets, on that front.

But grief comes, from time to time, in realizing that there are certain consequences that impact my mind, and my emotions–or the lack of them–to this day. This is not all bad, to be sure. Something of having survived great tragedy as a child, and developing a strong mind, and resilient spirit, actually equips me for the work I do with victims of abuse and violence, and individuals struggling with self harm, sometimes in very violent forms. Things that some medical professionals, and counsellors cannot handle, I work through with people, and help them break their addictions.

Whatever it is, about how my mind learned to handle trauma in childhood, I thank God for this ‘gift’. But in the day-to-day, this extreme desensitization has some negatives, and causes me to ‘shut down’ in situations where I should feel pain. I hoped that revisiting the single greatest trauma, that I can consciously recall, would help me understand what happens inside of me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve read stories, listened to people share in person.  But each person is unique, in how we process experience, information and the revisiting of past trauma. I sat there, for some time, just staring at the house, listening to the song that was next on my playlist, immediately after parking my car. ‘Jeremiah 29:11’, by Dan & Melissa David.

The tears started, for a few moments, not so much for the tragedy that was then, as for the way it plays into the present. The ways it leaves me feeling vulnerable, and helpless and, I fear, impacts the next generation. Sitting there I realized that, while the event was tragic, it wasn’t the answer to my struggle. Whatever shut down inside of me, had shut down long before that day. That day simply made me stronger, more than a survivor. That day made me an overcomer, and gave me the courage to do what I do today. If it caused any part of the disconnect, it was only a small part.

Just as quickly as the tears had started, the calm returned. I listened to ‘Even If’ by Kutless, and asked myself a few hard questions, based on that song. Can I accept if this is simply the consequence  of early childhood? Can I trust God and let Him use me, and my broken story, even if the healing never really comes? If I remain, in some way, fragmented because of what once was, will I still trust Him? Trust Him with my life, with my children, and with their future?

I left Corinth, with no answers. I needed some sleep. I crashed at the Comfort Inn, in St. Thomas, at a special rate. That pleased me, since it was late, and I knew I would do nothing more that unmake the bed, and grab breakfast in the morning. If that.

Wednesday morning, I woke up bright and early, ready to face another day, whatever that day would bring. I had a list of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, but not a defined order of things. I’m spontaneous, in this kind of excursion, and follow my instincts.

After showering, I discovered that it is possible to do your hair without any products, and using only hotel shampoo and a lame hairdryer. I had deliberately left all of that behind, and had taken only the very bare necessities. It took a bit longer, but I was happy with the outcome, and felt reasonably presentable. I didn’t plan to see people I knew, other than my mom, if time allowed, and she had seen me in worse shape.

Breakfast was next on the agenda. The tables were filled, all but one, so I set my coffee and orange juice at the empty table, before getting eggs, sausage, and an English muffin.

Being in a quiet, contemplative mood, I was glad to be alone with my thoughts. No one to converse with. That pleasantry vanished when a chipper voice greeted me with a ‘Good morning!’, followed moments later by another. I quickly discovered that in a small town you pretend you’re family, when you’re just passing through. I found myself answering to, “Where are you from?… What do you do?…” and various other chatterings.

While waiting for my English muffin to pop up, I turned to see an elderly woman in search of a place to sit. She stood next to my table, looking at my drinks, then looking around to see whom it might belong to. My quiet contemplations were clearly not about to return.

“Go ahead, Ma’am’,” I said, cheerfully, “I don’t mind if you join me for breakfast.” If you can’t beat them, join them.

“Are you sure?” she said, more to be polite than anything else, as she set herself in motion to sit. She called her husband over, and stopped him from taking my spot. “No, no, there’s a lady already sitting there,” she chided, “Those are her drinks. You have to sit over here.”

A bossy one, I decided, but sweet doing it. Nothing I’m capable of… (Just don’t ask my family.) I seated myself, moments later, across from the elderly couple. In the next thirty minutes I learned that they are from Kincardine, have a brother in Elmira, who owns Double E Esso station five minutes from my home, and they would visit him on the weekend for an anniversary celebration. Their tiny daughter-in-law was a perfect catch for their son, taking on any and every task on the farm, as well as being a licensed chef who makes everything from scratch, even cake.

Almost sounded like a Mennonite ‘chickie’, I thought to myself. I can do all those things too. Most of us can, because it’s how we are raised. Run a skidsteer one minute, and pound the bread dough the next, and while the dough is rising you whip together a dress. It’s not that I wasn’t interested, it’s just that it sounded, well, ‘normal’, to me. Still, their enthusiasm and their love for their daughter-in-law was delightful.

