Teachers, Preachers & Other Abusers: Grooming and Sexual Assault (Anabaptist Survivor Story)

TRIGGER WARNING: content may be triggering to survivors of abuse. The author speaks forthrightly about the assaults committed against her by a man who would later become her teacher and youth leader (overlapping with the assaults), and yet later became a preacher. Both individuals were conservative Anabaptists at the time the sexual assaults were committed against the author.

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The following story is difficult to read, but another necessary ‘telling’ of the things that are done in the name of God. It was sent to me, in the author’s own words. I offer this disclaimer as there have been questions surrounding stories shared here recently, asking whether I wrote them. The answer is, No; I did not write any of the other recent stories. Frankly, as much as I love writing, do write another person’s story is difficult and time-consuming. I do not have such time on my hands right now.

The following is a story of raw suffering, and a story of healing and redemption. The author has chosen to tell it for the sake of other victims, to give them the courage to speak.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked with sexual violence for years, this story displays classic grooming. The tactics used on a child to first draw her (or him) in, followed by letting or making them feel somehow they are partially responsible. No child, ever, anywhere, is responsible for the behaviours of an abuser. There are laws of the land and region that govern these things.

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It all started with, strange as it may sound, getting saved, accepting Jesus into my heart.

I was a 12-year-old and was invited to attend a revival service in Seymour, MO at a Mennonite church about a two and a half or three-hour drive from where we lived. That evening, Mr. D. Hostetler was taking a load of people from Linn, and I was invited to go along.

Abner Kauffman preached a powerful and convicting sermon that evening.

We returned home late that night, and one by one people were dropped off at their homes. Strangely, Mr. Hostetler took his own family home before he took me home. We were neighbors living only about a mile apart.

About halfway to my home he stopped the van and began to talk to me about my life. He was very convincing and soon I was praying and asking God to save me, confessing my sins and accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.

Mr. Hostetler hugged and congratulated me, and then took me on home. I got up the next morning, overjoyed with the new peace I had. I noticed the sunshine seemed more brilliant and all the colors in my world were much brighter, and everything just seemed so much more beautiful. I was a transformed person, born of God, the Holy Spirit. I loved all of it and felt passionate about living for God. I began to read the Bible with a new zeal and desire to serve God.

Slowly, as time went on, this fresh new feeling began to wear off as human voices were used to bring discouragement and sorrows to a young believer in Christ.

On one particular day I became very angry at Mr. Hostetler. He worked in a shop on our property. I was so embarrassed but I went to him with head hanging low to apologize to him. I had a dreadful anger problem. As soon as I apologized, he put his arms around me and hugged me close. It felt so good to be hugged. It wasn’t something practiced in our home during our childhood. I went back to the house rejoicing that day.

This was the beginning of a relationship that led to much sorrow for me. One day Mr. Hostetler  spoke to me about a verse in the Bible, where Paul speaks about how a man shouldn’t touch a woman. He explained that this wasn’t what he meant, that hugs and such really are good from brotherly love. There was more said that I cannot remember about that verse, but I believed him and regarded him as a very excellent and honorable man. I highly respected him.

As time passed, hugs and touches became more frequent. He began to take me on outings with him, holding my hand for hours, such as lovers do; stroking my hand. Then it went to taking drives in his car; he began to hold me on his lap, stroking and caressing my body.

Next, he began to invite me to meet him after dark, 11:00, 12:00 at night under a large tree where he would do more of the same.

Although I willingly received these attentions, I do not recall ever pursuing him or suggesting any of these meetings. I wasn’t smart enough, or brave enough to think that I could even do that. I respected him too much. You must understand he was the most respected man in my life at that time.

(NOTE: This was all prior to and up to age 14).

At the age of 14, he became my school teacher. One day while getting a drink at the water fountain he came up behind me and ran his hands over my body, telling me how beautiful my developing body was. This felt good to me, an insecure 14-year-old. I was flattered.

Things escalated through the years of 12-17. The older I got, the bolder he became. There were long sessions of kissing, French kissing, his tongue in my mouth, and his hands touching me, along with pressing my body tightly against the front of him. Lying on the couch, his body draped over mine, kissing me, doing all the normal foreplay things. He never actually penetrated me sexually, or touched my vaginal area, though his hands were all over my hips and legs. This took place in Mr. Hostetler’s own house and on his couch. I cannot recall why I was there, or where Mrs. Hostetler and the boys were, but they weren’t at home.

I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on.

All this while he spoke of his brotherly love for me. He would talk of my beauty. He’d also share with me how beautiful [another girl in our community] was. Later I found out that he was even more heavily involved with [this girl] and others at the same time he was doing these things to me.

Mr. Hostetler’s would also talk about God and all the things that were important to him, just as lovers would do.

At the age of 16, I began to be very restless; crying at night for hours, not understanding at all what was happening. I felt dirty and depressed. Church life became unbearable as I was targeted again and again for overstepping church rules. I was hurting; I wondered why no one cared about my heart. Why were silly rules of such importance? Why were too many ruffles, too small a covering so important when my heart was falling apart?

I came to the point where I disliked the kissing episodes and felt condemned by them.

One day I mustered up the courage to talk to him about how I was feeling. I found him out in his shop, working. I began to express my regret over these actions and ended up saying, “I’m sorry for my part in these actions. I feel dirty and sinful, and I don’t want to do this anymore.”

I expected to hear the same from him, but he didn’t say anything along those lines. Instead, he told me how he had never thought any impure thoughts about me. He told me he forgave me and was glad I made things right.

For four years I walked in shame, feeling like it was all my fault, and even though I couldn’t fully understand that, I accepted it.

