Parenting: What we should have known…

“...it feels like the heart gets ripped out in little pieces, and somehow is supposed to keep on beating… and it hurts to breathe. And I think these honest conversations are generations overdue.
        Those were my words to a parent earlier today; a parent I have idolized from afar and wished I could measure up to. A parent who is hurting, grieving mistakes, longing for the best for their children. If you are a dad… If you are a mom… Most likely you understand this. We fail, and there are consequences. We misunderstand our children, and they misunderstand us. We don’t do conflict because it’s not polite to fight, and Christians just forgive quickly and silence the chaos and messy of conflict. So we ‘forgive’ and expect to be so easily forgiven, but scars remain on our hearts and one day those scars rip wide open and bleed years of pain, or they thicken the walls of our hearts so we cannot feel. The former is harder, the latter kills.
        I, for one, fear pain. I am terrified of relational pain. That’s just the truth. But I am learning, slowly, deliberately, to let the scars rip open. It is the only way to heal and stay tender… or become tender. And I’m sharing this because I have heard story, after story after story of parental grief in recent weeks, from professionals, from church leaders, from friends. Some just sharing a story, not knowing if I will get it. Some seeking advice… at which point I simply confess, “I get it. I blew it so often and am living in the aftermath of that” and the advice I have for them? Face it and hurt like hell, so you can heal; don’t run and die. Because you will die – something in your spirit will die – if you run. I came pretty close… and it’s a hard recovery.
        Why share this? Because it should have been openly discussed many generations ago. I never knew, and because I didn’t know, I was completely blindsided and lost more than I could afford to lose when I turned to survival. And I don’t want that to happen to you. So know this. I made early vows, and I mostly kept them. They were many vows. Vows of all the things I would not do, all the things that were not ideal in my story. I would not let a child molester near them if I could help it. I would not call them degrading names, or say they are useless and never amount to anything. I would never take their money; if they worked, they would save up for school and their future. There were many things I vowed I would not do. But there were many things I should have done; things that I missed. And I expect, if you are a parent, you understand some of this.
        Parenting is the most beautiful, the most painful, the most rewarding, the most devastating and the most wonderful thing you will ever do. You will fail your children terribly. And they will fail you. And if you don’t talk and face the conflict, a day will come when it will cave in on you and you will have to stay and dig yourself out of the rubble, or you will outrun the debris, and lose everything worth fighting for.
        So start young. Start now. Face the hurts, the betrayals, the misunderstandings (on both sides… it’s not just them and it’s not just you) and fight for your family like you’ve never fought before. Fight *for*, not *with*. Maybe you think they hate you, maybe they think you hate them. Fight with truth, and fight with love. Fight against the hate and the darkness that steals relationship and joy. Fight resentment, and fight for honest conversation, and deep listening. Dare to go to hard places; don’t retreat in passivity and comfort yourself with being a peacemaker.
        That is’t peace. I thought it was. I hate conflict. I hated it when I saw my parents fight. I hated it when dad threatened to kill us, or mom threatened to beat us. I hated it when a parent and one of my siblings threatened one another, or when a sibling threatened me. I became the master of forgiving and letting go, of avoiding the conflict, and expected the world around me to be as ‘gracious’ and ‘forgive’ as easily; but it was neither grace nor forgiveness. It was a blend of fear and apathy. For me, more the former than the latter.. It isn’t worth it. It communicates dreadful things to our children. To my children.
        In the past year I have studied Conflict Resolution, Conflict Analysis, Restorative Justice, Negotiations (a lot of mediation focus), and have learned good ‘fighting’ (aka conflict management) skills. And I am convinced we Christians need to unlearn a lot of the passivity we have adopted and learn a new way of facing conflict, especially as I face the consequences of years of avoiding conflict. Avoidance – even with ‘cheap forgiveness’, as I call it, that doesn’t resolve the deeper story – kills meaningful relationship. Conflict, well managed, is a good and beneficial thing.
        So fight for your family relationships. Get a mediator or support person involved to prevent escalation if that’s something you can’t manage. Do it for them – especially for them, do it for you, and do it for the next generation. A cycle will continue; you choose which one it will be.
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        I promise you, avoiding the conflict isn’t worth it. Choose your pain; the pain of working through conflict, or the pain of feeling your heart torn as you decide whether you will run as far and as fast as you can, or stay and let your heart bleed back to life, as you face what you ran from in the past.

© Trudy Metzger 2017

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

Duggar Sisters (Part 3): Comparing Lena Dunham’s(Childhood) Sexscapades & Josh Duggar & The Hunger Games

A Few Thoughts on Brainwashing :
Finally, in regards to brainwashing and indoctrination, and what the Duggar children have been taught, or how the teachings (Gothard or other) influenced them… I have seen some of the Gothard material, and rumours boldly declare it was used on the girls. I have nothing to substantiate that, so I will simply say some of what he offers is deadly stuff! And if you want healthy adult Christians, stay away from it. But, with no proof Duggars used it, I will assume it was not used until proven otherwise, and will merely comment on the  ‘brainwashing’ and ‘indoctrination’ accusations, in a general way….  Because I think we have some warped ideas of what brainwashing is, though I do think some of the material in Gothard’s teaching is the kind that would require it.