I learned that he constantly misplaces things, and she is overly organized, and that he’s gained a dreadful amount of weight over the years, while she gained almost nothing. “I’ve always been a big, solid girl,” she said.

By the time I finished my breakfast, which turned out to be much tastier than I expected, I had learned more about their life and family than I know about some people I’ve known for years. And I was ready to be alone with my thoughts and music.

Leaving the hotel, I headed down Talbot Line, toward Aylmer, then wandered some back roads to Corinth. On Springer Hill Road, heading toward Best Line, a name on a mailbox caught my eye, Roger Wolfe. I was taken completely off guard. If it was the Roger Wolfe I knew in childhood, then it was the son of the woman to whom we had gone for safety, on that fateful day, for which I had returned.

It was too late to turn in the driveway, so I went to the next farm, where I would have turned around, if I had not been twice surprised by the name on that mailbox. C Wolfe, it read. It was all a bit surreal. I drove past that one too, more because of the shock than anything.

At the next property I turned around, and went back to the place that said Roger Wolfe. I knocked on the door. A jack russel went berserk inside. Who needs a doorbell? I waited. The dog settled somewhat. I knocked again. The dog went twice as crazy. A woman pulled back the curtain, peered suspiciously at me, then opened the door a crack. It was all to reminiscent of that morning, when I was seven…

I introduced myself, and asked if her husband’s family was from Corinth, and said I would like to find Mrs. Wolfe. I didn’t know Mrs. Wolfe’s first name, never had. She was always Mrs. Wolfe to me. The lady said her husband was from Corinth, and the woman I was looking for was likely his mother. She lived one farm over. I should be able to find her there, if I popped by. I thanked her, and apologized for disturbing her. She had said she was only home because she wasn’t feeling well.

The next farm over I knocked on the door again. There was no doorbell. And no jack russel either. I waited. And waited. Then knocked again. No one came to the door. I felt a bit let down. I was sure seeing Mrs. Wolfe would do me good. I could thank her in person for her kindness, and tell her the impact she had on my life, many years ago, and that I never forgot. I could tell her she made it into my book, and that I have probably never done a conference without mentioning her. She was so good to me, to our family. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be. I drove on, toward Corinth.

Back in the little hick-town, I drove to the dead end, on our street, parked, and wandered to the railroad track. How I loved, as a child, to count the train cars, as many as into the one hundred and thirties, or higher. We often ran and waved, and the conductor indulged us by blasting the whistle.

The distance to the track was much shorter than I recalled it. A train went by, but had only a few cars. Back then, we put pennies on the track, for trains to flatten them, and collected them after, if we could find them after the train was safely past. Now we don’t even have pennies any more.

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I turned to leave. A gentle rain had started, and the distant thunder warned of more to come. Maybe even a good old-fashioned thunderstorm with it. It was then that I saw a woman looking out the window, in the house beside where I parked my car. She was probably concerned. I walked to her door, knocked, introduced myself, and explained my wandering about the area. Her name was Betty.

Many years ago, my little girlfriend had lived in what is now Betty’s house, and the two of us had an arrangement that our mothers never knew of. I loved to read, so she handed me bags and bags of ‘Highlight’ Magazines, through her basement window so her mother wouldn’t know, and I hid them in our home.  In exchange, I filled bread bags with mom’s baking and handed it to her as payment for the books.

Betty and I must have chatted at least half an hour, during which time we discovered that my father and her grandfather were good friends, and died only days apart. I had been in her grandfather’s home, and remembered their family well. He was a kind-hearted minister, maybe even bishop, in the Old Colony church. Mr. Cornelius Enns. 

By the time I started my car, she had found me on Facebook, and sent me a friend request.

I stopped at our former home. In times past, when I returned, I had stayed a distance, partly out of respect, and partly out of personal reserve about returning to a place that held so much trauma. This time I jumped out of the car, and walked to the front door. I knocked and, wouldn’t you know it, a jack russel went berserk inside. The advantage to a doorbell is that you don’t have to feed it. But the jack russel is far more persistent, and effective.

A woman, several years my senior, appeared at the door. I introduced myself, said I had lived in the house many years ago. She apologized, said she’d invite me in, if the house wasn’t a mess. She had just returned to work, she said, and was behind on housework. I thanked her, and said I hadn’t any such expectation, but would it be okay if I was outside in the neighbourhood. I wouldn’t make a nuisance of myself. There were memories here, and some needed revisiting.