When I was around the age of 15, Pastor Hershberger lived in Linn; I felt so attracted to the spirit he carried with him, his kindness, compassion, and his faith that seemed so real. I scheduled a meeting with him one evening and was going to tell him everything. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t. I just sat and cried, and cried, and he ended up just praying for me that evening. I never did tell him what I was struggling with.

I got married to a wonderful man when I was 21 years old. In the first years of our marriage, I told him the whole story. He was shocked. For the first time, someone explained to me that it wasn’t entirely my fault. I began to see that it wasn’t, so I decided I would once again apologize to him and get things taken care of on both sides. He responded by sending back a letter, but it didn’t sound apologetic or repentant at all.

29 years later I received a very repentant text from Mr. Hostetler. This was a wonderful and meaningful surprise to me. Although I had already fully forgiven him and felt completely restored in my soul before he ever apologized, this message brought me great joy and delight. There is so much power and redemption when those who have caused harm humbly express deep remorse and sorrow for the pain and loss caused in someone’s life.

Signed,
~ The author

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dear Reader,

It is my express wish to inform you of what grooming looks like and the responsibility you have as parents, leaders, teachers, friends, and co-laborers in the kingdom of God to watch out for your little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Know where they are and be attentive to what they say. Many things could have been avoided had the adults been diligent to know what the children were doing and where they were and with whom.

It isn’t wise to let our children be alone with another adult, even if you trust them. And it is of utmost importance that you speak as parents to your children and inform them of these kinds of traps. Have a healthy, open communication about sexual things with your children even at a young age. Answer their questions before they have a chance to hear it from their friends. Let them know you are a safe place for them to speak about such things. And tell them it’s never okay to discuss these things with anyone else. Teach them to stay away from those who lead them into things that make them uncomfortable in any way. Teach, teach, teach! We must stop our silence towards such things in a world that shouts corrupt sexuality from the rooftops. It is up to us as parents to teach them that God’s way is best.

Signed,
~ The author of the above story ~

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CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Having interacted with the author, my heart is encouraged. She is gracious and forgiving. There is no hatred, no animosity. No desire for revenge. In contrast, there is grace intertwined with a solemn resolve to do the right thing and not be silent. She remembers the other girls who were victimized.

In spite of the apology via text, which she accepted as sincere, she has concerns over Mr. Hostetler’s moral fidelity in his marriage. Mr. Hostetler’s name is not new to me. Others have reached out with concerns over his interactions with young women in the past few years in the form of emotional affairs, with the most recent (inappropriate texting) being *after* his apology to the author. Mr. Hostetler was in church leadership for a time, during which time he communicated in ways with women (not his wife) that are not becoming a believer or leader (in this context).

EDIT, August 7, 2019: The following communication was posted publicly this morning. Someone sent me a screenshot and I also read it personally. It is this kind of protection that enables ongoing abuse.

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EDIT: The following are screenshots of the texts sent by Mr. Hostetler, as the pastor of the young woman he is texting. The texts that the author of the above comments states he sees no lustful thoughts in. That may be up for debate. It should be noted that I do not say there are lustful thoughts. I refer to emotional affairs and communicating in a way that is not becoming a believer or a leader in such a relationship.

EDIT (Other comments): In the event that Mr. Shirk referred to my referencing Mr. Hostetler as a leader – since I’ve heard that is all lies too – I will address on what grounds I call him that. For one, that’s how people still see him so he’s doing something that makes them believe he is a leader/preacher. As evidence, his brother Daryl and his wife had a 25 year anniversary in June of this year and had their vow renewals with a Sunday afternoon service and Danny preached. That tends to lead people to believe he is a pastor or some spiritual leader. Besides that recent event, I am told he still preached back when he sent these texts. If you preach, you better consider yourself a leader. If you don’t, that’s already a problem. Preachers have incredible influence. .

In this survivor’s story, she was clearly a child when the sexual assaults started, and a youth when they ended. She was not the only victim. The more recent case of which I am aware (and was sent evidence of his communication), was not with a minor. From what we know, he seems to have learned to pick them past the statutory rape and childhood sexual assault stages.

Mr. Hostetler was a minister for a time, including over the time the texts were sent to someone not his wife, and currently leads a small church-type-group, as of the most recent information sent to me.

These patterns by men (or women) in religious (or other) power, who apologize and then continue to abuse their power, whether molesting minors as he did initially, or emotional and/or sexual affairs, dreadfully misrepresent God. It is time the church of Jesus Christ rises up and takes a firm and bold stand against such corruption. The Corinthian church bragged that they had so much grace that mothers could have sex with their own sons. Paul condemned this.

Well… I dare say we’re back to the same thing, where we have so much grace that it’s more less a ‘sex with kids and minors’ free for all. All that is required is an apology, and a pat on the shoulder as you walk out to start over, it seems. Especially leaders. We should not be proud of this ‘grace’. There’s a reason Paul took issue with that kind of grace. And I’m with him.

Yes, God forgives. That’s not a matter of question. But placing them back in that role of leadership over the vulnerable is foolishness.

And lest there is a rush to use King David as an example, I will offer this: King David announced to the whole country what he had done and had the truth of his story written in a book. He did not blame the woman he used. He did not tell everyone to shut up and forgive. He humbled himself, as king, and sat in sackcloth and ashes.

Start there.

And then, after appropriate time sitting in sackcloth and ashes with the world knowing what crimes were committed… then let’s talk about appropriate next steps and appropriate career and ministry paths.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

The victim expresses appreciation to all who have contributed. We have raised enough for approximately 17 sessions of counseling.

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs. Thank you! God bless you all!

