Valentine’s Day; Christian Singles & Sex Drives after Molestation

[Trigger warning]

Romance. The word practically dances out of your mouth, when you say it, like a sweet lover’s invitation. The definition of it makes hearts skip beats. Heads spin. Reason and common sense all but disappear in the wind, when it strikes. And it does. Out of the clear blue sky, sometimes, when we least expect it, that little ‘rush’ that makes us crazy about someone, and all we want is to be with them….

So we’ve set aside this day, February 14, as a time to celebrate love and romance. A time to acknowledge our significant other, and show them how much we love and appreciate them. And that’s all good, in and of itself.

But for the singles–whether never married, divorced or widowed–Valentine’s Day is yet another reminder of the segregation they often feel. (For this post I will focus on the unmarried who have been molested.) I think of it more the past few years because I have the honour of sitting with singles each week listening to their hearts, their stories, and their dreams. And the one dream many, if not most, express is the desire for marriage and companionship. Rightfully so. Who wants to be lonely?

As we work together through the pain of past abuses, or current ones, we unravel many beliefs victims hold about themselves, about God, about the opposite gender and about sexuality and marriage. Almost always, if not always, there is guilt about the whole thing of desiring marriage. And, in particular, the desire for intimacy and love. Sexual love.

I’m not of the ‘free for all’ mindset, where you grab a lover for the day, to feel good about yourself. If that’s you, it isn’t my business, but the people I work with are trying to wait until marriage, and that is what I encourage, so I write unapologetically from that perspective. My reasons are not to be a party pooper, but honouring God’s plan as well as personal awareness of damage done emotionally and psychologically with multiple partners. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

In sitting with Christian young adults and working through difficult past stories, or current struggles, at some point I usually ask if they desire marriage–because not all do, believe it or not, but if they do I want to bless that desire and pray with them. Answers range from enthusiastic affirmative responses (though rarely) to a cautious, “Yeah… Is that okay?”

Keep in mind that I spend pretty much 7 days a week talking about sexuality, in one form or another, with a broad range of people. From clients, to bishops or preachers and their wives, to police officers and (more occasionally) medical professionals, to grandmas and grandpas, this is my world. Inevitably in talking through abuses of sex, the topic of healthy sexuality comes up and with it the many forms of sex. (One pastor’s wife asked me, “If you talk about it all the time, don’t you think about it constantly and want to have sex? Because I sure would!” Umm… ask a chocolate maker how much they crave chocolate every time they see it. Without crossing the lines to ‘TMI’, let me just say that when it is part of every day conversation, the only thing that makes me desire it is being with my beloved. So, no, talking about it doesn’t do that.) So when the topic of marriage comes up, the topic of sex is already on the table, and becomes part of the discussion.

When I ask if they desire marriage, some logically process what that would mean and conclude they wouldn’t be happy in marriage; it would be too restricting when there are so many dreams they want to fulfill and the odds being low of a marriage partner wanting to be part of that. For the majority, apart from the few who enthusiastically desire marriage and declare it boldly and without apology, we explore the cautious admission that they long for marriage.

The caution is, admittedly, due to the vulnerability of acknowledging the desire for a relationship that offers companionship, commitment, shared dreams and sexual intimacy. All of those are good, and seem good, except the desire for sexual intimacy. For some reason, in the world of Christianity, we’ve communicated the message that a desire for sexual intimacy is perverse or inappropriate, when the person desiring that intimacy is unmarried. And that’s true even if they don’t want to go there before marriage.

This seems wrong to me. In every way. Sex is a beautiful gift of intimacy between husband and wife, and to desire that intimacy should be blessed, along with a blessing on the desire to wait. We present this immaculate ‘don’t need sex and certainly don’t desire it because I’m not married’ image that is entirely unrealistic. Even Christian singles desire sex. Trust me. You’re not alone, if you are a Christian trying to wait for marriage to experience sexual intimacy, and yet have a powerful sex drive. It’s normal. It’s how God created you. And it’s beautiful and good. When God finished creating mankind, He said, “It is very good”. That includes your sexuality and your desires. We have this infatuated notion that marriage is about sex, and once we have the freedom to enjoy that intimacy without guilt or shame, knowing we are committed to that person and they committed to us, then all will be right in our world and our sexuality will be blessed by God. But it is already blessed, as a single who struggles with it and desires a marriage partner. The key is to master those drives, and bring them under God’s design, and take authority over them, rather than to be driven and mastered by the desires. I explain this to every client who struggles with sexuality.

When sharing these struggles, it is common to hear an exasperated and defeated, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” And the first time I say, “Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your desires are blessed by God,” they look stunned. By the time I’ve explained why it is good, most readily accept it as God’s truth–because I pull it straight out of the Bible–while others need time. I also explain how, through abuse and molestation, their sexuality was prematurely awakened and they have had, usually from a very young age, knowledge of sexuality that they shouldn’t have need to know.