Moments later she asked me to step inside, told me to overlook the mess. We’d stay downstairs, it wasn’t as bad. Time was lost to me, but I think it was a good hour later, when we had gone through the downstairs, out the back, around the yard–where I took some pictures, and remembered the old sow we kept out back. The garden with the gazebo, she said with great pride, had only cost her twenty dollars, picking things up, here and there, and creating the ‘heaven’. The old trees stood as proud and strong, as they did that memorable day.

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Back inside, she said she would take me upstairs. “You got this far, we might as well go upstairs,” she said, having shaken the pride that prevented her from letting me in, at first.

I walked into my old bedroom. The place it all began, that morning, in 1976….  Rather than retell it, I will share an excerpt from my manuscript, ‘Dancing in the Shadows of the Lost Light’:

My older siblings were out in the fields, picking cucumbers, when I awoke to Dad gently rocking my shoulder and saying my name, in German.

“Trutje… Trutje….”

I opened my eyes, rubbed them, and sat up, squinting against the morning light, as I tried to focus.

Dad was not a man to waste his footsteps. He wasn’t a lazy man, by any means, but he made good use of the booming voice God gave him. If he was to wake us up in the morning, he did so by yelling from the bottom of the stairs so loudly that he jump-started the whole family’s hearts all at once. This particular morning is the only memory I have of Dad waking me, using any other method.  His voice was calm and steady, gentle and persuasive. It was all very strange.

“Go to the neighbours’ and tell Mom to come home,” he instructed.

Vaguely I recall a bit of conversation, but the details are replaced by the nightmare that day would become. Whatever the exchange, Dad spoke with the same uncharacteristic gentleness, urging me to go quickly to our neighbours, the Wolfe’s, and tell Mom to rush home.

Back then, our summer sleepwear consisted of a home-made ‘slip’ type nightgown. In the morning we simply pulled our dresses over top.  Dad helped me get into my dress, buttoned it down the back, and again told me to hurry and get Mom.

At the neighbours’ all curtains were drawn, even the little one on the front door. When I knocked, Mrs. Wolfe pulled back the curtain a tiny crack and peeked out.

Why was everything so strange? And why was everyone acting so weird? Mrs. Wolfe removed the deadbolt, pulled me in the door quickly, almost roughly, and immediately dead bolted the door again behind me.

“Dad said that my Mom is here and I am supposed to tell her to come home quickly,” I explained.

Even as I spoke, Mrs. Wolfe led me around the corner to the sitting room. It was the TV room, where we occasionally were granted permission, by my reluctant and conservative parents, to watch cartoons at Mrs. Wolfe’s invitation. I loved those mornings.

This morning there were no cartoons. Mom was huddled in the farthest corner on a sofa, wringing her hands, with my next younger sister, Eva, sitting beside her. Mom looked an unhealthy grey colour. 

As I took it all in, Mrs. Wolfe explained that Mom had been making bread when Dad announced he was going to get his rifle to shoot her. He then planned to shoot the children who were at home, before going to the field to shoot the rest of his family.

We would have to wait until police officers came before we could return home.

The officers arrived some time later. The older officer, with greying hair, explained that they had talked with Dad, calmed him down, and had removed all weapons from our property. They believed it was safe for us to go back home.

The younger officer smiled, patted my head gently, and chatted with me for a moment before they left. I don’t remember what he said, but I felt safe, loved.  When they were gone, we returned home.

My dad wasn’t a drinking man, more than an occasional beer. But that day dad found comfort in a bottle of whiskey, drinking himself to oblivion, and then took to belting out gospel hymns in drunken irony.  Half the neighbourhood could hear his deep, albeit slurred, baritone, as he sang, “Ich geh’ den schmalen Lebensweg…”

The English equivalent would be, “I go the straight and narrow way.” And in his state, taking the lyrics literally, neither straight, nor narrow, would have been a successful walk had he been asked to attempt such a thing. Spiritually he wasn’t in much better shape.

At one point he staggered into the house long enough to vomit all over the kitchen on his way to the bathroom. He left Mom to clean up after him—as though she didn’t have enough to do with 5 of us children at home, ages 6 and under. 

I manoeuvred carefully the rest of the day, watching around every corner, determined to stay a safe distance from him. This worked well until mid-afternoon. I tiptoed through the abandoned half of our house, what had once been a store of some sort and a post office. It had become our creepy hide-and-seek space, where boxes of musty clothes and hand-me-downs were stored. Garbage bags upon garbage bags of clothing filled one small room. These clothes were donated to my mother by sympathetic neighbours, wanting to help dress her dozen or so children who still lived at home. With many rooms to hide in and old furniture sitting here and there, it lent itself to many delightfully terrifying moments as we competed to ‘out-scare’ each other.

