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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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

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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Sexual Abuse & Violence: A Few Unpopular Thoughts (Part 4)

(…Continued…)

Homosexuality is not Sexual Abuse, within the context of Childhood Sexual Abuse, but it is the abuse of sexuality, according to God’s original plan and intent. And, since I have shared some thoughts from the perspective of the church’s response, I want to speak to the other side.

When I addressed it previously, I pretty much gave a free ride to the homosexual subculture, and a ticket to scream ‘I’m a victim of the church’ and blame childhood experience for choosing the lifestyle later. That was not my intended message, and that’s not a good place to leave it. Not for the church or the sub-culture.

It’s unlikely that the larger percentage of those who choose the gay/homosexual lifestyle would cash in on that ride or that ticket. To do so would violate one core ‘argument’ they present–that they were ‘born this way’ and can’t help it. And one of their most famous questions, if not the most famous, is, ‘If God hates homosexuality, why does He create homosexuals?’

The answer is less complicated than it may seem. God doesn’t create homosexuals. He creates human beings with sex drives. How we each choose to manage that sex drive, in spite of childhood experience and the church’s failings, is entirely up to us.

A little personal ownership, regardless of temptations we face, would eliminate that question. But, in today’s world, ownership and responsibility are bad words–with way too many letters to be effective, in my opinion. (It’s the last thing that comes to mind when I stub my toe.)

The tragic impact of sin has left our bodies imperfect, it has scarred our spirits and our minds.  And I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers on a theological or scientific front. I do know that an entire ‘movement’ or subculture turning to homosexuality is not a scenario worthy of the excuse of being born that way. It’s a movement, a rebellion. If that were not the case, why this sudden flood of people claiming it in an era when it is given so much power? We are being fed lies, and a desensitized generation is being drawn in.

Making excuses for sin, and  not taking ownership for personal choices and behaviours, is one of the biggest curses of all times, and it dates back to the Garden of Eden, to Adam’s first sin. Granted, Adam didn’t say ‘I was born this way’, the popular excuse today. But he used an excuse that showed the same lack of ownership, “God, this woman You gave me…” Either way, it is avoiding accountability for personal choices and responsibility.

That is where I stand, based on God’s word, and a little logic takes me to the same conclusion. Embracing the homosexual lifestyle is a choice. And, since sexuality is more spiritual than physical, to surrender to the lifestyle is to surrender to a spirit, or spirituality, that is at war with God.

Biblically, there is no other conclusion on the matter, that I can come to. Without apology, I embrace God’s Word as the final authority on all matters.

What then, is the answer? We are called to love with grace, and take a stand against sin, to confront it in fellow believers (Matthew 18), and judge sin without judging the sinner. What does this look like? How do we live it?

The ‘how’ of this is pretty personal, but Jesus does give some direction in Matthew 18:15-17. He instructs us to go directly to the person caught in sin, and confront the sin, one-on-one. If they repent, we leave it there. If not, we go to leaders and confront again. If the individual does not repent, then leaders are to expose the sin and we are to view them as we would anyone else who does not know Christ—as someone who needs Jesus. Those who are unrepentant should still be loved.

The person in sin may well become angry and declare you to be ‘intolerant’ and abusive, because they don’t want to deal with their own hearts. Even so, we are required to walk in love, and live in obedience to God, even if we are hated for it.

Note: for the most outstanding message ever preached on Homosexuality, visit Woodside Bible Fellowship and search the Archives Here for ‘Homosexuality‘. Kirk Durston preaches with grace and truth in a way that is seldom heard. A very touching message.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

For more thoughts on this topic, if you are new to my blog: Sexual Abuse & Violence a few Unpopular Thoughts Part 2

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: A Few Unpopular Thoughts (Part 2)

(…Continued…)

Having left our children and youth vulnerable in the area of sexuality, through silence and denial, we are quick to pick up stones and throw them at others who fall into sin in the church. Especially those who struggle with same-sex attraction—disregarding that it is quite likely because they were sacrificed on ‘the altar’ as children. We condemn them to hell without ever hearing their stories, their pain, their hearts.