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ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

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If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Of Rainbows, Love & Sharing God’s Grace

rainbow

The Cross is a symbol of Jesus love and death; offering mercy, grace and forgiveness of sins. The rainbow is a symbol of promise; offering hope, mercy and God’s love. The dove is a symbol of the Spirit of God; offering peace. The olive branch is symbolic of peace and extending grace.

The LGBT community has chosen the rainbow as their symbol, borrowing from Christianity, to make their statement. (And if there’s some pagan story about a rainbow, coolness. I still attribute the rainbow to the recordings in an ancient book, established long before any pride parades started up.)

My goal is not to stir hate and anger towards the LGBT community, or even from them, nor is it to put a feather in our collective Christian hat. That doesn’t interest me at all. I haven’t the slightest trouble loving them. And I don’t even have such a hard time understanding them anymore. Having spent many hours with Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, indulge in same-sex pornography and even fall into real live same-sex sexual encounters, I no longer see it as an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ battle. I see it as a ‘them being out’ versus ‘some (or many?) of us struggling and/or hiding’ same-sex relationships. I wish it were not so, but it is. And this isn’t some ‘let’s all panic and throw our hands up’ appeal; it is an appeal to be honest and look first at the beam hanging carelessly from our own eyes, as we point accusingly.

We have no right to point fingers. Far too many little boys and girls are introduced to sex at a young age, in our churches and communities, and have no where to turn to talk, to get support and to report molestation to the authorities–because the Bible does say to be subject to the rulers of the land, and those rulers tell us to report. And those same children come tell me how that took them on a path of same-sex attraction, or other sexually deviant behaviours. If we, the church, stand by and allow this kind of victimization, we have no right to point fingers at the LGBT community. (And, while I believe that molestation and early child-to-child sexual exploring is responsible for a host of homosexuality in churches–at least churches of my background–I do not believe that it is the only reason. And outside of our church circles I have no ‘data’ to back up any such claims, but I do have good cause to say it about ‘us’ based on what I have learned inside church walls.)

In fact, if the climate of society is distressing, I would dare to say that it first went wrong in the church, not the other way around. And I believe this because God says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

If God’s people repent in humility and seek God’s face, then God will forgive His people and heal… His people? No! “…then I will heal their land!” The land is suffering because of the sins among God’s people. And then we stand back and get our knickers in a knot and wonder how they can do all that. Given what I’ve heard from church people, of what happens in secret, I can say with confidence, we are guilty.

I say this not to shame or condemn, but to invite the church to repent. And I would appeal to leaders in particular. Repent of your sins. Openly and publicly. Not this ‘carefully protect him because of his leadership role’ while dealing harshly with others. Repent like Ezra and Nehemiah, crying out to God, face down, with the people of God. It seems almost every week we hear of another church leader having an affair or some other moral failure, somewhere. And frequently I hear from victims who were blatantly molested or coerced into sexual affair, by leaders currently hold positions in churches. Always I ask if the offender or instigator has ever come back to say, “I’m sorry, what I did to you was wrong”, or if a crime was committed I ask if it was reported and almost without fail the answer is “No”.  Sometimes the leaders are people I know, and sometimes even leaders who have blatantly lied, saying they repented and took ownership, and yet sitting with their victims, they tell me they never heard from their offender(s).

Men and women of God, until we start living with some level of honesty and integrity before God, the ‘church’ and the world, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves–and, yes, in this situation I endorse being ashamed–if we place an expectation of holiness on unbelievers that we ourselves do not hold to. And I’m not talking in word, but in our lifestyle, in our repentance, in our transparency  with past sin, and certainly letting victims know (through safe avenues) that our sins against them were wrong, and sins against God.

A shake down is coming… Some of us have said it for several years, and we’re seeing it play out all around. And I believe we will see more and more hidden wickedness brought to light, particularly in religion at a leadership level. Again, I urge you, if you don’t want God to use drastic measures to expose you, then expose your sins and crimes yourself, and stop pointing fingers at the sinners who wear rainbow colours, when you drag your own ball and chain through church.

My prayer for the church and for the LGBT community is healing, wholeness and hope. My heart for both is love and the peace of God. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost, whether in the church or in the world…. But the healing of the land, begins with us.

We all need God’s Rainbow of Promise, or surely we would be consumed and drowning by now, if He had not painted that first rainbow in the sky… We all need God’s Love and Grace. And it awaits, on our knees in reptentance.

Love,
~ T ~

TO REGISTER for Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference,  July 10-11, 2015 visit: GenerationsUnleashed.com
full brochureLancaster County 2015_C


© Trudy Metzger

(Part 3) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

Continuing from Part 2, we will jump right into the next heavy, yet freeing, topic in the battle against the darkness that so desperately wants to have power over us.

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FORGIVE:

Lewis B. Smedes wrote: “To forgive is set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” When it comes to forgiveness, and what it accomplishes, truer words have ne’er been spoken.

We think, often, of forgiveness as an offer of freedom to the perpetrator/offender. A ‘get out of jail free’ card, that says what they did doesn’t matter. It’s done. Over. Even if they are not repentant. And that’s not accurate at all. Forgiveness is first a gift offered to us by God for our sins and when we receive it and understand it’s value, it is a gift that we, in turn, offer to those who sin against us.

When God forgives us, the sins are wiped away, erased, forever and He sets us free. When we forgive, we don’t have that kind of authority to forgive in that sense of eternal freedom for the offender. They remain accountable to God for their sins; we merely release them from any kind of ‘debt’ to us, and any personal claim to vengeance or vindication. As long as those who violate us have a debt to us, we have a bond with them, and they have power over us. When we forgive, we say, in essence, ‘the debt is now owed only to God. Your account with me is cleared.”