When singles have, since childhood, offered sexual services–oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and much more–for teens and adults (often in church), and then suddenly try to shut down that sexuality, often harshly judged by their churches for the struggles, all while the molester is overlooked, there are serious battles to fight through. When the people they ‘serviced’ show up at church happily married and have that intimacy, often never confronted by their crimes, and the victims are left to struggle with the memories and aftermath, things feel pretty dark, pretty fast.

The one gift we can offer these victims–and it’s the least we can do–is affirming their sexuality and desires, and bless what their desires were created for; a committed, God-blessed relationship. In doing this we remove the shame unnecessarily imposed on them by sins committed against them. We bless who they are, as image bearers of our Creator. And thereby we bless God, standing in agreement with Him in saying that His design is very good.

So, today, if you are single, lonely and struggling with the heavy romance focus that is Valentine’s Day, I want to acknowledge and bless you. I bless you as a child of God, with human desires for sexual intimacy, and bless you in your struggle to master that desire. And where your sexuality was prematurely awakened, intensifying those desires and making it difficult, you need to know you are not alone, and it doesn’t make you perverted or ‘sick’. Where you are overtaken and a slave to that sexuality and long for freedom, there is help available; you don’t have to stay entrapped. God sees beyond the struggle and sees you. He sees your humanity, and it draws compassion from Him. (Psalm 103:13-14) He loves you and delights in you, and welcomes you into His presence. You are not ‘less than’, you are not unworthy. Your desires for love and intimacy are God-given, and my prayer is that God will meet your needs and grant you the desires of your heart.

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

The Loneliness of Sexual Victimization: Am I the only one?

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The perception that abuse doesn’t happen in Christian or religious circles is a setup for one of the most hopeless and agonizing sufferings; isolation. As if the hopelessness of believing there is no way out, no way through isn’t enough, this loneliness pushes us to the edge of survival and sanity. And, having survived that desire to die–for those of us who do survive–many of us shut down every emotion and live without feeling, without passion and without purpose to avoid ever standing on that cliff again.

God has so much more for us all! He stepped into time and death, to walk with us and enter into our pain and suffering. He cried out on that gruesome cross, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” He understood our loneliness; that heart-rending ache that screams silently against our pain, longing to be understood. Or at least not to be left so alone.

Representing God with most incredible grace, love and compassion, one couple stepped into my messy world twenty-six years ago. No one had ever dared to touch the unclean thing done against me. I was the only one who had suffered it, I thought. Our family was the only family so messed up and broken. Of this I was certain.

And then the couple dared to enter in… With time I learned that they had helped others, and that their ‘learning’ had come from walking with their own daughter. Their love, apart from any wisdom they shared–and there was that–along with the understanding and listening ear, gave me hope and carried me through the first two years of the most painful part of my life. And it taught me how to care for others.

It’s quite uncomplicated, really. Step into the darkness of a wounded heart, offer a listening ear without any judgment for the struggle, and encourage the victim. Speak life, if you speak at all. Let them know they are not alone. Keep healthy boundaries, because a lack of them will simply add to the victim’s pain, and set you both up for a hard fall. Don’t try to rescue. Don’t be the hero. Simply care.

I do this in the context of faith, and in that context I turn the hearts of victims to their Heavenly Father in relationship. He loves them. He cares for them. He can handle their struggle. And mostly I do this without words, by trying my best to exemplify it. Sometimes I say it for added impact.

My faith in my Heavenly Father, my trust in His unconditional love, and the wonder that He–the Holy One, God, the Creator of the Universe–would dare to get His hands bloody and feet dirty to heal my suffering… That reality has healed my heart, above all. And for that reason I share it.

Ultimately it is relationship without condemnation that draws victims to the Father’s heart in trust. And that is something we all can offer, if we dare. It is something Jesus calls us to offer, because He called us to walk in His footsteps. And the Jesus kind of unconditional Love always heals the wounded heart.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Should Canada Merely throw Money at Aboriginals to Ease the Nations’s Conscience?

“Where there is no vision (revelation; outlook, purpose), the people cast off restraint (perish; lose hope and meaning)…”

If I were to sum up in a short sentence what has happened to our First Nations’ people, I would say they have lost hope. We came. We robbed them blind. In essence, we stole their hope and purpose, and left them displaced. We can say what we want about them not helping themselves, but if we don’t first do the right thing and walk with them, share our bread with them, and thus restore their dignity, we are as guilty as our forefathers.

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These past few weeks I’ve had numerous conversations with various individuals, regarding the upcoming election, and what should ‘drive’ the vote, of a Christian… if they should vote at all. There are mixed views on that last part, from the most conservative to the most liberal of Christians. To me it seems a responsible thing to do, and doesn’t collide with my faith, so I vote. But I also understand those who don’t, and respect that. It’s a personal decision. At least for now, since the government has not made it mandatory, and the Bible doesn’t say we should not. Of course we’ve declared our opinions loudly on the matter, but with no believable grounds, in my opinion.

