Disclaimer: I have received permission to write about the details shared in this post.
One evening this week I witnessed one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in my life. To protect the individuals, I will be skimpy on details….
It all started several weeks ago, when I met a young woman through a mutual friend, whom I vaguely remember ‘meeting’ many years ago. Because of our age difference, she was ‘but a child’ and I was an adult, so there was no interaction, that I recall.
We met at a restaurant for dinner, as perfect strangers, and spent almost six hours talking, listening, and exploring her story. As she shared, raw pain spilled out, and, with it, the guilt over having suffered less than others in her life, and yet suffering deep trauma. She felt lost and alone. Abandoned and rejected. Always had.
The three most traumatic and painful memories that she can recall, are the result of incidents in her church and private school. In the first incident she recalls hearing that someone very close to her was repeatedly whipped for writing explicit notes in school. Knowing (now) that the student who received the whippings was writing about ways they were being victimized sexually by several youth, and knowing that not one adult had the presence of mind to pursue the child’s heart, is almost too much for her. Understandably.
In the second event she was held, in her early teen years, in a locked church for hours, ending after 2:00am, as the church leaders tried to coerce her into accepting them as her only authority, even asking that she renounce her parents’ authority in her life. To share the details, however crucial they are, would be to make her vulnerable, therefore I can only leave it at that. Anyone reading this, who recognizes her, was either present that day, or is close enough to her now to know the story.
The third event was when she and her boyfriend ‘went too far’ before marriage. She was forced, by church leaders, to make life-altering decisions about their plans, without speaking to her fiancée, and was threatened with excommunication should she choose to defy them, and reject the alternative option they offered. The end result has been ‘hell’ in marriage. God, only now, many, many years later, is beginning to restore. (This is the fourth such story that I have heard, in a short time, either from the individuals involved or someone near them. Only one was handled well, when a CMCO church leader decided it is not critical for the world to know, or to postpone the wedding, since that would only serve to increase the struggle. Wise man.)
After meeting with this woman, and hearing her story–with the above being only a glimpse of the pain she shared during that 6 hour stretch–she asked if I would be willing to meet with other victims she knows, whose lives intersected at some point, and whose stories will open doors for freedom. I agreed.
The meeting, held this week, was the largest group I have mediated to date. It was a group of diverse Christians, including a Conservative Mennonite minister, as well as a variety of other evangelical Christians, some who had Conservative background and experience, and some who did not.
One by one they shared their stories of trauma, victimization and pain. Ranging from repeat rapes, to molestation, to being forced or coerced into performing sexual favours, these individuals shared their journeys forthrightly, and vulnerably.
Stories spilled out. Tears followed suit.
But what is most outstanding is the compassion, the heart and the ‘reaching out’ that took place. Nothing is more thrilling than to see Christians gather around one another, in spite of difference, and lift the hurting heart to the Heavenly Father for healing and hope.
The most important thing, next to the presence of God, was for the victims to feel heard, and for their pain to be acknowledged and not silenced. Pain always sounds negative, in its rawest form, and until that has been acknowledged, healing cannot come. The moment a victim is silenced, oppressed or shut down, the enemy gets a foothold.
At one point in the evening, one victim felt the trauma of this rejection and judgement, though not imposed intentionally. What we witnessed is the most shocking physical manifestation of rejection and silence, as the victim’s body began to tremble and heave, hyperventilating in agony. Three times I felt the victim’s body go limp in my arms.
I had never experienced anything like it, and could only trust God to tell me, one second at a time, what to do to keep things grounded. I tried to get the victim to breathe with me, the same way I had been taught to breathe during child delivery, but vacant eyes told me that the victim was not ‘present’, not absorbing.
I sensed God asking me to place my hands on the victims face, and command regular breathing, all the while reassuring the victim that He has not forgotten, that He has not overlooked, that He understands the trauma of that story. It matters to Him. And that every individual in that room loves and cares deeply. Then, whisper the name of Jesus, and His love.
As I did this, the victim responded and returned with relative calmness, and was able to finish the story. At the end the others in the room gathered around in prayer, love and support, bringing a new level of hope and peace into a broken heart.
God will break down walls. He will tear down strongholds. He will set His people free. If we let Him. We don’t call him Redeemer and Saviour for nothing.
Healing comes when The Hurt & The Healer collide…. When we, as the Healer’s representatives, dare to step into the ‘hell’ of another’s pain without judgement. When we arrange a head-on collision between love and grace, and pain and trauma of another’s story, acknowledging the destruction.
Redemption comes as we release our pain, our past, our story and let God use it. It is in saying, “‘You Are ‘I Am’, the all-knowing God who has my best interest at heart, and in spite of what was and is in my life, I will worship You. In spite of what I feel, I choose to trust you. Even if all I have to offer you is my tears and my pain, I will give these in worship.”
© Trudy Metzger
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To anyone who grew up *in Canada* in a ‘closed culture’ religious setting, including but not exclusive to ‘White Bonnet’ Mennonite–any ‘brand’, Russian Mennonite, Old Colony Mennonite, Amish, Beachy, and any similar culture. If you were abused, either by the church or a private school, **prior to age 18**, (even if that was many, many years ago) and are willing to share you story privately and confidentially with me, I welcome an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The abuse can include, but is not limited to:
1.) sexual abuse from an older student, teacher or individual at your church.
2.) emotional and psychological abuse: being held in meetings at school, at church or by the board, teachers, principals, ministers or other staff, for extended periods of time, exceeding what is appropriate for a child, particularly under 16 but up to age 18, or that otherwise traumatized you through coercion and manipulation. (If it left you traumatized, it counts. If you still struggle to forgive, and must choose to do so daily, it counts.)
3.) physical abuse: beatings, whippings, ‘ruler strikes’, in school, regardless of the cause, whether you disobeyed or were misunderstood and especially if it was the result of you misbehaving due to you being victimized by someone in the church or school
Your story will not be made public, however, it will help me immensely in a program we are developing in our ministry that is about to be launched. Through this ministry we will be reaching out to vulnerable people groups and closed culture settings, in an effort to assist victims and influence change.
I will respond personally to every message received, barring some unforeseen tragedy, and will begin to do so following our return from a conference in Ohio, October 15. Email: email@example.com
Thank you for your help!