This does not mean that there is never a time for legal action, after we forgive. We, as Christians, are not above the law. What the law requires of the non-Christian, it also requires of the Christian. So to avoid reporting sexual abuse, for example–particularly when there is any current risk–is to defy and break the law.

If I am the victim, I do have the right not to report it. There is no law, to my knowledge, that forces a victim to come forward. However if a child is violated, I have no right to ‘discern’ whether to report it or not. I must report it. If I am a pastor and I know of victimization, the law requires that I report it. This doesn’t mean that the pastor and I are not willing to forgive. For the offenders, forgiveness does not wipe away consequences in this life for sins, it merely extends grace from the person wronged. The law then determines appropriate consequences.

Regardless of those consequences, or lack thereof, when I forgive, I don’t carry that ‘debt to me’ in my heart. I am free. For this reason–to break any bonds and ties to the offender–forgiveness is imperative for our freedom. When I forgive I don’t spend my life thinking of how wronged I was. I think of how God will use that wrong against me to bring redemption. My focus shifts from the wrong, to my Saviour. And that makes all the difference.

TAKE AUTHORITY:

Jesus came to save, redeem, and restore. The New Testament is full of promises, not to mention stories that show this ‘hope’ that Jesus offers. Wherever He went, we see radical transformation. The dead are raised. The sick healed. Those possessed and oppressed by the demonic are made free. But it didnt’ end there. He offered this power and authority to His disciples, and all who believe in Him.

John 14:12-14 (NKJV)
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

That’s a strong promise. Either Jesus is who He said He is, and this is true–meaning we have missed much of the power of the gospel–or the entire thing is a sham. If we don’t really have this kind of power and authority, then who is Jesus? I believe we have this power. Radical, untamed by man, an authority that sets people free.

What is the secret…. the key? To be so lost in Christ, so plugged in to the authority of the Father and surrender completely to His will and purpose. If my suffering benefits His Kingdom purposes, then I surrender myself to His authority and accept that suffering. (Yes, I have prayed this prayer. And, yes, I have paid a high price for it, at times losing sight of that prayer in my own desperate longing for ‘this-world-kind-of-peace’ because I am human and fear that suffering, the rejection, the attacks. Still, when the storms pass, I thank God for the suffering. It has made me stronger, and I have seen as He redeemed and used it for a higher purpose.)

It is impossible to surrender completely, and yet stay focused on myself and my suffering. For, when I have surrendered, my eyes are turned to the suffering Christ who walked the path before me, carrying the cross that I was destined to carry in eternity–the cross of death and eternal hell. When I see Him, scarred, bleeding and weeping, my suffering, though real and overwhelming in my humanity, pales in comparison, and I am suddenly lost in awe and wonder at such amazing love.

PRAISE:

Inevitably, when my eyes focus on this suffering Jesus, and I remember how He bought my sinful and selfish heart, my soul and spirit begin to worship God. He, a Holy, righteous and powerful Creator, chose suffering for the sake of my redemption. He chose suffering. Chose it… I cringe at any suffering. He chose it for me. That is my identity, this amazing love poured out by the Highest Being ever to exist. To grasp this, even in a small way, is to fall before Him in worship.

And, again, when I worship Him, I am not thinking of myself and my pain or suffering in the light of this life, in the light of time. I see a higher purpose, a higher calling. And, while it doesn’t make suffering easy, it gives me a reason to press on.

TESTIMONY:

Revelation 12:11(NKJV)
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

We underestimate the power of our words. We casually toss around words of defeat and hopelessness as though they are all we have to live by. And, in the process we suck the life right out of our spirits. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and bought us with His blood. Fact. Our testimony cannot save us. But the word of our testimony–giving glory to god for our salvation, for healing, for freedom–give us authority over the enemy.

We think of a testimony as that nice ‘story’ we tell after the battle is over. And that’s a part of it. But there is more. The testimony that gives us authority to overcome the enemy is the testimony that we share before breakthrough. By the time we tell the ‘after’ version, the battle is over. We need to declare victory in the heat of the fight. We need to claim the power of Jesus for that fight and in the struggle, long before we see the results. It takes away the power of the enemy.

The Israelites were commanded to put blood around the doorposts to protect their homes, and their firstborn sons, specifically, from the tenth plague. It was an old Testament type and shadow of the New Testament redemption through the blood of Jesus.  The significance, again, is that the blood was applied before the death angel came. It signifies being prepared before battle, before the enemy strikes. And when he comes, he will see the territory is marked and claimed. He has no power.

I pray the blood of Jesus over my mind, my body, my soul and my spirit. My husband prays over me. And when my heart is prepared this way, I do well, spiritually. Sometimes, though, I lose focus and find myself in mind battle against the enemy. And sometimes it takes awhile for me to be take my eyes off that fight and shift back to Jesus, in whom I have authority.

A WORD TO PASTORS, PARENTS, SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND MENTORS:

I’ve discovered that Christian leaders are quick to condemn ‘going back’ to the past, for healing. The arguments against it are varied. One of the most recent ones I heard is ‘it requires discussing ungodly things in an ungodly manner’. No it doesn’t. It requires talking about ungodly things through the eyes of Jesus and the blood He shed on the cross.

Is it uncomfortable to hear people share stories of vile abuse that they had to suffer as little boys and girls? It’s painful! It’s devastating. But if we, who are adults representing the heart of God, cannot hear it and point the victim to a safe place, then what have we to offer? When a  3, 5, 7… 13, 15… year old–or anyone in between, younger or older–is forced to endure sexual assault, or demanded to offer sexual favours of the most vulnerable sort (I’ll spare saying it, but I’ve heard it all) are we really willing to say that we cannot handle what they as toddlers, children or teens endured?

