Update on 7-yr-old group rape survivor & exposing rapists

CONCERNS AND OUTPOURING OF LOVE & CARE:
Communications continue between myself and the woman who was group raped by 3 Anabaptist men. Since posting her story there has been a public outpouring of both care and concern.

A huge concern – justifiably so – is the risk of there being other victims

Criticism and the whole “she should get over it” mentality was part of the smorgasbord (or should I say ‘pot luck’) menu. Like all good smorgasbords, you go back for second helpings only to some dishes, and avoid others if you can. This “should get over it” mindset is profoundly linked to the belief that becoming a Christian and inviting Jesus into trauma will remove the aftermath of trauma.

The gap and inconsistency in such teaching and thought regarding sexual abuse is directly linked to ignorance surrounding the physical damage that trauma causes to the brain. So to demand a person who has suffered extreme trauma to function as though nothing happened is much akin to asking the person with an amputated leg to walk as though they have two legs. It just does more damage.

The reality is Jesus enters our story and experience; He doesn’t always miraculously remove it. He said “The truth will make you free”. To ‘make free’ is different than to ‘set free’. One is ‘removing from’, the other is not necessarily. Some offer the “Jesus heals” (which I believe) in a tender and caring way that allows Jesus to ‘enter in’ without demanding the person pretend there is no leftover trauma, scars, PTSD, nightmares etc.

This latter group, they’re the keepers.

IS THE STORY TRUE?:
A few wrote to question whether such a thing could possibly be true. First of all, that’s disturbing, to even suggest it is not true, yet I understand the shock. Those who ask out of shock (albeit with ignorance) are one thing. Those who question the thing to death because they don’t want truth… that’s another thing entirely.

For me, I’ve heard these kinds of stories for years, so no longer deal with that shock factor. All situations are not the same. The case of 3 adults raping a child is shocking, as it should be. There is no consent.

Other scenarios, that are not criminal, I seldom delve into, simply because my work is with victims. But, later today, I will tell snippets of such story, most briefly, because people seem to have trouble grasping how a group would collude together to commit such an act. And that question is an important one to ask. The answer I think lies in some of the non-criminal activities that are brought to my attention by those who participated in them, or family members and friends who know and cannot contain it.

Question if you must. Nothing wrong with that. But writing off a horror story just because you want to and can, within your own mind, makes you part of the bigger problem.

EXPOSING & DEALING WITH THE OFFENDERS;
One of the most common cries was regarding ‘outing’ these men so others can be protected. This is, of course, a big concern for me. As I said in yesterday’s blog, I don’t have enough information to do anything, nor is it likely I could given she is an adult.

After some conversation with her about what it would take to be ready to deal with this, and some conversations between her and her husband, we came up with the beginning of a plan. To be strong enough, she will begin meeting with a counselor to work through the trauma.

In the meantime and overlapping with this counseling, a few individuals will meet with her to come up with a workable plan. Part of that is a desire on this woman’s part to have the support of a few godly Anabaptist men/leaders and their wives, along with my support. She is conservative Anabaptist and within the setting it is critical to have that support. But on the other hand offering such support can be an invitation for serious persecution against those who offer it.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  1. PRAY
    That may sound trite, but I believe prayer is the only way this is going to happen.
    Those of us who are Jesus followers draw much strength from prayer
    So please pray for
    • ongoing healing from the trauma and strength to face this
    • that we are able to find a Christian professional counselor who is a good fit
    • peace in the process and wisdom for the counselor
  2. CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY TO HER COSTS
    • initially there is only the cost of the counselor, childcare while she goes to the counselor and meets with law enforcement, and travel
    • with time, depending on what plan we all work out we will raise funds for other

If you wish to help with costs for counseling, childcare and travel, you may do so through aslanhasheard@gmail.com. Please mark it clearly for “Survivor of Group Rape”. From time to time people contribute to other causes, so this is important to avoid confusion.

If you wish to contribute to Generations Unleashed expenses, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

We are looking for recommendation of solid Christian counselors (professionally trained) in California, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Ohio. If you have suggestions, please email them to: info@generationsunleashed.com with subject line “Missouri counsellor” (or other state, as the case may be). They must be professionally licensed.

An understanding of Anabaptist culture is ideal as it is cumbersome for victims to first need to explain their culture before the unique aspects of trauma makes sense. Counselors cannot be in any way affiliated with ASAA or Strait Paths.