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One message I keep hearing at every turn, is to vote for a leader who will fight for the poor, for the homeless, the Aboriginal people and others less fortunate. This message appeals to my compassion, and my desire to fight for  the underdog, which in my case is the roughly 6 million sex abuse victims in our country. (Numbers based on 1 in 4 females, and 1 in 6 males, in a population of roughly 35.5 million, and presuming approximately 50% are male, and the other 50% are female, and accounting only for reported cases.)

In his Maclean article, A Real Nation Would Not Let This Happen, Scott Gilmore exposes some of the deep neglect to Canadian Aboriginal people, stating, “We care more about postal service, child care and tax credits for the suburban middle class than we do Aboriginal issues. What kind of a nation are we?” He goes on to say that the Party Leaders have run across Canada handing out money to ‘you, you and you’ appealing to the middle class for votes. It’s true. They have. And we fall for it, licking up empty promises like starved puppies, as if our lives depend on it, rather than looking out for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters–yes, that is exactly what they are–and fighting for them.

If I don’t think below the surface, this ‘tossing money to the poor’ appeals strongly to my compassion, and, if I’m perfectly honest, it eases my own conscience. But there is a bigger picture to consider, both politically and personally. To find a generous-hearted leader who will throw money where the need is greatest, without any sort of relationship-based help, is a noose around the neck of our country and the recipients. The same principals that apply in running a business or a farm–which really is a business but possibly one of the better examples in this case–apply to running a nation. Responsibly managing finances, while giving generously and purposefully, maximizes the impact and guarantees sustainable growth and giving. A farmer who gives away so much seed that he has nothing or little left to plant, will give less and less every year and eventually lose his business. And the farmer who gives the neighbour eggs every week, out of kindness, rather than giving the neighbour a chicken and teaching him how to care for it, acquires more dependents rather than empowering the neighbour to also be self-sustaining and generous. And if the farmer’s chickens die, there’s nothing left. But if he has taught the neighbour well, then when his chickens get sick and die, guess who just might be able to offer eggs, and probably a new hen, to the farmer? A simple example, but that is responsible giving.

By the same token, a country that is not managed in a fiscally responsible way will eventually be in no position to give, so it makes sense for a leader to invest where he or she sees potential for returns. It isn’t that a nation should not give, but rather it is how the nation gives that will make all the difference.

Because compassion appeals to my heart, Gilmore’s article moves me; it really does. And, while throwing compassion money to Aboriginals, homeless and other destitute and needy may ease the nation’s conscience–and mine as well–it will not and cannot change our country, or have a longterm positive impact on the condition of things. Much less can it make Canada a real nation. Because a ‘real nation’ is about relationship, not dropping money from the sky. A real nation is made up of real people who walk in and do life with the needy, teaching and working alongside them, laughing and crying together, hugging and loving… And to drop money from a distance may be the greatest insult and disservice ever done.

And this brings me to my final question. Whose responsibility is it to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and help those destitute and in need? Is it not scriptural for the people representing Christ to give to the poor and needy? And, more than that, to live among them, with love? Is it not our calling to bring Jesus to the most destitute and, in the eyes of society, the lowliest… even those we deem undeserving? And to bring Jesus is to be practically available and present, fishing with them, and teaching them to fish, so to speak.

What about a relationship-based commitment to helping the Aboriginals, with much patience and without trying to clone ourselves in them, imposing our religious cultural norms on them? What about accepting them where they are at, but not being willing to leave them there in their suffering? What about believing in them, and showing them that they are worth more, that they can choose better way, and we are willing to walk with them on that way?

The inner curses that people have to push past, having been oppressed and abused, are not a small thing. I have not suffered the half of what they have been through, and yet I spent years haunted by the lifelessness of past abuse and oppression; demons that rarely haunt any more, but kept me trapped for years. For them to push beyond such a thing requires unbelievable resilience, of this I am certain. And therefore to bring change requires patience and encouragement, with gentle persistence.

So, yes, Mr. Gilmore, a ‘real nation’ might not let this happen, if each person invested him or herself 100%. But it didn’t happen overnight, and it will not be resolved overnight. It will take hard work on both sides of this equation for change to become real and visible. What are you doing to change this… and what am I doing… besides writing? And what are we doing, collectively, to reach out to the most vulnerable in our nation? What passion can we stir, that we are willing to lead, to make a difference, rather that remaining comfortably critical.

In the past I volunteered at our local Federal prison for several years, teaching classes and interacting with inmates, and during my time there I met many Aboriginals. I loved my time with them, and did research into the history of abuse of these fellow Canadians. That awareness has never for a moment disappeared from my memory. And always when I hear of them, it seems I should be able to do something, yet always I move on with my life. And maybe that’s what we all do; even the government, and that is how even a ‘real nation’ allows this to happen; one individual who looks the other way at a time, or talks and does nothing, or expects the government to do it all, not willing to be ‘that one’ who acts. The reality is that we, the people, need to rise up and invest ourselves and our lives to make a difference, and certainly we can appeal to the government on behalf of the Aboriginal people, but not without relationship. They are worthy of more than that.