What do we communicate with that message?

“You are too much! Your pain is overwhelming! I am disgusted by what I know about your childhood! Keep it to yourself, no one wants to know!”

And then what do we say on the heels of that?

“Forgive, forget and move on! Take it to Jesus! Let God be enough! Jesus died for their sin, let it go! … ” And whatever other cliché lines we can think of to distance ourselves from them their pain and their stories.

And when they walk away, they take their false guilt, their shame, their pain, their torment with them. And they struggle. They try desperately to work hard enough to be free. The cry out to this Jesus, but all they hear is our cliché lines, echoing in their hearts and their minds. And they believe this Jesus sees them the same way. They are too much, too messy, too broken. They become more hopeless for having tried. They entertain thoughts of death, and ending it all.

All while we stand beside Pilate, washing in his bowl, drying with his towel, because there’s nothing we can do to change things…

That’s not my Jesus. My Jesus sat with the lowest of society. He touched the unclean, and they were made clean. He brought life and hope in every situation. That, my friends and fellow ministry workers, is what we are called to do in every life we touch.

If we do not offer this hope, when we have spent time with the broken, then I hesitate to believe that we truly know Jesus as we ought. And if we offer this hope, there will still be rich young rulers who walk away disappointed at the cost of freedom. But we will have offered it. We will have spoken truth and heard hearts and acknowledged stories.

TO THE STRUGGLING WHO FEAR GOING BACK:

Many people fear going back to the past because they fear they will stay stuck there forever. My encouragement is, walk through it for the sake of healing, but don’t build a permanent residence in the past. Find a mentor, a counselor or some other person who won’t judge you or silence you, but will point you to hope in Jesus.

Through that person, let Jesus show you what good He brought into your life and spirit, through the hard things you faced, and listen to His promise that He will make all things beautiful–in His time–and will make all things new. Find that voice of hope and, if you need to, create some distance between you and the negative voices clamoring for your soul, often in the form of well-intentioned, but terribly misguided, people. You need uplifting truth and healthy perspective. You need affirmation and hope.

When I look at what happened in childhood, and focus on it, things can get pretty dark. When I look at it and see how God used it to stir my heart to compassion for the wounded, and passion to make a difference, then suddenly it looks very different, and I begin to thank God for my story.

Perspective, and what we focus on, is critical. We need to focus on purpose, redemption and hope in Jesus, while grieving (in our humanity) the experiences. To thank God, is to disarm the enemy. To praise God is to silence the enemy. And, to do all that, while allowing our hearts to grieve and weep–giving our brokenness to our Heavenly Papa–is to tell the enemy he has no power over us.

These are only some of the ways we overcome the enemy, and the power of darkness in our lives. From practical–finding a mentor who will hear us without judgement–to the spiritual aspect of forgiving those who sin against us, and repenting for our sins, we have been given keys to overcoming the power of the darkness. I would love to declare that all mental anguish will vanish if you do these things, but that is not a promise I can make.

Many of us fight depression, darkness and spiritual attacks for many years. I have. I do. And, given the work I do, I expect I will continue to fight. But I am not a victim of it. Through Jesus, I am victorious. When I fail, I am forgiven. It is about Him, not about me, or about performance. And that alone is reason to rejoice! So today I choose joy. I choose hope. And I choose to focus on the One by whom I am defined.

What choices will you make… what steps do you need to take  to move into freedom?

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© Trudy Metzger

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(Part 2) Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Or Does the Darkness Ultimately Win?

I’ve got to admit that I’ve been stalling with posting ‘Part 2’ and ‘Part 3’… and I have had mild regrets for not ending it some other way with Part 1. Parts of this post, and the next, were very difficult to write and express, but the real problem is in posting it. I am apprehensive. Not because of the content as much as the concern over how it could be interpreted, and how a misinterpretation could impact some readers. Those who are angered by it, which is in the realm of possibilities, don’t worry me so much. They’ll be fine.

It is those who heap silent guilt upon their own heads–because someone else has been heaping it on for them most of their lives–and view this as a ‘to do if you want to be free’ list, or some guilt trip… They are the ones that concern me. So, if you find yourself struggling with what I write, and feeling guilty or oppressed, then my message is not communicating what I desire to communicate, and I welcome private messages via my ‘Contact’ page. I will do my best to respond personally and privately to you, though not likely before early March, as we have a conference in Chambersburg Pennsylvania at the end of February, and it is claiming my spare time.

Note also that Part 2 & 3 were intended to be one post, but since it became so lengthy, I have broken them up in two, but will post them both at the same time, for those who want to continue.

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I ended Part 1 with this paragraph:
“If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…”

In the scenarios I share in this post, it is critical that anyone reading this, who is in a place of turmoil, recognize that not every scenario applies to you. There are some steps we can take toward freedom, but not every step will apply to ever person or help every person. The second scenario, for example, can seem terribly harsh to someone who is caught in a place of emotional chaos that has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to be stuck. (No one wants to be stuck, you say, and I agree that no one typically deliberately and intentionally chooses to be stuck. Sometimes, however, we choose it subconsciously, as in the case of the second example I will share.)

Each of us is on a unique and personal journey to healing, and what heals one person, destroys another. I am cautious in sharing examples for this reason. And yet, because they were effective in these situations, I share them in hopes that someone who is stuck might find answers.

FIND A SAFE MENTOR, COUNSELOR OR BOTH:

Every abuse victim needs someone in his or her life, who will listen with an open heart, and believe every word without judgement or condemnation. If you have never had that someone, I encourage you to make this a priority. Life has already offered you enough judgement and condemnation, in your own mind, if not from people around you. You don’t need any more of that.

