On Questioning Faith & God Because of University?

“Be careful in the Master Peace and Conflict Studies,” the woman said, most sincerely, “a few of my friends did it and came out questioning their faith.”
“Too late,” I said, “I already question…” And I was amazed how vulnerable it felt to say those words out loud, but paused a moment, because it is true, and then continued with explaining. “Given the work I do, and the horrendous things I hear and see in Christian communities, I’ve been questioning my faith for a good six years. Daily… It’s inevitable…. I’ve often said, ‘If it wasn’t for God I’d be an atheist.'”
I don’t know her well, the woman who spoke those words when we bumped into each other downtown. I even had to think twice about her name when we parted ways, and would have been clueless if her friend hadn’t walked by and called it out before we parted ways.
Truth is, I do question God. Not His existence. Not even His goodness. But God Himself, and how things are what they are with the suffering of little ones on the streets, being trafficked… and in His house… the molestation. No, there’s not a fragment of a doubt in my mind that He exists, and is good… But these questions about His household run deep, so I question. My faith has been taxed heavily, and I have questioned for years. And I hope I continue. Because there are a few simple ‘hard truths’ I cling to for dear life, but with everything I know of life and crime, in church and on the streets, I fear that by the time I stop questioning, I will have come to the wrong conclusion. So I question, and God listens. Sometimes He answers in ways I can cling to, sometimes He just listens. At least for a while.
It is not possible to know what I know, of darkness hidden in religious communities, of hatred (by some) for those who desperately want truth on all levels (not only convincing doctrine)… Of leaders so insecure in their calling that they write off and attempt to silence anyone who speaks into that hidden darkness…. No, these things are not possible for me (and for many others in the trenches) without questioning both God and faith, in some way. I’m sure there’s some easy religious answer to explain everything, and make it all look nice again, but I can’t do that, can’t go there. A few Bible verses, lengthy prayers or one hundred or even a thousand ‘Hail Mary’s’ just doesn’t make the hard reality go away, or even more bearable. Nor does booting out a few demons heal every inner trauma. Those solutions work much like masking tape on a wet surface. It sticks until it doesn’t. And when it no longer sticks, there is a need for deep, compassionate care. (For the sake of everyone who feels a sense of obligation to burn their candle at both ends until they suffer burnout, let me add… ‘Compassion with boundaries’, because Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout are real… and knowing when to step back is critical. Also, it may not be the hard stories that wear you down. Be aware of personal stress triggers, and set boundaries accordingly.)
Anywhere else I can reconcile wickedness, but not among the Jesus people. It violates every part of what He came to be and do. Especially when hidden and then protected under a guise of forgiveness, while the naked victims stand by, beaten with stripes they never deserved, just for admitting to pain. I can even reconcile wickedness happening among Jesus people, because of human struggle and scars of unhealed wounds, but when there is an agenda to hide or mask over without deep acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused, and care given accordingly… Not that.
So, yes, I question. And, yes, I have walked through more than one faith crisis in my six years of ministry. The one thing that has helped me refocus, is speaking truth over others, because there is truth that I cannot ‘unknow’ even if I wanted to, and that truth is the love of Jesus, and when spoken it has power. I fall hard on it’s simplicity. And in moments of hopelessness, I have grasped it with slippery fingers. Still that love remained, and remains still. I have grasped it when grief at what I see ‘among His’ washes over me, defying that grace-filled love, realizing it’s all I have…
Now, having nearly completed my first term, I find it fascinating that rather than causing me to question God, and the things He allows in this messy world, it has affirmed my faith. It has helped tremendously to take a step back from being so close to trauma in religious communities, and take a break from the harshness of it to study. It has been a good thing and a God thing.
That said, I know my journey well enough to know I will continue to question and wrestle as long as I work with victims and offenders of sexual violence. I wish at moments that I had suffered nothing of abuse in religious community… that I had heard none of it… that I was innocent of knowing the cover-ups… All so that I could walk in innocent, intoxicating-ly sweet love relationship with Jesus, oblivious to the messiness of crime and wickedness in church. The tired heart of six years of investing, at times thanked, at times cursed, struggles, but it is a rare and selfish moment that cries for this innocence.
Instead, I will continue to do what God has called me to do, pressing into His heart for answers when I question, wonder or wrestle. Because it is in those moments I realize how imperfect, inadequate and human I am, and how much it is His love that carries me. And that, alone, makes every question a faith-building one.
Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Generous Love, Defined Boundaries & Lines in the Sand

To love without discrimination is to love generously. To love without boundaries lacks wisdom and discernment; it is not in the best interest of the giver or the recipient. To love generously, with healthy boundaries is to love wisely and to love well, in the best interest of everyone. Even Jesus exemplified love with boundaries, driving some out of the temple, when they perverted His Father’s house. It was not the same ‘presentation’ of love He offered the 10 lepers. Both were love.