Through neglect we create the ‘dragon’ we later spend much of our energy trying to slay. We chalk same-sex attraction up to ‘personal choices’—and, for those who choose the lifestyle, there is merit in it because we do have free will—but we neglect to acknowledge the ways we have failed to educate and equip. We blame

their choices on rebellion, which also has some merit, but we fail to see that it is ultimately the rebellion of a Christian culture against God, not necessarily, always and only, the rebellion of the person struggling with temptation or choosing that lifestyle. If he or she has been introduced to same-sex experience through childhood sexual abuse, it will often continue to be a struggle. So, while turning a blind eye to their childhood plight, we are quick to judge and abandon them later.

Christian ‘psychology’, loosely so named by me for the purpose of my blog post, and based only on detached religious/Christian opinion, would say, “surely the victims would be repulsed by such things and not engage in it later”. I’ve heard that argument. In reality, that is not how it works.

Go back to the truth that ‘sexuality is more spiritual than physical’, and it stands to reason that if you give a specific spirit power, then, in fact, it creates a bond that will potentially become a driving force. It opens a door to attraction that is unnatural—according to God’s obvious plan—and leaves the person struggling, possibly for life.

Even as believers we may struggle for many years against that attraction, through the awakening of something we should have never known. This struggle is not uncommon. I’ve heard it from women and men, including those in Conservative cultures, and those wearing white bonnets. It is a ‘humanity problem’, and a tragic consequence for childhood sexual abuse that is not appropriately addressed. Tragically, we have made it completely unsafe for these people to safely put their struggle on the table, unwilling to do the hard work of walking through the messy stuff of their experience with them. In this way we ‘sentence them’ to (more likely) falling into same-sex relationships, by not giving them a safe place.

Lest you are tempted to judge those who struggle, remember, any one of us could choose the homosexual lifestyle, whether we have been innocently introduced to it in childhood or not. To arrogantly declare otherwise is foolish. All we have to do is turn our hearts away from acknowledging God (Romans 1), and accept ‘this world’ view and humanistic thinking on the matter, and we open ourselves up to that.

To judge harshly those who struggle with the attraction, even though they choose either a heterosexual or celibate lifestyle, is not Christ-like. Particularly when many of us, and church leaders included, have secrets hidden in our own closets that we are not willing to expose.

I cannot help but wonder, if the reason the church has become hyper-reactive to those who admit struggling with homosexual attraction, is because we’re in a panic that we will be exposed if they stick around too long. We fear that God will require that we ‘come out of the closet’ so to speak, in the hidden things of our personal lives. Maybe, just maybe, if we—the church—did just that, things would change.

What if every leader, who is quick to judge and quick to expose or excommunicate, while hiding personal sins, would stand up and make confessions for the hidden sins, rather than demanding the other person do so?

What if Christian leaders would ‘lead by example’, rather than judgement? What if the world would see us living transparent lives, rather than religiously arrogant lives? What if the young man or young woman who struggles with same-sex attraction was not judged for the temptation, but pursued in love by Christians who realize it could just as easily have been them?

….To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Introduction

At long last, here I am tapping out my thoughts on computer keys, sharing bits and pieces of my story, or perhaps your story, if you’ve given me permission to do so. I am in the process of overcoming my worst case of writer’s block, since 2001, when I first transitioned from paper—where I struggled often with writer’s block—to computer. There is something fascinating about the way my thoughts spill out on the screen. It has, for the most part, put an end to writer’s block for me. Except for this topic on sexual abuse.

I know it needs to be said, I know it needs to be addressed, but I have, for weeks now, tried to find a good starting point, and have remained stuck. I’ve written some things to share down the road. But there seems to be no good place to begin, so I am going to start ‘chattering’ the thoughts in my head, and hopefully present them in comprehensible form for you to read.

Like a unravelled yarn, so tangled together that there is no way of unravelling it, I have pulled, and studied, and contemplated….

That got me pondering this whole thing of how it is in reality with sexual abuse. Where does it really begin? Or is it a thread of shame and corruption, a perversion of God’s plan, and violation of innocence that began, somewhere in Genesis, and never really stopped?

I have friends who were perpetrators, and hearing their stories has given me much insight into this cycle of abuse. (For the purpose of this series on Sexual Abuse & Violence I will define perpetrator as someone aged 16 or older.) I have many friends who violated children in their early years, for most a one-time act, prior to age 10 or 12, and a few between the ages of 13 and 15. I do not refer to them as perpetrators. Besides the fact that most of them were sexual abuse victims, they were innocent children, in a culture that gave no knowledge on how to manage their sex drive, their natural sexual feelings, and were made to feel dirty and shameful about their sexuality. The only advice that I know of in the culture, with most families was to say ‘thou shalt not’, and ‘you’ll go to hell if you do’. There is so much more to it than that. I will write about that another time.

