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

[Trigger warning]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

When Sex, Abuse Scandal & Religion Meet Jesus…

When sin collides with grace, redemption is the inevitable outcome. When Jesus met the woman at the well… when He had a woman, whom we believe to be a prostitute, wash His feet with her tears… a prostitute, draped all over Him… When a woman was brought to Him for stoning–caught ‘in the very act’ of adultery (how much more embarrassing and shameful can it get?)… And when the Samaritan woman, who believed herself to be nothing more than a dog, because that was what society taught and believed, begged for her daughter’s healing… Even Nicodemus, the ‘uber-religious’, cream of the crop law-keeper, a Pharisee, when he humbled himself…

In each case, when the broken, discarded, and sinful encountered the Messiah, something beautiful happened. And when the religious came, with humility–the Pharisee calling Jesus ‘Rabbi’, or teacher–even then, sin met grace, resulting in redemption. Only the arrogant missed out, like the rich young ruler came, having kept the law to perfection, but having missed the heart of God’s religion…  And even he, I suspect, was transformed in ways that only showed later; the part of the story never written for us know.

And that is what happened to me, when my sins, and the sins committed against me, met Jesus. I had an encounter with grace, in that moment, that changed the trajectory of my life, and the lives of the generations to come. I didn’t know, immediately, that it also impacted the sins committed against me; I would learn that over time.

In my memoir, Between 2 Gods, I tell that story, boldly, unapologetically. The things that were done against me, and the things I did, should never appear in black and white for the world to read, many would say. Yet the Bible is full of scandalous stories that, if the ‘forgive and forget’ teachings were biblical, could not be told. So I tell my story, knowing Peter cursed Jesus and Jesus’ only response was, “Do you love me? I have a ministry for you to do”; no condemnation. I write it knowing King David, a man after God’s own heart, had sex with Bath Sheba while her husband was murdered at his hands. And I write it knowing Dinah was vindicated when her rapist was brutally murdered by God’s people.

I should not be able to meet those who have read my story and be able to lift my eyes, without shame or the desire to run and never look back. But I tell it. And men and women alike have read it, and I’ve faced them, without shame. But they were friends, mentors, and publishing contacts. Now I have told that story, in black and white, for the whole world to read, and I still feel no shame. The reason I feel no shame is because, in that moment, when I met Jesus and collided with grace, I lost my footing and He caught me. My identity, in that instant was restored , as He took my sins upon Himself and did the walk of shame for me, up that hill to Golgatha: the place of the skull, or ‘death’. He died for my shame and paid in full.

Because of that redemption, and because He removed my shame and restored my identity, I tell the story of sex, abuse ‘scandal’–as we would call it–and religion, and that one amazing encounter with Jesus, with Grace. And I tell it for you, who are struggling with your own story, your own sin, or those committed against you–which was never your shame in the first place–so that you will know you can be free. Your story can be your friend. You can be free.

I write from my Mennonite experience, sharing the beautiful and the broken openly, knowing full well abuse and violence are present in all cultures, some more and some less. My book is written for every culture, but exposes only my own. It is written for the broken, who cry without a voice. It is written for the religious, in every culture, who love Jesus and celebrate His redemption. It is written for those who have never experienced trauma but wish to understand and support those who are wounded. It is not written for the religiously arrogant who have no compassion and only wish to cover up and hide sins; it will do nothing but feed their arrogance.

 

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tim & trudy 1994

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Between 2 Gods is now available for pre-order, Kindle, on Amazon. To pre-order (USA) click Here and for Canada click Here

It is also available for pre-order, Paperback, at eLectio Publishing: Here

Between 2 Gods_new

Every Erection isn’t Lust…

… And What Does Modesty Have to Do with It?

Ezekiel 23:20 (KJV)
20 For she doted upon their paramours (illicit lovers), whose flesh (genitals) is as the flesh (genitals) of asses (donkeys), and whose issue (emission) is like the issue (emission) of horses.

