More on Pastors failing to report, and positive transformation

In my previous blog I touched briefly on the topic of pastors being charged with failing to report. As I pondered it, afterwards, I decided to expand on it somewhat, as one thing I failed to mention could be misleading.

In my previous blog I stated that “I wouldn’t in any way interfere with a prison sentence for such a leader“, but that is where I missed one critical detail. I mention that I support reporting, but I fail to say that I would do much more than ‘not interfere’. I would actively do my part in such a process of holding leaders accountable, and I would also personally report leaders who fail to protect and fail to report. However, if at any point they stop looking the other way and don’t justify or excuse having done so in the past, I am inclined to work cooperatively with them.

And, frankly, I would rather see them not receive a prison sentence by the time they ‘get it’ – no matter how they arrived there – because they are key to ending the cycle. We need men – leaders in particular – inside the conservative Anabaptist culture who will help end this dreadful cycle. And if we put them behind bars, we essentially work against our own end goal; to stop the cycle and have those within the culture help stop it. But if they return to covering for abusers, then let the full extent of the law be applied, as far as I am concerned. Taking ‘ownership’ just to get off the hook isn’t taking ownership at all. It’s manipulation. And it isn’t acceptable. It is but another contributing factor to the epidemic of abuse.

If reporting and sentencing all who ever covered would end the epidemic, then I could support such an argument, however it would more likely push the problem further underground. Many victims would rather carry their stories in silence than to see their leaders charged when, in their minds, they were doing what was in the best interest of all involved. So, if pastors are charged without any attempt at working with those who recognize in the process that their decision brought harm, and genuinely want change, then we will inadvertently  bring further harm by pushing victims into deeper silence. But this silence will not be imposed. It will be chosen to prevent the fallout of leaders ending behind bars.

Furthermore, if leaders come around – even if only  after a warning – and work cooperatively to end sexual violence, then doing so is our single best shot at impacting the next generation. Removing them at that point seems counterproductive to the true goal – breaking the cycle of sexual violence in our culture – for the sake of ‘giving them what they had coming to them’. This is not justice. Because justice considers the big picture. It considers the longterm impact. It works always in the best interest of those most vulnerable. Therefore, if we toss every pastor behind bars because he asked for it by not reporting, and it inadvertently causes an outcome that sacrifices the victims and potentially creates more, then we have failed.To navigate this objectively, and not cause more harm than good, will take wisdom and discernment.

I continue to see God moving, and I see progress within the conservative Anabaptist culture, as more an more leaders, as well as parents and other non-victims rise up to say “enough is enough”. As it becomes increasingly apparent that some leaders are colluding to cover up, and some are doing so to hide their own history of abusing, those in the pews are growing discontent with the facade and taking a stand against both abuse and coverups. And those leaders who are transparent are joining those discontented in the pews, or even leading them. That is a very good sign!

For this day we have prayed, and to this end we continue to press forward.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Interview with Boz Tchividjian, Founder of Grace

The horrors of child abuse not only extinguishes the innocence of childhood, but so often defines survivors who spend a lifetime struggling to process such devastating childhood trauma. When abuse is perpetrated in faith communities and is rationalized with scripture and distorted theology, most victims come to understand God as the ultimate abuser. All too often, these precious souls get weary of processing what seems to be a forever dark journey and simply give up hope.

Last year, I was privileged to come into contact with an amazing individual who is walking that journey and has given up hope more than once. The life of Trudy Metzger is one that is both deeply tragic and remarkably hopeful. She was the one beaten and left to die on the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan. She is also the one pursued, embraced, and loved by the ultimate Good Samaritan. Trudy’s journey is not unlike the painful journey of so many others who are weary and who have or are giving up hope.   Her life is a declaration that there is hope.  

In order to share this hope with others, Trudy recently wrote a book about her journey entitled,Between 2 Gods.   This amazingly honest memoir doesn’t hide the truth about the deep physical, emotional, and spiritual pains caused by childhood trauma. It also doesn’t hide the truth about a loving God who crosses the road and gets down into the dirt with the hurting and brutalized.

I hope that we can all find some comfort in Trudy’s words that have been formed out of a life that for all intensive purposes should have ended long ago. I’m so grateful God had other plan. – Boz

Boz: Can you tell us a little bit about your family background?
Trudy: I was the 12th living child, of what would eventually be 16, born into an Old Colony Russian Mennonite home. With a history of unaddressed abuse and violence in my father’s family, and murder and unacknowledged sexual abuse in my mother’s family, we didn’t stand much of a chance at escaping abuse. Intertwined with this were deeply rooted religious beliefs that presented God as volatile and harsh, rather than a kind ‘Abba Father’—or ‘Papa’—who loves us and understands our humanity.