Even those older than age 15 are ill-equipped and hardly responsible, due to ignorance. In two separate incidences, 16-yr-old boys violated me, when I was around thirteen or fourteen. Because of a lack of education, and healthy sexual awareness, I cannot hold them too hard for what they did. Yes, they took ownership and both apologized to me, but ignorance is a curse, not bliss. They did not fully understand how they wronged me.

In the one case, had my brother not appeared, and had I stayed alone with the young man any longer, odds are high he would have raped me. A man much older than him—(a man who dressed like a Mennonite and travelled across Canada, victimizing young men)—had raped him, and he, in turn, had already violated other youth in the church. Out of his experience and trauma, along with the church’s silence, he became a perpetrator. God only knows where or if that cycle ever stopped.

The worst part was that our church leaders knew the ‘Mennonite poser’ had violated the young man, and the church knew the young man had violated other boys, but nothing constructive was done to protect us. Instead, because he was the son of a leader, they covered it. This led to his victims victimizing other boys, and so the cycle was set in motion and chains started.

At around age twelve or thirteen, I made a vow that I would not have any sexual involvement with anyone. I took care of anything I knew of that had happened in my childhood, before age eleven, and started over with a clean slate. When the young man from church violated me, it set in motion a host of struggles, including very low self-esteem and sexual confusion. Because men had all the power and seemingly had the ‘right’ to violate us, I wanted desperately to be a male so I would not need to surrender to it. I was angry with God for making me a girl, a victim, an object.

Boys wore normal clothes and acted like nothing happened when they violated us. We were stuck in home made dresses, giving males easy access, and still the bulk of responsibility fell on us. When they violated us, it was because we must have behaved in a sensual manner, dressed inappropriately, or perhaps flirted with them. They couldn’t help their sex drive and if only we would behave right and dress right, we would protect them.

How ironic. In a male-dominant culture, where men were portrayed to be the godly leaders, the strong ones, they were not required to be men at all. All they had to do was cry, “she asked for it” and the onus was on us. And even if they didn’t cry it, that was a given. There was nothing of teaching young men and boys to honour, respect, love and protect a woman. Nothing of saying, “if you find her naked, be man enough to cover her and protect her”.

Real men do that. They don’t victimize the younger, the weaker, the innocent. Because of their good character, they take authority over their desires, and choose rather to protect and do the right thing. Jesus was a real man. He was human and could have violated the prostitutes who came to him. He didn’t.

Selfish men use and abuse. Weak men use and abuse. Confused boys also use and abuse.

But the culture failed men terribly through silence. It failed us all. They were not equipped for the hormone surge, and we only knew how to dress ‘right’, not what to do in a vulnerable situation. Many years later I would learn that this is a Christian culture problem, not a Mennonite church problem.

When it comes to Sexual Abuse and Violence, much of secular society, for all its corruption, is more godly than most Christians. In the secular world, silence is discouraged and protecting the innocent, however lacking the methods, is a high priority.

If ever we want to reclaim influence, as the people of God, we will need to take a stand against sin in the church–in particular, the victimization of the vulnerable–and let the light of Jesus shine in.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Spiritual Abuse Part 30__Redemption’s Journey: Jesus, I’m Coming Home! (1)

Only days after my whole world unravelled, I forgave my fiancée for lying. He promised to get his marriage annulled in the Catholic church and, after explaining that this would mean he had never really been married, I agreed to it. It all seemed right, and made sense, just like my religious beliefs had made sense. Somehow this would ‘undo’ his wrong against me. If the marriage had never happened, that would make the lie non-existent.

One of my greatest strengths had become my greatest weaknesses. As a child I wasn’t often angry and didn’t hold grudges. Forgiving by nature, I believe the best in people. As soon as my fiancée apologized, said he should have told me the truth, claiming he only tried to protect me, and promised to annul the marriage, it was in the past. A master at suppressing pain and living in denial, I determined life would be good again.

