Responding to Trauma

Image from traumahealingpa.com

In my last post, I talked about what it means to be a trauma survivor and how difficult trauma can be to heal. Today, I’m going to enumerate the ways in which the Church can respond to trauma survivors to help them find healing.

Before I delve in, let me be clear: This is a common problem. Most pastors would be absolutely gobsmacked to know how many trauma survivors fill their churches every Sunday. Current estimates put the incidence of child molestation at 1 in 3 for girls and 1 in 10 for boys. That means in a congregation of 100 people, 5 men and 17 women are likely child sex abuse survivors. And that figure doesn’t begin to include survivors of other types of trauma, such as rape, assault, mental and emotional abuse, neglect, war, abandonment and accident.

If the Church wants to get serious about helping survivors, this is what is needed: Continue reading

Understanding Trauma

Image from The Low Down Blog

Because of a sexual predator’s recent article in Christianity Today‘s Leadership Journal (which has since been removed, hallelujah!), an important conversation has been taking place online about trauma survivors and the Church’s poor response to them. Some bloggers have suggested that church leaders should be educated on what survivors experience and compassionate ways in which they can reach out to help them. To this end, being a survivor myself, I’m going to share what I’ve learned. Because it’s really important. Continue reading

When the cup won’t pass from you

Image from manassaschurch.org

I’m learning a new lesson in God’s love and grace. It sucks.

For the past few months, I’ve been experiencing what some would refer to as “a dark night of the soul.” My mind and emotions are in deep turmoil. I often struggle to function at normal tasks. I’m constantly cycling between periods of anger, grief, and utter blankness. I can’t pray, can’t see more than an inch in front of me. It’s like I’m standing in a raging cyclone of snow, rain and hail. And in this time of desperate, extreme need, God is almost completely silent.

Except for these two words: “Just heal.”

“What does that mean, God? How do I do that?”

“Just heal.”

If you’re thinking that sounds like hell, you’re right. It’s hell of the worst kind. But… Continue reading

A Time to Heal

Image copyright Mary Southard, CSJ @ marysouthardart.org

When I was growing up under conservative evangelicalism, it seemed everyone was always in a rush:

The return of Christ is imminent! Jesus could appear at any moment! The fields are white for harvest! It’s time to get busy! There are millions of people all around us who have never heard the name of Jesus! They are destined for HELL! We have to reach as many as we can before time is up!!! We have to get our kids on the front lines! If you aren’t preaching from the tabletops in the cafeteria, YOU ARE DEAD TO THE URGENCY OF CHRIST’S CALLING!!!”

If you were grieving, you had to ‘get over it.’ If you were wounded, you had to suck it up. If you were ill-equipped, you had to ‘fake it till you make it.’ If you were sick, you got two prayers at the altar and then plenty of shaming for not having the faith to be healed instantly. People were dying and burning in endless torment. There wasn’t time to bear the burdens of the faithful! Continue reading

Rethinking Faith: Lord, Help My Unbelief!

I’m so ecstatic to be writing this post today! I just know it’s going to bring a great revelation to someone. I myself want to go whooping around the front yard with joy. But first, I have to tell you a story.

Several months ago (in the early summer) I was sitting in a Sunday morning service with a communion cup in my hand, listening to my pastor speak about the healing power of Christ’s blood. He said that it was possible to receive healing from communion if one had the faith.

At the time, I desperately needed healing. I had been struggling for 18 months with a digestive disorder that was becoming progressively worse. It had started as an occasional bout of diarrhea whenever I ate greasy fast food. But within a few months, it had devolved into any fast food. Then greasy food cooked at home. Then every night after dinner, no matter what I ate. The diarrhea was soon accompanied by crippling stomach cramps. I began to dread dinner. I cut pizza, sausage, bacon, ground beef and other heavy foods out of my diet. (I also had to cut out lettuce and ranch dressing, because that set me off, too. So no salad.) I began monitoring the amount of food I ate at night to prevent my stomach from becoming too full, another trigger. These changes reduced some of my symptoms, but did not eliminate them. I had just purchased a vegan cookbook, thinking that a drastic dietary change might be the only way to bring permanent relief. In the meantime, I had undergone a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, an ultrasound, and several blood and stool labs. The term “IBS” (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) was tossed around. But the doctors could not come to any definitive diagnosis. And for one problem they did manage to identify, they could not prescribe the antibiotic used to treat it. There was a nationwide shortage.

Now, here I sat with a communion cup in my hand. My last hope. Continue reading