In situations of molestation in religious settings I see, repeatedly, this lack of discernment at play. Parents and leaders of victims extend forgiveness most lavishly–as though it is somehow theirs to give–and then open the doors wide for the offender to remain part of their lives. This is done without boundaries or accountability, subjecting victims to unnecessary trauma, and other family and church members to huge risk. Sometimes even resulting in repeated victimizations.

This behaviour reveals the ignorance surrounding sexual violence. Few crimes with the potential to forever alter the mind, identity and life of the victim, could be committed where those responsible for protecting and caring for that victim would knowingly subject their children to risk of re-victimization.

When someone murders or attempts to murder  a family member, the murderer is not invited to come and go freely and unsupervised. Oddly, with a crime that has the potential to make the mind go mad from trauma, the same discernment is often not applied, and victims are forced to face their offenders with no regard to either risk or trauma.

And the same individuals who will cry out against alcohol, after a loved one is hit by a drunk driver and in a coma, or worse–dead–speak with casual distance when a victim of molestation lives in emotional, psychological or spiritual coma. And unlike the grief displayed for the crash victim, where prayers are offered and all steps are taken to give that individual the best care possible, the victim of molestation is told to snap out of it, get over it and move on. Or maybe “it was so long ago…” All this to “love” the offender and extend grace.

It is necessary in the life of the believer to love generously. But love cannot be defined by ‘equal rights’ for offenders as fo victims; for criminals as for children. To neatly fold love and pack it in a well-labelled and narrow box, is not love. It is an agenda.

To love well, is to love in the best interest of all, particularly those whom God has placed in our direct care. Not selfishly, but graciously. And  that love includes drawing a line in the sand, when it comes to protecting the innocent ones, and setting up firm boundaries that come with cost and consequence to the offender(s) and criminal(s), not to the victims.

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Yes, love acts in the best interest of all. And if boundaries prevent the offender(s) from re-victimizing former victims, or finding new ones, then those boundaries are love, and that love is a gift we should not withhold.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Curse from Religious Cult Brings Blessing

Today I received an email saying I am being cursed by a religious cult because of my upcoming memoir, Between 2 Gods. If their intent is to unnerve me, shut me up, or scare me away, it won’t work. To the contrary, I felt, suddenly, peaceful. The past day or two I’ve been restless. Nothing I could put my finger on, but a gnawing feeling that started getting under my skin. I’ve been here before, a thousand times and more, and, eventually, I always figure out what it is, or it goes away with time. While it’s here I try to be in tune to my feelings and not let them take over, and focus, instead, on the ‘quiet knowing’ that God has my back.

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When the email came in, it put a bounce in my step. It reminded me why I do what I do: to penetrate the darkness with light and hope. For a religious cult to be this threatened by what ‘Between 2 Gods’ will bring to the light, thrills me! It means the darkness is threatened and losing power. It also means that, by going to such an extent as to gather and curse me, the enemy also ‘shows his face’. That opens all kinds of wonderful doors and opportunities, not the least of which is people within that cult seeing it for what it is, and finding freedom. That’s one reason it doesn’t frighten me.

The other reason is because I’ve seen the enemy up close, in my darker days. One incident, which I share in my memoir, I experienced darkness so intimately that it made me shiver for years. Coincidentally, I shared that story a few weeks ago with a group of women in Michigan and told them how, to this day, that scene makes me tremble, to recall and tell it. It doesn’t ‘frighten’ me, but the emotional flashback to that day remains strong, the memory of staring the enemy in the eye.

What I didn’t have then, that I have now, is faith in Jesus Christ, and His power. A little black curse falls flat in His presence–and, yes, the biggest curse, in His presence, is but a shriveled and powerless worm. It isn’t my own strength that gives me courage to face curses; it is Christ in me. He has filled me so full of love, courage and hope, that even for those who curse me, I feel nothing but compassion. And given a chance, I’d sit with these folks and tell them Jesus loves them.

It’s only 22 days now, until my memoir is released. Only a few proofreaders, editors and publishing staff have read it, and already the darkness is threatened. On Amazon it has been on the Bestsellers list every day since the pre-order opened, which tells me people are reaching for hope, longing to be heard… and some are just plain old curious. And that’s cool too, because God can work with it.

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So, to those in cults, cursing me: go ahead, hold your little curse gatherings and witchcraft rituals, if that’s what makes you feel powerful. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea, for your own sake, but there’s no power over me. None. The blood of Jesus stands between me and any evil thing you can wish upon me. In fact, I will begin to pray blessing over you, and ask the Father to bring confusion to your gatherings, and turn your curses inside-out, upside-down and backwards, so that they come back to you, in the form of a desperate desire to know God in intimate relationship, and reach for His blessing. I pray you will one day be on fire for His Kingdom, exposing the very evil you now worship in His name, and that you will be a great force fighting the things I am about to expose.