But God had heard me and He knew something about me that I had quickly forgotten—that I was lost and needed Him.

In no time at all my fiancée was driving truck, doing international runs. I travelled with him, to get out of my little room. To Chicago, Windsor, Sarnia and random places. And then it happened…. He had a run to Kitchener Ontario.

“I’ll go with you. I lived about two streets over from where you have to go,” I offered. Having forgiven him, I had no agenda, no intent to escape. He agreed.

When we arrived in Kitchener, I discovered that I had been over-confident. Wellington Street was very confusing and I had never been to this area, and my directions did more harm than good. I felt horrible. It didn’t help that my fiancée became quite angry with me.

There is a silver lining in every cloud. His anger brought reality, with all its negative, ugly feelings to the surface. This threw me back into the fear and oppression of childhood, bringing with it incredible loneliness, and reminding me that all was not well. In that loneliness I whispered a little prayer, “God, I want to stay in Canada. I don’t want to go back.”

 

We pulled in to a Short Stop at Fairway Road and Weber Street. It was all too familiar. I had lived two blocks one direction, and worked for Sears a few blocks the other direction. For a brief moment I contemplated making a run for it, but where would I go without money? It was December 4, and not the kind of weather to survive the streets with no experience. I resigned myself to my lot.

It was a cold night to spend in the truck, but financially it was the only option. Saturday morning, December 5, we got our load and headed for the Detroit border, where we had crossed countless times without any issues. That morning was different.

The officer was barely five feet tall, but, what she lacked in height, she made up for in authority. A stern little woman, she looked up at me, and spoke with a pronounced southern accent,  “ID please Ma’am.”

“I don’t have any ID, Ma’am,”  I said. She looked up at me, beady eyes cutting through me. I smiled. (That always worked with the male officers.) She glared.

“You don’t have any ID?”

“No. I cross the border all the time without it,” I said cheerfully.

“Ma’am, could I have your purse?”

Weird, I thought, but yes… I handed her my purse.

She took my large beige purse, undid the little flap, pulled the top open as wide as she could, turned it over and unceremoniously shook it until every crumb was on her counter. One item at a time, she picked through my stuff, saying little to nothing.

She held up a little piece of paper. “Who is this?” She turned it over for me to read.

“An ex-boyfriend. I forgot I had that.” Whatever she was looking for, or thinking, she was wrong about me. She continued searching and sorting. At last she finished, finding nothing of consequence. She walked to the computer.

“Ma’am, your home address, please, including the Lot and Concession? And your father’s name.” With that information she did a search. “Ma’am, that address does not exist in our records. Are you sure you have it right?”

“Yes.”

“Do your parents own the property or rent it?”

“Own.”

“How long?”

“Nine years.”

She did one more search. “Ma’am, you cannot cross this border without ID, or a deed to that property. Can you have a copy?”

“No.”

“Ma’am, then you can’t cross this border today. I’m sorry.”

Sorry? Seriously?

My fiancée spoke up for the first time. “But we’re getting married in two months. she’s my fiancée! I can’t just leave her here.”

“Sir, do you have fiancée papers proving that she is your fiancée?”

“No. I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“Sir, then you will need to get fiancée papers and bring them to get her across the border.”

Small but mighty, she was.  It was useless to negotiate, debate or argue. She had shown no emotion and no connection. Just my luck, I thought, to have a cranky little lady throw her weight around and mess up my plans.

My fiancée had a seventeen hour drive ahead of him and only sixteen hours left to get there. He had no choice but to keep going, and leave me alone in Detroit.

I had reached a crossroad, and neither way was clear. Both came with risks.

 

I paced the dock for a while, debating my next move.  I could try to cross the border with a total stranger and make my way back to Indiana. It was high risk, but it was an option. Alternatively I could make a collect call home and see if my family would consider picking me up.

I weighed the pros and cons, and then made my decision…..

….To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

Spiritual Abuse Part 28__Redemption: The Prayer

The final days in Indiana were dark. Hopeless. It was like stumbling through a black tunnel with no light and no way out, lost in the nothingness of empty existence. But light was ahead, I just couldn’t see it yet.

 

I filled out a job application at a fast food restaurant. I needed to make enough money to get out and return to Canada, even if I had to lie to do it. I looked it over, and crumpled it up. It was no use. I was living in the country illegally and had no right to work. It wasn’t an option.