If brainwashing is the ‘repeated presentation of beliefs, for the purpose of causing someone to believe what you tell them’, then we are all brainwashed. The whole lot of us, to one extent or another. Listen to the news, and they will try to brainwash  you. Start expressing thoughts that collide with socially accepted views and someone will try to brainwash you. (Or accuse you of trying to brainwash them.) If you disagree with homosexuality and express it, you will be told you are guilty of hate, bigoted thinking, intolerance and any number of labels simply for being honest about what you think. The whole Western world didn’t arrive at this kind of ‘general’ thinking without brainwashing. Watch World Vision or Compassion Canada for a show or two, and you will be ‘brainwashed’ or at least the attempt will be made. Go to church or school, and it will happen. Again, presuming that brainwashing is  the ‘repeated presentation of beliefs, for the purpose of causing someone to believe what you tell them’. And, if that is what defines it, then all brainwashing is not bad. We take young people whose minds are dark and hopeless, and repeatedly speak positive truth over them, building them up, and see them come to life and hope. That is, potentially, brainwashing, if that is how we define it.

But if we take brainwashing to the ‘being coerced through mind control to believe certain things, with no room for questioning’, then some of the things I listed are not brainwashing. Others are. If the criteria for it not fitting that category of brainwashing is that there is room for believing differently, then World Vision, Compassion and some churches get taken off that list, but it still doesn’t tell us if the Duggar children were brainwashed. For argument’s sake, let’s assume they are. That in mind, what is the right response from us?

If we assume they are brainwashed, then we must also assume that they really believe what they live by and stand for, regardless of how they arrived at it. Take the example of popping out babies. If they are ‘making, baking and delivering’ offspring as naturally as they happen, with no effort to take a break or stop conception, more power to them. That’s their prerogative. Yes, if it’s a ‘this is what you should do as a Christian’ mentality, then there’s probably some brainwashing involved. But many of us have also been brainwashed into believing that two is the perfect number and four is a big family. That is ‘cultural brainwashing’ and isn’t any better, it’s just different.  We had five because Tim wanted four, I wanted six, and I was sure I didn’t want an odd number so four it was going to be… except that I discovered I was pregnant right about the time I was going to get my tubes tied. So that’s how we did it. And had a party about it too. No regrets.

These are the ‘little things’–no pun intended–not the big things, like how we respond to molestation, and whose fault we believe it might be, and that kind of thing.  If they are brainwashed in those areas, writing them off or not taking them seriously because of it isn’t the answer. I was brainwashed once too, and probably still am in some areas. Come to think of it, I reckon you are too; we all are. For me, getting away from warped belief systems was a very personal journey of asking deep questions, exploring life, getting to know God personally and struggling with Him, as well as the input of loving friends who dared to ask hard questions… These all worked together to transform my beliefs and learning to think for myself. We all live in the beliefs we have in a given moment, based on information someone presented to us, and hopefully are wise enough to make adjustments when we discover our beliefs are faulty. The Duggar children deserve the same space and grace without slapping ‘indoctrination’ and ‘brainwashed’ on their every statement.

The Comparison Between Lena Dunham and Josh Duggar:
In another interview, with Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News Media Buzz
 they address the ‘ideological battle’ and the political battle this has become. In it, one of the issues brought up is the way the right-wing reacted to Lena Dunham telling of her dreadful sexual behaviours toward her then 1-year-old sister, with no sign of remorse, while not questioning more the issue with the Duggars ‘potentially’ covering up. (Their words, not mine.)

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To be completely frank, this thing has bothered me too. We did react to Lena’s casual tossing around of inappropriate acts against her baby sister. We were horrified!  And that horror was born out of her apparent (shall we say obvious?) lack of remorse. But then we were also horrified when the left-wing freaked out on Josh Duggar, while having turned a blind eye to the whole Lena Dunham fiasco. Rightfully so. But the imbalance goes both ways….

We immediately compared the left-wing response to Josh Duggar with their response to Lena Dunham, and concluded they are persecuting the Duggars. Having addressed the matter of persecution several posts ago, I’m not going to revisit it. But I will say that we have also been inconsistent in our responses with being so quick to ‘forgive’ Josh and ‘move on’, when demanding accountability from Lena Dunham. Lena was 7 years old when she messed with her baby sister. Tragic? Absolutely! It was not funny in the slightest.  However, the reality is she was 7…. Josh was 14. That is twice the age of Lena–who was only 3 years past the preschool years. I presume the greater offence was Lena’s handling of it, but the fact that Josh apologized does not negate the fact that he committed a crime at 14. A juvenile offence, granted, but still a crime. We must concede that the two cases are not comparable, and it was a mistake for us to go there, and that we could have expected a louder ‘outcry’ against a 14-yr-old than a 7-yr-old. (To get a bit of a visual on that gap, put a picture of a 7 year old next to a 14 year old and ask if that is really a fair comparison. And, hopefully having concluded it’s not, let’s be wise as believers, going forward. Because this was not wise.)

However, while not appropriately comparable, the two cases do expose the gap between right-wing and left-wing thinking, on the matters of sexuality, and the individuals in these cases have become pawns in the game. It is not fair to either one of them, or their families. Yes, I wish we could all be confident that the Duggar parents have been completely authentic and forthcoming without a PR team, because the perceived or apparent lack of authenticity has done no favours in establishing trust. The alternative, however, could well be a noose… and maybe that noose would be better in the long run. Who really knows?  I cannot help but wonder what we would hear, if they were not told what to say….