As for me… my Jesus has my back… I am at peace… I am loved… I am blessed!

To my friends and fellow warriors, who also fight this darkness in religious settings: we are at war. The area of sexual abuse and molestation has gone relatively unchecked and given the enemy power in the church, like few other things. The warfare and attacks that result from exposing it are a powerful indication that these things are not pleasing to God. The resistance has little to do with those who cover it up for the sake of their own religious pride and arrogance. It is a much bigger battle. God, through Jesus, brings light and hope; the enemy brings destruction, bondage, secrecy and tragedy. And the light is far more of a threat to the enemy than it will ever be to one pastor, or a thousand, who stand behind pulpits hiding sins, thinking it is about his image and reputation. It’s not.

Friends, today we have a voice, like never before, and we need to use that voice. There is a cry from the children–those who are now grown up, and those still being molested–for us to be the hands, the voice and the heart of Jesus. Let’s be Jesus to them.

Please pray for those resisting truth, spreading curses and holding these children captive. Pray for yourself and for me, for courage and boldness. Most of all, pray for the children… the vulnerable, stripped, voiceless children… Yes, pray for them!

Love
~ T ~

To pre-order Trudy’s Memoir:
(Paperback): Between 2 Gods_eLectioPublishing  (Currently offering pre-order discount)

(Kindle in Canada): Between 2 Gods_AmazonCanada

Kindle in USA: Between 2 Gods_AmazonUSA

© Trudy Metzger

Get updates on Between 2 Gods (Memoir scheduled for release on March 3, 2015)

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Losing Religion & Finding Community

“You know you’re supposed to do it? How long will you fight it?” He looked deep into my soul. At least as deep as I would let him, and then a bit deeper, as my defenses broke. Just as quickly I did the only thing I know how to do when I’m too vulnerable, when my soul is bared, and I would rather hide and retreat; I laughed.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it though, I promise,” I said, still laughing. His challenge, urging me to start a group/meeting for the broken and hurting, came at the end of a lengthy conversation about the brokenness of people. Particularly in churches.

Having suffered much, he has wearied of how Christians present as ‘Happy, Happy, Happy’ all the time. Because, with few exceptions, that’s what nice church people do. And say. And are. Happy, victorious, healed, and ‘fine’ Christians.

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If you don’t agree, try it sometime. Go to church and when asked how you are, if you’re not in a good place, be real. When they say, “Good morning! How are you?!” with a big smile, and warm handshake, respond with transparency. Don’t bother to smile, or say “I’m fine, thank you.” Forget about social graces for just a moment. Look them in the eye. Look longer, and deeper than is comfortable. Pause awkwardly before saying a word. They’ll squirm and you’ll want to run for dear life. But don’t let go of that hand because, odds are, you’ll both turn and run, if you release them.

When the awkward is about all you can handle, still looking them in the eye and holding their hand, which they, by now, are most likely trying to wriggle free, say, “I’m really not doing well. It’s been a hard week, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it. It feels like hell!”

If they ask “May I pray for you?” say, “Sure, if it makes you feel better, but it would mean more if you helped clean my house. With the time I’ve spent caring for my dying mother (or whatever hardship you’re going through), even basics are neglected. My bathrooms, especially, could use a good cleaning.”

If they have stopped smiling, and don’t simply mumble, “God will provide”, before apologizing that they need to run, then consider yourself in a good place. If that person says, “When can I come clean your bathrooms?”, know this, you are in an exceptional place. If they acknowledge your suffering and share how much they struggled with anger, loneliness and feeling as though God abandoned them, after some great tragedy, they are extraordinary. Most have excused themselves by now.

We withdraw because we fear people’s pain and suffering. But, as my friend pointed out over coffee that day, suffering is an opportunity to connect. It is the single universal experience all humans share. Every person on earth suffers. Some experience joy. Some success. Some happiness. But everyone suffers. Eventually.

Why, then, are we so uncomfortable with suffering? Here, my friend pointed out, it is our faulty view of God that rams a stick in the spokes of our bicycle at most in opportune moments; our ‘vendor machine’ view of God, if I pop in a prayer, out should come a miracle, an answer, a solution. And the world should be made right and perfect and wonderful.

But we do. And it doesn’t. Our prayers rise. And our miracles fall with a splat. Our faith gives way to questioning. Eventually it grows tired and we wonder… Does God care or even listen? And, as Christians scamper away from our broken pains, we conclude He doesn’t. Because they don’t. And suddenly God makes no sense. He should have done something. But didn’t. He let us down. And answers don’t match the questions.

There, with props yanked out… faith and religion having failed us… abandoned by the God of religious obligations, we are finally free to meet the true God. He sees us in that gutter, filthy, weary and faithless. And He doesn’t run. Or fix. Or pray it all away. No. He gets down on His knees and crawls into the gutter with us. Unkempt. Looking worn and haggard, bloodstained and naked–His garments having been stripped by the religious rulers who despised Him too. And suddenly we are understood. Nothing is fixed. Nothing has changed, circumstantially, but we feel hope. Because that’s what happens when someone enters our pain, offering only love.