A question I’ve been asked many times by other individuals working with victims is, “How do you know what to believe?” or “What if they are not telling the truth?” or “What if they are lying and making things up?”

My answer is the same every time. My role and commitment is to believe every victim’s story. I never worry about whether I am being lied to. That is not mine to carry. And, to be honest, I’ve never had a reason to believe any of my clients are conjuring up fake memories. Why would they?

And that is what you need, if you are a victim of abuse–someone who will listen to your heart, validate your pain, and care for you with compassion, not trying to figure out if every word you say is true.

Along with offering that kind of care, you need someone who will invite you outside your comfort zone, even gently nudge you, rather than leave you stuck. There is nothing worse, no torment greater (in my mind and experience) than to feel helplessly trapped in the chaos of the past. I needed someone to care enough to say the hard things, and ask me the tough questions. And then I had to be willing to ask myself those questions.

ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS:

“Do you really want to be free?” I asked the young woman sitting in front of me. She looked startled. I expected it. Because I’ve asked this question countless times, with many clients who seem helplessly stuck. But I know they are not helpless. At least none that I have worked with. They may feel that way. They may even appear that way, for a time, to everyone looking on. But every one has eventually moved to freedom. Often sooner than expected.

“Of course I want to be free!” she exclaimed.

“What prevents you?” I asked.

She looked at me with the same shocked look. “What do you mean?”

“May I ask you some really hard questions?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, looking puzzled.

“What do you get out of your bondage?” I paused to let the question sink in, then asked a few more questions. “Are you afraid of who you will be without the baggage? Afraid you won’t know how to act, or how to function if the emotional chaos is gone?” I paused again and let these questions sink in.

She started to cry. Not angry tears, but release.

I continued. “Are you afraid that if you heal, you will be abandoned? That no one will care for you? That you will be lonely?” I spoke softly… kindly… gently. No accusation, just hard questions born out of deep compassion for her struggle and frustration.

The young woman sat and wept for a while.

“You’re right,” she said, at length. “I’m terrified of being free. I’m terrified of being lonely and abandoned. I’m terrified of not needing people all the time and I’m terrified of who I might be if I was free. But I desperately want to be free.”

“Are you willing to do the hard work? Willing to risk that process?” I asked.

She nodded.

The questions are offensive. I get that. And I wouldn’t ask them in every situation, or with every person. Not everyone can handle the directness of that interaction. For some it would be destructive because they are not ready. This young woman was desperate for freedom and, having worked with her for almost a year, I had good cause to believe they would change her life. They were painful for her, but they were also the beginning of  one of the most amazing journeys I have watched anyone embark on, in overcoming emotional chaos and trauma.

We all need care, compassion and a listening ear. Every single one of us. Especially if we have suffered abuse, neglect or violence at the hands of someone we trusted. But along with that we also need someone who will love us enough to empower us in overcoming that past. Someone who is willing to ask the hard questions, sensitively, yet with a directness that frees us to confront our own fears and move beyond them. I had a rapport with the young woman, and had her deepest respect. I knew I could go to that place of confronting her fears, and not destroy her.

If I had believed there was any other thing standing in the way of her freedom, I would have gone there first, but it was the last door to open. And it worked. She found hope.

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REPENT: 

Oh… that’s harsh. Repent? Yes. Repent. Nothing has brought more freedom into my personal life than repentance. It’s terribly unpopular in today’s Uber-grace Christian culture. (And I believe in Uber-grace as powerfully as I believe in repentance. Don’t run away with that statement and presume I limit God’s grace. We are saved through Jesus, not performance. Period.) I stand firm on the fact that grace and repentance go hand in hand, for the purpose of our freedom. They are not in conflict.

Before I take the thought of repentance any further, let me say what NOT to repent for. Don’t repent, apologize, or take any kind of ownership for the thing that brought the trauma into your life if you were victimized. It’s not yours to carry. Lay it down. That sin and guilt is for the perpetrator to bring to God in repentance. Too often victims are made to feel guilty for what was done to them. That is wrong. Don’t repent for how the violation made you feel. Feelings are a gift from God. They tell my heart when something is wrong, when something (or someone) is not safe. They tell me when I have been wronged. They alert me to danger. Feelings are a gift. We don’t want to let them rule us, but we need to feel. Don’t repent for being tempted because of what was done to you… tempted to hate… tempted to murder (yes, I hear these confessions)… tempted to lie and say it never happened… tempted to deny and defy God. Temptation is not sin. Sin is sin.

Many victims of abuse whom I work with carry as much shame over what was done to them as they do for their own choices. They are entangled with false guilt, respond at every revival meeting, and wonder why they can’t get rid of that feeling through repentance. The answer, to be direct, is because you are not guilty. The thing that will bring you freedom is the knowledge that it isn’t your fault and there is no need for repentance on your part.

Repent only for sin. Often the choices we make, because of being sexually abused and the premature sexual awakening that results from the abuse, are on-going, and leave us feeling defeated and frustrated.  But because of shame we cannot tell anyone.

Sexual abuse creates, for many if not all victims, sexual struggles and/or addictions that often begin in childhood and carry on to old age. (I have sat with couples in their 70’s, still fighting addictions that started before age ten, and speaking of them for the first time in their lives, because they’ve never had anyone willing to hear their struggles.) Many cry out to God for many years, desperately longing for freedom, but trapped in that world of shame and silence.