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)

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

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

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

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

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Importance of Taking Time Away From the Heavy Things

  
It is a crisp and beautiful day here in Pennsylvania.  I’ve enjoyed the past few days, away from work and ministry commitments, to connect with friends. I’ve relaxed and chatted, enjoyed a somewhat restricted amount of coffee (because too much raises the blood pressure), and had many good conversations. 

I even spent one afternoon baking and cooking meals for my friends’ freezer, because she is recovering from surgery, and there are things he would rather do than cook. And I quite enjoyed it too. 

Yesterday I even took a break from blogging, mostly because it was my birthday, and the day was too full to fit it in. So work and ministry were especially far from my mind.  I’ve thought of my clients, of course, but mostly that ‘world’ is 645 miles away. 

Taking a rest or a break, they say, is as good as a change. And I certainly believe that to be true. But even when I am at home and in the thick of it, I set aside times that I am available for clients, and times that are reserved for family and other commitments. This is to avoid burnout, and then end up being unavailable for months, or maybe even years, or the rest of my life. I do it for my family, and for my clients, and most certainly for my own well-being.

It is no different for victims of sexual abuse; sometimes you need a break. The heaviness of dealing with what once was is very draining, and sometimes it can feel like there’s just too much. When I work with clients whose circumstances and stories are exceptionally extreme and require extended support, there comes a time when I recommend a break. 

Victims  reading this are probably asking, how in the world does an abuse victim take a break? The reality is we cannot get away from our story; it is what it is, it is a past event that cannot be changed. 

When I encourage clients to take a break, I outline a few  suggestions to help clear the mind of abuse-related information, at least for a short time. Many victims want to understand what was done to them, and the psychological consequences. The pursuit of knowledge related to sexual abuse and its outcome is not uncommon.  Reading blog, after blog, after blog… or researching books, and papers, or more blogs about how abuse might have impacted their world, even scientifically… Trying to understand anxiety, panic attacks, posttraumatic stress syndrome and various other outcomes including sexual dysfunction. The desire to know these things is not bad, nor is it difficult for me to understand why victims want to know; we often don’t understand ourselves and the symptoms we carry. But obsessively and constantly reading material related to sexual abuse, while we are in the throes of trying to work through it, keeps our minds constantly in that space and has potential to do more harm than good. 

Sometimes I will suggest taking a break from reading anything related to sexual abuse for a month, and rather filling the mind with other things. Even social media, in general, offers post after post after post about sexual abuse, and violence. And the truth is, speaking out is long overdue! But the other truth is that when we as victims spend obsessive amounts of time reading about it, while working through our own pain, our minds simply do not get the break they need from the trauma. During this ‘break’ we continue to meet, in most cases – – unless the client wants a complete break – – and simply focus on affirming truth, so the power of the lies is broken.

My encouragement is to focus on the healing process during that time, rather than trying to understand all of the outcomes, consequences, and psychological conditions we acquired through trauma. Healing seldom comes through that knowledge, especially in extreme cases, and with the risk of exacerbating the problem, it’s just not worth it. 

There comes a time and a place, after we are healed, when that information no longer has the same negative impact. And at that time, our minds are much stronger, and the information can actually be helpful, not only for ourselves, but in helping others as well.

Stories of overcoming can be very encouraging when read at the right time, but in our week times they can add trauma. And unfortunately often news reports, and even some blog posts, are  current events for which there is no imminent solution or good outcome. Therefore the offer no positive input into a traumatized mind and are best avoided for a time. 

If you are an abuse victim, and find yourself constantly absorbing information that keeps your mind focusing on your pain and story in a negative and hopeless way, I would recommend  considering a break. Read other encouraging things, and continue to meet with your counselor, mentor, or other support person and fill your mind with uplifting things.

While I don’t have a long list of stories as proof that it works, I do have several, and feel quite confident in encouraging such a thing. 

God bless you all today, and my prayer is for ongoing healing for every victim and for this tragic crime to stop. My prayer is also that the church would rise up, and offer the healing touch of Jesus, rather then the condemning curse of silence and denial. There is a healthy way…

Love,

~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger

Love Heals

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We avoid entering the messy stuff of people’s lives because we fear we won’t know what to say, what to do, how to ‘help’. Trauma and its aftermath frightens us, because it is hard to watch people suffer, and stand helplessly by, with nothing practical to offer by way of support.

