I recently heard first-hand the story of an 11 year old girl who was stabbed 11 times, raped, left for dead, and yet survived. I saw the MSNBC story of the Taylor University families who suffered the trauma of having their daughters’ identities mixed up at an accident scene. One family thought they had buried their daughter yet she was alive and being nursed back to life by another family who had really lost their daughter. And the horrible news of a colleague’s daughter’s untimely death while serving in Afghanistan just came last week.
These stories of trauma, of lives interrupted, of deep loss, touch us. The biblical story of Jesus meeting his disciples on the Road to Emmaus has stirred the hearts of Christians since it was first told. These men had just seen the bloody, brutal and heartless killing of their best friend, their hope, and their teacher. They had experienced real loss and deep trauma.
I’ve been wondering lately how these stories touch us? How often have we heard these deeply troubling events, cringe away and say, “I don’t know what to do with this. It’s too much. How can life be good with all this happening?” I can’t shake the idea maybe what we are really saying is, “If I let myself ‘go there’ with this situation, I may ‘go there’ in myself. If I interact with this trauma, I may find myself interacting with my own trauma. And if I do that then my life may not be good.”
Our minds so quickly fall on either/or thinking. Life is good or it’s bad.
What if it is both/and. Our life is good and our trauma, our losses are real?
What if destiny, joy and healing are found deep inside trauma, fear, and failure?
That would require we go deep into trauma and fear and stand in it. Shake hands with every negative and overwhelming emotion. Feel the waves of pain and anguish hit-- and continue to stand.
This is what Jesus encouraged his friends to do that day going to Emmaus. Jesus came along side them and simply said, “Tell me what happened.” For hours he facilitated authentic interaction with their trauma.
Jesus could have showed up and gone into protection mode. He could have revealed himself right away and glossed over the past week to protect his friends from deeply experiencing the reality of their pain. But he didn’t. He went there with them. Jesus never modeled skipping any of life’s authentic experiences for the sake of protection—of ourselves or others. Rather Jesus respected the pain for what it was, and then mercifully revealed the destiny and purpose of the pain.
When we accept the both/and of trauma in our own lives; that life is full of joy and healing and life is full of loss, we no longer cringe away from our neighbor’s pain. We have learned to stand in pain, to ride the waves of pain, because it is taking us somewhere.
When we come to deep understanding of this, we are now real in the face of our neighbor’s trauma. We can say, “May I walk with you?”
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