From sexual immorality, to pornography, to masturbation (yes, I know, it’s a touchy and controversial subject, that one, but I’m addressing addictions here) or any other form of sexual experimentation, many victims find themselves lost in addictions. Keep in mind, in reading this, that I don’t profess to be a counselor. And, quite frankly, have no desire to be one. I help people overcome the things they struggle with and achieve the results they long for, mostly in their faith journey and healing from past pain. I work from a biblical perspective, using a coaching method. So if you come to me because you struggle with pornography, we will work through that from a biblical perspective, looking at God’s plan and intent for us, as well as looking at where the addiction was ‘birthed’ and the root problem. If it is cutting and self harm, we will look at that from a biblical perspective, focusing on the root, not the symptom.

I won’t quickly slap a ‘sin’ label on these things and appropriately condemn you and send you on your way, because there is always something deeper going on.  Labeling sin is easy. Anyone can do it. But digging deeper, and inviting Jesus to heal and restore at a deeper place takes relationship. (Jesus did not come to bring condemnation, but to offer salvation in every situation, every struggle. John 3:17 And He came for relationship.) It is important to remember that an addiction is never about the addiction. Ever.

We need to identify and work through the cause–whatever pain and trauma is there, and the lies we believe as a result–but we can’t blame our choices on those things. We need to take ownership for our sinful choices. Regardless what my childhood was, or wasn’t, the choices I made in the past and make today are mine. Where those choices lead me into sin, if I really want to be free, I must repent.

I cannot count the number of times someone has shared with me some dark, even demonic, struggle… Or the oppression of suicidal ideation, the temptation to cut, or extreme hopelessness that overtake them… And, when we go back and trace where that darkness started, almost without fail it started after one sinful behaviour or another.

The most common addiction that brings this darkness, that I have worked with, is pornography. A woman shares with me that she has demons attacking her mind and spirit, that she awakens to a suffocating feeling and the sensation of hands around her throat, strangling her. She suffers through explicit and horrible nightmares and feels completely helpless. We talk about when it started. She remembers the first night it happened.

“What changed that day? What did you do before bed?” I ask a series of questions that might shed some light.

“Nothing,” she says. Moments later, having paused to think back, she says, “Oh… wait… yeah, there was something.” She hesitates, avoids eye contact.

“What is it?” I ask, but still she sits silently.

The game of a thousand questions it will be. I can see she wants to share, but can’t get it out, so I will do what I’ve done with many clients before, and help her .

“Is it something we’ve discussed before?” I ask. She nods. “Did we discuss it last time?” She shakes her head. “Is it pornography?” She nods. I wait in silence for a few moments. “Do you think there might be a connection?”

“Maybe,” she says. By the third time this happens, where the dark and demonic attacks begin with exposure to pornography, she will recognize it, but today is the first time she makes the connection, and it startles her.

“So, now what?” she asks.

“You repent. If you want to break the power it has over you, that’s what you do,” I tell her. “That’s it. Nothing more. You’ve confessed it to me, but you need to repent before God, accept His forgiveness and move on.”

“Will that really help?” she asks.

“I can’t promise that there won’t be any struggle, but I can promise that you will be forgiven, and that it will break something in the spiritual realm.”

Immediately she bows her head, prays and thanks God for His grace and forgiveness, and asks Him to help her overcome temptation. I pray for her too, and together we take a stand against the enemy. We meet again two weeks later. She is excited to tell me that she has not touched pornography, and the dark demonic attacks are gone, for the most part.

For several months she does well, then the darkness comes back. The attacks are more fierce than ever, she tells me. Again we go through the process of taking it apart, and again it comes back to pornography. This time she sees it more quickly, and repents again, breaking the power of sin in her life. And again she overcomes the temptations, this time for almost a year.

So why do I teach repentance? Because we were not created to carry sin. It has negative power over our mind and spirit, that will destroy us, if we don’t repent. If being told to repent offends you, I am willing to risk being unpopular for the sake of your freedom…

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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A Trail of Bleeding Children’s Hearts

Since the tragic Connecticut massacre at Sandy Hooks school, I have read and heard many opinions on how to prevent such a tragedy from recurring. Opinions push everything from tougher gun laws, to blaming the media for glorifying crime, and movies or video games influencing such violence. And then there’s the other popular one… “Our nation has turned its back on God, and needs to repent…”

I looked up the verse in Chronicles that talks about this, and something interesting jumped out at me.

2 Chronicles 7:14

New International Version (NIV)

14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The interesting thing here is that God doesn’t ask the entire nation to humble themselves, pray, and seek His face, and turn from wickedness before He hears, forgives and heals.

He only asks His people–those called by His name–to do these things. Then, He promises, He will heal our land.

It occurred to me then, that maybe we, as God’s people, have brought a curse on our nation, by our idolatry, and our inability to stand for truth, more than the sins of our nation have brought the ‘curses’ on us all.

Divine Interruption:
…I had written to this point in my blog last evening, when the phone rang at 11:30pm… A young teen in crisis… Would I consider coming over, spending a bit of time with her?

I looked at Tim, asked if he would mind me going over… I agreed to do it. Checking with Tim was more out of respect than anything. I had already decided in my heart what I would do. I remember well the woman who dropped everything to come into my messy young world when I was sixteen and suicidal.

I kissed Tim ‘good-night’, and suggested he just go to bed, as it could be an all-nighter for me.

On my drive I played worship music. My heart prayed, but words would not escape my lips. Rarely do I feel intense emotion in the ‘line of duty’, though it hits me from time to time when I’m at home alone, or driving after an event. This time was different. I willed myself not to weep. I fought the emotion threatening. And when I could finally speak, the only word that would form was, ‘Jesus…’

I whispered it once, choking back the weight in my heart. I managed to hold it together, with just a few tears. I whispered His name again, then, and one simple request, “Jesus…. Would you meet with us?”