My commitment is this: To dream, and brainstorm, pray and contemplate… and then to act on those dreams and prayers at the right time.

I want to be that one, no matter which vulnerable people I am given the opportunity to reach. I want to be the one to make a difference, rather than simply talk….

Love,
~ T ~

Note: Between 2 Gods is on sale (Kindle) for only $3.81 right now in USA, and it is on for $4.99 in Canada. Amazon controls pricing–not my publisher–so I have no idea how long it will be on at this price.

© Trudy Metzger

Stumbling in the Dark with Jesus

When our oldest daughter, Alicia, was almost four years old, we renovated the entire house we lived in at that time. As a result, everything was under construction at the same time, except for the living room and kitchen.

To contain the mess, and make renovations as efficient as possible, we set up beds for the whole family in the living room area, for several weeks. This included a crib mattress, two toddler beds and a mattress for Tim and me, creating a bit of an obstacle course.

Our bedtime routine always ended with praying for our children, followed by good night hugs and kisses, and then lights out, the same way it had been when we had separate bedrooms. Daddy was usually the one to turn out the light, and the last one to crawl in bed.

Several evenings into our shared bedroom space, Alicia announced that she would like to tuck everyone in after prayers and turn out the lights. I wasn’t sure she could find her way to bed in the dark, but she insisted she could do it, so we agreed.

She went around the room, making sure everyone was tucked in, then turned out the light. We heard a few footsteps before there was a ‘bump’, indicating she had walked into something.

“Are you okay, Alicia?” we asked.

“Yes.”

A few more footsteps, followed by another bump, and we asked again if she was okay. Again she said she was. This continued until we heard her crawl in bed and tuck herself in.

We asked if she needs us to come over and tuck her blankets around her, but her answer came back with confidence, “Nope. I can do it.”

There is something delightful about a child’s determination, and their ability to persevere, when they set their minds to something. It felt wrong to me, to let my preschooler stumble around in the dark, and I had to resist the urge to get up, turn on the light and help her. Her determination to do what she set her mind to doing, even though she had a few little bumps in the process, was admirable.

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In contrast, on another evening, Alicia went out to the barn with Daddy, Grandpa and a few other children, while Grandma and I went out for a while. Somehow we not communicated clearly, and Tim missed that Grandma and I were going to be away, so when Alicia asked if she could go into the house, he said yes.

It wasn’t dark yet when she arrived at the house, but when she realized Grandma and I were not there, she was frightened and started crying. After wandering around a bit, she returned to the barn to find her daddy, quite distressed. When I returned home, she was still quite upset with me for having abandoned her.

The confidence she had in the dark that night, was a direct result of her security. With Tim and I in the room, talking her through the bumps, she knew that immediately, if something happened, we’d be there for her. In the light, with no one there, she had no confidence, because she felt abandoned. The dark was safer for her than the light, based on comfort, security, and relationship.

When I look at my life journey, I see spiritual parallels to these experiences. In going through a difficult phase in faith journey I have, at times, felt much like my daughter, stumbling in the dark. I could not always see my way.

I’ve had a few ‘bumps’ during those times but, even in my lowest moments, there was one constant, and that is the awareness that God is near. Not the ‘feeling’, but the ‘knowing’.

During some of my hardest moments as a believer my mind returned to the years of hard living apart from faith in Jesus, and nothing of that life, that loneliness, appeals to me.

I may not always be strong… I’m never perfect…. I might stumble, even fall in the dark… but as long as I know that God is with me, no matter what challenge, what struggle, or what uncertainty I experience, I know that I am secure.

I would rather stumble through the dark with Jesus, and go through moments of uncertainty and shaken trust, than to have a ‘perfect’ life without Him.

© Trudy Metzger

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The Winds of Change: Forgiving, Releasing and Blessing My Father

I walked into the hospital room, where my dad, now in his early seventies, lay fighting gangrene in his foot. Dad’s health had gradually deteriorated with the onset of Diabetes in his early fifties.

Being a stubborn German–as I am also–he wasn’t willing to change his eating habits to accommodate some disease, so he kept on with the fried potatoes, fried sausage and fried everything else. Twenty years later he was paying full price for it.

The foot refused to heal. It would take time. Lots of time. Dad, a driven man who seldom held still, a workaholic who pushed himself and his children as hard as he could, was stuck in bed, indefinitely. Flat on his back. Doing nothing.

It all began over 9/11. I spent that morning at home, wondering what the attacks meant. Feeling insecure. Most of us remember that day as vividly as if it was yesterday. The day the world changed. (I google searched that phrase, and 9/11 popped up all over the place.)

In early childhood my parents had spoken graphically of biblical reference to the world burning up. This teaching was usually associated with some bad behaviour, and shared in a half pleading, half monotone, guilt trip. The warning that, if we did not behave well, the world would burn up and we’d be stuck burning in hell forever and ever. But maybe, just maybe, with enough begging for forgiveness, God may find it in His heart to forgive us.