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I’ve promised several people I would write this blog, so here goes…   I started with the verse (above), simply to show that God is not afraid to speak about sexuality, and does so with language that makes us conservatives a bit skittish. Based on this, I conclude the notion that we should not talk about it, is not at all grounded in biblical truth. Especially using verses out of context, like Ephesians 5:12, “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” to justify covering up sexual sin and abuse, or to condemn talking about sexuality, in general. I’ve had that thrown my way too often by those wishing to cover up abuse in the church. It may be shameful to repeat what is done in secret, but it is not sin to repeat it, and putting guilt and shame on those who speak out, abuses that scripture.  Especially considering that the verses before and after talk about exposing and bringing to light those very things, . In context it says, “ And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” Surely, if the dark things of sexuality are to be brought to light, then talking about sexuality–particularly the ‘not dark’ aspect–is good. It is not evil, perverted,  or unforgiving to speak of the ‘dark thing’, nor is it in any way displeasing to God. And it  is not displeasing to God for us to take a good hard look at our misconceptions about sexuality. That established, this blog post is about lust–what it is, and what it isn’t–not about sexual abuse.

A variety of conversations influenced this blog post, not the least of which is the frustration of many women, and possibly a few men, regarding teachings on modesty in conservative settings. (To determine who I refer to by ‘conservative’, I would say ‘if the shoe fits–or the dress, as the case may be–wear it”. With the word ‘dress’ referring to’attire’, not ‘frock’, and serving as a figure of speech.)  Countless women, all being women who value modesty, have shared with me the pain and frustration of hearing, almost Sunday after Sunday, that it is their duty to prevent men from lusting. Some have messaged me, others have told me in person. Their heart cries go something to the effect of, “I feel raped…” or “I feel stripped….  as if I am only an object to be lusted after… when men preach like that… when they accuse me of immodesty, and I am already fully covered…” This coming from women with flowing skirts that reach nearly to the floor, and their hair tucked neatly inside a veil, women who are modest and beyond.

One encounter stood out, among all the conversations I’ve had, when a church leader’s wife explained how she felt, and how her identity had been lost in her culture’s teachings. “What do we (as women) have left? Who are we? We’ve been stripped of identity. We have no voice. We are treated like sex objects when all the focus is on covering us up….” She poured out her heart, asking deep questions about her purpose, and the purpose of every woman in church, and trying to reconcile her religion with the Word of God, and the prophecy in Joel 2 that God’s daughters will prophesy–speak out truth, boldly–and whatever personal wonderings she had. We spent some time talking about her feeling like a sex object, and feeling stripped of identity, by teaching that focuses on controlling every detail of a woman’s attire, rather than teaching modesty, self respect, and personal value.

This teaching is not only in her church, it is all around, this belief that how women dress makes men lust, or prevents it. And that teaching is utter nonsense. Modesty isn’t utter nonsense,  but that teaching is. Keeping in mind that what is perceived as modest varies drastically, from person to person, church to church, culture to culture.  Modesty is more about respect for ourselves, than respect for others–though that is a part of it–and with the best of intentions and most modest attire, there may well be someone lusting.  And the men preaching it every Sunday would be the first I would be uncomfortable around, as their minds are clearly already there.

In these conversations with women, about modesty and lust, the one thing I started to realize is that, for many of us, our understanding of what lust is has become about as skewed as the notion that women are responsible for that lust. I left these conversations asking, “What is lust, exactly?” and that got me thinking….

Is lust the physical response–natural, God-given response, I might add–to beauty? Is lust the desire a man or woman has, to be loved intimately, sexually? A desire that exists, even before marriage, simply because we are human? Is that desire sin? Is it shameful? Or is it, in fact, a God-given desire that should be ‘blessed’, rather than cursed, and brought under ‘management’ rather than suppressed, it’s existence denied, and made shameful?

When my husband sees a beautiful woman–modestly clothed, or not–he has a choice to make. Will he ‘look on her, to lust after her’, or will he see her through the eyes of respect, as God looks on her? Will he ‘ogle’ her, with sexual intent and impure thoughts, or see her as God’s beautiful creation, worthy of honour, respect and protection? Whether she is a prostitute, and scantily clad, or a woman covered head to toe–Christian or not–or a woman in church looking like the prostitute, he has a decision to make. And, regardless of her self-respect or lack thereof, she is worthy of his respect. Each one is God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, and ought to be treated with the same level of respect as if it was Jesus standing in front of him. And he does.