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That is what community was meant to be. And it is the community we hope to create, a place where the broken Jesus is welcome, and imperfect people are loved.

If you are local to Elmira, Ontario, and have suffered spiritual abuse or feel misunderstood and long for a safe place, a community where the broken are valued, and all are invited to contribute, regardless of class, race or gender, send an email to info@generationsunleashed.com for more info.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in you.”  The Kingdom of God is not some distant goal we strive for, it dwells within us.  (Luke 17:21) Everyone of us was made with a ‘Kingdom purpose’. And that is not a religious statement. It is an invitation to love, as Jesus did, and offer others an encounter with divine grace, regardless of circumstance. Together we advance the Kingdom of God, by loving our neighbour.

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(Written for the Elmira Independent, September 4, 2014. Ending has been revised.)

 

© Trudy Metzger

 

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Dear ‘Wounded by the Church’ (by: Steve Stutzman)

Special thanks to my friend Steve Stutzman, of Strait Paths Foundation, for allowing me to share this letter.  I read it and was both touched and challenged by it, so I shared it on Facebook. It was met with appreciation by most, and criticism by a few.

But one young woman’s response means more to me than a thousand others could. She is very, very young. Barely a teenager yet, but already stripped and wounded… and she said, quite simply, ‘thank you’. For her, and others like her, who are raw with pain, and not religious enough to criticize or pick apart what all is wrong with Steve’s wording, I will repost it. I know the heart with which it was written, and I know how desperately the wounded heart needs to be acknowledged…

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To Who it may concern:

First of all, I want to apologize. I’m sorry for the hurt, for the misunderstanding, for the wounds you have received at the hands of the Conservative Movement. I’m sorry you heart was/is ignored and only your behaviour matters to anyone. I’m sorry you do not feel or find complete love and the community acceptance your heart wanted to begin with, when you moved toward this group. And I’m sorry you were lied to.

    The behavior of the leadership surrounding these wounds has many levels, too many to address here. But I will bring up a few. They are not trained. Most of them have never even been fathered into personally solid identity. They were chosen and installed, many times without even an idea of what they are to be doing, let alone what God’s plan was for them personally. They are asked to do the impossible; to live perfectly before everyone, never make a mistake, notice everyones new baby and sore arm, visit in hospitals, do funerals and weddings, take care of their own family and wife, (which require extra attention because of the position and pressure) give oversight to schools and projects, keep everyone conservative, identify and block every threat that comes along, study for sermons, and know doctrine, evangelize, counsel, answer everyones questions, help the widows, stabalize the broken, run missions, all the while making a living. It is completely impossible, and it is both stupid and sinful for us to require all this of them. Then they make mistakes, and hurt people. Somehow this madness needs to STOP.

     SOMETHING is going to suffer, somewhere, these guys are going to fall down on the job. They get hated on and criticized at every turn. There is not a man on earth who can be and do all this stuff, and somewhere something gets cut. This time, that something was you, your heart, your relationship. Again, I repeat, sorry about that.

      One of the first things that gets dropped is relationships. Relationships take time and energy, and these guys have neither. So they resort to heavy-handed, high-minded administration techniques, complete with pressure, manipulation and punishment. When they see you out of line, they slap. It is all they know to do. There is little consideration to the validity of the accusation leveled against you, they just slap and move on. To those of us who grew up in this stuff, it seems almost normal, even godly. It isn’t, by the way…. but it can seem like it.

     They have no consideration, no filter, for accusations, They receive them without witnesses, and act on them without peer. Because of this, the spirit of accusation moves in and runs amuck throughout the churches. It carries with it a very defining sting, a peculiar lash of the tongue, a biting that is very singular in nature. With that lashing sting, it maintains order. This is a great evil that must be stopped. Isa 58:9″ Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;” …. Revival will not come forth until this spirit of the accusing finger is put out, cut off, cast asunder.

       You got bit by that snake, lashed by that tongue, cut by those words, poked by that finger. Again, I am sorry. Please forgive freely those who know not what they do, and those who do not what they know. Don’t try to correct them now, just forgive as freely as possible, love, and ask God every day for 3 weeks, to bless those specifically that hurt you the most.

        You came for the lifestyle, for the family atmosphere, and for teaching in obedience. This they do relatively well. The Biblical foundation you and your children receive here is second to none, that I am aware of, anywhere. The first word children read is GOD. The first reading lesson is on creation. Rod and Staff school material will give your children a background of Bible knowledge by grade 5 that most people will not have when they die. Teaching every Sunday twice, and Wed also, is very foundation building. That is good, and you don’t want to throw it away lightly.