For that reason alone, this part of the house had me on edge and moving quickly, yet cautiously. We never knew where another sibling might be waiting to jump out and grab us and, even though I knew my siblings were in the field, the fear associated with the space was very present. As I neared the half-way mark, listening closely for any creaking of floorboards, or footsteps, with heightened sensitively, there was a sudden loud snort—a snore gone very wrong.

I froze, standing there as if in a tableau vivant. There to my left, asleep on the couch, was my drunken father. Fearing that any movement on my part would awaken him and earn me a beating, I remained motionless for what seemed an eternity, until his breathing returned to the deep laboured breathing of his drunken nap. Only then did I start breathing again, tiptoe to safety, and run for my life.

The day blurs and blends into many shades of grey and black, a surreal collage of mental images, forever etched on the canvas of my memory. That day I became as strong on the inside as I was weak and vulnerable in body… maybe stronger.  And from that day forward I took care of myself, relied on myself and rushed the day that I would leave my family. That day was filled with ‘learning’ that would take the rest of my life to be undone, in layers and stages.

Dad’s violent and unpredictable outbursts rocked our world, without warning, their impact creating lasting scars…

In that moment, of standing in my room, all those memories returned. To my amazement, it was peaceful. There was no trauma in it. No horror. Just a reality that once was, only a gentle scar remaining where once my heart was ripped wide open. 

Mom and Dad’s old bedroom was immediately beside my room. The corner shelving, where dad stored his chocolate stash, and Easter bunnies, from which I nibbled parts, bits at a time so I wouldn’t get caught, no longer existed. Still, it brought a smile to my face to remember it. His secret stash, that he never discovered we shared, and both hid carefully from the rest of the family. It is funny the memories that return…

The current home owner chattered constantly as we walked, sharing her dreams, and explaining half-done projects. By the time the tour ended, I knew almost as much about her as about my breakfast guests.

We were wrapping up when she told me that the house is haunted. We have a ghost living with us, she told me, and went on to tell some stories of strange happenings. “His name is Henry,” she told me.

Her daughter, maybe about eighteen years old, joined us then. Not having heard that conversation about Ghost Henry, she told me that the house gives her the creeps.

“I hear there’s a ghost here,” I said.

Her eyes grew big. She nodded. “His name is Henry. It’s creepy! Sometimes, when I’m walking down the steps, I feel someone trying to push me down the steps,” she said. “It’s pretty scary.”

Significant or not, it was a bizarre irony, if nothing more, that my great grandmother was murdered by being pushed down the steps, back when they lived in a house where the only access to the upstairs was via stairs on the exterior of the house. My great grandfather had ordered my great uncle, who was only about thirteen at the time, to push his mother down the stairs. If he did not, he would get punished, or killed. I cannot recall that detail.

I stayed a few more minutes, disclosing almost nothing of our family, or story. Whatever creepy things they had going on with this ‘Ghost Henry’, I didn’t need to add to it.

It was time to head out, I said, and thanked them. I wanted to see my mother in Aylmer before heading home.

I drove past the farm with C Wolfe on the mail box. The truck was back further on the driveway. Someone was home. I pulled in the lane and saw Mrs. Wolfe disappear into the barn, at the back of the property. She was home.

I parked my car, and walked toward the barn, not wanting to startle her. I gently called a ‘Hello… Hi…’ and waited. She appeared at the door.

My mind flashed back to a time when she was my age, and I helped her feed gravy to her cats in the little barn-like structure on their property. I smiled. I had loved this woman dearly, as a child. I could hardly believe that it was her, standing in front of me again.

I reached out my hand, “I’m Trudy Metzger… was Trudy Harder…”

Her eyes lit up, her face brightened with a big smile. “I remember you!” We talked a while. I asked her if she remembered the tea parties, with the cheerios.

She giggled. “Donut seeds,” she said.

“Yes, you had me convinced that if I would plant them, I could grow donut trees.” The cheerios were just seeds, not full grown donuts.

Mrs. Wolfe laughed, “I remember that!”

I wasn’t going to bring up that sad day, and cloud my visit by making her sad, but then she asked me what I do now.

I told her what I do, and as I spoke, her eyes changed. She knew why I chose the work I do. Not willing to leave it, but not wanting to be too raw, I simply said, “I don’t know how much you knew about what went on in our home…”

A sadness in her eyes spoke louder than her words, “I knew…” And then she mentioned ‘the day’. We said little, but both knew what day we were talking about.

I thanked her for keeping us safe that day, while we waited for the officers to arrive. I thanked her for the many times she gave me roses, from which she carefully removed every little thorn. And then I asked if I could take a few pictures, just with my phone, to keep the memory of having seen her again.