In the past five years I have seen things I didn’t know were possible, of people in pain struggling against it, and wrestling with darkness and fear. I have had more moments of questions without answers than ever in my life.

And if there is one thing I have learned when working with victims of abuse, it is the importance of embracing awkward moments, and being comfortable with not knowing what to say. Because in those moments, all the victim needs from me, is to sit quietly and know that I care. Words will come later, when the time is right and the words bring healing. But in moments of deepest trauma, when the mind cannot even absorb words, caring presence is all that matters.

The silent support of one true friend at a loss for words offers more hope and comfort than a thousand right answers from a heart without compassion. Love heals.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Is There Life After #Denial About #Sexual Abuse?

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Denial. That ability to survive in a state of extreme trauma, by living as though that reality does not exist. It is a gift in childhood, when our young minds have no understanding of that trauma, and cannot formulate words to express it. A natural response, it sustains life for a time.

But there comes a time, as we grow older, when living out of a place that is not reality robs us of experiencing life to the fullest. The energy we invest in survival, and keeping the truth of trauma buried, leaves us with little to offer in the way of life and hope to others. Spouses live with walls in between, children with a disconnected parent.

And if that denial is the offender’s manipulation–his or her way of avoiding responsibility–it pierces the heart of the victim. Twice victimized, is how it feels when offenders play that game.

Denial forces victims to retreat in lifeless existence, dieing in the shadows of buried trauma and painful memories. But truth is life and freedom. Truth breathes life into the soul. Because all truth is God’s truth, and all truth makes people free. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

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And when Truth breathes, it coaxes life from death itself, offering hope in the shadows of nothingness that are left in the wake of molestation and abuse. And all that denial and lies tried to suffocate, breathes with new purpose. And in a sudden and ironic twist, life suffocates death, as the thing designed to bring death is redeemed and brings life to others trapped in denial.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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

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

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FORGIVE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE AUTHORITY:

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

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

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

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

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

PRAISE:

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

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

TESTIMONY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do we communicate with that message?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO THE STRUGGLING WHO FEAR GOING BACK:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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© Trudy Metzger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIND A SAFE MENTOR, COUNSELOR OR BOTH:

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

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

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

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

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

ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS:

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

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

“What prevents you?” I asked.

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

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

“Sure,” she said, looking puzzled.

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

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

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

The young woman sat and wept for a while.

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

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

She nodded.

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

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

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

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REPENT: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, now what?” she asks.

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

“Will that really help?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Will this ‘Hell’ Ever End? Does the Darkness Ultimately Win? (Part 1)

“Will this ‘hell’ ever end?”… “Will this darkness consume me and destroy me completely?”

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I have asked these questions and hear some variation of these questions from most of my clients at some point. I have also seen many times on Facebook, whether via private messages, group discussions, in status updates or conversation threads. Likely the most common fear among victims who are working through past trauma and the impact of sexual abuse and violence, is that there is no hope.

To those who are struggling, I can tell you that it does get better. We do overcome the darkness–or, more accurately, the darkness has been overcome for us on the cross, and that gives us authority over it. Jesus restores, heals, breaks through our darkness and brings us joy, Without question, that is truth. We are not destined to ‘live’ in that place. This truth is a ‘living hope’ I share with all my clients.

Having said that, I have watched amazing warriors fight through ‘ups and downs’ time and again, even as they ‘matured’ in faith and in age. They have done hard battle. People of rock solid faith, who live passionately for Jesus, forgive past offenders, and love God. I have seen them wrestle with God over the evil…. Because of this, and because of my own journey–even if the darkness only strikes once in 2 years… 4 years… maybe  even 10 or 20…the reality is we have a harsh enemy out to destroy our souls.

While the power of the past darkness is broken–and we are no longer bound to it–the enemy who brought the pain and trauma into our lives is most interested in our destruction. It seems to me that it is more important to believe and understand that Jesus is more than enough in the battle against darkness, and through the storm, than to believe the attacks will end and go away forever.

When clients ask me if they will struggle for life, I often respond with things like, “This darkness will end/break… You will not be a victim forever… It will get better… But I can’t tell you that you won’t have to fight these things again. I can’t promise you it will never come back–albeit maybe wearing a different mask.