        On the other hand, Rod and Staff home base church has screwed up a LOT of people. Other churches along the same line have hurt many many serious, sincere hearts. What you are going to do about that is between you and God. If you choose to stay, I do not think the less of you, or the more. I do not think that raising a stink over the issue you are now facing is going to help anybody anywhere. You will simply be written off as ‘rebellious’ and sidelined or thrown out completely. The system itself cannot hear your words, and while it has a great stated respect for the Word of Christ, has little respect for His Spirit.

        My advice…. tear up the letters. Let it go. Allow it as a misunderstanding, and forgive and bless as fully as Christ will carry you to. It may be that they already realize it is a mistake, but have no idea how to backtrack….. no one ever taught them that. Give them an easy way out, silence. Walk with God, rejoice in Christ, and wait. Ask Him for the right opportunity to move, and to speak clear Life into situations.

     No you are not crazy. Yes you are right…. at least, as conflict goes. And yes, they are wrong. No, they won’t admit it. (They don’t know how, no one ever showed them how.) But God is not so interested in who is right and who is wrong: God is giving YOU an opportunity to die a cruel death, He has put a brutal cross in front of you. It is not about giving in to wrong, it is about yielding your very heart into the hands of the Master, laying down your life, and realizing that in the darkness of the experience, He will rip off motivations of your heart to deep for you to even recognize, and replace them with pure eternal gold. Don’t miss this opportunity to die.

~ Steve Stutzman (To connect with Steve, click on his name and visit his Facebook page. To take a strip off of this article, visit my Facebook page and send me the hate mail… this was my idea. Trudy Metzger)

We are excited to have Steve & Dorcas join us, November 22-23, 2013, for our next Shattering the Silence Conference, for both men and women. We will hear their stories, their hearts and be blessed by their teaching.

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To register, visit http://www.faithgirlsunleashed.com, go to the Events page, and scroll down to the November conference. We look forward to seeing you! You will be blessed and challenged. You will laugh, and you will probably cry. But most importantly, you will encounter Jesus, and His healing touch!

©TrudyMetzger

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Musings of a Weary Warrior

In a recent post, wherein I revealed what dreadful secrets lie buried in my cultural background, I made the comment that sometime soon I would need to think about posting a blog about all the things I love about my Mennonite heritage. And a host of things floated through my mind, of what I might, and ought to share.

Since then I have heard quiet murmurings, here and there, some spoken, some written, that my blog seems to exist mostly to express my hate for my cultural heritage. (Thank God I prayed for a thick skin and a tender heart, else I might well be standing beside Pontius Pilate washing my hands of the truth I know, hoping that some other fair judge will fight for it.)

So the sweetness of that intended blog, and the romantic musings of one enthralled by an idyllic setting, known to the more fortunate in that culture, and shared with me through stories and observation, will be less so than originally intended.

Not because I don’t believe it exists. I do. And I have been so fortunate as to have experienced it, and known it through visiting some of my dear friends, like the Weavers, whom I have written about in the past. And others.

But, unfortunately the romance is tainted by fatigue, and simply not having any desire to convince anyone of anything right now. Not the beauty and serenity that I saw in a few homes–including my time with Peter and Rita Steckle, at Lakeview–nor the evil that lurks in many other homes, hidden behind the pretences of ‘all is well’.

No. I don’t wish to defend either truth in my writing. Because it occurred to me, as I contemplated the accusations against me–of being hateful towards Mennonites–that neither truth needs a defense. Each truth stands unwavering, with or without my support, my applause, or my proclamation. And each truth is very well known by those who live in it. And those who most furiously rise to defend the ‘good’, and declare me the enemy, are most likely to know better of the hidden things than any one else. Because if there is one thing I cannot be fairly accused of, it is hate.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not upset by it. Discouraged? Barely. Exhausted? For a time, yes. Because I feel as though I shovel constantly, and still the heap never grows smaller. I recall, as a young girl, who was more a tomboy than a lady, how I loved to spend time in the barn with the animals. Their warmth in the winter was kinder than the smells they produced, and I endured one, for the other. I loved the animals. But the manure pile seemed never to shrink, no matter how much we shovelled.

That, quite frankly, is how I feel in all of this. I love my cultural background. I love the people there. And I love how some are sold out for Jesus. But, more and more, I feel as though the manure pile grows faster than I can shovel it. And it’s not the abuse I’m speaking of. I have yet to find one victim, who is in the Mennonite culture and interacting with me, who does not serve as my cheerleader. I get many messages from those dear, wounded souls, who have not been heard. Those who have been silenced by leaders for wanting to be free. Those who have tried to establish some help for their own, only to discover they will be shut down by those same leaders. Those who have been told, “We don’t want them (the abuse victims) here’, and ‘it’s not our problem. Those who have been told not to speak of it outside of their families. And those who have cried out and been told, “you don’t need help”, and then are counselled to read their Bibles and pray more.

