Overcoming Spiritual Trauma

Jesus heals and puts you back where you would have been had the trauma not occurred through an accelerated process of restoration.

Trauma comes in many ways and is experienced differently by individuals. The root word is Greek, trauma, and denotes bruising, wounding, the affects of physical force upon the body. The Good Samaritan story is a good example. Jesus speaks of the man wounded, bruised, traumatized by thieves who incapacitated him in order take his possessions.

Obviously, trauma affects the soul as well with contusions of the emotions, mind, and will that bruise with the power of blunt force against the inner man. In the body, bruising tends to heal as blood recedes toward the heart: you can see the picture of trauma that bruises the soul, that it, too, would tend to move toward the heart.

Spiritual trauma, of course, includes the soul since the soul is spiritual. The spiritual trauma comes from a spiritual source and affects the spiritual part of a person.

The body has built-in mechanisms for healing and restoration, and as long these innate processes work well, the body has a powerful resiliency. The soul, however, does not possess the same processes and requires a very different approach to restoration from trauma.

Defensive Behavior

We learn from these experiences of trauma to avoid sources of damaging force, or to measure the affects of such trauma. Things get complex when the behavior we desire carries a possibility of trauma. We build defenses so we can pursue what we want. Like football players and athletes in other contact sports, we wear padding and protection even though they may be cumbersome, limiting, expensive, ugly, and a nuisance. We do so because we have a stronger desire to play or participate than we have to avoid the possible trauma.

The receiver stretched out and vulnerable to catch a pass thrown to the middle of the field, eye on the ball, passionate to make the play, immediately tucked the ball into both arms in anticipation of the hit that is coming from the opposing player. He knows that the hit will still be felt the next three days even after hot tub treatments and ice packs, but his passion for the game, to make the play, and to assist his team overrides the deeper concerns for his body. He has prepared, stretched, strengthened, and covered his body with the best defenses he can, but he is going to catch that football if he can.

Such defenses are also applied to the soul. In some cases the defense is denial, the protection of the soul is to learn to act as if it didn’t happen. The bruising remains. The wound still stinks. Time heals nothing. But, the mechanism of the spiritual aspects of a person that provides a sense of protection is denial. The defenses can be hidden well or worn with the same visibility as a football helmet and full pads. The defenses can be hidden like a bullet-proof vest under the more visible outer garments on display.

Some people are so loaded down with spiritual defenses they appear like a medieval knight prepared for jousting. The waddle about clanging and squeaking clumsily in terms of their emotions and thinking, with a shriveled will cowering in a dark, back corner of their hearts. The bump into life, turn over chairs, and scratch exposed surfaces, but they feel more secure dressed like this.They look like the tin man on the yellow brick road: “If I only had a heart.” They carry an oil can around for those moments when the suit halts their mobility altogether.

When we encounter wounded people wearing such elaborate defenses, we think, “There must be a real person in their somewhere.” Many people refuse to shake hands that are covered in chain mail, refuse to talk to a helmet that only allows brief glimpses of hidden eyes, and refuse to welcome a person wearing this level of protection into their lives – and for good reason, since such a person may overreact to the simplest stimuli at any moment. Or, simply position themselves in the background and never pose a threat to anyone, hoping to participate as much as possible in socialization with the decreased risk of trauma.

Vulnerability and Victory

The delicate balance of protecting ourselves from trauma and refusing to limit the fullest involvement of our souls in life can be precarious. If our desires for relationship weren’t so deep and powerful, we might all live like hermits to avoid the pain of rejection, misunderstanding, meanness, and the resulting traumas of vulnerability.

That is, the victory we desire remains out of reach when we defend ourselves so completely that we lose vulnerability.

The risk inherent in riding in or driving a motor vehicle at high speeds three feet from danger and death is overcome by the deeper desire and necessity of getting where we wish to go without walking. A great deal of denial may be part of our vulnerability because we tend to think “it might happen to others, but it won’t happen to me.” And, our machines have standardized safety features like seat belts and airbags. Our roads have markers, speed limits, and police presence. We have procedures, protocols, and principles for the operation of the motor vehicle designed to greatly minimize our vulnerability.

In the same way, relationships have protocols, principles, and procedures that turn common interactions into complicated dances, a ballet of moves, points, twirls, and jumps through which we communicate even when words are not being used.

The point is that our victories all come through vulnerability, and we must measure the trade-off of vulnerability and victory in this way: the greatest victories often involve the greatest vulnerabilities.

Kingdom Trauma

With respect to some of these basic interactions in the kingdom of God, Paul says, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace, and joy in Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

Paul is discussing some really basic protocols of the kingdom, in very practical ways in this passage of apostolic instruction. Paul makes it clear that higher values from getting some food or drink in our bellies must govern our relationships and shared experiences.

Kingdom trauma is a very real possibility. That is, people of the kingdom, in the kingdom, may be bruised and wounded by blunt force. In some cases the ignorance leaves people vulnerable to confusion and opens doors to hellish intrusions and strongholds. That is, through socialization between kingdom people, some kingdom people can experience trauma.

My experience has been that trauma is pretty common! I seldom meet people who haven’t experienced trauma in some form in their recent histories, in fact, and these people usually have a story to tell about it because they are seeking a pathway to victory. Generally speaking, the pathway looks pretty scary to them because they must become vulnerable again in order to get healed.

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Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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