Just how the attack plays out, and how we handle it, depends very much on personality, maturity in faith, as well as skills we have already developed, and so much more! For example, I recently had a woman tell me she doesn’t understand why some victims struggle so much, she simply hasn’t. I didn’t know her well, but told her  of a testimony I had recently heard, of a woman whose struggled with explosive anger at home. When this woman went for help, and worked through her own childhood of pain and abuse–forgiving her abusers, her parents and her church–the power was broken and her rage ended. “Oh my!”, she said, “I do that too! I had no idea it might have something to do with the past!” So it is important to recognize that everyone struggles differently.

For some, the attacks come in powerful and oppressive demonic attacks. That is not something I have experienced frequently. And never to the extreme that some have shared. But I have had many attacks in other ways. Often it is in relationships, or in my identity–areas where I have been more wounded and vulnerable, historically. For you it may be completely different. But regardless how he strikes, the enemy will attack if we are of any use to the Kingdom of God. It is a reality we need to be prepared for.

In spite of this, what I know from experience is that Jesus is more than enough for every struggle, and He will use our testimony powerfully, if we let Him. I tell victims the truth about the battle because if he or she thinks it will miraculously disappear for life, then they feel like a failure when hell strikes and they are blindsided. The more they feel they have failed in fighting that darkness, the more they will be defeated. It leaves them utterly hopeless because they think, “Trudy said…” or “Trudy doesn’t struggle…” and they begin to wonder “What is wrong with me that I cannot be forever, completely free.”

The reality is, even if I am 100% free from the bondage of darkness,–meaning that I am no longer content to live in it and get out of it what I think I need, and I have invited Jesus in, and forgiven those who hurt me–the enemy will still try to blindside me in another way. And he will use the darkness from the past to attack me. It is all he has. If he didn’t know my past, he’d have nothing on me. So he has to go there. Even in a struggle that I currently find myself in, which is 100% disconnected from my childhood and isn’t about our ministry, the enemy has used the past powerfully to attack me, and tried to disqualify me for ministry. He’s lying. And that is the very thing that creates the battle. He is lying in ways that emotionally connect me to past insecurities and past pain.

In the battle my heart, at times, screams (silently, for the most part) at God, and struggles with Him over the impact of sin in my life, in the lives of my family, or the lives of friends. It is okay to feel abandoned or betrayed by God, and to tell him so. King David did. 

Psalm 13

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

King David’s cry is pretty intense. “How long, God? Are you going to forget me forever, and leave me feeling as though you are intentionally hiding from me so that I am not able to get even a glimpse of Your face?”  Without question, he felt abandoned by God, in a very dark and lonely place. He goes on to express the depth of anguish in his heart, that it’s a daily struggle. Clearly this is not an hour of battle with the Almighty, where he feels lost due to some moment of confusion. This is ongoing, with no hope in sight.

“How long will my enemies be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me… Enlighten my eyes…” Help me to see something I cannot see right now, so that I have some hope, “lest I sleep the sleep of death”. Do something… I fear this sorrow is threatening my very life…. I feel like I cannot make it, and it will take me to my grave, and be the death of me! Then what will my enemies say? They will rejoice because they have won, when they see me shaken, and lose my faith in You….

That raw heart cry, before the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, shows more trust than I have seen in any other human. But what amazes me even more, is where King David takes his conversation from here.

Psalm 13:5-6

New King James Version (NKJV)

Trust in the Salvation of the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

 

In verse 5 he ends his dialogue with God, by declaring his trust in God, and making a promise to rejoice in His salvation, and he does so before salvation has come! Then, by verse 6 he turns and takes authority over his own mind, as if commanding it to shift to that deeper truth. “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” And, just like that, the ‘rant’ is over. He has vented, dumped all his feelings–which has taken up most of the Psalm–and then turns his heart to a deeper truth, and takes authority over his own mind and soul.

Yes, I will struggle with God in hard times. When I see people like King David, and his writings in the Psalms–a man after God’s own heart–whining at times, if you please, or shouting, weeping until his soul is raw, or some other intense and real emotional moment with God about how bad things are–and he does it over and over and over again–it gives me hope in my struggle. When I see Elijah under a tree, begging God to take his life, I find hope in my struggle. When I consider Jonah being heaved–literally–onto dry land after his juvenile little escapade of running from God and swimming with fish, I see a God who goes with us through the storm. And when I hear Jesus telling Peter to ‘feed My sheep’ after cursing Him, then I find hope, in my struggle, that God truly uses us broken. Hope to believe that God is with me always and has a purpose that may actually include my struggle.