It has never been my wish or desire to fight against a culture. My heart, my goal, my passion and my desire have been to help people within their culture. Not to remove them and ‘fix them’, but to walk them through to healing within that culture. But the resistance is strong from some. And when all else fails, and the truth gets too dangerously close, we human beings have a habit of resorting to judging motive, regardless what lies we must conjure up to do so.

So my words are less sweet than intended, because I am not one to slather on pretences or niceties to tickle the ears and polish image–neither mine nor yours. I am forthright, yet try always to be gentle. I love deeply and compassionately. But flattery I try to avoid.

But I will say this. There are some, even in leadership, who represent God well, and reflect Him well, with a heart that is true. My prayer is that they will see…. truly see… the plight of the countless victims. My prayer is that they will open doors for true healing, without judgement and the hypocrisy of ‘secrets’ that force the victims of abuse to carry shame.

Other leaders have buried themselves in their own sin and shame so long, that their only agenda is to keep the hidden thing down, at any cost, and always with a religious guise. To you I say, May God have mercy on your souls and devilish conniving.

And to every victim of abuse, who has never had a safe place to go, I simply say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry you have not been heard. I’m sorry you are forced to carry in secret, your burden of pain and shame. I’m sorry that you have been made to feel guilty for disclosing what your fathers, brothers, uncles, friends and even leaders have done. I’m sorry that you have not been believed. And I pray that someone, somewhere will offer you a heart that is true. A heart that will listen, acknowledge your grief, and not judge you for the crimes committed against you. I pray that someone will exemplify Jesus in your life, and thereby lead you to Him for that ultimate healing.

One day, maybe soon, I intend to write that post that tells of all the wonderful things I know and love about my Mennonite heritage…. but for today, suffice it to say that I wouldn’t get my hands this ‘bloody’ for anything but love. If I wanted revenge, there are countless damaging ways to get it, and they would include  court cases, lawsuits and vile public exposure, not ministry, and certainly not the painful truth intertwined with forgiveness, whether publicly or privately.

The Apostle Paul exposed sexual immorality–incest being one of them–in the Corinthian church. He did so publicly, having published the letter in a book more read than any other. He was forthright. I presume he, too, was accused of many things. And a few nights ago I spent some time reading the writings of Menno Simons. It stood out to me how much of his writing was responses to attacks. One might expect these things, I suppose, and if they can publicly respond to those accusations, I will do likewise.

…these are the musings of a weary warrior. But to my adversaries, don’t get your hopes up… I’m not going to lay down and die, or abandon my passion.

© Trudy Metzger

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Happy Birthday to Me, From Dad

Shortly after that visit, Dad’s leg was amputated, just below the knee.  They had transferred him to London Ontario for the surgery. And, because of his weak heart, they could not put him out for the procedure. Again his strong, stubborn, German blood served him well.He seemed none the worse for the wear, when I visited him following the procedure. I’ll spare the details, but he enthusiastically described every sound, every little thing he felt during that procedure. His only regret was that the doctors wouldn’t let him watch. I understood his intrigue, having watched a small procedure on my hip some years earlier, while the doctor kept muttering, “You don’t have to watch.”  To which I replied, “But I want to!”

He told me never to worry about my health. Never to fear or worry, but always to trust God with my health and my life, as was his goal. Little did he realize what lay ahead of him, and little did I realize what lay ahead for me and how fitting his advice would be.

Dad went through rehab and bounced back quickly, learning to walk again and reclaiming his independence and making it possible for him to return home.  As winter approached, my baby-belly grew, and my trips to see him died down. Our contact returned to ‘normal’.

The following April I gave birth to our third son, Kordan Timothy Steven, completing our family of five. Life was busy. All consuming.

Spring gave way to summer, and summer to fall. Then in October, 2002, the phone rang, one Saturday afternoon. It was Dad, calling to ‘talk’. He was struggling. Afraid. Worried that God could not find it in His heart to forgive a man like himself, with all the evil things he had done. What if there was just not enough grace? Would he end up in hell, after all?

The fear was triggered by the notion that one must suffer in this life, or have it coming in the next. I had heard this teaching in childhood, but had long forgotten it. He had recovered too quickly from the amputation, he feared. Almost no pain, no suffering. Just a quick surgery and a painless recovery. He was certain this meant he was doomed. His good friend, a saint in Dad’s mind, had also had an amputation and suffered agonizingly. It all fit together to support some warped theology he had learned and embraced.

“Dad, suffering or not suffering has nothing to do with salvation,” I said. But he wasn’t so sure, so I began asking him questions.

“Do you believe in Jesus as your Saviour?” I asked. He said he did. “Have you asked Him to forgive your sins?” He said he had. “Do you believe that Jesus is the Way to heaven?” He answered affirmatively. “Dad, then you are saved. Don’t give the enemy power over you. When he tempts you to fear, tell him the truth. Tell him what you just told me, that you have repented, that you have been forgiven and that he has no right to you.”