Boz: What was it about the culture you grew up in that you believe contributed to an abusive environment?
Trudy: This topic would produce at least a chapter, but more likely a book, if covered with any kind of thoroughness. Certainly male dominance was a problem—and I say that as someone who believes all are created equal, with something of value to contribute in every situation—and this robbed women and children of any voice. Contributing to this was the ‘elders are to be respected view’ that required younger children to submit to older siblings, giving older siblings almost the same authority as parents. While these older siblings were not necessarily the abusers, the mentality very much affirmed ‘voicelessness’ and demanded submission and surrender to the wishes of anyone older. This is a set up for abuse throughout life.

I want to add that our communities in Mexico were infested with sexual abuse on every level, and it was not only the girls who were victimized by fathers, brothers and men in general. Male to male violations were a tragic reality, leaving young boys devastated by the impact of rape, often from older boys or fathers. Teen boys raped teen girls and older girls seduced younger boys, and mothers molested their children. I wouldn’t have known all of this in childhood, and didn’t address its brutality in my book but it goes without saying that such depravity is the result of multiple issues, not only male dominance.

Another piece was little teaching about sex, and what was communicated was presented more in strict warnings to ‘not sin’, and warnings to protect against ‘evil boys’. This made sex an altogether horrid thing, feeding the unhealthy lifestyles and resulting in much sexual promiscuity on besides abuse.

Continue reading interview here: Rhymes with Religions

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches

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Breaking Silence: Hope for Victims of Abuse, Violence & Corruption

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

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

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 trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com. 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: trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com

Thank you for your help!

Wrapping Up & Looking Ahead

It is bittersweet to wrap up the series on Spiritual Abuse. My original intent was not to continue into my story of the aftermath, but as I neared the end, I felt compelled to keep writing. It has been vulnerable, even unnerving, being so open, but I have no regrets.

The process has been therapeutic, making me realize how fortunate, and how blessed I am to have that freedom, and taking me to deeper freedom.

A highlight has been the messages I received from you, my friends and readers, thanking me for giving a voice to your pain, and your stories. My experience with Spiritual Abuse is not uncommon. Many of your lives have run parallel in many ways, causing you to feel and experience your pain. I pray that you will sense Jesus as your Comforter, through the Holy Spirit, and that believers will come along side you, and support you. We were not created to walk through these things along.

This blog series has opened doors to friendship and communication that are encouraging to me and make me realize that I am not alone in my experiences. It is exciting to see God move and to hear testimonies of what He is doing in your lives. Thank you for sharing your hearts with me. You gave me courage to keep writing, when the raw vulnerability made me want to start deleting blogs, rather than posting them.

Like many of you, who have carried your pain and your story in silence, I struggle with the same thoughts and fears you have. Yes, I share openly and write it for the whole world to read, but that doesn’t silence the fears and the doubts.

…Will I be judged by Christians for my story?  …Was there something wrong with me that I brought these things on myself? …Did I deserve the abuse? …Will people believe the truth? …Why stir the pot and bring the pain of other victims to the forefront? …Does the church have the right to do these things—is it biblical?

As I shared my story I muddled through these feelings. Some days were harder than others. But the most difficult question of all is …Can the reader handle the truth or is my story too overwhelming?

No one wants to be too much, too overwhelming. So we choose silence because we fear the isolation that comes with the awareness that no one can handle our story. We fear the rejection. And judgement.

Some of you shared these struggles—the fear that you would not be understood, the fear of opening up the raw pain inside of you. Some of you shared and then sent apology notes for having ‘dumped’ on me. I consider it an honour that you trusted me with your stories. And I know that God holds your story dear to His heart. (Psalm 139:14-16)

I have concluded that, whether the world and the church can handle our stories or not, isn’t of greatest consequence. Clearly, keeping the truth hidden has caused great destruction and continues to leave the body of Christ wounded, broken and unable to live to our full potential. It has left us trying to ‘fight the good fight’ and ‘run the race’ with gaping wounds, and broken limbs that need healing. God offers us so much more!

The better question is; Will things ever change for the better if we remain silent because of fear? Vulnerable or not, the truth has potential to bring freedom.

In John 8:32 & 36 Jesus says, “And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free….Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” In every situation, in every dark story, in every circumstance, Jesus is the truth that remains constant, steadfast, and freeing.

