Monday, December 8, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Two Traumas ~ One Healer

          Acknowledgements: For my daughters in the faith.

          There are two types of trauma we can inflict on children.[1] Type A trauma is passive, while Type B trauma is active. The first is through neglect, the second through abuse. The sobering reality is that we hurt the little ones when we deny them their right to the God-designed relationship of parent and child (type A) just as much as when adults actively seek their harm (type B).
          In fact, many people have said that the type A trauma (neglect) was much more difficult to deal with because it took so long to recognize it for what it was. Open abuse leaves clear and painful memories that can be brought to God for healing. Passive neglect leaves a void that is not so easily identified, leaving malnourished souls wondering what in the world is wrong with them. [2]
          My aim in sharing this is threefold. First, I want to give hope to anyone who needs to hear that God is working in the body of Christ for the healing of his traumatized children. This hope sometimes comes through hearing other members of the body of Christ call trauma what it is. It creates hope when churches speak of trauma as a “weep with those who weep” issue,[3] rather than denying the needs of members of the body of Christ by claiming that all our healing happened at the cross, and nothing more is required (hence never obeying God’s command to weep with those who weep). For anyone who feels trauma the way I mention, Jesus heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds today, just as he promised.[4] The church he is building joins him in his work.
          Second, I want to give hope to traumatizers. Whether we have hurt children through neglect, or abuse, there is as much healing for parents as for the children they have traumatized. Yes, I know how difficult it is to use the word “trauma” to identify anything we may have done to our children. However, I know that the greatest blessing we can experience comes as we face our poverty of spirit, mourn both our failures and our sins, meekly come to Jesus in the confession that we cannot fix ourselves and all we have done wrong, and so hunger and thirst for the righteousness that comes by faith in him.[5]
          To face our relationship to our children in light of the mercy of God towards us as his children, makes us the merciful parents who will face anything we have done wrong in order to help and bless our children, and anyone else we may have wronged or failed in the course of a “multitude of sins” kind of lifetime.[6]
          Third, I want to stir up churches to the centrality of ministry to the brokenhearted. “Healing” ministry in the church should not be relegated to a one-night-of-the-week-come-in-the-back-door-of-the-church-basement kind of program.
          God said that the Messiah would, “bring good news to the poor… bind up the brokenhearted… proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.”[7]
          Jesus said that he came to fulfill this prophecy.[8]He “began to do and teach” this during his earthly ministry through his human body.[9] He continues to “do and teach” this through his spiritual body, the church.[10]
          Churches must accept that we are not autonomous entities run by the governing elite of the “core” group who all appear to be doing well.[11] We are the “body of Christ.”[12] Jesus came to do things that he now does through his church, his one body. If he came to set people free, heal the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn, release the oppressed, and any other descriptions of his will, his work, and his ways, then the church must do these things.
          Paul wrote of it like this: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[13] God is working in us for “his good pleasure,” and we find the greatest joy when we walk in his truth.[14] He is working in us to “will and to work” the same things he is willing and working. Since both type A and B trauma hurt and wound God’s children, his will and work continue to will and work for his children’s healing.
          The most extreme visualization of both these traumas came one night when the father of one of our home church members asked for a few minutes to address our prayer group. Over the course of a couple of decades I had tried to help him join with other men to grow up as fathers to our children, and brothers to our church families. Things were happening in his family that offered another opportunity to seek healing for his loved ones. I had hope that he was going to join with us in working through some of the new details of the family dynamic.
          Instead, the man disowned his daughter in front of us all, told all of us to have nothing to do with him any longer, and stomped out of the house. To this day, I wish I had pulled a Paul on him. When Paul discovered that the conduct of Peter and some others “was not in step with the truth of the gospel,” he “said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’”[15]
          This man’s conduct was clearly “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” I wish I had not been in such shock that I missed the opportunity to confront him then and there, “before them all”. Perhaps blogging about such things will bring greater help and healing than such a confrontation would have accomplished. God works all things together for good,[16] so there is always hope.
          What came clear to me just this morning is that this man had inflicted both type A and type B trauma on his daughter in one fell swoop, as they say. It was as though he used type B trauma to begin years of type A trauma.
          The type B trauma, the active abuse, was to come to our prayer meeting, wait until his daughter was seated and listening hopefully to what he had to say, and then actively disowning her, telling us that he was now “dead” towards her and us.
          Death is traumatizing. Losing a parent to suicide is even more traumatizing. Losing a Dad by his deliberate choice to die only to you, while flaunting a very “alive” relationship to your sibling, is active, abusive, trauma of a most insidious strain. Knowing that the family members involved are all accepted as is in their respective churches, increases the heartache just as discovering that a history of abuse was covered-up by people who knew, but wouldn’t tell.[17]
          The type A trauma is that, through the too-easy-to-remember experience of disowning, years of neglect have heaped on the painful message of worthlessness. The type B, open, public, active rejection, set in motion the subsequent years of type A passive rejection.
          The type B event is easy to remember. The anniversary of that event has cycled through our lives far too many times. At the same time, the type A trauma is just there. Every day a man leaves his daughter rejected and abandoned. A girl is simply without her father. But she is without her father by his choice. She is without her father by his daily choice. It is not the closure of death that brings immediate grief and lasting comfort. It is the daily experience of waking up to one more day that a father does not want his little girl.
          I say sorry to any little girls I may be hurting with this story. I am really writing about healing, not hurting. Bear with me in hope. Jesus does heal the brokenhearted, but as the church brings the brokenhearted to Jesus, even if it requires demolishing long-standing structures to do so.[18] He does release the oppressed from the prisons of trauma, but, sadly, it often takes far too much time to get all the church members who form his opening-prison-doors hand to get together and work as one.
          When Paul spoke about us (the church) working out our salvation with fear and trembling, it was because God was working in us to “both will and to work for his good pleasure.”[19] Since he says that it is his good pleasure to heal the brokenhearted, release the oppressed, and proclaim the time of God’s favor over those living in despair, let’s join his work with fear and trembling, keeping our hearts open to the two kinds of trauma that could be hindering people we know.
          God heals them both. But he does this through his one body, the church. Let us be such a church.