When I ‘get’ this, it doesn’t matter so much if I battle perfectly. Because I know that in the darkness, He is with me and has my back. Then I don’t fear the attacks, the battles, the pain… and I don’t fear the darkness because my future doesn’t depend on it ‘never happening again’–it depends on the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

Yes, we need to know it will get better and we are not victims of the darkness. (Even if it seems only to get better because we are stronger and more rooted in Christ, giving the enemy less access.) But we need to know that if it happens again, and the darkness doesn’t stay away forever, we are okay. And if we react poorly, there is nothing need to retreat in shame. No reason to hide our struggle. It is a stepping stone to deeper faith, and personal growth.

The greatest men of God, of all time, are recorded in His Word as acting in ways we would hardly accept from church leaders today. And yet they were key men of God. That is an amazing thought to me. And they behaved that way, as far as we know, without even having experienced sexual abuse and fighting those demons on top of these struggles.

We need permission to struggle, with the hope that it will not destroy us, and that maybe, just maybe, the struggle plays a part in God’s Kingdom.  King David gives me courage. He has showed me more of the heart of God than any other human in history, (not including Jesus) because he dared to struggle publicly. Even Jesus Christ–fully God and fully man, wrestled with God in Gethsemane–albeit much more gracefully than King David or I–and gave us permission to go there.

By being vulnerable we will give another weary soldier heart to ‘drag on’ with a bloody torso, broken limbs, and gouged out eyes… Because sometimes that is just what it feels like. And it would be easier to cover ourselves with a heavy blanket and smile at the passing soldiers, as if all is well and we are merely resting. But when another soldier crawls past, bleeding and weeping, but pointing the way to the cross, and speaking words of encouragement, we are inspired to press on. Far more so than if we see soldiers marching by, not a cut, scrape or spec of blood, declaring it can be done.

It takes courage to expose the wounds, especially years into healing, when we should be way past that–at least so we believe. But we need to do it for the sake of others who are hopeless and struggling.

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

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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The Lost Child: Abigail’s Story (Part 1)

NOTE: Story used with client’s permission.

Abigail contacted me several months ago, a complete stranger. Her message was unlike most who reach out for support. The most common request I receive is to work through sexual abuse and, if not that, the second most common is physical violence. But her inquiry intrigued me. She said she wasn’t really sexually abused, and her parents didn’t threaten to kill each other, but there were things that happened, that left her struggling. She was raised Mennonite, she wrote, and struggled intensely, spiritually. She had spent many years in therapy for the trauma, but no one was able to help her spiritually. Would I be willing to meet with her, and help her in her relationship with God?

We met for the first time, soon after that message, in a small coffee shop. A rustic place, with mismatched tables and chairs, that serves the best coffee ever. I favour Ethiopian or Mexican coffees, both of which they offer.

She walked in, a blonde girl, just slightly taller than I. Her body language, and eyes communicated reserve and mistrust, yet an obvious sweetness. The only way I knew it was my new client, since we had never met, was the fact that she was the only one in Mennonite attire.

I asked if she was Abigail, and introduced myself. We chose a little table in corner, away from the action, where we could have a private conversation, without worrying about being overheard.

I quickly discovered that Abigail is not one to share her thoughts freely. This would not be a session where the client spills a story, and I take notes as fast as possible. It was going to be hard work, and me asking a lot of questions, jotting down notes, and piecing family and church life together.

Family was dysfunctional, without question. Mom, a woman who grew up in a loving home, with only one sibling, almost fifteen years older than her, and quite well-to-do, struggled with anxiety and depression. Likely the result of trying to adjust to having six children, and an abusive husband. Dad had grown up in a harsh environment, with an abusive father. He was absent, mostly, and when present, he was abusive in every way, and harsh, especially with her siblings.

Abigail was spared much of the abuse, because she has a health condition requiring constant medical care, and the risk of medical staff seeing the bruises was too high. This resulted in Abigail observing much abuse that she herself did not suffer directly, physically, but left her deeply scarred psychologically.