Hurting people don’t need another sermon preached, another rule outlined, another Bible verse quoted out of context. They need the raw truth of our stories, and a ‘Jesus in action’ in the pain and hell of our experience. Seeing His work in our stories will make Him real to people around us, and help them understand that He is for them and their broken stories.

The Bible says that we ‘…overcame (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of (our) testimony.’ Today, I am delighted to say that Jesus has been more than enough for me, in my journey back to wholeness, hope and into dynamic faith. He is the reason I share my story. It is His story, written in the pages of my life, and I am blessed and honoured to know Him!

I will be moving into a Series on Sex & the Abuse of It, because it does need to be talked about openly, especially in Christian cultures and closed cultures, where perpetrators use religion to hide. However, since it is also a heavy topic, I am going to take a breather and focus on writing spiritually encouraging posts for a little while, before tackling another painful topic.

Thank you for joining me in this series! I look forward to interacting with you–whether on the blog or privately–and encouraging each other on the journey!

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“You don’t have any ID?”

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

“Ma’am, could I have your purse?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“Own.”

“How long?”

“Nine years.”

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

“No.”

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

Sorry? Seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

….To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

Spiritual Abuse Part 29__Redemption’s Journey: A Desperate Cry is Answered

It took me off guard one evening, when my then-soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s boyfriend and I were alone, and he started to ask me about my background, my family, my former life.

“You know, Trudy, you don’t belong here. You should go home. This life isn’t for you.” He was high on who knows what all, as usual, but spoke with conviction. It wasn’t rejection—he genuinely believed that there was a better life waiting for me.

“No. You don’t understand,” I said, “It was hell back there too. It’s no different, no better. There’s nothing there for me.”

He went on to tell me how awful life was for them, and how messed up everything was in the world of drugs. “You’d be better off there. We have nothing to offer you.”

I thanked him and chalked it up to too much marijuana, and whatever he all sniffed and snorted or injected. The guy had issues—what did he know?

I would learn later from my mom, that he was not the only one trying to influence my return to Ontario. Though she never said anything directly to me, my soon-to-be- sister-in-law had taken it upon herself to track down my family and call them. She told mom that I was not in a safe place, that her brother was not capable of relationship, and that my life was built around his lies. She asked if my family could come get me. But there was nothing they could or would do. And it was better that way. I was not ready to have family and their religious culture involved.

Weary of having to support her brother and myself, my fiancée’s sister had kicked us out and that had landed us a tiny room at his dad and girlfriend Christa’s home. Never in my life had I seen a house more trashed. Boxes piled up. Unwashed dishes everywhere, stacked to high heaven, with old food dried on. Stuff. Everywhere. Old. Broken. Musty. It was overwhelming.

As their spiritual darkness surfaced, and the demonic and satanic things they dabbled in were revealed, I understood the chaos to be a reflection of that spiritual state. Who would have thought that there God would reach me, through a woman who was a self-proclaimed ‘daughter of the devil’?

Christa liked me instantly. I wasn’t sure about her, and all her demonic stuff, but was kind and cautiously friendly. I had long feared that I was vulnerable to the occult and demonic realm, due to whatever generational sin lay hidden. For this reason I was especially cautious.

I spent Thursday, November 26, 1987 with Christa while our fiancées worked on a vehicle. That time alone with her  changed the course of my life.

It was Thanksgiving Day in USA, and the turkey was cooking. While the turkey cooked, Christa and I decided to do the ‘sister thing’ and get dressed up. I did her hair and her make-up, and helped her pick out a cute outfit. My potential future mother-in-law, with whom we were to share a wedding day for a double wedding, was only 9 years older than I, and more like a sister than a mom.

I was putting the finishing touches on her hair and makeup when she stopped me. “Trudy, you don’t belong here. This life isn’t for you. Why don’t you go back home? We have nothing to offer you.”

Déjà vu! If she had knocked the wind out of me with a punch, it would have been no more shocking. Was God speaking through these people? This was getting creepy.

Life would be better for me back home, she said. “And you should know that your fiancée has been lying to you. He’s not who you think he is.” She went on to tell me about the divorce and, after making me vow I would not say anything, showed the papers to me. She had been warned that if she ever exposed the truth, she would pay with her life.

Reality sank in slowly.

Christa offered me a joint and some booze. I accepted. What was I to do with this new reality? I still had no way home, no way out, no way through.