I don’t if it is something my parents said, specifically, or if they implied it, but somewhere I drew the conclusion that it would be bombs and war that would set the world ablaze. And in that burning, the saints would be rescued and the rest of the planet left behind to burn up and create the eternal hell.

Not terribly biblical, from what I read now, but, still, the seeds that had been planted in childhood, resurfaced that morning of 9/11. Had that end come? Was it only a matter of minutes? Days? Hours? My comfort was my faith in Jesus. Regardless of the outcome, I knew that He was my answer. My hope.

A day or two later I received word that the hospital Dad was in was on lock-down. They had received a bomb threat.

The mind is a fragile thing, after something like that. After seeing the trade centre go down that way. People running and screaming. Lives lost. Children left fatherless or motherless. Confusion and mayhem on the streets. Fear. Rage. Anxiety. Grief.

To have Dad hospitalized was bad enough, but the uncertainty of a threat at the hospital, even though it turned out to be a false alarm, was … a little crazy.

I tried to drive the hour and thirty minutes at least once or twice a week, to see Dad. Because we were still Mennonite and didn’t have TV, it was at the hospital where I first watched the news footage. My mind tried to comprehend it all.

At the same time I was trying to prepare myself for the worst with Dad. He seemed fragile, his health teetering on a dangerous cliff. A slight imbalance anywhere, it seemed, and he was sure to slip off the edge.

I made an appointment for my younger sister, Dad’s power of attorney, and myself to go see his doctor and discuss the severity of his health issues. Dr. Andrews kindly and forthrightly answered all questions. Dad’s heart, at best, functioned at approximately 17 to 25%. They would only do an amputation if it became critically necessary, as that would put Dad at risk of heart failure during surgery.

The thought of him dying, in and of itself, didn’t totally alarm me. Nor did knowing how fragile his health was. When it came his time to go, I would be the last one lined up to pull him back. I had resigned myself to what life had been, had made the best choices I knew how, and had long forgiven him. I was ready to release him on every level, except one. I didn’t knowing where he was at in his faith, or what he had done with the past. His sins. The violence. The abuse. Was he a forgiven man? Did he believe in Jesus, as his Saviour?

Life had been very hard for him as well, and watching him grow old and cantankerous, and losing his sanity, wasn’t something I wanted to witness. It would not be pleasant. Whatever abuses he had suffered growing up, whether at the hands of family or friends, it had left him scarred. Badly scarred.

Church life had also left him struggling. When I visited him during that hospital stay, he shared those struggles with me. He admitted how hard it was to forgive the bishop at the Lakeview church–the same bishop who had swept his son’s sexual abuse under the carpet. It was difficult, but Dad chose repeatedly to forgive.

Tim and I were in the process of leaving the Mennonite church over that time. While Countryside had been kind, and much healing had happened for me there, in the end things went sour. Not so much between us and the church–we kept a good relationship with them to the end–but in the way we saw things handled with other situations within the church.

The hardest part was that one could never tell where God’s work ended and the devil took over. There were those in leadership with the purest of hearts, who were terribly misunderstood, and there were those with personal agendas.It was difficult to tell at times, which was which.

The last six months became increasingly difficult. Sunday after Sunday, the life drained from me. And Sunday after Sunday I would go home, depressed, telling Tim I was done–I could not do it any more. Somehow church was no longer about Jesus. We didn’t see Him lifted high. The focus had shifted from God, to agendas. To battles of various sorts. And it was no longer life-giving.

We had already sensed for some time that God wanted me in women’s ministry, and it wasn’t going to happen there. Ultimately that call to ministry was the deciding factor. On April 2, 2001, we made our final visit to Countryside church, before withdrawing our membership and moving on.

Tim and I started gradually making changes. I didn’t look as Mennonite as I had before. I still wore a veil, of sorts, but not much of one, and I wore ‘normal’ clothes.

Dad, who had been religiously strict about these things, inevitably noticed. On my first visit I had prepared myself for a religious ‘once over’ from him. I decided I would sit and listen, calmly state my position and forbid an argument. I was a big girl and it was the choice my husband and I had made.

True to my expectations, Dad asked. “So what kind of church do you attend now?”

I told him we were not sure where we would go, or what we would do, but that we were visiting Elmira Pentecostal and liked it very much. I struggled a bit with loneliness, not having couples our age that we connected with, but there were a lot of great people, and I enjoyed the teaching.

“Tell me more about the church,” he said, “what is it like?”

“Well, this morning before I came to see you, I called Pastor Brian and immediately he asked if he could pray for you before I come see you. He prayed for your healing and for my travels,” I said.

Even as I spoke, I realized I wasn’t telling him about the denomination, its beliefs or what I assumed he was really asking. Things like, do they wear head coverings and skirts and have uncut hair, and that type of thing. But, to my amazement, rather than challenging me, Dad looked peaceful.

“That’s a good church,” he said. “Stay there.”