Old News, Roman Colluseums & The Hunger Games:
BTW, in older news…. whatever happened to the Bill Cosby scandal? Observation would indicate he has disappeared behind the next and more exciting scandal… Go figure! Maybe the real problem is that we have created our own virtual Roman Colluseum, where we sit by to watch the next entertainer fight the lions, or two draw swords and see who will be the first one down. Maybe our cheering from the sidelines feeds some perverse desire for the emotional slaughter and bloodshed to continue. I’m all for accountability and authenticity, but maybe it’s not about that anymore. Maybe this is our Colluseum, or maybe it’s more like ‘The Hunger Games’ playing out, as one soul after another is hunted and killed as we cheer….

Yet, in the middle of that cheering, the answer is not always to stand silently by. The key (for me) is to acknowledging when ‘our side’ has it wrong, while continuing to stand for the things that really matter. Love, forgiveness, hope, truth, and redemption… Jesus.

Love,
~ T ~

TO REGISTER for Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference,  July 10-11, 2015 visit: GenerationsUnleashed.com
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© Trudy Metzger

Fig Leaf Malfunctions & Overcoming Shame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Social Media and ‘Self Promotion’: Did Jesus Start All This?

This thing of ‘self promotion’, on Facebook, Twitter and any number of other social media platforms–‘follow me’, ‘like me’, ‘friend me’–is it blatant, arrogant self promotion? Is it obnoxious and rude? Or did Jesus start it all when He tweeted, I mean ‘spoke’, those two little words: “Follow Me”? And did the Apostle Paul, who was as human and imperfect as you and I, add to this with his own name-dropping tweet: “Follow me, even as I follow Christ”

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Were Jesus, Paul, and other heroes of faith promoting themselves? And the prophets who galloped through towns, warning the people to hear what they had to say, and act in response, were they just full of themselves? What about Queen Esther, then nothing more than a Jewish girl, with no ‘platform’? (You know, like that person who follows you, and you check out their profile and they’re following like 400 people, and 9 are following them back, and you’re like, “Whoa… you must be a creep! No one wants to follow you. Yeah, that was Queen Esther.) Was she simply trying to ‘step on heads to get ahead’?

Or is it possible that God called each of these individuals to deliver a message, and they decided “… ‘come hell or high water’, I’m delivering it. And even if half of my friends ‘unfriend’ me, and most of my ‘followers’ unfollow me, I will deliver”? Is it also possible that they faced the same attacks, in different ways, as men and women today face, for speaking truth?

The pastor who reads a particular scripture–like perhaps the one on gluttony, or gossip… er… Ummm… I mean, the one on homosexuality–and half the people gripe or don’t come back. Should he stop preaching on gluttony, or gossip, to appease those in the congregation who struggle against it, or (especially) those who indulge and really don’t care? Should he rather focus on homosexuality, so the others feel good about themselves, and go home to celebrate God’s goodness with yet another massive meal, while heaping condemnation on the man or woman who spends every night on his or her knees, pleading with God to take that same-sex desire away? Should he be silent? Or should he say, like Jesus, “Follow me”, and like Paul, “Follow me, even as I follow Christ”? Even if he is judged for it?

Maybe it’s the person who preaches love and grace, because of the grace he has experienced in his own life, and he offends the ‘hell fire and brimstone’ preachers, with his offering. Should he stop? Should he preach something he is not anointed to preach, in order to appease those who want to manipulate minds, by using truth out of context, in ways it was never intended, by God, to be used?  Is this preacher touting his own agenda, and trying to lift himself up?

What about those of us ‘crying in the wilderness’ today… the wilderness of abuse, like my friends *Boz Tchividjian  and **Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham, or those fighting to end the sex trade and create awareness, like my friend ***Kelita…  Are we putting ourselves in the front-lines of a despised topic, to draw attention to ourselves, to create a following? Or, like the prophets, like Jesus, and like Paul, are we saying that God has given us something, often through painful personal experience and redemption, that will bring you hope? I propose that we are crying out, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, because He is coming to you… to us… to the broken’!

One of the things we who are called to share a message of hope have to become comfortable with,  in today’s world, is ‘getting out there’ and putting our message in front of people. Gone are the days of the publishing companies doing the legwork. “If you are not comfortable marketing your product, you’re best off to self-publish and print a few for your close friends,’ is a bit of advice that came my way, because the publishers don’t do it for you anymore. This was a bit jolting for me, to learn this, at first.

The truth is, I love marketing things… and other people… if I know those people and things will help someone. But marketing my message, my story, my book? Putting it vulnerably on paper, and then setting it in front of crowds, through blogging, social media, news stations etc, that was a stretch. None-the-less, I resigned myself and pushed forward with the process of traditional publishing. Is it comfortable? That would be overstated. Am I confident about it? Absolutely! Does it mean a few friends and acquaintances misunderstand me, are offended,  and judge me? Yes. But I am okay with that.

Every life-changing spiritual message that ever was uttered or written, was judged, and offended many. I anticipate the same. So, like Jesus, I will say, “Follow me…” being quick to add, “I know One who can heal you!” And like Paul I will say, “Follow me, even as I follow Christ!” And like Jonah, every now and then, I’ll board an excursion to the bottom of the sea, until the fish can stomach my nonsense no more and throws me up on dry land, so that I face reality, and once again declare the message God has given me.