By the end of that day, in fearless Joan-of-Arc—though-none-too-wise—style, I confronted my fiancée. When his father discovered it, he went on a war path, and started to curse, threaten and yell at me. I had endured enough violence and death threats at home. I was not taking this silently from a virtual stranger. I marched past him, chin up, told him if he ever had anything to say to me, he would say it respectfully, and with that I walked into the cool November night, slamming the door behind me.

My fiancée followed, knowing that I was on a mission. And he was right. Once out of danger, the hopelessness hit me like never before. I ran through the residential area, looking for a busier street. A vowed that my pain would end. I was finished. I could take no more.

I ran until I could run no more, before falling to my knees, sobbing, vomiting and heaving, beside the street. There was nothing left to live for. God truly had abandoned me. My prayers for help had not been heard.

My fiancée caught up to me, talked some sense into me, and took me to a coffee shop. We wandered through the night, with no place to go, moving from coffee shop to coffee shop. His sister had kicked us out, his father was threatening to kill us, and neither of us had much money. We were at the end of our rope.

In the morning he called his sister, and she allowed us back one more time, but with boundaries. He would have to help out financially. He had a job when we previously we lived there but he never helped out financially, yet he never had money. Eventually it registered that all the stops at random houses had been for drugs, and I was too naïve to clue in. The hallucinations were drug induced, not an uncontrollable mental disorder as a result of being a soldier, as I was led to believe. This time he would have to take ownership and pay his share.

He worked in a blood lab until he was fired for beating up a black man. I was angry! Racism went against everything I believed and violence was what I was running from. How had I landed in the very world I tried so desperately to escape?

Little did I know that God was going to use these events to orchestrate my return home and, ultimately, to draw me back into relationship with Him.  My desperate cries, the prayers I had prayed, and the prayers others had prayed on my behalf were being answered.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

Spiritual Abuse Part 28__Redemption: The Prayer

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

 

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

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

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

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

Would He even hear me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing happened. No fireworks, nothing.

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

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

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

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

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little did I know….

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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

Spiritual Abuse Part 27__Shunning: The Aftermath and Rebellion ….Continued (3)….

I lived life by the seat of my pants, with no particular sense of direction. Lived here for a while, then moved there. Landed a job, and then found a different one. I was as tough as I was sweet, if you stirred up the demons in me, and I took flack from no one.

I learned to out-cuss the best and the worst of them, back then, when I felt helpless or threatened. This reaction was particularly true when it had anything to do with God and religion, or if I felt vulnerable.

Apart from Jesus, apart from hope, we are all capable of evil. Every one of us. Those years I learned what I am capable of, and how much I need a Saviour.

While I openly displayed my anger towards religion, in the area of sexual abuse I had been silenced. When boundaries were crossed in subtle ways, I stood my ground, but when violated to any extreme, there was no aggression in me, just silent tears. On one occasion I had the courage to ask the man not to do what he was doing, but for the most part I internalized the rage, and accepted their guilt as my own.

I share my story, and this anger because I know I’m not alone. Maybe you feel trapped and have a dark story buried deep inside of you. Secrets that no one knows, except you and God. Lost. Wounded. Angry. I share this especially for you. Because there is freedom. We don’t have to be slaves to our pain or our circumstances. The answer that worked for me, will work for you too.

My tough exterior—cussing and flipping the birdie when threatened, never antagonistic but always prepared to throw a punch—was nothing more than a shell to protect a hurting child. A little girl, lost in the shadows of the past.

Every now and then, my inner being—the lost little girl inside—would break through. Alone at night, I stood at my bedroom window, looking at the stars, and wondered if God was real. And, if He was real, did He love me? Was He disappointed that He had created me, if He really did have a hand in it? Was He a good Daddy? Did He miss me? Want me? Did I matter to Him at all?

The story of the prodigal son, displayed by Ms. Harms on the felt board, back in grade three, told me that He was waiting and watching, ready to run and welcome me into His arms, if ever I turned my heart toward home. What if that was the real God…

Tears poured down my face. I wanted desperately to know truth, to know God… if He was real. All I wanted was to be loved by Him, to shake the torment of never knowing truth, the trauma and uncertainty….

Then the moment would pass, and I would again wear the mask, cover the pain, and turn to my ‘little gods’ of cussing, smoking and partying to get through. At least I could see them, feel them and get lost in their effect.

If I had known the truth, I would have seen that God offered the ‘real deal’ with no side effects. But I wasn’t ready. I had not come to the end of myself, to a place where I understood what it was I needed from Him, and that all He wanted from me was my heart.

Hard living would teach me that truth…. Eventually.

……To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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