Is he human? Yep. Pretty much. Is it possible for his body to respond to visual stimuli? I expect so. Does that threaten me? Not at all! I trust him, as a godly man and loving husband, to handle his sex drive well, and be intentional about how he  responds to temptation or opportunity.  It is his responsibility to deny what the flesh desires, and live out his commitment to holiness. And, like King David, he has to make a covenant with his eyes, and a commitment in his heart, to live with integrity and honour. And if the beauty that stands or sits before him, triggers a bodily response, causing an erection or stirring some sexual desire,  he has to make that choice again, to look away,to walk away, or do whatever it takes in order to honour and respect the woman in front of him.  But that bodily response is not lust, it is not sin, it is not shameful. It is human reaction to sexual desire and stimulation, and it must always be mastered and brought under personal authority–authority God has given each one of us. And the desire, itself, is part of how we humans are wired–not just the men–and that makes it sacred, not perverted. The sin is not in the desire, or the temptation, it is in our response and our handling of it.

Lust is a deliberate indulgence in, or pursuit of, impure sexual gratification, or ‘unrestrained sexual desire’ , as one dictionary puts it. I once read a quote that went something like, ‘Lust is sexual desire that dishonours the object of its desire, and has no regard for God.’ And that ‘objectifying’ of the person being lusted after, says it all.  It is wrong to treat someone as an object to obtain, conquer or dominate. And making a person feel like they are only a sex-object does just that. This over-sexualizing is done through using someone sexually, and it is done through teaching with an over focus on modesty to extremes the Bible doesn’t address. Tacking on the notion that men can’t help themselves, sexually, takes it to a whole new level, as does adding warped personal judgement like, ‘You might as well be naked if …’ when a person is not covered neck to ankle or doesn’t wear cultural attire. That is perverse, and it is not biblical. It says something about the warped mind of the teacher, and turns the audience into sex objects to be lusted after. Rather than promoting holiness, it promotes lust and perversion. It is for men like this, that I wonder if God does not feel compelled to draw a curtain over the mountains, lest they should imagine breasts and wander down a path of sexual lust. (If elbows supposedly look like breasts, and must therefore be covered to keep men’s minds pure, how much more the mountains!)

These misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what lust is–condemning even natural God-given responses–and imposing guilt on women for men’s responses to that desire–has done great harm to the body of Christ. It has heaped shame on young men and women unnecessarily–and likely older ones too–and left them struggling in their faith, believing there is something wrong with them. They feel defeated, fearing they live in lust when, in reality, the things they feel are natural, God-given desires that they are managing well.

The young woman who longs to be held in the arms of a loving husband, desires a beautiful thing. For her to desire sexual love as part of that experience, in marriage, is natural and wonderful. Even biblical. The young man who longs for a wife to hold and love, isn’t a pervert, nor is he lusting. He is acknowledging that God created him with the desire for relationship, and sexual love as part of that relationship. There is nothing evil  about it, and it isn’t lust. To say we didn’t have those desires before marriage, for most of us if not all of us, would be blatant lies. For those who lived in denial and pushed those desires into oblivion, the same truth still applies–the desire was there, we just lied to ourselves about it, and that is not noble either.

When God made us sexual creatures, in the Garden of Eden,  He blessed us as sexual creatures. “Male and female created He them, in His image….” or something like that, it says several times. Our sexuality does not frighten God. He said ‘it is very good’, and blessed us, sexually. To teach anything less is a slap in the face of the Creator, and a disgrace to us, as His image bearers.

It is time to reclaim the wonder and holiness of our sexuality, and consecrate ourselves to God, teaching our sons and daughters the truth about holiness and purity, including how to respect those who do not respect themselves, or don’t live up to our standards. When we lift the burden of false guilt from our children, they will find it easier to walk in holiness before God.

I understand that my views are conservative and outdated to those who accept ‘anything goes’ in the area of sexuality. And my views are liberal, bordering on blasphemy for those who have a list of man-made laws they like to tout as ‘scriptural’. I am not offended by either disagreement, nor do I believe I have the ‘best’ and ‘most right’ understanding. It is simply the understanding I have, and I embrace it. To pretend anything more or less would by hypocrisy. What I do know is that what we have had isn’t working. Holiness in the church, as it has been presented, is a myth, going by at the percentages of people who struggle with sexual sins and addictions–and it is time to acknowledge that. For us to pretend it’s ‘out there’, and judge harshly, when we are as human in the struggle, is deceptive and serves only to keep us in bondage.

