#GiveBackTheShame… #StopVictimBlaming…#RememberVictims #30Days

An observation I’ve made in speaking out about sexual violence, is the imbalance of the whole thing. Mention the corruption and wickedness of the thing, and comments or private messages trickle in (or flood in, as the case may be) reminding that the abusers are human too.. they need grace too… they must be forgiven too…

But mention that God loves the abuser (hates, even despises abuse) and that His grace is enough, that His love will forgive, and those same people are strangely quiet. No reminding that the victim is stripped at a soul level. No pointing out that many are suicidal, or find a way to survive (if only barely).

And I ask myself what is wrong with that picture. What is with defending perpetrators, or at least protecting them from the harshest reality of what they have done? One person said that if they fully grasped what they had done, they’d commit suicide. That may or may not be true, but I will add that is no reason to protect from truth, especially when the victims in their wake do struggle with suicide and can’t get away from the truth. My prayer would be that with the revelation of the incredible wickedness of molestation would be accompanied by two things. First, an awareness of the grace and forgiveness of God. Second, the need to be accountable for the crimes and sins and release the victims from blame.

Thinking about the imbalance, and how often victims are lost in the shuffle, neglected, overlooked… even blamed… my heart is drawn to focus on speaking words of life over victims in the coming days. I would love to commit to a short daily thought for 30 days, empowering victims, but my schedule will make that difficult. That said, I’m going to try. Even if it’s nothing more than a photo with a few words of hope, encouragement and empowerment.

For 3o days, when I post anything at all, I want to focus only on victims. Not because I hate offenders, or wish to incite hatred. But because victims have been silenced too long and I know the difference it makes to reclaim our God-given voice, our God-given identity, and put the shame and the blame back where it belongs… and be free.

give back the shame

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Fig Leaf Malfunctions & Overcoming Shame

Shame, I’ve concluded, is largely a choice… though most of us don’t know that in times when that knowledge is most critical. This is true in the ‘big and tragic‘ things of life, and in the ‘Oops! My button just popped open in the most inconvenient place, with my hands full things. But it took the latter to convince me–the oops moments–to convince me of the former.

I have a history of inopportune ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ to draw from, with the most recent being today…

fig leaves and apple

It’s that moment when you look down, and see that, not one, but two, buttons have popped open in most inconvenient places… moments after having cheerfully greeted a Mennonite couple, who look vaguely familiar… (And, no, the shirt is not tight! the buttons have issues!)… and you are surrounded by people, with your hands full… you turn to hide, only to find that a gentleman stands directly in front of you, looking at you with a warped blend of amusement and compassionate… he holds it together for a moment, eyes twinkling, but ends up breaking into a huge grin, and then a little chuckle, as I scramble–awkwardly holding my purchases–to redeem whatever dignity I think I just lost… I determine, immediately, that I will not be ashamed of that which I cannot control and did not choose, and grin right along with him, lift my head up confidently and carry on… And in that moment I’m relieved it wasn’t Anderson Cooper standing before me, as he would undoubtedly break out into uncontrolled and never-ending girlish giggles… (And, yes, I did think of him after the moment passed)

There are a few things I know, and these are the things I hold onto in a moment such as this, or the more serious ones, so that they don’t define me, or bring shame on me. Whether a clothing dilemma, or an attack from some hurting soul, or the anger of someone who feels exposed by my ministry, the same holds true in every part of my life; I lean on what I know to be truth. There is power in what you know to be true, and if you ‘know‘ who you are, as a child of God, and if you ‘know‘ that your heart intent is to heal and give ‘life’ to those around you, and if you remember that you are human, then shame has little access to your heart and mind.

Jesus said, “the truth will make you free”, and I believe this to be a fact in every part of life. We think of this in terms of being ‘set free’, because His words are often misquoted this way, but the truth is He makes us free. His freedom doesn’t require an adjustment in circumstance; it requires an adjustment of thoughts and belief systems, so that we are free in any circumstance. (This doesn’t mean we should never change or leave particular circumstance; it means we are free in spite of them, and that may be the very thing that sets change in motion.)

Not that many years ago, had my shirt popped open, exposing cleavage even the boldest of women might cringe at, I would have fled the store (possibly in tears, but certainly flushed and flustered) and it would have toyed in my head for days. The thoughts would have tormented me and made me anxious, but today, while I would have not chosen it and preferred to keep my clothes in tact (and thereby my dignity), it had no power over me.

More importantly, the past with all its shame has no power. Coincidentally, about fifteen minutes earlier I had dropped a book off for a woman in town, who wanted a second copy for her daughter. A woman nearing seventy, she didn’t hide her shock and horror at what my life had been, focusing on my teen years of rebellion and sin. “You were a bad girl!” she said, “But praise God, not any more!”

Yes, praise God, not anymore! I agreed with her, and laughed at the wonder of grace and freedom.