Dad sounded tired, sad. We chatted a while longer, then he thanked me for my time and we hung up.

It felt good. Dad, who always had all the answers, who knew his Bible inside out–however religious his past interpretations had been–called me for encouragement. I, the non-Mennonite rebel, had hope to offer him at his lowest point. I felt honoured that he trusted me with his struggle, and allowed me to speak truth into his experience.

The following month, November 23, 2002, I turned 33. It was late evening when the phone rang again. It was Dad, just calling to wish me a happy birthday. He called just to say he remembered me. That he thought of me… of the day I was born and brought into his life. It had taken him 33 years, but I finally felt that I was held in my father’s heart.

It was the first time in my life that Dad had remembered my birthday, or put in the effort to call me and tell me. And it would be the last.

© Trudy Metzger

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Of Dresses & Jeans, and Good Food & Fellowship (Part 3)

After we visited the water buffalo farm, Nate and Juanita suggested I have dinner at Rosemary’s. I agreed, on one condition. I would need to figure out how to work things out with Nicole, who was still at her friend’s house. Their family was going to leave for an evening social gathering, and Nicole needed to be picked up.

I didn’t have my car, which meant Nate and Juanita would need to drive several roads the wrong direction to get her. That wasn’t a problem, they said. This left one little issue.

“Nicole only has jeans to wear,” I said. “Is that going to offend anyone?”

Nate assured me that no one would worry much about it, and she was welcome to come that way. That arranged, I called Nicole to see if she wanted to join us.

A drawn out ‘Okay…. I guess’ was the answer, so we picked her up and returned to the farm.  I introduced Nicole to the people I knew and some introduced themselves. Rosemary introduced her to some of her granddaughters. When I introduced her to David Wagler, he chuckled and said, “And I’m the Grandpa here.” Nicole found that humorous.

Peter and Naomi, and Lester and Tina returned in the evening with their families as well. Peter and Tina, who married into the Wagler/Gascho family, both come from my Low-German speaking background and teach their children Low German. It is the cutest thing to observe little girls in their Amish attire, talking in my mother-tongue. I couldn’t capture their language, but I did manage to sneak a few shots of them, without getting caught.

Nate and Juanita posed for a short photography session as well, in front of the buggy. I could just picture them, travelling around the country side as a sweet Amish couple. Well, I could almost picture it….

The smell of ‘schnibbled grumbara’–which I don’t know how to spell, but is the Pennsylvania Dutch for cut potatoes–mixed with ham, filled the house. One whiff of that, and I was very glad they had asked me to stay.

One thing about the Amish and Mennonites… they know how to serve up a good meal to a crowd. By the time dinner was ready there were people everywhere. It was fun and fascinating.

Simon, whom I had met earlier, and his family came, giving me opportunity to meet his wife, Kathleen. She was sweet and a pleasant conversationalist. I told her that her sister Elizabeth and Simon’s brother, Ivan, who are married, live in my area and attend my youngest brother’s church, but that I have not met them yet.

Ruth and Robert, Titus’s wife and oldest son, who had been resting earlier in the day when I was there, came over. Ruth has beautiful blue eyes, and a great sense of humour. We talked for a long while about raising boys with ADHD. Both of her sons have it to one degree or another, and three of our children have a version of it. She shared how it plays into their school work, and that medication seems to be helping, but with some side effects, like fatigue.

I shared how, while our children’s ADHD is very manageable, it has challenges. One son is on medication during school, because he cannot tame his brain to study. When his teacher first suggested it, I cringed. I don’t like medication. But one trip to the psychiatrist changed my mind and it has paid off. His marks have gone from mostly ‘C’ grades, to mostly ‘A’ and a few ‘B’ grades. He is our quietest, tamest son, but his mind is hyperactive.

The psychiatrist said it always passes from a parent to the child. And since it clearly isn’t through my husband Tim, that only leaves me. Something that isn’t too surprising for those who know me. (No wonder Brother Paul Zehr, my teacher when I was about eleven, asked, “Trudy, do you have ants in your pants?” I couldn’t stop giggling!) When the doctor said this, three years ago, it actually helped me make sense of years gone by and why I remember some things (visually) in graphic detail, while I could never remember where I put my keys or school books etc. Anything with ‘system’ I retain and know where to find. Anything for which I have no system…. Well, good luck ever finding it.

Ruth and I compared stories and chatted until dinner was ready. I have a feeling if we were next door neighbours, we would have a very close friendship. She seems the kind of woman I would connect with at a heart level in relationship.

Dinner was as delicious as it smelled. Fresh corn, potatoes with ham, fresh bread and the most delicious deep red tomatoes I had ever eaten. What a meal! And that was followed with dessert. Blueberry pie, brownies, peach cobbler (I think that’s what it was called) and fresh peaches with blueberries. Such a meal!