I have watched people break free from addictions, and abandon homosexuality simply by adopting a biblical view of God-designed and God-blessed sexuality. By recognizing who they are in Christ, and discovering they are unconditionally loved by God, many have overcome the depression that goes with sexual struggle. Therefore I speak with bold confidence in this regard, and I do so without judgement for those who disagree–you are accountable for you, I am accountable for me. And I speak without apology for my beliefs, no matter who is offended.

Change does not come without disturbing ‘the way things are’, and it does not come without offence.

“I Do”… Love, Sex & Rejection: When CSA & Violence Impact Marriage

Tim and I married five months after our engagement, in the dead of winter, on January 22, 1994. It was a beautiful day, a little blustery in the morning, but not stormy.

We celebrated the day with approximately two hundred family members and friends, and enjoyed our time. When the day’s last activities wrapped up, we were ready to be alone.

I entered marriage with enthusiasm and commitment. Tim was easy to talk to and share my heart with. Having worked through my past and my childhood, it never occurred to me that marriage would stir up more aftermath of my childhood. No one warned me that this begins on the honeymoon.

It was our wedding night and we had embarked on the most incredible adventure of our lives! With great anticipation we had looked forward to this day for five months and two days. Finally it had arrived!

We had ‘made it’, having resisted the temptation to sleep together, reminding each other of the legacy we wanted to leave for our children. A few times we had slipped up and crossed lines we didn’t want to cross, but we had always taken ownership and remained committed to waiting.

Tim didn’t do a lot of talking as we cruised along the 401, headed for ‘destination bliss’. His few, carefully chosen words gave me the love and security I longed for.He smiled and squeezed my hand as I chattered about how delighted I was to be his wife. There was no doubt in my mind that I was the most fortunate woman in the world.

One basic expectation I had for marriage was to find fulfillment in pleasing my husband. The night was no disappointment as we celebrated God’s incredible plan for marital love.

I was running on a powerful adrenaline kick, and my newlywed husband was beginning to suffer from a severe over-dose of naturally produced prolactin. (Prolactin is one of a ‘cocktail of hormones’ released in the male body at the time of climax and is believed to be predominantly responsible for their ensuing sleep attack.)

A little knowledge of this hormonal activity would have spared us some grief and helped me understand why Tim wanted to sleep while I wanted to party all night. As it turned out, Tim was asleep long before I dozed off into a restless sleep. I seemed to wake up every hour, on the hour. Each time I felt overwhelmed with the wonder of being able to love my husband freely. No guilt. No shame. No regret. God had blessed our relationship and made our love pure and sacred.

Feeling restless, I would cuddle up to Tim and he would wake up to the reality of a hyper-energetic wife. As far as I was concerned we had the rest of our honeymoon and a whole lifetime to recover from one all-nighter, so this wake-up routine posed no problems for me. Tim, on the other hand, continued to suffer from these hormone attacks and did not share my enthusiasm.

After several cuddly wake-up calls Tim rolled over, his back turned my way, and mumbled, “I just want to sleep.”  And that is precisely what he did from then until the next morning.

I tossed and turned, scolding myself for having been so foolish and still a little upset with Tim for his lack of sensitivity and enthusiasm. Then I felt guilty for being upset with Tim, knowing he neither had control over his sleepiness nor could he induce sleep for his hyperactive wife.

What I had not yet figured out was that my restlessness was caused in part by past insecurity.

In my childhood home I never felt like I really belonged. My father had a collection of threats that he would use on us if his life wasn’t going well. He threatened suicide if he felt helpless, and in a fit of rage would threaten to kill us children or our mom. Mom frequently reminded us of these threats in a manipulative way to make us obey. I had no reassurance that I was a valuable human being with a purpose.

What I was looking for from Tim that night was affirmation. I didn’t want to miss a minute of our first night because of sleep. I had not experienced rejection much in our courtship, and wasn’t prepared for that feeling in marriage. I knew it wasn’t reasonable to expect him to pull an all nighter, but I didn’t know what to do with my feelings, as I lay awake, ‘alone’, on our wedding night.

Marriage was my first experience with truly belonging. We had made a vow, ‘til death do us part’. I knew we would keep that vow come hell or high water, but in the depths of my heart, I feared failure and rejection.

Through my childhood and years of fending for myself, I had become a fighter and a survivor. The bad things that happened went into a mental discard file that remained locked, far from my conscious mind. I hoped that if I kept the file closed and ignored the pain it would go away. I falsely assumed I could function this way in marriage.  I hoped that by not telling Tim how hurt and rejected I felt, I could avoid hurting him and life would be good. And, since I had been selfish and unreasonable I simply needed to be more realistic in my expectations, and our problem would be history.