Ultimately, you and I have but one question to answer: Did we do it for Jesus, to lift Him up, to spread His Love, to offer our hearts in compassion? Or did we do it for ourselves?

Love

~ T ~

*Boz Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham, founder of G.R.A.C.E. (see link above by clicking his name) and a professor at Liberty University. I am honoured to call him friend, and that he wrote the foreword for ‘Between 2 Gods’!

**Dale & Faith Ingraham are faithful advocates for abuse victims in the church, addressing this difficult topic, and offering healing to victims. To learn more, click on their name above.

***Kelita Haverland, who had a very difficult start to life, has founding healing in Jesus and shares her message of hope, through the talents God her.  She is a talented musician and comedian, with the ability to move an audience from laughter, to tears, to both at the same time. She will be in southern Ontario in early May, and we will partner together for events. If you would like to schedule an event in your church or community, please email info@generationsunleashed.com, and we will send through available dates.

© Trudy Metzger

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

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First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

Touching Response from Conservative Mennonite (to ‘Cult Curses’)

An understanding heart is the safest shelter in the storms of life.

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****

Being in church leadership, today, is not easy. Maybe it never was. And I say that from the sidelines, having been close to some church leaders, but having never led a church. While God has called me to rise up in the area of bringing light to darkness in the church, that has long lay protected, and He has called me to bring hope for freedom to the children, and hope for forgiveness to the abusers and those who have hidden sin so long, that is a very different thing than leading a church. Having seen up close, through the eyes of friends in leadership, some of the struggle and challenges they face, I appreciate even more when God brings church leaders into my life who represent Him with such grace, beauty and authority, that I walk away changed, having been touched by Him, through them.

In my life, presently, there are such leaders. And, in the past two and a half years of finding my way through some very dark battles, I’ve had some outstanding warriors, caring men and women, who entered into battle with me–including several pastors who called me into their offices, just to bless me, pray for me, and encourage me. I can’t name those who are leaders in Conservative Mennonite churches-ranging from Amish to Mid-west and beyond–because they could get in trouble for associating with me, so I shall refrain, but I still want to say “Thank you!” publicly: you know who you are. I bless you and thank God for the work you do. The few I can name, or think I can without putting them in a place of attack and criticism, are: Pastor Rob Gulliver, Pastor Dan Allen, Pastor Gord Martin, Pastor Bob Hamp, Heidi Konig, and Heather Tompkins. As men and women of God, you spoke powerfully into my life in a time when I felt like I could hardly breathe, spiritually, and your words of encouragement propelled me forward, when I felt too wounded even to crawl. Thank you! And, while not a pastor, but as someone who has walked his own journey of pain and grief, I am indebted to Phil Mills–a friend, and the son of Marion Mills and the late Pastor Don Mills, who both encouraged me to follow God’s call–for offering many an encouraging word this past year and challenging me to offer ministry from the broken places in my own heart. You are trustworthy men and women, in my estimation–for whatever my opinion is worth.

But today there is someone I’d like to thank, specifically, who is in leadership in a conservative Mennonite setting. Encouragement has come often, from you, and has lifted my eyes from the waves around me, to the Jesus before me. It has affirmed me in being this ‘voice in the wilderness of sexual abuse’, offering hope and healing to those lost in that wilderness. When I got your message, on the heels of releasing my blog Curse From Religious Cult Brings Blessing, my heart spilled its thanks all down the front of my shirt. You are truly a blessing! I am sharing your message here, with all identifying features removed, so that people in Mennonite churches will know  that you ‘dwell among them’, fighting for their hearts and their freedom and that you are not afraid to face the dark truth of sexual abuse, and help bring healing. There are many more like you, I have no doubt–even a few who contact me–who are waiting to bring healing to those wounded, when the truth finally shakes out. I pray for you in that shakedown, whether it come as a mighty earthquake, or a gentle crumbling of the walls. God knows and He has you on standby.

Here is the note that greeted me this morning:

“… just wanted you to know that I am in prayer for you as the release date nears.I have had, and still have a strong “sense” that significant things will happen… some of them relate directly to the topic of your book. There will be pain, and there will be rebirth. So, I bow my knees before the Father, by whom all heaven and earth was formed, and pray that He will grant you the exceeding riches of his grace, and that His plans will be done earth as he has planned for them in heaven. I bless and honour you today in the words of the Hebrew people – Eshet Chayil! (You are a woman of valor!)”

 For every lie the enemy throws my way, countless truths cover me, and for every curse, numberless blessings spill into my life. I am encouraged, especially, that many warriors are rising up among ‘my people’, fighting for truth and protecting the little ones who suffer. There is a deep stirring that thrills my heart and fills me with hope for the next generation!

God has not forgotten His little ones…  He has not forgotten those adults who carry the pain of childhood inside… and He has not forgotten His warriors.