We didn’t stay there, because the loneliness wore me down, but to have Dad bless our journey was a powerful thing. And that blessing was the first of many signs that a  transformation had taken place in my dad.

The winds of change were blowing… The weeks that followed were filled with moments that brought full closure and peace to our relationship, as Dad spoke words of affirmation and repentance that I never expected to hear from him.

To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

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Spiritual Abuse Part 20__Jesus, More than Enough

About ten years ago I met for a chat with Sandy, a woman who was extremely abused by the church she attends. Twenty years since the abuse started, and with ongoing abuse, she is still in that church accepting it as normal. She pursues ‘God’ most religiously and complies with all rituals and church expectations, but dare to mention the name of Jesus, or talk about relationship with God, and she begins to squirm.

“Do you love Jesus?” I asked her one day in the middle of a religious discussion.

“I love God,” she responded in a matter-of-fact, but slightly raised voice.

“But what do you do with Jesus?” I asked again. Her answer was the same as the first time. Talking about Jesus as the only hope for freedom from the bondage of both religion and sin is not comfortable. She fears an intimate relationship with God through Jesus because it is unfamiliar to her, and past religious abuse makes it unsafe. It is much easier to master the externals.

The very name of Jesus cries for relationship. For grace. For mercy. For forgiveness. For love. For being accepted as we are. This is an uncomfortable thing for an individual who has been severely violated and has spent most of his or her life trying to win and earn that approval. They don’t know how to simply receive love and acceptance, no strings attached. That requires trust–something a victim finds difficult. It also requires authenticity–admitting that I am sinful and my attempts are ‘filthy rags’–and that requires humility, something performers do not have in abundance.

Rebelling against God, because of Spiritual Abuse, rather than turning to performance, requires the same hardness toward God. To pursue God and religion, trying frantically to earn His approval, while closing our hearts to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is a hardness of one kind. Closing our hearts completely to God, denying Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and living a life of sin is a hardness of another sort. The root is the same: pride. But it looks different from a distance. Religiosity has a way of appearing better, somehow… even holy and righteous. Rebelling in sin looks worse, at least from a distance, and the self-righteous will be quick to judge, like the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. They will religiously pass on detailed prayer requests, that amount to nothing more than sanctified gossip, outlining the sins of the rebellious.

God says we are all sinners and our attempts at being acceptable through our own goodness or righteousness is like filthy rags–not acceptable. Only the death of His Son, Jesus is enough. (Isaiah 64:6)

Imagine if your son heard that someone was going to bomb a large stadium filled with people. Suppose that he intercepted the bomber and lost his life, along with the bomber, and the people in the stadium lived. A few witnesses testified to your son’s heroic act. Imagine if, when the people in the stadium heard about it, they came by to see you bringing gifts–trophies, certificates, diplomas–anything to make themselves look good. What if you started talking about your son, and they looked at you as if you’re crazy, and said they don’t want to hear how your son saved them? What if they insisted on being the centre of attention and did not care about your son’s sacrifice that saved their lives.

God is a good Father. When God came to earth and inhabited human flesh in the body of Jesus Christ, He remained fully God. However, the body He lived in was fully flesh and God watched His Son Jesus die for our sins, die to make us acceptable. It is arrogant, and a slap in the face of God, to think that even one small act on my part can assist in that saving when Jesus already gave His life. To put complete faith in Jesus, requires humility.

The cultural practices, beliefs or doctrines that I embrace, without making them a Salvation issue, are a perfectly acceptable gift to God. They hold no redemptive power, but neither does it offend the heart of God. To attach it to Salvation is sinful and perverse. But any gift given as a form of pure worship to God, rather than to try to make ourselves acceptable, is a treasure in His heart.

If you are caught up believing in cultural practices as a means to get to heaven, or if you fear eternal separation from God if you let them go, I encourage you to take those beliefs to God and ask  Him to redeem them. He won’t ask you to stop doing them–they don’t bother Him, and there’s no more salvation in abandoning them than in keeping them. But He will offer to break their power of you. He came to set you free.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

Spiritual Abuse Part 19__The Rape of the Soul

Rather than write a new blog, I went through some writing I did some time ago–one of the books I’m working on.

***

It was Karla’s turn to share her story with the support group. She spoke with courage and confidence of how she had come through abuse and betrayal in her marriage. I admired her strength and ability to forgive, uncertain that I would have done as well as she, given the same situation.

Karla’s confidence quickly dissipated into sobs as she moved into the story of her church life and how leadership in her church had played an active role in destroying relationships in a once close-knit family. Brothers and sisters that once loved to get together for social events hardly acknowledged one another, as siblings chose sides of church leaders and shunned the others.

The church Karla grew up in was not remotely like the denomination I grew up in. In her story I discovered that spiritual abuse is not only a Mennonite church problem.

Another friend, Amanda, left a strong religious church in her late twenties, but ten years later, she still adheres to their rules and guidelines even though she wouldn’t set foot in their church, unless it was to bury a dead family member. Her relationship with God is distant, at best, and she hopes that somehow wearing the right clothes and avoiding ‘sin’ will be enough. Her eyes are lifeless, her spirit hollow, vacant.