This decision made, I awoke Sunday morning feeling enthusiastic and bubbly. It was a beautiful day for new beginnings. Outside a soft blanket of fresh snow covered the previous tracks. We, too, started off with a clean slate and had a wonderful day. Tim gave me all the reassurance any woman could desire. He told me how beautiful I am, gave me hugs and kisses without end, and simply loved me. The disappointments of the night vanished.

To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Jesus, The Mennonite Bishop & His Wife, the Girl, and I

The Introduction

This is one of the most exciting posts I have written to date… but I struggled to know what title to give it… A dozen went through my mind, falling flat without making an impact. I thought about this one, but without ‘Jesus’ and using ‘the Outsider’ instead of ‘I’, but that sounded like one of those lame ‘St. Peter’ jokes, and this isn’t really that kind of post.

This post is a celebration of the things God can do, when human beings lay themselves aside, lay aside their religious beliefs–both sides of the equation–and focus on what really matters.

Today I’m sharing *Tracy’s story, with her permission. Tracy is one of the people I meet with, to mentor through the ‘stuff’ of life, and to find Jesus in day-to-day experience. Even in the tough situations.

Tracy and I connected first a year, or so, ago. Briefly. Superficially. The kind of friendship that is common on Facebook, where you ‘friend’ someone, but don’t necessarily engage in relationship. You interact from time to time, but don’t often go deep. Nothing wrong with that.

Our relationship changed, however, some time ago, when Tracy started reading my blog and my story began resonating with her. She contacted me, just to ask a few questions, and that led to more interaction, and finally our first face-to-face meeting.

Tracy is conservative Mennonite, and knew that I am not. One of the things I do, when I meet someone with different beliefs than my own, is talk about what my goal is, and isn’t. My goal is never to pull anyone out of their culture, or undermine their culture, though I do mentor from a faith perspective, but with neutral position on practical beliefs. My goal is to hear hearts, and heal hearts, through restoration and a healthy understanding of, and relationship with, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Confession

Having had that talk, we moved into the ‘stuff of life’. Tracy shared some of the struggles and conflicts in her life. Church rules, though rigorous, were bearable. Family dynamics were difficult. We talked about specifics and could only conclude that her parents love her deeply, but struggle with being over-protective, to the point of controlling.

In conversation I commented, “They simply want to protect you, possibly from something they, or a friend, went through when they were young. That doesn’t make it right to be controlling, I told her, but it helps understand them. “I’m suspicious they want to protect your virginity,” I said, when the discussion of dating came up. I sensed hesitance. I don’t remember what I said next, but I recall her answer.

“I’m not a virgin,” Tracy said. Too late for that.

Being a spiritual mentor, who predominantly helps people work through sexual abuse and violence, while establishing a healthy relationship with God, I reacted accordingly.

“Have you taken care of it? Asked God to forgive you?” I asked. “Are you free?” She said she had and it was forgiven, in her past, so we moved on.

Tracy and I have met numerous times in the past few months, always connecting at a heart level. From time to time, in between meetings, I would get that ‘niggling’ in my spirit, that I should send a note or a text, asking how things are, and we’d set up a meeting within a day or two. Frequently something had just happened, and she was in recovery mode, or something happened within a day. Often just before our meeting.

That is what happened last week. I messaged Tracy to see how she’s doing. To make sure she’s getting through things okay. Later that evening we spoke on the phone, and she was quite upset. Her bishop had asked for a meeting and she didn’t know why.

I asked if she would like to meet for coffee and talk through it. She did, so we met at Timmies. We talked through a lot of ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen ‘if” scenarios, bringing the fears back in check.

Before we parted she said she would like if I joined her for the meeting on Monday, with her bishop and his wife. She said she was nervous only because she didn’t know what to expect, but that they are very kind.

I’ve often told Tracy that any time she needs me for support or mediation, I will be there, if I’m available. When she asked, I knew I needed to prioritize it, because she doesn’t ask easily, or lightly.

The Meeting

Tracy and I stood outside the church, on Monday night, waiting for the bishop and his wife to arrive. We had agreed to meet a few minutes in advance and connect before the meeting. Her body trembled, her voice carried an edge of nervousness.