Back in the apartment, in my little room, I returned to watching the tiny black and white TV, what shows I could get, to pass the time.  I dug through my suitcase, looking for something to pass the time. I pulled out my ‘Dear Jesus’ Diary. Moments later, my Bible, long neglected at the bottom of my suitcase, rested on my lap, as I read.

“What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound, God forbid….” (Romans 6:1) I kept reading, reaching for life, reaching for hope. It had to be there…  “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ….” (Romans 8:1) I tried to imagine a life with no condemnation. Not easy given my condition.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, no anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Was it really true that even the messy life, the demons, the sin the darkness that I lived with could not separate me from God’s love?

It was all there but my mind could not grasp it. My experience was so real, and so contradictory to that truth, that I was blinded. Still, my heart softened with reading it. Tears began to fall. I felt so alone, abandoned by God, but a voice stirred in my heart… ‘Reach up, reach out…’

Would He even hear me?

I prayed. The prayers bounced off the ceiling and fell in a shrivelled heap in front of me. At least that is how it felt. I thought back to my culture. They said God only hears women who prayed with their heads covered. I scrounged through the apartment and found a baseball cap. Maybe God would recognize it and hear me.

I placed it on my head as reverently as one can place a sports cap for the purpose of worship. I prayed again. They bounced again, like a bad cheque. (My! God is fussy!) Maybe the sports cap offended Him. I would have to find something else.

I saw a box of Kleenex and remembered the story in The Christian Example, our Mennonite church paper, that told of a girl who decided to wear a head covering and her parents didn’t like it. They took it from her, locked her in her room, and fed her only bread and water. To pray, she covered her head with a Kleenex. Maybe that would work. It was as close to the Mennonite veiling as anything I had access to and it seemed God had heard that girl, so I gave it a go. Again my prayers fell flat.

I feared I had sold my soul to the devil, that I had unwittingly signed some invisible contract or having blasphemed the Holy Ghost. The previous night I had experienced a demonic encounter that had left me shaking for hours, and convinced that I had committed the unpardonable sin. After the attempt at prayer, I was more convinced than ever that I had. I was doomed.

There was only one prayer left to pray, only one shot at knowing God again. He would have to reveal Himself to me. So I prayed one more time….

“God, if You will give me one more chance… If You will call my name one more time… and give me the chance to repent, I promise to give you the rest of my life. I will never look back or turn my heart from You again.”

Nothing happened. No fireworks, nothing.

I returned to ‘normal’ life, such as it was.

Back home, at the church of my youth, the girl I did cleaning with planned an all-night prayer vigil. It was held on my birthday, November 23, 1987, three days before my world caved in.

My prayers were an ‘awakening’, a sign that my spirit was opening up to God. Little did I realize, when I asked Him to speak to me, that He was already calling me back. I didn’t realize that the hopelessness was not from Him, it was the enemy trying to hold me back and trying to keep me bound.

But truth would win in the end. Freedom was  on the way. And much nearer than I could have dreamed….

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

Spiritual Abuse Part 27__Shunning: The Aftermath and Rebellion ….Continued (4)….

They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn. That was definitely true in my journey. I will share, without overwhelming detail, the darkest part of my story, not to give it power, but to show just how bright the dawn is.

 

The reality of the party life was harsh. I never intended it to become what it was. I started off with good intentions, though naive. One of my first wake up calls was just months after I hit the party scene. Hanging out with friends, a man, almost ten years my senior, offered me a ride home. Half way home, he pulled over on a back road, parked and reached over and tried to unbutton my shirt, fondling me as he did. I grabbed his wrist and stopped him.

“What are you doing? You’re getting married!” It had never occurred to me that he was not safe. His wedding was just weeks away, not to mention that I had a ‘unofficial’ boyfriend who had connections to him. Why would he risk it? His fiancée, being confined to a wheelchair, was never with us, but I assumed he loved her.

The attempt to use me–whatever his intentions were–was bad enough. What was worse, he spread rumours that I had made sexual advances on him on the way home.

The first problem with his story was that he was driving and therefore he had to be the one to pull over for the ‘attack’. Aside from that detail, from a common sense perspective, I can’t imagine what 16-year-old would make sexual advances on some random man so much older than her, at any time, let alone while driving.