What is it about spiritual abuse and betrayal that destroys the heart and passion of an individual, often, it seems, beyond repair?

As I thought back to the religious abuse of my childhood and early teen years, and contemplated this question, something interesting happened in my spirit. I felt violated as the memories and feelings of a sexual assault that took place when I was seventeen, returned like an unwelcome stranger.

I asked God why the memories and feelings, that went with being raped, returned when trying to work through Spiritual Abuse. The answer? It is as if they blindfolded and raped you and told you I did it, or told them they could.

Spiritual Abuse portrays God as the rapist, not the gentle lover that Scripture portrays him to be—the book of Hosea, specifically. It makes the heart fear a deep and intimate relationship with our Creator.

The response and aftermath of rape is not the same in all individuals. Some victims develop such an intense hate for the opposite gender that their interest in relationships is virtually dead. Others develop a need for constant approval from the opposite gender, especially sexually, and frantically pursue every person that could potentially fill that desperate need. The end result, of either response, is not good.

In spiritual rape the same is true. Christians who have suffered Spiritual Abuse, have been manipulated or brainwashed into believing that God is a very harsh God, who says one thing, and acts or another. A volatile God who cannot be trusted but must be appeased. A God who says, ‘Jesus is enough’ but will toss you in hell for not keeping ‘the law’. And that law is usually whatever a particular leader needs it to be for his agenda.

If the agenda is ‘perfect image’, you will be called to toe a line. If you sin, you will be shamed and the church will wash their hands of you, even if you repent. Matthew 18 will be disregarded, to deal with it in private. You will be exploited as an example of what the church is not. For their own image, to present their own ‘holy standing before God’, they will publicly make a spectacle of you.

The bigger the sin, the more you will be shamed and exposed publicly. Big sin, big consequences. They forget that Matthew 18 says to go to the sinning brother alone. Only if the person does not repent, is it to involve the church leaders. Only if the person still does not repent, is it to be made public. (The rest of the chapter tells the fate of the church and individuals who choose not to follow this pattern.)

While disregarding Jesus’ teaching here, leaders will even say it is to help you, and make you careful not to sin again quickly. But it has nothing to do with following the way of Jesus, so it cannot help you, it can only crush your spirit.

This is Spiritual Abuse. It is not what Jesus offers you. It is not who God is. It is a blatant misrepresentation and violation of God’s heart.

If this is your situation, approach your leaders on it, and if the way of Jesus is not embraced, run from it, and don’t look back.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

Spiritual Abuse Part 18__Jesus, Among Other Ways to Heaven

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are”
Matthew 23:15 

“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water
Jeremiah 2:13  

 Meeting with Christian men and women, most of whom are recovering from spiritual abuse, or still muddling through it, I have learned something interesting. Many are very bewildered about who God is, and what salvation is all about. Spiritual manipulation and abuse has all but silenced the voice of God and warped His identity.

Almost without fail, when I ask the person across the table, “Who is God to you?” or “What do you think God thinks of you?”, I get very broken answers. When I begin to tell them truth, based on God’s Word—often reading from the Bible or quoting it, the tears begin. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I’ve never known that God.”

That, my friends, is a shame!  That we can tout Christianity as ‘the answer’ but not even teach the basics of who God is as a kind, gentle, loving Heavenly Father—our Papa—and how He sees us, is a tragedy. One of the saddest things I have seen in my life is when a man or a woman ‘keeps the law’ and ‘toes the line’, but has no relationship with Jesus.

The hopelessness I have heard and seen in the past few weeks is not what we were created for and it is certainly not what Jesus died to give us. He is hope.

Not everyone I meet with is in that place, but many are, and most are religious church goers. There is inner rage, bitterness and sense of betrayal. Some struggle with suicidal thoughts. Some suffer abuse at home from husbands as well, and are emotionally divorced but living religiously in marriage. Some are afraid of what they are capable of doing to a partner. Some are abused by parents through manipulation, mind control and fear-mongering.

Some pretend to ‘have it together’ at church while, admittedly struggling even to acknowledge God in personal experience. Some have not prayed in years. It is all to ‘dead’ and meaningless. All are caught in the entrapment of lifeless religious experience.

Why do I write this? Mostly in hopes that pastors and leaders who are spiritually abusive get curious about what I write and see that their congregants are lost and desperate. On the prayer that they will give a new answer to these people. The real answer.

After I talk to people about who God is and how God sees them, I begin to unravel their ‘performance’ beliefs. What do you have to do, and keep doing, to be saved? What things, if you stopped doing them, would cost you heaven?

That might seem a foolish question to some readers, but if ever you have been caught in a system that taught you a ‘salvation list’, you will understand. If not, take my word for it, it is brutal and fear based.

When the individual identifies what performance is required for salvation, I write down these words: “Jesus said, ‘I am THE Way…” I underline ‘THE’. And then I ask them how many ways there are to Heaven.