It is not my identity–these ‘holes’ I once had torn in the fabric of my spirit, by the choices I made. And though they were there, and I know it well and have chosen to tell them publicly, I am so thankful that the past isn’t my identity. Jesus’ righteousness has covered that nakedness, like a blanket of love, covering my shame.

If you walk in shame, I encourage you to find a new identity. Release the things that once held you bound, and walk in the confidence of who you are in Christ, who you are to God. And laugh, now and then, at your humanity, and the things you cannot control or change. It takes the power out of them.

Now… having said all that, I still really hope my buttons were closed when I did my banking at MSCU here in Elmira… ever so confidently… I can only hope…

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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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.

 

trudy2014005 (9)

tim & trudy 1994

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Between 2 Gods_new

I Can’t Bond… I feel Guilty & Ashamed

In my post on Family Dynamics, I talked about my life-long struggle with healthy bonding in relationship. The response I got from readers surprised me. The first thing that took me off guard was that so many of you understand my struggle.  The second is that it’s another one of those ‘secrets’ we feel we need to keep because of shame, fear and guilt.

Until recently, I always felt that it is only me. My personal struggle and no one in the world would understand it, or at least very few.

Several weeks ago I spoke with a friend who is a psychologist and for the first time in my life I told someone. “I know this is going to sound really bad,” I said, “but I don’t miss people. I don’t know how. I don’t know how and I don’t think I ever have, really. Other than Tim and our children.”

“Your ability to bond was destroyed in childhood,” she said. Just like that. Matter of fact.

It’s funny now, when I think back to that conversation. It was a random bit of information in the middle of another conversation, and we explored it no further. That really was about all that was said. I added something like, “I’ve always wondered about that.” And then we carried on with our other conversation. I wonder now why I didn’t say, “Could I book an appointment with you? Could you help me understand it?”

For me it’s always been this way. When I left home at fifteen, I only saw my family a few times in over two years. I almost forgot I had family, and thought of them mostly only when someone asked. It didn’t occur to me then that it might not be normal.

For me, it simply was…. My reality. Out of sight, out of mind.

In the messages I received from readers, following that post, not only did I discover just how common this is. I also noticed a familiar pattern of guilt and frustration, accompanied by a deep sense of loss. So these are the things I would like to explore further, especially the guilt.

Guilt. That horrible feeling that I should be more than I am. It’s my fault. There is something wrong with me. It is an all-consuming, physically debilitating, mentally crippling lie.

Where there is guilt, there is shame. And where there is shame, we are being further robbed and destroyed, because it means that ‘the thing’, whatever it may be, still has power over us. Still holds us in its grip.

The inability to bond is not my fault. There is nothing I could have done as a child between birth and age 15 that would remove that struggle. And the fact that you can’t bond is not your fault. There is nothing you need to do now to ‘fix’ it or undo it. You simply need to release the guilt, and invite God to use the aftermath for a good purpose.

For some of you who wrote, this struggle is predominantly the result of sexual abuse, for others, as it was for me, it is the result of any combination of sexual, emotional, physical, spiritual abuse and/or violence. There is nothing you could have or should have done, that would make one iota of difference in outcome. It is not your guilt to carry.

For me, the two most powerful forces that robbed me of my ability to bond were violence and sexual abuse. In that order. As much as sexual abuse was damaging, in many ways the fear of Dad killing me was far more damaging. The man who should have been my protector, my hero, instead threatened to kill our family, and me specifically on at least a few occasions.

If I held so little worth to the man who conceived me, whose DNA I carry, who engaged in the act that brought me into existence… then what am I? Not who am I… but what am I? I remember as a child wishing I had been born into the animal kingdom instead, where feelings and contending with God did not exist.

While I didn’t fear my mother, my relationship with her was no more affirming. I mostly don’t write about it, or speak about it, because she is still living and I have no desire to wound her. But the damaging effect of words she spoke, affirming Dad’s darkness over us, and adding her own, created the same disconnect.

How can I feel guilty for those things? How can I feel guilty for the things that were destroyed in my mind and body, during that process. Trauma physically changes the brain. Yes, God heals. But He doesn’t always heal our way. Where life and trauma took away my ability to feel certain things, God has redeemed, and continues to. But sometimes, rather than ‘restoring’ and ‘giving back’ what was taken, He uses that for His good, and for the good of people in our lives.

I am convinced that whatever was destroyed in me through violence, is the very thing that now makes it possible for me to hear the hell and horror I hear in people’s stories. I can sit across from a young woman who says she was gang raped by seventeen men, and torn and destroyed. My heart breaks for her. But it doesn’t destroy me. I don’t go home, traumatized and terrorized. I don’t have nightmares.