I heard the rumours but didn’t defend myself. He was a typical perpetrator, using lies to cover for himself  while further victimizing me. A harsh introduction to my new world. Because of his connections to my friend, instead of addressing it, I ended the relationship.

One bad relationship blended into the next, just like one cigarette blended into the next, and one drink blended into the next. No direction. The only boundaries were my own. There was a line I would not cross in drinking, because I wanted to maintain control. I tried drugs, but again the loss of control did not appeal to me.

In relationships I had boundaries as well. Any hint of unfaithfulness, any sign that a man only wanted ‘one thing’, and he was out the door. No discussion, just an order: “Hit the road Jack, and don’t come back no more!”

Several assaults by ‘friends’ blind-sided me, and disarmed me. The first time a new a guy showed up, walked into my bedroom, stripped down and used me, I didn’t even try to stop him. He was older, bigger and male. No one had taught me to say ‘no’, to protect myself.  I had no voice. Even when he physically hurt me, I said nothing, did nothing, and simply steeled myself against the pain.  I just let it happen, and then immediately blocked it. It was many years before I allowed that memory into my conscious awareness again.

Days later, his best friend entered my room after a party, at 5:00 in the morning. I awakened to being stripped and raped. I don’t know why, but I found my voice. Maybe because I had already suffered through it once. I understood that he did not have the right to do to me what the other guy had done, and told him ‘no’. At well over six feet tall, and weighing over two hundred pounds, I was no match.

Only weeks later, I met a police officer at the old Lulu’s bar. When he pursued me, I told him I was not interested in a relationship, and told him why. He was very compassionate, relating stories of his own experience with rape scenes and victims, as an undercover officer, acknowledging how traumatizing it was to arrive on scene after the fact. After winning my trust, I went on one date with him. We went out to a local bar—he an officer, I an under-aged drinker—after which he, too, violated me.

Eventually I went to the police and filed a report so the rape would be on record, in the event that the guy ever victimized someone else. I never mentioned the incident with the police officer. He was one of ‘them’—I didn’t stand a chance going against the police force.

Shortly after filing the report, I started to receive strange, sometimes threatening, phone calls. At times it was only heavy breathing. No words. Other times a raspy male voice asking if I was alone, saying he was on his way over, and ordering me to get everyone out of my apartment within a certain time frame.

I was beside myself with fear and needed someone to talk to but didn’t know whom to turn to. I tried the ‘God thing’ a few times, but found no life in it. I wasn’t good enough, couldn’t measure up, so always I found myself again in the clutches of sin and bad habits.

In a final act of desperation, I called my sister-in-law and brother in California. I had to get away before I lost my mind.

My brother and his wife flew me to California to be with them. Over the next few months, away from the chaos of what life had become, I was able to hear God speak again. A desire to know Him was reawakened…

And just about the time I was ready to surrender, I met a man who set out to prove that he would provide, protect and care for me. We met on a bus—he en route to his home in Indiana, I on my way home to Ontario. For several days, as we travelled together, he watched over me, making sure I was ‘safe’. He told me about his red Camero and talked about what it was like to be in the army. He showed me his scars—in the chest and out the side—not far from his heart. He was retiring, at 42, and would be drawing a pension. I didn’t care about his age, though he didn’t look a day older than 25. He was a real hero. A real man…. someone who fought for his country, for freedom…

Little did I know….

We parted ways in Chicago, having exchanged contact information and with a plan in place. My pursuit of God was intercepted.

Less than two months later I was in Indiana, and almost immediately agreed to marry this man. Finally I would ‘belong’.

One by one the lies unravelled. He wasn’t a soldier, never had been. He was a twenty-five year old ex-con, drug dealer, and the scars were the result of a deal gone bad. The Camero belonged to his sister. He was a mooch living off his family, and had drawn me into it.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, was discovering that he divorced his wife after meeting me. Her name was tattooed on his arm, but he swore up and down that she had been a high school crush, nothing more. I believed that lie until I saw the divorce papers, dated around the time of our engagement. I knew better than to believe our marriage would last.

With no money, no green card, no connections, and having just turned 18, I was stuck. Or so I thought. But God had a better plan for my life.

The darkest hour had come and it felt as though it would last forever, but the dawn was about to burst into vivid colour. My life was about to change. Forever.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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