“We’ll probably meet in the minister’s room,” she said. We talked about how intimidating the room is. Laughed about it, concluding it’s because that’s where all the big decisions are made.

The bishop and his wife arrived.

“Hi,” I said, “I’m Trudy Metzger, and I’m here on Tracy’s invitation, to support her as she shares with you. I am the first woman with whom she shared her story, and have been her mentor through it. If it’s okay with you, I would like to be her support today.”

They shook my hands warmly, welcoming me, assuring me that was not a problem. “Why don’t we go to the minister’s room,” the bishop said, “it’s about as good a place as any.” He paused. We started up the steps. “Hopefully it’s not too intimidating,” he continued.

I resisted the urge to snicker. Funny that, only seconds before they arrived, we had talked about it.

“And we have nice plush chairs in there,” he said, trying to make things as comfortable as they can be when you have a Mennonite Bishop and his wife, a young girl who is struggling or perceived to be struggling, and me–an outsider.

In the early school days, I remember the worksheet that had four items and you had to identify one that didn’t belong. Well, this one would have been easy. I was definitely ‘that’ item. The one that looked different. The duck in a line up of flowers, The motorbike in a row of cars. I chose not to feel out of place, in spite of this obvious detail. And they really were trying to make me feel safe, I could tell.

On my way to the meeting I had prayed the blood of Jesus specifically and individually over each person’s mind, body, soul and spirit. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would have free rein, not held back by our differences in cultural practice and Bible interpretation, and that we would lift our eyes to Jesus, and not the stuff of life, or our beliefs. I had called my friend and mentor, Anne, to ask her and her husband to pray. I knew we were well covered. And I didn’t doubt that the others had also prayed.

We engaged in small talk for a few minutes before opening in prayer. The bishop then opened the conversation, inviting Tracy to share her journey, specifically addressing some of the family stresses she faced. How was she doing? What was her side of the story?

The Secret

Tracy shared from her heart. Raw. Honest. Bold. And yet gentle. She has a very sweet, gentle spirit and a deep thinker. Very deep. She is very open about her desire to know God, to serve Him with all that she is, and to pursue His plans for her. This came through.

Tracy paused, looked at me, as if asking a silent question. I’ve learned to read her. “Are you going to share some of the past stuff we talked about?” I asked.

“Should I?” she asked.

“It’s up to you.” We had agreed at our meeting on Friday night that it would be best if they heard it from her. The odds of rumours leaking out–now that she was breaking silence–and things becoming twisted was high. Truth, directly from the individual is always best. “Shall I share how we arrived at you telling me, and then you can pick it up from there?” I asked.

She nodded. “Sure.”

I shared about our initial meeting and how our conversation about family dynamics and her protective parents had led to her making a confession. There I stopped. The bishop and his wife looked at her. I looked at her. I could see the anxiety but with confidence she spoke the words, “I am not a virgin. My first boyfriend and I had sex.”

Shock as it registered on their faces, yet gentleness. The bishop looked tender and sad, not upset or angry. No judgement. His wife choked back tears, but held the same tenderness.

“Thank you for being honest and telling us,” the bishop said.

She went on to say that it wasn’t just a one time thing, that it started early in their youth and carried on until they broke up some years later. The boyfriend had promised a future… a life together…. downplaying how wrong it was. How could it be that wrong in a committed relationship, if they were to be married one day?

We talked at length about the ways we had worked through it. She said she had asked Jesus to forgive her, and had left that life behind, but had never cleared it with her boyfriend. They had shared the secret alone for years, just the two of them, and now one other friend, and me. She wanted the power of the secret to be broken, and she wanted to make things right with her first boyfriend.

The bishop asked us both some questions, and we spent some time just talking, heart to heart, exploring appropriate next steps. Breaking ties and the power of that relationship got most of our focus.

The Dilemma

The bishop applauded Tracy several times for her honesty, and her willingness to share the truth, no matter how hard.

“Tracy speaks very highly of you,” I said, hoping to reassure them that she does, in fact, have a healthy respect for them, and their desire for her, and the church family as a whole.

The bishop’s voice held emotion as he spoke, gently, tenderly, “So you trust us, Tracy?” His eyes filled with tears.

Tracy choked up. She nodded. The tears began to fall. I saw then, more than before, the depth of their relationship. Tracy is friends with the bishop’s children. She has spent plenty of time in their home, and has told me how much fun she has had with them. How the bishop has a great sense of humour, and his wife is ‘just the sweetest woman’.