She was worried about her barn boots, and barn clothes, but all I saw was a beautiful woman who loved me when I was a hurting little girl. With giggles she consented, and then Mr. Wolfe let me take several of the two of them.

024026Immediately after this shot, Mrs. Wolfe said, “You didn’t get our boots, did you?” I hadn’t, but if I turned the camera just right, I said, I would get them. This set them both laughing, leaving me with a picture that shows the joy I feel, at the memory of this couple.

027After good-bye hugs, I drove away. Mrs. Wolfe stood inside the barn door and watched until I was pretty much out of sight.

I spent some time with my mother, mostly talking about her health, and getting caught up on various goings on in our lives.

She offered to feed me, at least three or four times, even though I told her I wasn’t hungry. It’s a mother-thing to do.

When I gave her a bye hug, and headed for the door, she asked me one last time if I’m sure I don’t need some cookies or fruit for the road. “No thanks, Mom, I’m still not hungry.”

And with that I was on the road again. The answers I set out to find were not to be found, but the mini-trip was one of the most outstanding experiences I’ve had, in relation to my childhood. If the higher purpose was for me to see Mrs. Wolfe again, after almost thirty-four years, then the trigger was well worth it. My heart has longed, for many years, to see her again, and speak with her.

I thank God for the amazing moments that we cannot possibly orchestrate, and for how He redeems every little thing in our lives. In this family history of murder, threats, and generational strongholds, He continues to prove Himself faithful. And in every rise and fall, I learn to trust Him a little bit more, in spite of that history.

©TrudyMetzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Letter to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

It feels odd to write You a letter… Odd, yet appropriate. It’s different than prayer, or ‘just chatting’ about life stuff…. Strangely more personal, more vulnerable. Makes me wonder if it’s how King David felt when his prayer were written out for others to read.

There is so much in my heart. So much that I feel, but cannot say easily. I feel like You truly have prepared a table for me, in the presence of my enemies. They wave their swords all around, but their threats and rants fade into background noise, as I eat the spread before me, and gaze into Your eyes. How beautiful, and filled with love, those eyes are. I could gaze eternally…

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How different from the days before I knew You… When I thought of God as a harsh and distant ruler. One who judges quickly, irrationally, and rejects those who fall. The one who allows men and women to use, abuse and violate little children. How different from the days when I thought He loved me less for what I had been through, that He had even allowed it because He loved me less.

God. The very word made me cringe.

And then I met you, Jesus. You told me that you are God, that if I know and love You, then I know and love the Father. That You, Jesus, and Your Father, and the Holy Spirit are God. That You came to be ‘God among us’. And then I understood. You are kind, loving and healing. You loved sinners and even let harlots cling to your feet, weeping. No disdain. No rejection. And you invited children to come to You, to be near you. Safe.

That’s when I saw the real God. The God I longed for. I understood, then, that those who had represented God, as a harsh taskmaster, had misrepresented Him terribly. That those who used, abuse and violated children, also violated God. And those who covered for them, were no less innocent of the evil. And I knew that God must hate that violation.

When I saw Your healing touch, in Your loving hands, and heard His voice when You spoke… then I knew I had fallen in love with my Abba Father–my Papa–for the very first time. All those years of distant mistrust fled, and I fell into His arms, safe, for the first time, in His presence.

Oh, I know…. I’ve thrown my fits. I’ve had my tantrums. I’ve yelled into the night. I’ve screamed at the pain, and wondered why He would let me suffer…. why He would let others suffer so much more than me… I’ve raged against the corruption and injustices, committed in His name, by His children… I’ve all but shaken my fists at Him in that blackest of nights…

I’ve not been the ‘princess’ at His side, all dressed in frilly dresses, neat and tidy and proper….

No, it’s often been more like sitting down in mud puddles, while throwing tantrums, and staining that pretty dress….

But still I know that am accepted. Still my Papa loves me and delights in me. He looks at me, and, as if missing the stains on my dress, He lifts me into His arms and begins to sing.

Love…

Pure…

Sweet…

Love…

And He begins to dance, spinning me round, and round. There is no one else in the world, nothing else that matters… I am held and loved…

So, Jesus, my letter is a simple thank you. Thank you for showing me what love is. That it is kind, redemptive, healing and forgiving. That it lays down even life itself, for another–even those who don’t deserve it.

Thank you that You did not come to condemn, but to save. And thank you, thank you, for showing me who Your Father really is, by showing me who You really are. You bridged the gap between my heart, and His. I love Him more than life, and the fear is gone. In it’s place is reverence and awe, that He–so Holy and Just–would love me. I come reverently, yet boldly, to Him, knowing His sceptre of blessing is already extended, just waiting for me to receive it. He was a stumbling block in my life, but You made Him my friend.