When I meet with women who were in the occult, as children, and tied to beds as little girls while being group raped, with parents or grandparents in the room, possibly as part of the ritual… or tied to trees and raped… When they tell me how they were induced into early labour, using drugs meant for animals on the farm… and how they watched as their babies were sacrificed… I don’t fall apart. My heart aches for them. I go home. I pray for them. But it does not destroy me. It can’t.

Why? Because something was destroyed in me many years ago. So I hear the worst of it. I love through the worst of it. I care and, yes, there are times I weep for people when they tell me their stories. I have a very tender heart But it doesn’t destroy me.

Why should I feel guilty? Why should you? It is a lie of the enemy that you or I should feel guilty for the impact that the sin and abuse of others had on us. No. We do the best we can. We bond the best we know how, with those immediately in our care, and in our lives. We love as deeply as the person who bonds well. We just love differently. And we love the best we know how.

Yes it is frustrating. But the frustration comes back full circle to the power guilt has over us. We feel as though somehow we should be able to control it. Fix it. Make it right. And, apart from miraculous healing, these things cannot be made fully right.

We worry that if someone close to us dies, we won’t even be able to grieve properly. I’ve worried about that. Before my father died, I worried about that a lot. And maybe I didn’t grieve the way someone else would, but I grieved. And the way I grieved was healing for me. I will write more of that in my journey to forgiving my dad.

We are ashamed to admit to our friends that we don’t miss them when we are apart. (Even though, when we see them, we may be very aware how deeply we missed them.) We worry that they will feel we don’t value them, even though we would lay down our lives for them.

We feel like terrible parents because our children can leave us for a week or two, and we don’t stand around wringing our hands, worrying or moping about how we will carry on. We miss them but releasing them isn’t as hard as it is for other parents, so we question what is wrong with us. We love them but we don’t pine away, waiting for their return.

The sense of loss we feel is valid because we have been robbed of the natural bonding ability. When I think back to waking up that last morning in Ethiopia, I realize that loss most profoundly, because that morning I felt something I have rarely felt in my life. I opened my eyes and my first thought was, “This is the day I go home!” and my heart nearly burst with a blend of anticipation and missing my family. I knew I had a 21 hour flight ahead of me, but it was the home stretch.

And in that moment something pulled on my heart-strings. I pictured Tim and our five beautiful children. I tried to imagine the hugs and kisses the children would give me. Our youngest was 4, our oldest was eleven and they were all still very generous with their hugs and kisses.

And then I imagined that moment when Tim and I would kiss. Right there at the airport.  And I knew I wouldn’t keep my hands off of him on the way home either. I would flirt and tease. He would love every minute of it. (But, being reserved he might blush at reading it now.)

However, it was being apart that tore at my heart that morning. The thrill of heading home was great, but missing them desperately is the deepest love I have ever felt. Even now, when I remember lying there alone, in Ethiopia and feeling that bond, the tears start. I wanted to move time, and move the world, just to hold my family in my arms. It is one of the only times I have experienced that feeling, if not the only time.

It should hurt to be away from those we love. Not all-consuming. Not destroying. But it should hurt. And for some of us we need to grieve being robbed of that. It is a huge loss.

Part of the healing comes in first grieving that loss. It also comes in allowing Jesus to redeem that loss and letting Him use it for His kingdom purposes. But, in my experience, the biggest part of that healing was in letting someone into that secret place. Letting someone know the raw, horrible ‘hell’ that took that innocence from me.

Telling someone ‘safe’ your story of pain, letting them hold you while you weep–if that’s appropriate and something you need–and having them pray with you, love you and not judge, is one of the most critical steps in healing. I urge you, if this is your story, find someone to go there with you, whether a counsellor, a friend, a safe pastor or other trustworthy individual. But make sure it is someone who will hear you, believe you and love you just the same.

(I intentionally did not include family members in that list. While this can work on occasion, most often the relationship is too close and there is the risk of both parties being overwhelmed. Sometimes it works, but depending on dynamics, it is better to step outside of the ‘family secret’ zone.)

If you have not been through any abuse or violence, affirm your friends who have. Statistically 1 in every 4 of your girlfriends, and 1 in every 6 of your guy friends has been sexually abused. And those numbers are based on those who talk about it. That means you have friends with stories you may never have heard.

So, if you were spared, I promise you that some of your friends were not. The best gift you can give them is hearing their story, believing it without question, and loving them just the same. It is the most beautiful reflection of Jesus they will ever see.

On the flip side, if we invest our hearts and our love in relationships, especially our children, to not be all torn up about releasing them is not a bad thing. It gives them the freedom to live full lives without fearing that it will destroy us if they leave and choose a path of higher risk. It may well be that God needs us to release them for a specific purpose. One that a more clingy mother would struggle to release them into.

There is a silver lining, or two, in every situation. The most important thing is to make the best of it and let God redeem the brokenness for His glory. He makes all things new. All things.

© Trudy Metzger

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