“I love you, Tracy,” the bishop said, eyes glistening with tears that would not spill. “I really love you.” He looked at his wife, who could not speak, for the intensity of emotion. “She really loves you. Don’t you?” he said, now addressing his wife. She nodded. “We really love you.”

Tears fell from Tracy’s face. When she cries, tears spill, one at a time and drop. It’s quite beautiful, really. They don’t pour like a stream. It’s as if  each one has a unique identity, that it is not willing to let go of. And so they fall, one at a time, splashing, wherever they land, into countless little sparkles, testifying to the purity of the heart, from which they came.

The moment held a sacredness. An intimacy that was almost tangible. There was a few moments of silence. The bishop’s wife started crying, her face sweet and beautiful, eyes filled with compassion.

I sensed a powerful Presence in the room, and I knew we have not met to tell stories and gather facts. We had met with Jesus, the Healer.

The bishop broke the silence to present the dilemma. The church ‘tradition’ is to confess in front of the rest of the congregation, when caught in sin. At least sins of ‘this nature’. He admitted he wished he didn’t need to even propose such a thing, not wanting to shame Tracy or make a spectacle of her. But he believed it is best. It would allow her to share her story, her repentance and forgiveness with the congregation, rather than having rumours spread, without truth. For her to share her testimony would put the power where it should be, in redemption and healing.

It is a big deal, in the Mennonite church, where the sense of community is so strong, when something like this happens. Some mean well. Others, well, they love to sensationalize the stories. It’s their way of adding a bit of spice to life, often at the expense of others. Some are true saints about it all. Extending grace and forgiveness quickly, marvelling at the goodness of God, in spite of our fallen nature. Regardless of intent, the one thing not likely to happen, is silence, once the cover is blown, or the truth leaks out. Gossips and rumours, prayer chains and concerns. Whatever the method, word will spread in such a tight-knit community. That is the downside to a beautiful and powerful sense of community, that in many ways has advantages others lack.

Tracy and I had talked about this the Friday night prior to the meeting. Biblically, we agreed, according to Matthew 18, that if she confessed and repented it was finished. No need to get up front. But, relationally, and for the sake of all the others in the church, who were hiding the same sin, we agreed it could be advantageous for her to do this. So when the bishop reluctantly broached the subject, she was prepared.

Biblically, she said, she was free. It was done. But her heart was willing, if there was any chance it might help someone. It would be her testimony to the goodness of God, to His forgiving grace, to His healing of broken hearts and lives. And that’s where we left it.

The bishop said he would need time to pray. To make sure what’s done, is done scripturally and for the benefit of Tracy and the church body.

The Encounter

The time came for the meeting to wrap up. It was good. There was peace in the room. A powerful sense of the presence of God.

“Why don’t we pray,” the bishop suggested. “Maybe we could stand, and form a circle. I believe there is power in prayer, power in agreement.” He looked at Tracy, “Would you be willing to pray, out loud, with us? There is power in that too.”

Tracy nodded. We stood to our feet, and followed the bishop’s lead, meeting to the side of the room. There, in the once-intimidating minister’s room, the four of us huddled in an intimate hug, praying to God, our ‘Abba Father’, our ‘Papa’.

Tracy stood between me and the bishop, our arms wrapped around her in a secure embrace. His wife stood between us on the other side, also held in a firm embrace. Our heads were bowed, The Bishop was emotional, his wife wept quietly.

The prayer ended with the bishop blessing everyone, and thanking God for ‘brothers and sisters in Christ who are willing to step in…”

He hugged Tracy again, saying how much they love her. His wife held Tracy for a while, reassuring her.

The bishop shook my hand warmly, “Thank you, Trudy. Thank you. We really appreciate this” His wife gave me a warm hug, also thanking me.  And then it was over.

We had gone in, feeling uncertain. For several months Tracy had been meeting with other church leaders, about other things, only to leave frustrated and feeling misunderstood. Not heard at a heart level. Because of this she had been especially worried about meeting with the bishop and his wife.

We left having encountered Jesus and knowing they too had encountered Him. No cultural barriers. No debates, but heard from the heart. And with a common goal, to lift Jesus high and bring His healing to His children.

Tracy and I left, ecstatic! It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and been part of.

© Trudy Metzger

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