by Deborah Lopez
Faith is a profound way that people are able to heal from trauma of many kinds. Faith has certainly been the central focus of my own healing from brokenness and it has become a long journey.
A number of paths to healing are available to us within and outside the church. One of the most important beginning steps of anyone suffering is to open up, trust another and share your story. Talking with a priest, therapist or a trusted group (Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for this) is an essential beginning. Simply admitting that we are unable to heal ourselves is a huge step towards healing. Trusting in God and turning over our sense of control and struggling alone is another giant step forward on the healing journey.
The arts are a way to center oneself, especially if we remain open to the process rather than the outcome. Saying a prayer before embarking on any creative time is one way to ensure that we are turning our will over to the Holy. The quality of peace from a creative experience will give you an immediate entry onto one path towards healing.
Active imagination is also a way to experiment with access to the Holy and healing. One powerful process is to take our brokenness to give to Jesus. Asking for Him to assist us by easing our burden of pain and suffering is a powerful way to truly understand that Christ died for our sins.
Using a process called active imagination with Bible stories is a powerful approach to a closer relationship with the Holy. One story which has been effective with participants in the Spiritual Retreats I have led, is the story of the woman who has bled for 7 years. Bringing your personal story or issue into the process, you enter the story using your imagination. In this story I have found it profound to study who this woman is and the context of her disease. She is an outcast from her family and community because of her “unclean” state of bleeding. Additionally she must be anemic after so many years and has had very little access to food or care. She is breaking all taboos to be mingling with the crowd. Even the Disciples attempt to call Jesus’ attention away from her. Yet He turns (He feels the power flow from Him) and honors her with His compassionate attention. Then not only is she healed, in addition Jesus tells her that it is her faith which has healed her. This is a powerful statement of Truth out of His mouth.
You may, of course, use any story that particularly speaks to you. One of my favorites is to wash Jesus’ feet with my tears and to dry them with my hair at the same time giving over my pain, angst and trauma. Simply being silently in this imaginative process has worked miracles of peace and healing for me. Since I have short hair, and in the imaginative process I have long hair, you may get a sense of ways in which our imagination can guide us. There can be a profound interior shift and release of some of our pain and fear through such a process.
What is healing and how does it work?
Healing is unique to each of us. Perhaps there are a few things that we might agree with: praying for God to ease our anger, rage and sense of injustice is a beginning. If we are not ready to forgive I have heard it said that simply intending to one day be able to forgive is a first step on the journey of forgiveness and healing. I have also read that it is not possible for humans to forgive; only God can forgive. Once again, however, it is an important step to pray, over and over, to be allowed to become free from resentment and rage, or unfathomable sorrow. Some paths that you may have experimented with include: the artistic process, meditation & prayer, therapy either with a Spiritual Director, your priest, confession or a secular counselor, loving friends and support groups either within our church or community. If there is not a group within your church perhaps you may wish to start one. Stephen Ministers and Pastoral Care givers within our fellowship can walk with us on a journey towards healing for several months or years.
How has the church contributed to, or even justified brokenness?
Many prejudices still exist in the church. We have witnessed the heinous debacle of priest molestation of children particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. Looking the other way and sending those priests to yet a different community to perpetrate the same offenses is certainly a contribution to the brokenness of hundreds if not thousands of lives. Where do these victims find the faith to heal? Prejudice against women, those of unique gender issues: homosexuality and transgender people; people of color and even against those who speak different languages or are from different cultures, still abounds today. Too many still think that by attending church every Sunday that they are somehow special. Brokenness is a human condition and it is our credo as Christians to love all as Christ loved us. When we at least aspire and pray to be given this unconditional love it can heal us from the all too human burden of bias and prejudice against others.
How can the church respond and how has it responded to brokenness in individual lives and in community?
The church has embraced, in many places, the working in community to feed, nourish and assist the poor and downtrodden. Training us to protect our children from abuse and molestation is a profoundly responsible approach for all of us who work with children. Church members volunteer in soup kitchens, food banks, visiting the sick, the elderly, and those who are home or hospital-bound. Stephen Ministry assists those in emotional crisis and the hospital chaplaincy program brings caring for those in hospital. Episcopal Relief and Development is a profoundly effective way tin which our church addresses the issues of poverty stricken nations and people.
Finally it is always an enigma to me when working with others as a Spiritual Director, to hear that many who are broken are afraid to permit themselves to cry because once they begin to grieve through tears they are terrified that they will never be able to stop. My loving admonition in such a case is to give yourself the privacy and safety and begin the grieving process through allowing your feelings to surface. If angry then you may pound a pillow; have a date with a tree in the middle of the forest and whack the trunk with a branch while screaming your pain. With the onset of tears it may indeed take time for those tears to abate. Yet remember always that it is the journey through grief that brings us to wholeness and healing. What does the Via Delarosa offer us if not the reality that even Jesus had to suffer through this human process of humiliation, pain and suffering even to the point of believing that God, His father, had abandoned Him?
Tears of pain and suffering, when shed, become tears of Baptism. A new beginning journey towards healing begins when first we embrace our human brokenness.