The jewel of trauma
I have fought against and struggled with the problem of suffering in the world for much of my life. I’ve read books, listened to sermons, and engaged others in conversation on the topic. There are no easy answers to the questions.
Our family moves forward these days with lots of professional assistance. Two critical teachers/life assistants are a family therapist who helps us as parents and my own personal therapist who facilitates my journey to become a healthier wife/mom/daughter/friend/community member/self. About a year ago, close in proximity, each of these important people gently delivered the same message to my ears. I was bemoaning the early relational trauma that our daughters experienced before coming into our family. One responded “oh no, it is the jewel of trauma” and the other said, “trauma formed them”. My immediate reaction was a heart and soul rebellion against this message, yet I have spent about a year letting it simmer inside, trying to wrap my head around it. This Holy week, a series of events have led to a greater surrender and peace with this viewpoint.
You see, I am almost ready to surrender to this idea when it comes to adults. I see the reality of this beautiful jewel formed through suffering in the lives, stories and faces of those I know and read and love. People who have known great loss and surrendered to this brutal teacher offer a perspective, depth and authentic walk through life that is magnetic. They radiate a haunting beauty. We want what they have. Several quotes from a variety of sources have recently fallen before my eyes and capture the jewel of trauma thought:
“It’s unfortunate, and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.” Emma Thompson
“If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.” Eckhart Tolle
“A deep distress hath humanized my soul.” W. Wordworth
“Living means changing and changing requires that we lose one thing before we gain something else.” Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised
“Whenever the house of cards we’ve so carefully built comes tumbling down (marriage or relationship break-up, loss of job, health, child, financial crisis), God’s spirit that resides within us is able to show us a greater perspective.” Paul D’Arcy
I embrace this perspective almost whole-heartedly.
But my more recent wrestling matches with God have been over the topic of victims of trauma who are children. Occasionally I argue on behalf of my own children, but more often as a response to the children of the world who reside in some of the darkest places imaginable – brothels, abusive homes, homeless on the streets, uncaring orphanages and the list could go on and on. Is this trauma truly a jewel in their lives?
I’m pretty sure that God does not want us to make complete peace with this tension. Going “there” often leads us to more actively and accurately be the hands and feet of God in this world. Despite the ongoing struggle, there is an internal surrender and faith that is increasing on this matter. What is true for adults must be exponentially true for children. Jesus said it this way: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” As I endeavor to make any sense out of this problem of pain and suffering, God’s still small voice whispers, “I understand. My heart is: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Silent Saturday and ultimately Easter morning.”
My personal prayer this week mimics words of Jesus spoken from the cross: “Into your hands, I commit my spirit”. A prayer for myself as well as all those children in this world whose lives and stories overwhelm me: “with open heart and hands, into your hands, I commit their spirits. Show me the holy work you have for me on this day.” Amen.