As I neared her home, a new boldness came over me and I began to pray against the darkness, inviting Jesus to come, to heal, to bring hope. I pictured her, wrapped in a warm blanket, my arms around her.

At the front door of her home, I was greeted with the door already wide open. Inside she sat, wrapped in a warm blanket. I walked over, wrapped my arms around her.

For some time we sat there, talking, listening to music, sometimes laughing, sometimes serious. Just ‘being’ together, they and I. We talked about the ‘stopped’ emotions, and buried pain. I encouraged her to cry, to release the stress and the trauma through tears. She said she can’t, even if she wants to. I suggested we go for a drive and she can scream until she feels release. But she didn’t want to. It wouldn’t help anyway.

A few minutes after 1:00am, she looked at me, “Can we go for a drive?”

Absolutely! I sensed the dam was about to burst. In the car I played “Hurt & The Healer”, by Mercy Me, with the volume high enough she didn’t need to worry about me hearing her cry. The tears started then, and her body shook with sobs.

I drove, placing my hand on her back, letting her know she is not alone. I had no idea where to go, so I just did what felt right at every stop. I realized at one point that I was driving by or near places where her pain had happened. It wasn’t intentional, and all I could do was trust God that He understood why.

I turned down a road, thinking I was finally in a ‘safe’ zone, with no ‘triggers’. Suddenly I realized I was going to drive past her church. For a brief moment a thought entered my mind, “take her there”. But just as quickly I pushed it away, not willing to confront that trauma in her life.

Moments later her voice broke the silence. “You know what I want to do?”

“No, what would you like to do?”

“This is going to sound crazy, but can we pull in at my church? It’s just up ahead.”

We pulled in and parked in front of the church.  About twenty-three years ago I sat in that same parking lot, one rainy October night. I was a young rebel then, running from the pain of violence and sexual abuse, and the confusion of church and religion. I visited the church more to make a statement, and force myself to face the rejection, than anything else. The youth looked at me, and said a passing ‘hi’, that night, but didn’t make any effort to connect. I was a bad kid. A rebel.

One girl walked over and asked me if I would like to go sit her their vehicle and talk.

My friend told me that the youth had been told not to associate with me. I was a bad influence and parents were concerned I would lead them all astray. “I don’t care what they say,” she said, “I will be your friend.”

Rain trickled down the wind shield. The night was black. Lonely. Eerily so. The falling raindrops, I imagine, were God’s tears.

To be back in the parking lot, with a young teen, not much younger than I was then, was powerful. The music played. Now Michael W. Smith, “Open Arms”. It wasn’t planned, but the songs seemed to flow with what was happening. God moments, I call those.

She looked at the church. “They hurt me,” she said, matter-of-factly, yet with deep pain behind the words.

“Who hurt you?” I asked.

“All of them.”

“How?”

“They judged me. Condemned me. And they gossiped…. ”

I listened, my heart hurting for her. I know. I remember. I understand. And I know what it took for me to break free. “Can you forgive them?”

“I don’t know,” she said. There was no defiance. Not even reluctance. Just a painful inability to forgive.

We talked awhile longer.

“Can we invite Jesus into this mess?” I asked.

“How?”

“Just talk to Him… ask Him to help us.”

“But how?” Now exasperated, her voice had an edge of pain… new pain. The ‘lost God’ kind of pain that doesn’t know where to begin. “I don’t know how.”

I asked if I could do it, and she said yes. The music continued to play…. I prayed out loud. Just talking to God… to Jesus. Asking Him to be present, to heal, to bring hope, to restore. I thanked Him for forgiving her for the things she had confessed, and said she was sorry for…

And then my heart began to weep…

I repented on behalf of parents, leaders, churches, Christians… all of us who have misrepresented the heart of Abba Father, our ‘Papa’. I asked God to forgive us, to heal us… I asked Him to forgive church leaders… I asked for the Holy Spirit to fall on His people…

In my arms a little girl wept uncontrollably. Really, she is a young woman, but in that moment she was a little girl. Tears poured down both of our faces as I cried out to God… And He was there…. present… powerfully present.

“Is this what mothers do?” she asked, almost reverently, when I finished praying.

“Yes,” I said, “this is what mothers do.”

“I’ve never had that,” she said.

“And I’m very sorry about that,” I said. “It’s what mothers do .. it’s what fathers do… and what leaders do, who love Jesus. I haven’t always been this kind of mother. But I’m learning. I’m trying.” I told her how I had fought a similar battle with one of my children, only weeks ago. It’s who I want to be for my children, for every teenager God brings into my life.

When it was over I played ‘Remind Me Who I Am’, by Jason Gray. I played it loud, the way we both like our music, and then I stood out in the parking lot, the music playing into the night. I stretched my arms out, standing ‘naked’ before my God, offering all of who I am, to do with as He wishes.

I drove her home shortly after 3:00am. We won a battle. The war is still on, but we know our side has won, because Jesus paid that price.

I returned to my blog today, fascinated that God had brought a situation that required repentance on behalf of the church, in order to bring one young woman to a place of break-through.

Yes… it is time for us, as God’s people, to stop pointing the finger at the nation when we have lost sight of truth, in so many ways. When we fight to control people, to apply the law–whatever that law may be–and protect image, rather than getting to know hearts, and fighting battles with the weary and the wounded.

And some religious soul, more concerned about image and ‘system’ will read this and find a way to justify the evils we commit against children, through silence, through judgement, through ‘the law’…

And my heart weeps again… And again I pray…

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“God forgive us for judging the man who walks into a school and massacres children, when we leave a trail of bleeding hearts–the hearts of children–from the church doors to Heaven only knows where.

God forgive us… Please heal our land!”

© Trudy Metzger

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