Love
~ T ~

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© Trudy Metzger

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The Revealing, Exposing & Redemptive Truth of Our Heritage

I’ve made an interesting observation, as word gets out that I have written my story and that it reveals some less than noble truths of my cultural upbringing. That observations is:

We are comfortable with telling the ‘ugly truth’ of redemptions stories, as long as they don’t incriminate ourselves, our culture, our belief systems and expose things we are not willing to look at.  We protect tenaciously that ‘exposing truth’ that makes our lives uncomfortable… 

Some years ago, when my mother found out I was writing, she said something, gently, about not telling the ‘evil things’ that happened, that it is best to forget those things and move on.  This led to a heart to heart discussion, and it is the first time I recall thinking the whole thing through, and the beginning of this observation that the telling harsh truth is only comfortable when it doesn’t incriminate us.

That mention is not disrespect for my mother. In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Over the past few years some of the deepest, most meaningful and honest discussions I’ve had with anyone, have been with my mother. That day was one of them.

I asked her why the Bible tells ‘bad stories’, and I named some for her.  She thought about that for a moment. I then asked her how we can tell accurately the amazing redemption of God, and the wonder of who He truly is and what He has done, if we don’t tell the stories of what He has redeemed us from, saved us from, and the tragedies and sins He has helped us overcome.

Again, she thought about it, and said she sees what I’m saying, that God really didn’t hide the dark truths of Bible stories.  It was a new thought.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that ‘family secrets’ should ‘stay in the family’ and not be shared. And within our churches and cultures, the same thing is true, for many of us. It is one of the most crippling realities, in that it holds people hostage in silence.

It leaves us with no place to turn, no one to reach to for help–beyond those who are ‘approved’, whose agenda is often more about self-preservation than it is about truth, healing or redemption.  The result is generation after generation of enslavement to the same corruption, sins, addictions and strongholds.

Those ‘within’ who do ‘rise up’ and try to address things, are labelled as unforgiving, rebellious, or some other thing that justifies silencing them.  Some surrender to this control, others walk away. Of those who walk away, many remain in bondage to that silence, terrified of the cost that comes with telling the truth.

And those of us who begin to tell it are quickly ‘tackled’ on our motives, our methods and  judged as having ‘an axe to grind’ or being bitter, and again encouraged to retreat into respectful silence.

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One of the things that alerted me to the hypocrisy in this whole thing–since one can argue that the Bible is written under God’s authority, and no human has that right–is the stories that go back to our Anabaptist beginnings.  We are taught the evil of our ‘oppressors’ and ‘adversaries’–particularly the Catholics–and in these stories our heritage is shamelessly protected. Never, in all my studying or listening to our history, do I recall the dark side of our heritage and fore-fathers mentioned. And never do I hear the ‘good side’ of our oppressors and adversaries mentioned either. To share both, creates a richness that a one-sided story will never tell.

Perspective is a fascinating thing…

We mostly like to be ‘saints and heroes’ working against the bad guys. And to get that position, we tell their ‘bad’ stories to show our good. But what if telling our bad stories could show the goodness of God, through Jesus? What if our identity wasn’t wrapped up in keeping our ‘name’ untarnished?

The truth is, there was and is much good in our Anabaptist heritage, going all the way back to the beginning.   But there was also much corruption.  When I read in the Complete Works of Menno Simons, some time ago, something about how people should be dealt with, who murder, I was a bit bewildered. Most of our churches don’t have explicit instructions on how to deal with murderers, and we might be inclined to find a new church if such instruction was a necessity.

It wasn’t until I began discovering Anabaptists like Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Van Leiden, Jan Matthys,  Bernhard Rothmann among other less-than-noble-Anabaptists, particularly by the standards of my upbringing, that I started to see both sides had corruption, and both sides carried rich heritage and values.

Knipperdolling, a  follower of Rothmann–who came from very wealthy stock, and a ‘proud and bold Protestant–sued the Catholic Munster town council, in 1528. A few years later he became mayor of Munster and played a part in the Munster Rebellion.

Rothmann, if my memory is accurate, was very disturbed by the sexual indiscretions he saw in the priesthood, and spoke against it and,  after being censured by the Catholic church, he aligned himself with the Reformed faith in  1531. A few years later he joined the Anabaptist movement and in 1535 fought in the reconquest of Munster, where he is believed to have died, though his body was never identified.

The stories are too complex to paint a bigger picture accurately, without a lengthy dissertation, however, these realities give us a glimpse into a side of the truth that is often overlooked. I look at it, not with judgement for Anabaptists, or even for these men. They seem sincere men in their pursuit of God. But their behaviour matches closely, if not exactly, the very thing we have used against the Catholics.

I’ve heard the argument, “Ah, but they were not true Anabaptists. We mustn’t align ourselves with them in history, by acknowledging them as part of our heritage”–or some similar statement. Fair enough. I can grant that.

But then, should we not also offer the Catholics the same grace? Is it possible that there is good and evil in both? That their ‘corrupt ones’ are just as corrupt as our corrupt ones, and ours as corrupt as theirs?

Going back to the two examples I use–Knipperdolling with his ‘power’, thanks to money and prestige, and Rothmann with is ‘concerns’, which were legitimate, over abuse of sexuality–I find it intriguing that the two things that most corrupt our Anabaptist churches today, from what I have seen, are the abuse of power (and money) and the abuse of sexuality.  I have seen three cases of litigation–brother going to law against brother–in our local conservative churches, completely defying the ‘non-resistance’ we profess, and I have watched countless times as power and prestige sway the direction of leadership.