One of the most glaring things I noted, in Abigail, was her apparent inability to feel emotionally. It was as if her very ‘person’ was lost, somewhere in the trauma of the past. Pain overshadowed her smile and, the time or two she laughed, her laugh had an empty, hollow sound. She said that, though she longs to, she never cries, that her tears are trapped, and it had been many years. Emotions were bad, growing up, and tears had to be suppressed, leaving her unable to cry, or express anything. Never before had I worked with this extent of ‘numbness’.

When I asked how she coped with all the pain as a child, she said she disappeared, literally, days at a time into her room, barely coming out even to eat. Sometimes refusing altogether. No one made her come out. No one pursued her. She would get over it in time.

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When she learned as a little girl, the severity of her health condition, and that it could be life threatening, she again escaped to grieve alone. Again she was left abandoned. No one pursued her. No one talked to her. No one comforted her, or even explained it well.

Older siblings didn’t understand her world–they were healthy and in survival mode because of the abuse–and, being spared the physical abuse, she was removed from their world as well.

As I got to know Abigail better, and she felt safe sharing more of her story, I discovered some dark, secret struggles, that had her in emotional, psychological and spiritual bondage.

I never doubted for a moment, that freedom could be hers, and would be hers, but I also recognized the war that lay ahead…

To be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

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A Haunting Dream (Warning: May Be Disturbing for Some)

Tim stepped in the house, looking quite shaken. I had watched from a window, as a strange man, apparently a neighbour we didn’t know personally, had paid him a visit. Tim told me the man had come with a warning that they were watching us.

The man, slightly built, yet muscular, and scruffy–as though not having shaved for some time–had that ‘worn’ look that comes from smoking, drugs, alcohol and hard living. He looked physically strong, in spite of his size, and tattoos decorated his arms and neck. His eyes. Evil. Daunting.

We were packing both of our vehicles, as we always do, to go on family vacation. A much-needed, rare treat, escaping from the busyness of life and the demands of work and ministry. We had looked forward to this, but now a dark cloud loomed. I could feel it.

Tim looked pale as he spoke. “He said they are going have a cabin near us. They’re going to be there all week, keeping an eye on us.”

We didn’t know what it meant, but the heaviness left me with a sense of dread. Our time of rest, now becoming a time of survival.

We arrived at the cottage and settled in. It was simple, but nice. Tim and I chose an upstairs bedroom, where the morning light greeted us, with its warmth each morning. How I have always loved to lie in the sun and feel those rays, since early childhood.

True to his word, the neighbour who had confronted Tim–and it really had felt like a confrontation, though we had no idea why–showed up directly across from us.

There were only two cottages in this lovely wooded parcel of land, and somehow they had known we would be here. The thought was not a comfortable one.

On about the second day, we took our family to McDonald’s in the evening, and were about to leave, and return to the cottage, when the neighbour–who obviously had followed us there–walked over. He pulled out what looked like an over-sized razor blade, but with only one sharp edge, and one heavier side, for better grip. I saw it, but had no time to react.

With the same threatening intimidation I had observed through the wind in that initial encounter, he swung the blade, cutting Tim. I wanted to scream, to fight back, to stop him. But I could do nothing. I stood, frozen in place.

I couldn’t make out the words he said, still clearly intimidating, before he walked away. Tim remained calm. But whether it was shock or resilience, I couldn’t tell.

The next few days passed, without incident. It was as if the intruders were not there.

That last morning at the cottage, I awakened to the sun spilling her light through the window, onto our bed. Tim was awake, sitting up and leaning over me. He kissed me. I closed my eyes and smiled. Stretched. And opened my eyes again. A perfect morning.

My eyes fell on the neighbour’s cottage. And that’s when I saw her, at the window, watching us. Her face, though emotionless, communicated so much. She was a beautiful young woman, with long auburn hair falling around her face and shoulders. The expression was a blend of jealousy, hate, longing, grief, and rage.

Was she the neighbour’s wife? His hostage? A girlfriend? What did it all mean? Her expression confused me.

Our eyes met in that split second.

She turned, a look of resolve overtaking all other emotion. Instinct warned me. I said something to Tim. Told him that she had been watching us, that something wasn’t right. I feared she had watched us all week, and we didn’t even know she was there.

And then we waited. My heart was sick with dread. The sun had promised a lovely day, but the heaviness warned me that it was a day of survival.

I heard the footsteps, moving up the stairs, followed by a knock. Tim immediately opened the door. I crawled out of bed and moved toward the door. Something wasn’t right.