In knowing You, I have met and known my Papa. And in knowing Him, I have found myself. All the lies that life–with it’s pain, abuse and violence–screamed so vehemently at me, are gone. They have lost their power. Because now I know that God is good, and I am loved. Those truths have made all the difference.

Thank you, Jesus. I love you!

~ one healed little girl ~

“You dance over me… while I am unaware… You sing all around…”
~ Lincoln Brewster, ‘Amazed’

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© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Letter to the Victim of Sexual Abuse

Dear Friend,

It has been more than a week since I started this letter, and still I haven’t made it past the opening lines…  Of all the letters I have written, this one is the most difficult, because it requires that I reach into the deepest pain in my own soul, to identify with the burden you carry.

In a way I have become so familiar with my pain, in speaking openly and doing ministry out of that pain, that it has lost its power… and sometimes I forget how hard it was. That is, until I think of you and see the raw agony of your battle. It is then that I am forced to see the trauma of abuse as it really is, before healing comes and hope rises out of that pain.

And I need to remember. If I cannot let my heart return to the memory of that battle, and ‘know’ that pain, then my expectations will become unrealistic. I will not extend to you the grace you need to fight through the ‘hell’ of that pain, and struggle with God in the process.

So, as I think of what you have been through, my heart cringes because I remember that daunting journey. I don’t have words  of wisdom that will instantly transport you beyond the struggle. There is only one way to reach light of daybreak, and it is by experiencing the blackest part of the night. And that blackest hour of the struggle is the only way to be free of the grip of sexual abuse. There is no short cut, no easy way.

Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.
Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.

And, while I understand the pain, the trauma and struggle of overcoming abuse, your struggle is unique to you. I can love, support, pray and care, but I cannot walk the path for you, or understand your unique battle. While I can’t do it for you, I can tell you that fighting that battle and facing that pain is the best thing you can do. It is key to your freedom.

Having said that, don’t do it alone. The pain and trauma of abuse and betrayal is too deep for us to walk through alone. Find someone… a friend, a counsellor, a mentor.. someone who will walk you through the ‘hell’ of that pain and still love you. You need them to keep you grounded, to remind you of who you are, and the purpose you have.

When you were abused, you began to believe a lie. Each time you were violated, that lie grew stronger, and in returning to the pain, you will face that lie more intimately than ever before.

When you are abused it’s as if a lie begins to pursue you. Everywhere you turn, you hear it whisper, ‘you are worthless… you are ugly… you are trash…. you are used…’ and so on. The lie grows strong, over the years, and we fear it. We fear if others find out that they will see us that way too, and so we run… We run in fear and denial.

But the day you stop running, the day you turn around and walk back courageously into that memory, the lie begins to lose its power. Oh, it will try to overtake you. It will scream more loudly than ever, because you are growing stronger, but don’t quit.

When you return, ask Jesus to come with you. Ask Him to revisit that place of pain and trauma, and to show you what happened there. Ask Him to show you the lies you believed, because of what was done to you. And then invite Him to show you the truth, to tell you who you really are. Ask Him how He sees you. Invite Him to define you, to restore your true identity.

Because of life’s experience, you have been robbed of the ability to see yourself as you really are, as God created you, with great value. If you listen to Him, and let Him speak truth over the lies, the lies will lose their power, their grip, and you will be free from them.

It’s not an easy thing. Running seems easier. But the truth is that running is hard and facing the pain, in order to discover the truth, while hard, is worth it. I encourage you to keep going. I would do it for you, if I could, because I’ve done it and have discovered that it is possible to be free.

I’m sorry that you were abused, violated, stripped of identity, and used. I’m sorry that it left you feeling lost, lonely, broken and wondering if you’ll ever be whole again. I’m sorry that it opened a door for demons to attack you. I’m sorry for how you have suffered. And I’m sorry you have to go back. I’m sorry because I know what it takes.

I know you can do it, with God. Getting rid of those lies is the key to a full life, a bright hope, and a future with purpose. I will cheer for you, walk with you, care for you, and never stop believing that you can do it. Never quit!

With heartfelt love and a prayer for peace,
~ someone who is no longer a victim ~

Ps. Thought I’d share a few of my favourite songs right now, that help me see how much I am loved, and how great my God is. I’m not doing this fight alone.

Stronger — Hillsong
It’s Your Love – Hillsong
You Hold Me Now — Hillsong

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to The Preacher

Dear Preacher,

This letter may come as a surprise to you, since our paths have gone separate ways and I have no ongoing relationship or connections with you. (No doubt we both remember well how that went down.)

