of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
July 18, 2022
“So much trauma.” These words by the beguiling villain, Agatha Harkness, in the wildly popular Disney+ show Wanda Vision speak volumes about our world today. The astounding popularity of the show itself suggests that a show depicting the harmful effects of trauma resonates not only in the United States but globally as well.
Closer to home, though, I have found myself in multiple conversations about trauma in the past few weeks. These have been people talking about their own personal traumas as well as the larger context of trauma we collectively suffer. I’ll lift up just a few:
· The Pandemic itself which we are not out of, much as we would like to be. The BA.4 and BA.5 (the most common variants circling the globe today) while less deadly (thank God) continues to disrupt our lives in ways large and small – plans that have to be put on hold or cancelled all together, sudden quarantines, the people who do end up getting very sick or even dying. And this on top of losses we may have experienced during the height of the pandemic and the collective wariness with which it caused us to encounter daily living.
· The ongoing legacy of the practice of enslavement here in the United States and its more subtle forms that linger still. The book we are reading together as a presbytery, Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade lifts up the deep trauma inflicted by the dehumanization of slavery and its aftermath – Jim Crow, segregation, mass incarceration. In a meeting I attended recently with African American church leaders from around the state for Faith in Action, Alabama, this trauma was underscored as they recounted their personal and congregational experiences of degradation and injustice. Slavery is an ongoing trauma from which healing is needed.
· The existential threat of global warming and the effects we are already experiencing – fires, floods, rising sea levels. Each of these devastate and destroy the lives of those affected and cast a pall over the hope we might have for future generations.
The thing with trauma, though, is that it can only be healed when it is acknowledged, exposed, and addressed. Sadly, our Alabama educators seem to be reluctant to do this.
I read an article in MissioAlliance recently in which the author, Rich Villodas reflects on Jesus’ own wounds (which is the Greek root of the word trauma). Some scholars, our own John Calvin among them, argue that Jesus only bore his wound marks long enough for Thomas to be convinced that he really was Jesus, but Villodas rejects that argument and finds great comfort and hope in who Henri Nouwen called “the wounded healer.” But let me let Villodas speak for himself:
In maintaining his wounds Jesus once again shows himself to be one who—even in a resurrected state—identifies with broken humanity. Additionally, the wounds Jesus carries speak powerfully to his followers. We are all called to be wounded healers, and part of the healing requires us to be present to the wounds we have carried. I find much solace in Jesus maintaining the wounds on his risen body—for three reasons in particular:
· The resurrected wounds of Jesus remind me that our wounds don’t have the last word. In Jesus’ body, we simultaneously see broken humanity connected, but subjected, to his glorious resurrected reality. In the wounds and trauma that mark our bodies and minds, those clinging to Jesus are given great hope that our wounds are not to be the controlling narrative of our lives. Yes, we might have experienced great pain, but something greater than pain is to be at the center—the healing grace of God’s love forms the center of our existence.
· If Jesus carries his wounds on his body, we don’t need to carry the shame of our trauma. There’s often a great deal of shame that comes with experiences of trauma. But Jesus shamelessly retains the marks because they have been reconfigured.
· The wounds on Jesus’ resurrected body serves as a much-needed reminder that each one of us has been, or will be, wounded in some way. This awareness is necessary to deepen our commitment to becoming a healing presence in this world. The world is a broken place. The wounds people carry are layered. Being rooted in love requires a conscious commitment to becoming the healing presence of God in a wounded and wounding world.
Some things for you to ponder, friends, as we seek to be healers in this wounded world.
As ever in prayer,