And the sexual abuse I’ve written about and made abundantly clear in past writings, so I won’t start into that, other than to go back to Menno Simons. In his writings, Menno Simons addressed immorality among Mennonite men with their daughters, maids and neighbours wives, after hearing it happened, saying he could not believe it would be among Anabaptists, and that was the reason he had not addressed it sooner. He had a higher expectation, and seems devastated to discover that ‘godly’ men would do this. Even this exists in our early history.

From Menno Simons, Complete Works, Excommunication:
“I would earnestly admonish the reader, that about 18 years ago I published an admonition , in which I made no distinction of sin; […] I say inexperience; for to the best of my knowledge I neither heard nor knew at that time, any thing of fornication, adultery, and such like. […] it is evident that […] concerning such gross, offensive abominations, we would make many great hypocrites; for I hear that there were some within a few years who carried on their horrible roguery and infamy in secret, till time and circumstances could no longer conceal them; yea, as I have understood, if some of them had not been detected by great wisdom, they would, I fear, have continued on their old course; but as soon as it was disclosed they began to wail and weep. Who could ever be so blinded, that when he has disgraced his neighbour’s wife, daughter or maid… that he would not say “I am sorry that I did so”.’

And finally, our silence surrounding our own corruption in Anabaptist history, and ‘picking and choosing’ which part of our heritage we will acknowledge, in order to make ourselves look like saints, has opened doors to corruption, in some ways.

(Granted, this all exists in other churches too. But they are not my history, my heritage or my struggle. I feel no need to make myself feel better about our heritage by saying it exists everywhere. I am only interested in facing the truth about myself, my people, and my heritage.)

I have believed for a long time that the answers to the roots of some of our strongholds lie with our early forefathers, and am more convinced now than ever. I also believe that if we name the name of any other person or movement, apart from Christ, and take pride in it and try to protect it, then we live in idolatry, and should repent. Furthermore, that makes us accountable for all things associated with that name, and we would do well to repent on behalf of our forefathers, as we see done by Nehemiah, in the first chapter, when he repents of his sins, and his fathers.

And to do that, bringing this full circle, we must be willing to tell the painful truth of our sinful past and present. Until we face our own corruption–as individuals and as ‘the Anabaptists’–and stop investing our energy in trying to silence those speaking truth, we will remain in bondage to sin.

Truth that reveals and exposes is not evil. It was never meant to be protected in a shroud of silence or secrecy. It was meant to be brought to the cross of Jesus, for forgiveness and redemption, and then declared as a victory on the mountain of God’s people.

We overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, and by sharing the word of our testimony, the story of sins forgiven, addictions broken, sexual abuse buried, leadership used for manipulation, and any other thing that Jesus has done for us.

There is no shame in the truth. There is only shame in hiding it.

When we strip ourselves of all our pride, the image of perfection, the pretence of sinlessness, and stand naked before God, then we are in a position to have Jesus look on us with compassion, and slip on us the cloak of His righteousness.  Then, and only then, does God see us as holy and acceptable.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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A Kind Word or 2, a Bishop, a Commitment & a Thankful Heart

Sunday evening, after the Stutzman Family Concert, a middle-aged Mennonite gentleman approached me. He shook my hand enthusiastically, and thanked me for the evening, and for the conference, which he had attended.

“It was good! Very refreshing after all the negative things I have heard about you!” he said with a chuckle. He wasn’t sure what to expect, he told me, with what all he had heard, but he wasn’t going to believe what people were saying. Not without checking for himself.

“Thank you!” I said, “…thank you for having the integrity to check it out for yourself rather than believing the lies. Not many do that.”

He chuckled again, and said he understands. He thanked me one more time, and said he feels encouraged, from the weekend, and ready to face life.

I didn’t really know the man, though I’m quite sure I met him and his wife some years ago, or maybe saw a picture of them. Though I didn’t ‘know’ them, I certainly knew of him. In my mind, based on what I have heard, I believe he’s got something to him. And that night he proved it.

When I went into ministry, I made a decision to do what God calls me to do, regardless of the opposition, attacks or rejection I get. After what Jesus has done for me, that is the least I can offer to Him as a gift of love. Still, the words of an honest encourager, who dares to acknowledge the negative he’s heard and still speaks positive words over my life, and the ministry we do… Well, I’m human. It goes a long way.

Then, on Thursday, I bumped into a family at the grocery store, who attended the concert on Sunday night. The one son, who is at least in his mid twenties or older, smiled broadly each time I met them in an aisle. But, each time, he didn’t say a word. Not until I rounded the corner and saw him, away from his family.

He smiled again, and this time immediately started a conversation. I asked him how he enjoyed the music Sunday night.

“It was good!” he said, enthusiastically, then added, “and I really enjoyed your speech… or topic… or whatever that was!”

In reality I had shared a bit of an overview of our ministry, and our purpose, and how healing is only found in Jesus. I said how I work mostly with victims of sexual abuse and that we revisit the trauma of what happened back there, acknowledge it and work through it, but we don’t stay there. We move forward and find healing.

I thanked the young man, and he just stood there and couldn’t stop smiling. We talked a bit longer, before he disappeared to find his family again.

It was a brief, but beautiful moment! I know a bit of his story, through the ‘intertwining’ with other stories, and understood at least a glimpse of the depth of that appreciation. And somehow a sincere thanks, from a young man who has tasted of that hell, goes so much deeper than the rejection of those who hate me, fear their own exposure, or resent the truth of their family members being exposed as perpetrators. Or simply don’t know what to do with me. It goes so much deeper.