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I am deeply indebted to the Life Model” family for teaching me about how to understand trauma, its effects, and the practical dynamics of growing up as an expression of the body of Christ that brings Jesus’ healing touch to traumatized souls. Here is a brief description of the types of trauma from their website:
[2] I do not in any way mean to lessen the painful impact of type B trauma (abuse). I only mean that abuse is sometimes dealt with more effectively because it is easier to identify, while neglect is more difficult to identify, and so its effects last a lot longer. This is “sometimes” the case. I also know how type B trauma can cause varying levels of dissociation that make it difficult to access the memories, delaying the much-needed healing. There is far more that could be said about this, so I only want to emphasize the way that some people experience extended difficulty in dealing with type A trauma because it has taken them so long to admit that parental neglect has affected them at all.
[3] Romans 12:15
[4] Psalm 147:3
[5] This is based on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12.
[6] James 5:20; I Peter 4:8
[7] From Isaiah 61:1-4
[8] Luke 4:16-21
[9] Acts 1:1
[10] II Corinthians 1:3-7 gives one picture of the way comfort comes from God and is expressed to others through members of Jesus’ body.
[11] The appearance of wellness, with the corresponding rejection to the traumatized, is a fairly good indicator that people are playing roles they don’t want anyone to mess with, rather than that they have already experienced Jesus’ healing for the brokenhearted. Those who experience mercy become the merciful. Lack of mercy towards God’s broken children is telling in a-tree-is-known-by-its-fruit kind of way.
[12] Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:27
[13] Philippians 2:12-13
[14] I John 1:4
[15] Galatians 2:14
[16] Romans 8:28
[17] I grew up with this, and so have many church folk who have never discovered that Jesus heals such trauma.
[18] Cf Mark 2:1-12
[19] Philippians 2:12-13

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