After dinner on the back deck, while adults continued conversing, the children started with games. There were shrieks and shouts of delight as a giant black garbage bag of colourful light-weight plastic balls were tossed in the air, to rain down on the yard full of children. It was just a few at first, and then the other children caught on. A flurry of activity and the yard was suddenly full of children, scrambling about, throwing these balls at each other. I worried they might get hurt, until I got my hands on one. There was literally no weight.

Nate was a good sports, getting in there and chasing the children, and being chased. It turned out to be Nate against the world of children out there, and the world of children against Nate. It was soon evident that Nate is no longer in his twenties. He dragged himself onto the deck, huffing, panting and sweating, as the children continued to bombard him.

Next it was Juanita’s turn. Thomas and Robert, having established a solid relationship with her, were determined to draw her in. And they did. It wasn’t long before Juanita had the fence and small shed as her dugout, and it was her against the gang of children. Nicole joined in as well,  jeans and all, engaged in the flurry of activity.

The time came to go. We said good-bye, thanking our host and hostess. Tina gave me a bag of beautiful deep red tomatoes before leaving. And as we got to the door, Peter asked if I’m sure we won’t stay for coffee. He had just poured some steaming cups of black energy. It was tempting but it was already almost 8:00pm and I still had one more friend, my cousin Helen, to meet for coffee before starting the ninety minute trek home to Elmira. Regretfully, I declined.

Nicole, who had been hesitant to go, fell in love with the children, the people and the culture. As we left, she said, “They were all very nice! They didn’t even seem to notice I was wearing jeans.”

I was thinking to myself, Oh, they noticed. But I said nothing. That kind of innocence is best preserved.

She added, “Because they accept me in jeans, just the way I am, I wouldn’t mind wearing a skirt next time to go see them.”

There is something in us, as humans, that desires to be loved and accepted, just as we are. We went into a culture very different from ours and received that from them, and offered the same to them.

The rich heritage, the community, the fellowship…. The beautiful culture…

I am not so naive as to believe that nothing bubbles below the surface… that volcanoes don’t form below the beauty of what we see. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses. Still, to find myself in the peace and simplicity of the Amish is a touch of heaven. I don’t have to deal with the volcanoes that brew, from time to time so I will indulge in the memories of a pleasant visit to Amish country, knowing that one day I will return, God willing, to see my friends there again.

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Opening Pandora’s Box

Though the Sandusky sex scandal, at Penn State, has drawn plenty of attention, I have not followed it closely. Bad news is just that: bad news. We become what we feed on, so I try not to fill my mind too much with it. Yes, I try to stay informed and educated but to dwell and obsess is depressing.

In my reading on Friday, I came across some interesting parallels between the silence that has allowed abuse to be covered in the church, just as it was at Penn State. Every situation is unique, and the motivation of all leaders will not be the same. Some will more innocently keep the lid on abuse than others, but in many cases it will be driven by the same ‘bottom line’ as the Sandusky case. I am quoting a few lines, and highlight a few key comments. (To read the entire article, visit the link here.)

Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State

[…]
Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

[….] Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity[…]

Tim Rohan, from State College, Pa.; Zach Berman, from Philadelphia; and Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting.

Even I can identify with that, as I appear to boldly march, in Joan-of-Arc-style, into territory where angels fear to tread. I’m afraid…

What if I’m judged harshly? What if I’m misunderstood? Hated? Rejected?

Of course I’m afraid. I want to be loved. I love people. I want to be accepted. I accept people. Even those whose choices & lifestyles I speak out against. It’s not personal, not a fight or an attack against people. It’s a fight against injustice, against things that hurt people, things that destroy lives, relationships and healthy identity. Regardless of how things appear, my desire is to impact the world for the better.

So, in spite of ‘pervasive fear of bad publicity, I write from my heart. I say what some don’t want to hear. I speak the truth of my heart in love, and with compassion.

Sometimes I get rejected. Other times I get new friends, like yesterday. After I wrote about homosexuality I got a message from someone, saying, ‘….I am a homosexual heathen…’ and my blog was the connecting point. Long story short, I’m having coffee with my new friend tomorrow night.

On the same day several friends decided they had enough of me. That’s the price you pay. You get judged after being labelled judgemental. I expect the same will happen with addressing childhood sexual abuse more directly… I’m willing to pay the price, and pray many will join me. Especially the church, and fight for the next generation by fighting for innocent children. No more fearing bad publicity, no more idolizing reputation at the expense of the most innocent, most vulnerable.

If we do not change, if we do not open that box, we give it power. Where the Light shines, the darkness loses its power. We don’t need to live with the shame of having been partner to violence, as is now tragically Joe Paterno’s legacy. We must take a stand.

John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is my purpose, my reason for writing.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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