Not an hour later I was in Shopper’s Drug Mart when I met Bishop Henry Martin. I shook his hand, greeting him by name, and chatted for a few moments with him, asking how Irene is, and how they are. His smile is still as broad as ever, his eyes as friendly as I recall them. Did he know who I was? I have no idea. He never said my name.

Still, I would have expected nothing less from him than kindness. And that is true of all of his family, for that matter, regardless of their feelings about me. Being ministers, bishops and such–many of them–I anticipate at least some ‘mini message’ from time to time, but always kindness. At least to my face. That is more than I can say for some others who will look me in the eye and not say ‘hi’ when I greet them, or will turn and walk away after making eye contact, only feet apart.

It is refreshing, every now and then, to run into people who I know don’t agree with what I do, or at the very least don’t agree with the way I live my Christian life, but still have the character and personal honour to look me in the eye, and speak to me with good Christian character. It is my hope to always do the same.

As I walked away, after that chat with Bishop Henry, tears threatened to spill over. Deep emotion bubbled to the surface, as I recalled time spent in their home, always cared for with great kindness. I’m not here to say he is ‘right on’, but I have never heard a word spoken against him, in all my dealings with people. That says more than my personal opinion will ever say. Still, I hesitate to mention leaders by name, even in kindness, because more than once, having done that, I have received a personal story of horrific abuse and I can only imagine the pain of that. In my life, I can say with honesty, he and his children were kind and my memories are pleasant ones.

But the emotions were much deeper than fond old memories. I found myself overcome with grief at what I know of hidden sin, hidden abuse. On the same day, in a different store, I spoke with another woman and casually mentioned a very friend of mine. She looked at me and said, “You know her husband is an abuser as well, don’t you?” When I told her that no one had told me before, but that his wife had shared concerns over her husband’s past, the woman added, “My son is one of the victims.”

I asked if the man has ever taken ownership and apologized to her son. She shook her head. He had been confronted, she said, but denied all allegations.

Walking away from Bishop Henry, I wanted to believe that if he could have seen inside my mind… if he could know what I know, that he too would be devastated…

…I desperately want to believe more people would be, especially leaders, and change would come…

But that collides in every way with what I see, hear and experience with so many, and I am very aware that it will take Divine intervention for that revelation and change to come. And for some it will.

For now I will continue doing what I do, even as the attacks and rejection deepen. Because those who long to be free, those who are ready to find help, need a safe place to turn, where they will not scolded, blamed, silenced or otherwise abused.

My place is firmly rooted in the Kingdom of God, and the ‘religious powers’ of this world have authority in my life only as their authority is submitted to Christ, rather than being dominated by a system of religious controls. My identity is found in the former, not in the latter.

I am blessed to have mentors, friends and ‘voices of authority’ in my life in various denominations, including Conservative (and small c conservative) Mennonites, Missionary Church, as well as Brethren/Chapel churches. These individuals bring balance into my life in so many ways.

And I thank God for these men and women of honour, in my life, who dare to embrace and speak truth–even when it doesn’t accommodate me but, rather, confronts my blind spots and short comings. I am thankful for others who also love Jesus more than life, and see beyond the idols of image, culture and power, even while embracing their particular cultures. These are truly men and women of God.

****

As an aside, I am so thankful for doors that open. Starting next week I will write as a monthly columnist for the Elmira Independent. I will cover a variety of topics surrounding sexual abuse & violence, family life, religion and cultural issues. I’ve given them fair warning that they should expect ‘letters to the Editor’ that don’t necessarily applaud my work and what I have to say. So far that hasn’t detoured them from the column.

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They will also share this blog address to offer the community more resources in understanding abuse and its impact. As doors open, resistance seems to heat up. To the many friends here who pray for me, for us, Thank you. I appreciate your private notes and emails letting me know that you are encouraged, that you find hope in the doors being blown off of the darkness that lies hidden. Many of you have expressed your love for your culture, for those of you who are Mennonite, but you are torn inside because you know the darkness that lies buried. Your words of encouragement, though I may never have met you, are very meaningful. Never give up hope for healing to come. Stand strong in faith in Jesus Christ. Together, through Christ, we are more than conquerors!

© Trudy Metzger

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Untangling More Thoughts: Sexual Abuse in My Mennonite Heritage

I am seldom emotional after writing, or posting a blog. But the previous post left me completely undone for a few hours. The tears started to fall, unbidden. And they only increased with the messages, comments, and emails of readers. Some messages were from people identifying. Some crying out. Most grieving. And all showing appreciation for breaking the silence.

The overwhelming support and encouragement deeply impacted me, while the strong identification, of so many having suffered saddened me.

Of course, there were one or two by the end of the day who questioned the validity of my post… is it really that bad? Is it an exaggeration? And, even if it is true, why expose it? But even those who questioned were kind.

That last question is another whole blog post, but the short answer is, “For freedom’s sake.” People need to know that they can get that ‘hell’ off of their chest. And if I can give them a safe place, by openly addressing it, that’s a first step. And I have connections to others who will listen.

Originally I did not intend ever to expose the things I posted. In the back of my mind I heard the shallow warning that, ‘If you speak of it, you will put ideas in their heads’. But that ancient echo holds no power. Or truth.