I hardly know where to begin… My thoughts may be best expressed with splashes of ink, representing the tears I have cried. How to unravel those thoughts and share with you what is on my heart?

If you have forgotten who I am, I was the teenager, who was bound, bent and determined to defy you, and all leadership. At least that is how you saw it. In reality, and not to justify rebellion, but to help you understand other teenagers like me, I was confused. I knew that breaking your rules would get me in trouble. And it did. But I also knew that then you would see me, that you would know how angry I felt. Maybe, just maybe, then you would reach out and help me.

I was angry for so many reasons that I cannot tell them all. But there are a few very important reasons I would like to share with you. First, I was angry because I was always criticized. My dresses were too ‘edgy’, always pushing the standard, always ‘riding the fence’, as we were often told. My hair was never pulled back quite tight enough. My heels were a bit too high–even the ones I was given by your daughter. I talked to freely, and wasn’t ‘meek and quiet’, the way a woman should be.

I looked around too much when I entered a room. (This was said to be flirtatious, attention seeking. But if you had grown up in my home, where at any turn you could get hit, where your father threatened to kill you, then you too would learn to always be aware of your environment. And you’d pretend to be confident too, to make yourself feel less vulnerable.)

Alone in my room at night, I would sit on my deep window sill, sometimes for hours into the night, just looking at the sky, and crying. Fearful. Any sound in the night made my heart freeze.

What if it was Jesus coming back and He too found me unacceptable? I so desperately wanted to know God, back then. Wanted so much to know I was in His family. Accepted. Saved. Loved. But for all my prayers and crying, I felt as though I was never good enough. Almost every revival meetings I stood to my feet, fighting guilt, shame and rejection. Maybe this time would be the magic moment. It never came.

The church sang “Almost Persuaded”, and I was that… Almost Persuaded that I would never make it. They sang, “Just as I am…” but I knew that ‘as I was’ would never be good enough for God. They sang, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling…” and somehow my heart knew it was true, but all I could really hear was the loud screams of judgement… that I was a failure, destined to never know peace.

Meetings, after meetings, I fought this battle. Always ending with the same desperate hopelessness. Little did I realize that my guilt was false guilt. The result of memories deeply buried in my subconscious, that would surface many years later. And only after coming to terms with the sexual abuse and violence of early childhood, and the abuse that later happened in the church, would that guilt and shame finally leave me.

Only then would I sit through revival meetings in peace, with the confidence that I am a part of God’s family. I don’t need to measure up. Yes, I give Him the best that I can, because I love Him, but my salvation does not rise and fall, on false guilt, or when I fall into sin. He loves me. Accepts me. I am His. And when He shows me that I have sinned, I repent quickly, because I love Him.

More importantly, He loves me. He thinks I’m so special that He sings over me with delight. (Zephaniah 3:17) He has even written a book about me! Having discovered that love, I have learned to love Him, and love others.

And one of the things that His forgiving love has taught me, is to forgive others. Because of that love, I forgive you.

I learned many years later that you knew of the abuse I suffered, and did nothing. You covered it, to protect your family name… because the perpetrator was your son. All the while you excommunicated congregants for bad attitudes, for listening to the radio, for not wearing the right clothes, among other things that you labelled sin. But the sins of your sons, and other church members, you kept carefully hidden for the sake of image. How that wounded my heart!

This taught me that God does not care about my pain and suffering, but cares very much that I look right and act religious. And it affirmed the belief that God loves other people more than He loves me. How desperately I wanted His love and acceptance.

I spent years trying to earn His favour before I finally fell to my knees and begged Him to remove every lying voice, and show me who He really is. I wept for days, as I read the stories of Jesus and the church in rest of the New Testament, as though I was reading them for the first time. And then I felt secure.

I knew other preachers who did not do what you did, and I thank God for their kinder examples. But you had the greater influence, and somehow I couldn’t see past the confusion you brought into my life, to see that Jesus is more like them…

So I forgive you. I forgive you for turning a blind eye to the abuse I suffered. I forgive you for judging me harshly, while protecting sin in your own family and household. I forgive you for spiritual rape… by using God’s name for personal agenda, and telling me that what you do is God-blessed.

And each time I remember what you did, I will choose to forgive you, again, and again, and again.

I pray that you will repent, find mercy and get to know intimately the true God… the God of love, justice and mercy.

Sincerely,
~ one broken teen ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Letter to A Perpetrator

Dear Perpetrator,

You probably don’t remember me… and if you do, you probably try to forget. But I remember you, as though it was yesterday…

This is not an easy letter for me to write to you. I’ve wanted to write it for many years, but never had the courage.