And then, as a glint of light caught it, I saw that sharp blade, just like the one the neighbour had used to cut Tim. She said something, but I couldn’t make out the words. I wasn’t listening. I saw what Tim couldn’t see.

I dove forward, took her off guard as I grabbed her arm, and snatched the blade from her. I gave it to Tim, then wrestled her onto the bed. Then I calmly I broke her arms. This was survival. I had no choice. Everything in me resisted harming her, but I feared if I did not, she would stand up and fight. I used the blade. Not to inflict extreme damage, just enough to ensure our safety.

And then I left here there, on the bed, in agony, and walked out the door, and Tim with me. She didn’t move. Didn’t attempt anything at all. She simply lay there, defeated.

Downstairs the neighbour greeted us. Asked if we had seen his wife. I said we had not. Tim didn’t say anything. The man walked past us, upstairs to our room, where she lay. Tim followed him.

I looked for our children. I had to take one of our vehicles and get the children to safety. How I wished Tim had not followed the man. I was no match for his strength, and to pursue them would only increase the risk. I was the one who had harmed her. I had no choice but to leave.

I found three of our children and rushed them out to my car. It was already partially packed with items to take home again and left only enough room for the three. The other two would have to stay and come with their daddy. I could only pray for safety.

I sped down the road, watching in my rear-view mirror, to make sure no one followed, yet praying that Tim would follow. I didn’t see him.

Afraid of returning home, I stopped at a friend’s house, where family and acquaintances had gathered for an event. Maybe Tim would escape and remember the gathering, and find me. I prayed he would. My heart felt sick at the possibilities.  And the guilt. How I hated the guilt that consumed me for having left two children and Tim.

What if…

I pushed the dark thoughts and images from my mind. Willed myself to reach for hope. This was no time to give up.

I waited for hours, pacing. Everything was so very wrong. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us. We’re a peaceful family. I tried to engage in conversation, but the thoughts distracted me.

My brother came over to me, then, and started to talk. I told him everything. I tried to be positive, but the dark possibilities spilled out. My deepest fears–that Tim, and our two children with him, were murdered. I shifted to survival. How would I get on with life, if I never saw them alive again?

My brother tried to be positive, to not think the worst. Well, I had tried all day, but now, as evening approached, hope faded fast. It had been too long. If he was alive, he should have been here by now, or contacted me in some way.

The sky grew darker. The day was coming to a close. What started off so filled with hope, love and life, grew increasingly ominous with every passing second.

There was a knock on the door. I ran, opened it.

Tim stood there, pale, worn and exhausted. He had talked the neighbour down. It had taken time and patience.

I looked around. The children. Where were they?

Tim looked the more exhausted.

Had he found them? Or had the neighbour gotten to them first. The pain in Tim’s eyes stopped my heart. Fear.

Images and scenes, unpleasant, unbidden, flashed through my mind. Not my children! I would have sacrificed my life for them….

Tim shook his head. Whatever had happened, he could hardly speak. “They’re tired. They didn’t want to come in.”

They were alive! Relief. Pure, sweet, welcome relief. Whatever had happened, they had survived. I could see in Tim’s eyes that it had not been good, but he offered no explanation. He didn’t have it in him to relive it verbally. What mattered, for the time being, was that we had all survived. No one had lost a life, but all of us had been touched by trauma and evil.

It would take time to recover.

For just a moment I felt as if it was all a dream. That maybe Tim wasn’t really back and I was hallucinating.

I looked at him, reached out to touch him…..

And then I woke up.

It was 6:50am, Tuesday, October 24, 2012. My heart raced. My body trembled. It all felt so real. Too vivid. Too orderly. Too possible, and yet not possible at all. What did it all mean?

As the fog lifted from my mind, I prayed. Whatever had triggered the nightmare, I wasn’t about to dwell on it, or let fear move in.

****

And that is the graphic ‘survival’ dreams/nightmares I encounter, from time to time, when ministry is at its busiest. Yesterday many people wrote, offering prayer and support. One woman even committed herself to fasting, as Esther requested of the Jews, and praying safety for our family.

I recognize that this is war. And if that dream told me anything at all, it is that we are in a battle against evil. It is not a battle I fight. It is a battle we fight, as a family, even extended family and friends.

Thank you to all who pray for us. It means more than we can express.

© Trudy Metzger

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