Those who are pure, will hear it (or read it) and cry out to God for mercy for His children, and  healing for our broken hearts and lives. Those who ‘feed’ on perversion, well, they would think of one perverse thing or another either way. At least I present it with a cry for truth and healing, unlike pornography sites or books.

It is a difficult thing to write, to expose, to bring to light. And the tragedy is that this darkness has badly scarred the beauty of a culture that was founded on faith in Jesus Christ. And it is not exposing it that has scarred the culture. It’s the hidden sin that’s doing the damage and escalating the epidemic. Yes, there were flaws and faults all along but with the passing of time, it is a culture that has, in many cases, slipped into legalism that makes image more important than truth. And that ‘perfect image’ is the very thing that has caused people to cover up and has allowed sexual abuse to flourish.

There is so much good to celebrate in the culture, even in the conservative roots. But, unfortunately, those roots have become ‘the god’ of the culture for many, and the God of Light and Truth–Jesus–has been lost for them. It saddens me that the good has become lost because of religious pride and unwillingness to go to the hard places. It is especially saddening because there are good men and women who want truth and healing.

My prayer is for redemption. and redemption will not come until the darkness is brought to light.

While some have all but lost sight of the truth, others are as sincere and godly as anyone will ever be. And, apart from possibly having known a friend or two who were abused, some are genuinely shocked to discover that the things I write here are happening in the Mennonite culture. I would apologize for breaking that innocence, but some innocence is destructive. I received three messages from people not identifying with abuse. One offered to help, any way possible and expressed sadness at realizing what others deal with and suffer through, and how prevalent it is.

I was asked recently about my Mennonite culture, “How many families do you know who have been impacted by sexual abuse?”

My answer, without hesitation was, “At least one hundred or more.” After the conversation I took a few minutes to write a list. I made it to almost fifty families, for a total of about seventy victims, without giving it much thought, based only on the people I have personally interacted with, via phone, email, and one-on-one meetings. I have not yet finished that list, but I know this, I will have closer to two hundred families when I am done. And I have no idea how many victims I will have.

That is jolting. And many of the victims on that list will read this and say, “I am one of them. I spoke with her.” But they will not have the courage to identify themselves. Nor do they need to. It is not an easy thing to be identified as a victim of sexual abuse in a culture that often hasn’t a clue what to do, how to help people, or inadvertently ‘labels’ and shames victims.

The list I wrote up did not include the many I know of in the USA, or those I’ve heard ‘rumoured’ locally but have not spoken with or personally confirmed. And it does not include many that would be referred to as ‘mild cases’, (a term I don’t like), by those not wanting to acknowledge the issue. (This is sometimes used when referring to groping or fondling and that sort of abuse.) The list also did not include many ‘child to child’ cases. And it excluded all my cousins or relatives, other than my immediate siblings. And it does not include those who attended conferences and identified themselves that way. And finally, it does not include any ‘mutual consent’ situations that have been shared with me. That is a different topic.

I am one person. If I know that many victims, many of whom I have only discovered in the last four months, how many more are out there? I know it is an uncomfortable thought for those of you who were sheltered, but the truth needs to come out. And to stifle it because it is uncomfortable, is not going to help.

If I knew that only 2% of children in my cultural background were being sexually abused, I would still feel compelled to do something. But it isn’t 2% we’re talking about. Tragically the real number is much higher.

Jesus said, in Mark 9:42, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

If Jesus takes offending a child that seriously, where is the church when it comes to doing something about this epidemic of sexual abuse? Why are perpetrators protected and ‘hidden’, while children’s lives are destroyed.

If I didn’t know that there were people who tried to go to leaders for help, in the CMCO and other Mennonite fellowships, it would be different. And if I truly believed most of the leaders are unaware, I would be cautious about speaking out so publicly. But I know that many know what’s going on, and many victims have tried to bring this to light quietly, within the culture, but unsuccessfully. Many have been silenced.

The sad thing is that some of the leaders are also victims. Some are perpetrators. Some are both. And they have a vested interest in silence. I have spoken to some of them. They know who they are… should they happen to break their own rules and read this. My intent is not to be harsh but to ask, Where are the men of God who will rise up and take a stand for the children? Where are the men who will lay down their lives for the little ones, to protect them, at the expense of religious image?

Pontius Pilate was not innocent simply because he washed his hands of Jesus. No more are we if we wash our hands of this epidemic of the victimization of children. God will hold us accountable. Of that I have no doubt.

On a positive note, there are some who have been willing to help and continue . I would like to thank Glen Jantzi, of Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, who played a key role in the life of one victim who is very close to me. Glen did not turn a blind eye when he knew the truth, and  he didn’t merely track down the perpetrator. He cared for the victim’s heart the best he knew how. I applaud that compassion and am blessed by it. In his actions I saw the Father’s heart.

And there are others. I know several leaders in the CMCO church, who, from all I am told, desperately want to help, but they don’t know where to turn. My prayer is that God will bring along the right people who will equip these leaders to help their people, and that the leaders will have the humility to receive that help.

Until the day I die, I will continue to do the little bit I can do, and pray it brings about good change. I have no desire to harm or destroy, but to bring truth and healing, through Jesus, to the culture and protect the children of the next generation. That is my mission and my ministry.

© Trudy Metzger

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