You see, I was a happy-go-lucky little girl… carefree, pure, sweet, innocent, playful and free. Until…

Before we met, I used to feel like a little princess. Special. My mind was filled with dreams of growing up, of being a mommy one day, and having a daddy for my children. I would be the best mommy in the world, and he would be the best daddy in the world, and together we would have a happy family. My little world was filled with wonder, light and hope. Until…

But after you ‘played’ with me, and after you showed me things I didn’t want to know so young, at least not in that way, I stopped dreaming. My world became dark. My hopes shattered and fear took their place. All I could think about was what you did. You said it wouldn’t hurt. But it did. You said it would feel good….

It didn’t hurt then, but it has never stopped hurting since. My heart has never stopped hurting….

You have probably long pushed away the memories of what you did. I can only assume that, because you’ve never come back to say you are sorry. But I have not forgotten, and I never will. I used to be angry when I remembered. Now it just makes me sad, because I wonder who you have become, how many other children you hurt. And I wonder if they, like me, lost themselves in that pain.

I grew up. It was hard. I struggled with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I felt hopeless. Ugly. Dirty. Broken. Used. I let more people use me. I thought it was all I was worth. That it was all I deserved. I became desperate. And in my desperation, I wanted to die and make the pain stop. But I kept on fighting.

Eventually I found the real Jesus. He heals people like me, and tells us who we really are. That we are not the sum total of what others have done to us, or the wrong choices we have made. He reminded me that I really am a princess, the daughter of a King, the daughter of His Abba Father. And there I found myself again. But the struggles kept on, the pain stayed a long while.

I got married and became a mommy. I married a man who is now the daddy of our children. We have a family. We love each other, and we love our children. I am the best mommy I can be. But I have struggled with depression, anxiety and anger… and sometimes I even felt that it would be better for my family if I was dead, better for my children to have a new mommy, one who was not as messed up as I was. Those were hard years. I loved them so much, but had nothing to give. I was still so lost.

And my husband is the best man I have ever known. Not only because he is a good daddy to our children, but because he is good to me. That part of my dream came true. But instead of the carefree love I imagined in my childhood dreams, before I even understood love, sex and marriage, it’s been a hard and painful battle. He has held me patiently, and reassured me, when I remembered what you did, and when I was afraid to love him, because of that memory. He comforts me when I cry. He prays for me when I have nightmares about you. And he keeps on loving me even when I get depressed.

So my dreams have come true, but with a thread of pain and suffering.

I think about my story, and I see how hard I fought, how much I have grieved, and I wonder again who you have become. Do you still hurt little children? Have you ever told anyone what you did? Do you still carry that secret? Do you tell yourself that I, a little child, asked for it? Do you console yourself with that lie? Do you hope I forgot? Do you live in denial, so you don’t have to remember me? Or has it wrecked your very soul?

And then I wonder if you’ve ever talked to Jesus about it? Have you told Him what you did to me? Have you asked Him to forgive you? Have you wept, and begged, and pleaded on my behalf, and any other victims you have, praying that the crime you committed against me would not destroy my life? That He would find me, heal me and make me whole again? That He would take that horrific act and redeem it, and launch me into a full life?

When I think of you, I feel sad. I feel sad because it must be a terrible burden to carry. Sometimes tears spill out when I remember you, and I pray for you. I pray that you will be sorry, and I ask God to forgive you. I have forgiven you. It took a long time to feel that I had forgiven you, even after I had chosen forgiveness for many years.

If I would see you, I would say this one thing to you, “I forgive you because of what Jesus has done in me.” But you are still accountable to Him, and I pray you will see that, and find His grace and forgiveness.

So I wrote this letter because I want you to know how much it hurt, how much damage it did, so that you won’t do it again. I want you to know that I remember. And I pray for any other child you have hurt, that they will know the love and healing touch of Jesus. And most of all I want you to know that there is hope. That you don’t have to stay in bondage to the lies, to the addictions. Because Jesus died for you too. That’s probably hard for you to believe, but if I, a child whom you hurt, can tell you this, how much more can God who is holy and just? Not to mention that He is your Creator, your Saviour. It is His authority by which I speak these words. I know they are for you.

If you’ve never told anyone what you did, tell someone. Don’t carry that memory in shame and silence, because that gives it power.

And if you don’t have anyone to tell, you can tell me. I will listen. I will cry. My heart will break. And that’s okay. Because when you’re done talking, I will tell you that I forgive you. And then I will tell you to give your heart to Jesus, and all that yucky stuff with it, and let it go. Because He loves you.

Still praying for you…

Sincerely,
~ one broken little girl ~

© Trudy Metzger

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