There is only one way. Jesus said, ‘I am THE Way.’ Either He is a liar and religious leaders are right when they add a list, or the religious leaders are liars, regardless of intent, and need a revelation of truth.

I assure every person I meet with that their cultural and religious practices are not sin, in and of themselves, and it’s okay to uphold those practices but they cannot be associated in any way with salvation, otherwise Jesus never needed to die. It has to be one of the other.

Jesus is not one among a number of ways for us to get to heaven. He was God, Himself, dwelling in the flesh. He is the only Son of God. To reject Him is to reject salvation, and heaven.

Jesus is THE Way. There is nothing more that you or I can do to make ourselves acceptable. Nothing. He paid the price. He said, “It is finished.”

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

Spiritual Abuse Part 16__Men of God, Rise Up! Protect Your Marriage!

By nature I default to the stronger leader as long as the leader stays grounded on Biblical truth. I also default to male leadership, most likely because of my upbringing, and because my husband truly is a leader worthy of my respect, honour and… yes, the ‘s’ word… submission.

Tim is a man of integrity, unlike any I have ever known before. We have been happily married for eighteen and a half years. Well, most of them were happy years. We did have some very rough times as well. Times when we were not certain our marriage would make it. Or at least I wasn’t certain. Tim never, for even one millisecond, entertained another option.

About eleven years ago I had given up on our marriage. I wanted out. It all felt too complicated and I felt I had lost myself somewhere along the way. I started to look into other living options, started to plan how I would survive without Tim, how we would share our five children and not make it a big ugly fight.

 

Leading up to this, in the first seven years of marriage, Tim and I had never had a ‘fight’, really. We had disagreements but, for the most part, we are as compatible as two people can be. So why would I want to leave a man who never treated me abusively, or harmed me emotionally or physically? When life was ‘peaceful’, why would I want out?

We had grown apathetic in our marriage. We merely co-existed. We didn’t understand each other. We were both ‘nice’ and kind, but the depth was lacking. I wanted desperately to ‘know’ him and ‘be known’ by him. I wanted him to pursue my heart, to enter into my inner world, and I wanted to be part of his. Yet, both of us had retreated.

Add to this a health crisis, on my part, that left me physically weak and psychologically fragile, and I simply could not cope with distance in our relationship. Dark thoughts and hopelessness invaded my heart and mind.

When I proposed to Tim that we part ways, peacefully, and told him I wanted out of the marriage, he was crushed. The pain I saw in his eyes that day, told me more about his deep love for me than I had understood before. He heard my heart, no defences. I shared with him how abandoned I felt, how distant I felt from him, emotionally, and like I was the one who constantly had to keep our marriage alive.

Tim showed leadership that changed our marriage. He stepped into my heart, so to speak, and got to know who I am. He apologized for hurting me, for not protecting me and not ‘knowing’ me.

I don’t know how it came about, but Hilco and Joyce, a couple from the church we attended at that time, Koinonia Christian Fellowship, came to see us. They listened to us, prayed with us and gave us some basic tools to help us fight for our marriage together.

Beyond being ‘nice’, he made a promise to know and care for my heart, and invest himself in building our marriage, in protecting me and fighting for me and our children. Being a man of his word, he did just that. This leadership has continued over the years. We’ve had gaps, but through those ‘seasons’ we learned to fight ‘together’ for our relationship.

The greatest gift Tim has given me, over the years, is his unconditional love. No strings attached, he has embraced me, as I am. In every situation, when the storms hit, and ‘life’ threatened our marriage, he has taken it seriously and ‘tuned in’ and sought God with me. He has always treated me as equal, and has not withheld important information from me, and has included me in decision-making.  He hears me, and listens to my advice and then together we make decisions, with the final call being up to him, in many cases.

This respect, and feeling valued, has made it easy for me to submit myself to Tim’s leadership.  I trust his heart toward me and know, without question, that he longs only to bless me. (He does this from his heart, but the pay-off for him is pretty good too.) On the flip side, there have been times when Tim gave up something he felt strongly about, or wanted, because I was not at peace with it. That is part of healthy relationship.

We were created for relationship, for mutual respect, and in love to submit to one another. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church. Lead with a servant heart. Spiritual Abuse makes room for control, abandonment and expecting to be served, but that is not the example that Christ gave you. You will win your wife, if you hear her heart and validate her feelings. Take time to pursue her—she longs to be the apple of your eye. Be quick to say, “I’m sorry”, if you have wronged her. It will build trust. Pray with her. Get to know what makes her ‘tick’ and speak her love language.

Ladies, be patient with your husbands as they learn a better way. Encourage them. Be your husband’s number one cheerleader. Don’t leave that for another woman.  Believe in him and support him. It is a two-way street, and God has given us a lot of influence over our husbands. Above all, pray for him and with him, rather than trying to change him.

Gentlemen, fight for your marriages, it is worth it. Take it from someone who almost lost the best years of her marriage. Someone whose husband refused to let pride stand in the way.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/